Simon Tam, founder and bassist of The Slants | Music Career Growth, Podcasting and Activism | Matal v. Tam | Author of Music Business Hacks: The Daily Habits of the Self-Made Musician and host of the Music Business Hacks podcastIn this episode I speak with Simon Tam about all he’s doing for the music community through podcasting, public speaking and writing. We also talk about his activism and music career growth. Then we switch seats and Simon interviews me for his Music Business Hacks podcast.

Episode Highlights

We start the conversation by talking about Simon’s process for creating 300+ podcast episodes to date, and go on to discuss:

  • His passion for the business side of music
  • Representation of Asian Americans by Simon and The Slants
  • The Supreme Court battle for his band’s name
  • Simon’s views on how to combine art and business successfully
  • How and why I started The Unstarving Musician podcast
  • The joy of curating the expertise of musicians
  • Creating moments of connection on stage as a musician

Key Points

  1. If you are persistent and strategic in your approach, you will see it reflected in your career.
  2. Dress and act the part while working on your craft.
  3. Serve your audience and band members with a focus on building relationships.


“You need to tackle the business side of things with the same level of creativity, the willingness to experiment, the willingness to know yourself. Your uniqueness. What makes you distinct?”
—Simon Tam

“Begin with a vision of what you’d like, and then work out the steps to get there.”
—Simon Tam

Mentioned in this Episode

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BONUS CONTENT (Follow-up Q & A with Simon)

Robonzo: If you were starting your music journey over from the beginning, what would you do differently? 

Simon: To be honest, I’m not sure if I would do that much different if anything at all. The mistakes I had were all really important for helping me learn crucial lessons that I was able to later turn into successes. I think we often consider mistakes and failures as something to be avoided but the reality is that they are some of the best tools out there for sharpening our senses and our skills. If were to do anything different, it might be being open to making even more mistakes. And also to enjoy the journey a lot more.

Robonzo: What’s your number one way of dealing with the voices of self doubt? 

Simon: The best way of dealing with self doubt is to imagine what kind of advice you’d give to a close friend if they were experiencing the same problems as you. Then, listen to that advice. We tend to make excuses for ourselves even though most of the time we already know the answer.

Robonzo: What habits or routines have best served you throughout your music journey? 

Simon: The best habit I’ve cultivated is to make a a daily appointment with myself for working specifically on long term music goals. This is non-negotiable time that I carve every day and nothing gets in the way of that. By having a daily expectation that I am going to work on the big, tough goals, I’ve been able to make serious progress on things that I might never get to because they were too intimidating or I could never find time to do so.

Robonzo: What has helped you most in building community around your music and art?

Simon: One way to really build community around music is to ask: how does this improve the world? How does this give meaningful value to others? If I can’t answer that question, I move onto something else. For me, it’s all about supporting my community.

Robonzo: What’s the #1 biggest challenge your facing within your music journey right now?

Simon: My biggest challenge right now is choosing what to focus on. I’m working on composing a Broadway Musical, helping produce two films, touring in support of my new memoir and a new album, collaborating with 30 other artists across 20 states to produce a record, and launching a nonprofit organization.  Balancing each of these priorities is fun and an interesting challenge each day!


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