Headshot of Michael Walker, Founder at Modern Musician

Michael Walker and the team at Modern Musician are on a mission is to help musicians supercharge their fan base and career through grassroots techniques and three core principles (Artistic Identity, Passionate Fan Base and Revenue Multiplier).

Meet musician-turned-entrepreneur Michael Walker, Founder of Modern Musician. His team’s mission is to help other musicians supercharge their fan base and career. And Michael doesn’t just talk the talk. He’s tested the same grassroots techniques and three core principles that Modern Musician teaches. These techniques allow musicians to achieve sustainable success, and also helped Michael’s band Paradise Fears make waves on the alternative charts of iTunes.

Michael and I discuss his music career, Paradise Fears, why and when artists come to Modern Musician for help, the process of identifying the ideal client profile, details on Modern Musician’s core principles and techniques, and much more. Michael also gives an impromptu live performance from his home studio.

Quotable

“The three main pillars that we [Modern Musician] focus on, the things that you need to dial in to be successful are: your artistic identity, your marketing to grow your fan base, and revenue generation.”
–Michael Walker, Founder Modern Musician

Mentioned in this Episode

Robonzo 0:02
This is the Unstarving Musician podcast. I’m your host Robonzo. This podcast features conversations with indie music artists and industry pros (and me). It’s all intended to help other artists be better at marketing business, the creative process and all the other things that empower us to do more of what we love make music

My guest in this episode is musician turned entrepreneur, educator Michael Walker of Modern Musician. The goal at Modern Musician is to help musicians supercharge their fan base. They do this using grassroots techniques that Michael and his band Paradise Fears did to make waves on the alternative charts before he ultimately shifted to entrepreneur slash educator, and they’ve got a system on top of it now. It’s pretty intricate, pretty in depth, and you’ll hear all about that in our conversation.

This podcast by the way, is made possible through the generosity of listeners just like you. One of the easiest ways that you can get involved and support is to join the Unstarving Musician community at UnstarvingMusician.com. In joining the community you get tips and insights you can use in your music journey that comes not only from me and my years of experience, but also from the hundreds of other musicians that I speak to as part of the Unstarving Musician project and podcast. Plus you’ll get a free copy of my Unstarving Musicians Guide to Getting Paid Gigs ebook, the official version. And that’s all for free just for being part of the community. Please visit our crowd page to learn more about how you can offer support for the podcast, at UnstarvingMusician.com.

So yeah, Michael’s career before Modern Musician, we talk about that, why and when artits come to Modern Musician for help. We also talked about that and how they [Modern Musician] figure out the ideal client profile. It’s been a lot of trials and errors Michael shares. We talk a little bit about my dog who was relegated to the hole. That’s what I call the little place where I record these episodes. And we get into some detail on the three tier system that modern musician has developed in this covers the three main things that you need to dial in to be successful, according to Modern Musician. It all makes a lot of great sense. I think you want to listen to that part very closely. We discuss marketing tools and practices they teach their clients to leverage and how Modern Musician gets the word out about what they’re doing.

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So, Michael plays live in this episode. He’s only the second guest on the podcast ever do that. The other one was David Barrett, the famed harmonica teacher. But yeah, Mich ael busts out a little jam for us. It was great. It was really good. He covers a Ron Pope song. So stick around for that it just kind of falls out, all of the sudden breaks out. All right here is me and Michael Walker of Modern Musician.

I know you’re a musician, and saw some of the stuff you did a while back. Are you still writing performing or recording or any of that stuff anymore?

Michael Walker 4:30
Yeah, in terms of music. To be honest, you know, for about 10 years we really focused full time Paradise Fears, and usually nine or 10 months out of the year we were gone and released an album that hit number two on iTunes on the alternative album charts and reached a point that we we got I felt really, really proud and grateful just to be able to meet a lot of our idols. You know growing up in the music world and get to record with them and go on tour. But near the end of that, when I met my wife and I started thinking about starting a family and I was gone for like 10 or 11 months out of the year, sort of was in the state of transition and trying to figure out what, what’s next and, you know, what could I do to provide for them without necessarily being gone as often. And that’s when I started Modern Musician. And since then, I mean, musics always gonna be a part a huge part of my life. And, and I still I’ve got my, my keyboard here that can jam out with as I’m meeting with people, and I’m still writing new songs and got like a new music project. That’s like a passion thing that I’m working on for fun, but relatively, I think a huge new passion that I’ve really been focusing most of my time on in the past couple of years has really been Modern Musician, and the music has been just a fun creative outlet, but it’s not necessarily the thing that I’m focused on to like, you know, pay the bills anymore.

Robonzo 5:55
Yeah. Okay. Well, I would love to talk a little bit about how you are getting the word out for Modern Musician but before before that, probably some more relevant, potentially more relevant things I wanted to ask. So why and when do artists typically come to you for help?

Michael Walker 6:20
The artists that we look forward to work with and what we offer is like a 12 week coaching program where they work with our whole team. They basically help to launch a marketing system and teach them how to how to use digital marketing and create advertising campaigns and who we look for specifically, because we have like a very small number of clients that we work with personally, because our coaches do a lot of the heavy lifting. And so what we look for is we look for where there’s a gap between when an artist has really honed their craft and the music is really solid and they’ve invested you know, the recordings are really good, but they just have no idea when it comes to how to promote it properly, or how to actually make an income with the music, then we look for where there’s like a gap between the quality of the music and the reach that they’re getting with with their audience. And if there’s a big gap, then awesome, you know, that’s kind of where we come in to help them learn how to fill the gap. So specifically, it’s focusing around taking the music that they already have, that they’ve already invested into, and putting it in front of the right people who are most likely to really resonate, and teach them how to build a tribe, how to connect with those people and how to make offers and how to generate an income from it.

Robonzo 7:36
Does Modern Musician ever work with PR companies or reps? You know, partnering?

Michael Walker 7:45
Yeah, you know, we just did a summit where I interviewed some really amazing, like experts in the music industry, and Ariel Hyatt was one of those and she’s based in the PR publicity world and that’s mostly the extent to which we’ve collaborated and worked with with PR agencies, but she’s awesome. And she had just like a killer interview or she delivered a ton of value.

Robonzo 8:10
That’s cool. So yes. How did you… was it instinctive for you to hone in on that characteristic of the ideal client? Or was it was there a process of sort of figuring that out?

Michael Walker 8:26
Yeah, definitely was a result of like most things in my life that have eventually become successful, a lot of failure, a lot of mistakes and trying to figure stuff out and trying a bunch of different stuff. And then basically just seeing like, oh, like this, all this stuff didn’t work. But this is the thing that really resonated and this is what really, provide the most value and this is what people need the most help with. And so it was definitely a process of kind of iterating and fine tuning it over time and figuring out, Oh this is where people really need the most help.

Robonzo 8:57
Yeah, okay. Good deal. Tell me about the I think that… I got my dog here. He was banished to this room. Someone came to the door and he’s got this thing about not liking some people.

Michael Walker 9:14
What kind of dog do you have?

Robonzo 9:15
He’s a Panamanian street dog. I’ll send you a picture. I’d hold him up to camera. He’s a little big, not huge, but um, I’ll send you a picture he’s kind of interesting looking at. There’s a, I think a Central American breed that’s been identified that he appears to be part of. He’s a funny mix. I’ll send you a picture.

Michael Walker 9:34
Now, I’m jealous.

Robonzo 9:35
Now it’s got to go in the show notes.

Michael Walker 9:38
Nice, I want a dog so bad man. I grew up and I had a dog growing up with my family, a golden lab and I met my wife and so I was always a dog person growing up, and I met my wife and she had four cats. And so I quickly learned to become a cat person as well. I learned to love love cats too, but there’s part of me that’s, oh I want a dog. I love dogs so much.

Robonzo 10:04
We brought a monster 15 pound cat with us from California to where we live in Panama. And they’re actually really good buddies. It’s pretty funny. We figured they’d, hoped they’d be alright. But yeah, I think it would be interesting for musicians listening to this to understand the three tier system that you set up. I’ve just kind of read a tiny bit about it, what was available when you’re not an insider. So tell us about it.

Michael Walker 10:32
Yeah, for sure. So, the three main pillars that we focused on, that we found for any music career, these are kind of the three main things that you need to dial in order to be successful, are one, your artistic identity, two your fan base and your marketing to grow your fan base, and then three, the revenue generation so like, how are you gonna make an income so you can invest back into the music? And those three, kind of the tie in to each other, and they’re all interrelated, and they’re all super important. If you don’t, if you don’t have one of them, then you’re not gonna be successful. You need all three of them. And specifically, artistic identity is about your brand and your music and, you know, having something that’s unique that sets you apart. That is really high quality that you know that… Usually what we found works best is usually in terms of commercial successk is having like one foot in one foot out, so having something so for example, a lot of viral covers that you might see of songs, they include some nature of like, familiarity, where you’re for the cover song, maybe someone recognizes the song, it’s a really popular song, but then there needs to be that unique twist. Like they need to be something that sets it apart that kind of makes you go Oh, like I wasn’t expecting that. And those two things together usually are when you look at things that go viral. Usually there’s some element. It’s familiar, so it ties in with the global consciousness of what people are focusing on. And then there’s that unique thing that kind of sets it apart. That’s like, oh, like, that’s, that’s interesting. Um, but specifically for, I mean, for a lot of artists, your artistic identity comes from who you are. And it comes from expressing yourself and just being authentic to who you are. And that’s what’s so beautiful about music is that it’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to do it. So much so that the most important thing is just that you’re being authentic to yourself, and that you’re expressing who you are. And there’s a quote, I think I heard I didn’t I don’t remember who it was exactly what the quote was, but something about, what the world needs most is for you to be yourself and for you to share your gifts. And I think that there’s a balance, right because you want to be in a market that has the commercial options depending on what your goals are, you know. You want there to be a market for you’re kind of music. But at the same time, there’s a balance of you don’t want to just neglect who you are and just pretend and just like change everything in order to match that. And so I think what we found more than anything that’s really encouraging is that with the marketing tools that are available to you now with Facebook and Instagram and YouTube. There’s billions of people in the world and there’s so many people that you know, that they’re going to resonate with who you are, and with your music, and you can find those people. And yeah, I don’t think that there’s anyone that doesn’t have doesn’t have the ability with those tools to be able to build a tribe and to build an audience that’s going to resonate with your music. It’s just matter of finding those people. But that is one of the… one piece of the puzzle is that you need to really kind of reflect on who am I and as an artist, what’s my brand and who do I know, what’s my message? Who do I want to attract who’s the best fit audience who’s really most likely to resonate with my music. That’s step one. And step number two is once you really have something worth delivering and worth promoting, and something that’s really going to add value and it’s going to connect with people, then you need to figure out, how do I put that in front of the right people who are most likely to enjoy that and connect with them and build a relationship and you’re really formed from a tribe. And so that process, so a lot of different ways and tools you can do to do that, and they’re constantly changing too. Right now, what we found has been the most effective by far is messenger campaigns where basically, the point is that you start a conversation with a new fan and you just, as like a human you have a conversation with them. And we have something called your in-tune survey framework, which is just a fancy way of saying it’s a model for like what questions you can ask fans to have a conversation with them, to connect with them and build rapport and really, just about having conversation and having a conversation with new fans. But in terms of marketing your music, the most important things like, and this is fundamental to any sort of business, whether it’s music or any other type of business is that one, you have to figure out, Where do your people hang out? who are most likely to get value from what you offer? So you have to just kind of get clarify and figure out okay, who is my best fit audience? And where do they congregate? You know, where do they hang out? And then next step is that you need to introduce yourself to them. So you need to put your music in front of those people. For my band, one of the first things that we did when we were starting out was we actually went to shows where there’s big lines of people waiting to go into the show, and we just walked up to people, and we introduced ourselves and said, Hey, you know, because you’re a fan of All Time Low, I think you might like our music, too. I’ve got some headphones if you’d be interested in listening to it, but I should probably warn you, most people who listen enjoy it so much, they start to like cry and faint. So if you need any tissues, I’ve got a backpack full of tissues. I’ve got really fast reflexes. I’ll make sure you don’t faint. In that was just an example of just finding the people who are most likely to really get value out of the music and connecting with them and building a relationship. And so that’s phase number two is really figuring out the marketing. And now with like paid traffic and paid marketing, there’s really cool opportunities that you can use to automate and be able to bring people in consistently to have those conversations. You can even build automated tools that essentially have conversations with people so that because that’s what honestly that’s one of the biggest problems that we run into now when we’re working with artists is that after we launch the campaign, usually within a week, they have all these messages from new fans who are enjoying the music and they’re having these conversations. And they literally just can’t keep up with the amount of messages that are coming in. And it’s a serious problem because you know, because they can’t scale and it’s it’s a good problem to have. It’s almost like people love you too much, so like you have to… It breaks things down. So at that point, it’s really powerful to build like an automated messenger system so that you can have these conversations in a way that feels personal. And that’s authentic. And it lets people… you don’t want to like deceive people into thinking like it’s like a real person. But you can still build this flow for them that feels really personal and has your voice. So that’s, that’s phase number two is growing, growing your audience. And

Robonzo 17:25
Can I ask a quick question about that?

Michael Walker 17:27
Yeah.

Robonzo 17:28
Do you guys work on a component at this point, you know, where it gets a little overwhelming and you’ve got some of the automation going on where you have the artists work to funnel some of those people into, like a private community such as Patreon or a Facebook group or maybe some other alternative?

Michael Walker 17:48
One hundred percent. Yeah. So the messenger conversation is sort of an inter component is really just like a vehicle to take people from that initial conversation to joining that community, and you can do that on… Patreon is a great place to connect with people and build like a paying community. What we found right now is been working really well for artists is just having a private Facebook group that’s free to join. And after people go through this in-tune survey with it’s automated, whereas based on how they answer the questions, we’re able to filter out the people who aren’t really resonating with the songs and take the people who are really connecting with it and invite them into the private community. And then you can do things where you can create look alike audiences, based on the people who are really resonating most

Robonzo 18:32
What does that mean?

Michael Walker 18:34
So on Facebook and Instagram, this is the stuff I geek out about. I love look alike audiences and talking about like advertising but um, basically what you can do is if you have a group of people, you need at least 100 people and you upload them to Facebook and Instagram, on their business managers. Then you can create a look alike audience of people that match the same characteristics as those people and then find it creates usually between one to two million people that most closely match the characteristics of the people that that you give them. And so if you have an audience of people who’ve spent over $1,000, on your music, you know that those are the people who are your super fans really resonate with you, they can literally create this audience and say, find more people like this, and then plug those in. And at this point, we’re spending between 35,000 to $40,000 a month on ads every month. And with a few exceptions, I would say 95% of our ad sets our audiences are all based on look alike audiences like none of them are cold, cold audiences anymore.

Robonzo 19:36
Wow. That’s funny. I asked what that was. And it’s been around for maybe a few years now or more, because I suddenly remembered I was looking at some ad campaigns a while back and reading about this and learning how it works, but it’s been a long time, so I’m sure it’s changed. That’s really cool. I’m sorry. Do you didn’t get through all of them and I interrupted you keep going.

Michael Walker 19:59
Yeah. No problem. Um, so phase number three, and this is one that a lot of artists get tripped up on, I think is, is the revenue part of it and actually making an income. And there’s sort of this limiting belief that you shouldn’t be making money with your artwork, or somehow that that might taint it. Or you might lose some artistic integrity, if you kind of, if you start making monies. So that’s a lot of times that’s like an internal belief that needs to sort of be processed and let go of in order to be successful with it. And then in realizing that, the more money you make, the more people you can reach and the bigger impact you’re gonna make and the more positive things you can do. And really, it’s not about how much money can you make so much as how much value can you provide, and how many people can you reach, and money really allows you to do that. But it’s really important to, to have that component figured out and actually have a system for keeping track of your metrics and knowing like how much are you making from this, this ad set and this campaign and making sure that you’re scaling the things that are working. Specifically, what we recommend doing and what we do with our artists is we build out a value ladder of different price points of different things that they’re going to offer. And a lot of artists neglect the high ticket of their offers. And that’s like, that’s a huge I know for our band, a lot of our income, probably the majority of it actually came from the high the high ticket items that we offered like private parties where you know, someone could hire us to play a birthday party or you know, weddings and a lot of those, you can get paid $5000, $10,000 for a single one. And so what we recommend is kind of building out different price points and having at least four different ones, one at the very low end that sort of that entry level. And you could even do it as like a free plus shipping type of offer where you have this free merge bundle and they just pay for the shipping and to kind of get it out. And that could be an intro, an intro point to your offers. And then you might have a VIP bundle that’s around $50. And then you might have $100 offer that’s like your inner circle, or maybe it’s a subscription, you could host it through Patreon. If you wanted to use like those different tiered, tiered models. And then the high ticket offer i think is is super valuable. And you can either do like, you can do custom songs or play weddings or private parties or you know, there’s there’s a lot of different opportunities. But no matter what you do, you can get creative and figure out how can we provide the most value? What do people really want? What’s gonna benefit? What’s going to benefit our audience? And then you can cater those offers to them based on the feedback that you’re getting.

Robonzo 22:44
Cool. That cover all three of them.

Michael Walker 22:48
Yep, so that’s, that’s the three and to recap. That’s, so the first one is artistic identity. That one’s all about your music brand. And number two was your fan base. So how are you bringing in new people? How are you connecting with those people building tribe? Then number three is, once you have the tribe and you really have this audience, how do you monetize it so that you can have a sustainable income, you can focus on your music full time, and you can continue to create more songs for that and keep dialing in your artistic identity.

Robonzo 23:13
Cool. I was noticing that you have events posted on the website. Is there one coming up? Or I couldn’t tell if it’s happened yet? Or if it’s coming up or if it’s a kind of an ongoing thing, evergreen thing?

Michael Walker 23:26
Yeah, so that’s a great question, because we just wrapped up our we have an annual event that we do called the success music, virtual music conference. And this last year was awesome. It was our third year doing it. And this time, we got featured on the Grammys website. We had over 10,000 people register live and it was really cool. And there’s there’s 1414 people that we interviewed on it and it’s fun, but also a ton of work and really exhausting. So once a year, it’s kind of our limit of doing those live. But this year, we just put together something because yeah, there’s so much work and effort went into it, we wanted to kind of take some of those those interviews that we did and recycle them and make sure that people who didn’t get a chance to watch it could still get value from it. So we did just create like an evergreen version of it, that gives you access to four of those interviews for free. So that is something that we added recently that’s, you know, available for free on the website.

Robonzo 24:26
Cool. What’s it called?

Michael Walker 24:29
It’s called Success with Music, Virtual Music Conference, and easiest way to I mean, if you search for it on Google, you might go to the live event that’s already closed. So the easiest way would be just on our main website.

Robonzo 24:41
Okay. On modern hyphen musician .com, right?

Michael Walker 24:46
Modern dash Musician .com. We were trying to get the original Modern Musician .com and it’s, it’s like a Chinese website forum. In order to, in order to contact them and reach them. You need to submit a one of those verification questions in Chinese and so we tried to translate it and submit it, but we can’t get past their their initial verification question. It’s like, what’s Eddie Vaughn’s guitar name and Chinese? We’re trying to like translat it.

Robonzo 25:14
Calling all Chinese speakers.

Michael Walker 25:16
Yeah, if you’re watching this right now.

Robonzo 25:20
There’s a there’s a fee in it for you. Wow. Yeah. So I want to go back to talking about how you get the word out these days with what you’re doing, and what kind of things you’re considering doing to continue to spread the word.

Michael Walker 25:41
Yeah. So you mean for like us in terms of promoting Modern Musician or like our artists promoting themselves?

Robonzo 25:48
Predominantly, I was asking about you guys. And you know, how do you get found promoting your services, whatever you’re promoting?

Michael Walker 25:57
Yeah. So this says we’re coming up on on that, about halfway through year two as a business and our, like 95% of our traffic right now comes from Facebook and Instagram ads. And so we’re spending, you know, roughly 20 to $25,000 a month just just for our business to reach reach people. And we’ve built a value delivery system like a funnel that leads to an offer to apply for our coaching program for people who are a good fit. And that’s like, running that for like two and a half years now. And I basically share the story of how we started out and we lived in our cars. And my band, we didn’t know what we’re doing starting out and we started… we booked our own tour and then we were playing the tour and we realized quickly that you actually had to get people to come out to the shows in order for it to be successful. And I remember living in our cars and eating peanut butter tortillas for breakfast, lunch and dinner and

Robonzo 26:55
Flour or corn.

Michael Walker 26:58
Oh, that’s a great question. I love that. Have you just asked that question? The corn ones…

Robonzo 27:02
I’m Mexican man.

Michael Walker 27:05
That’s awesome. Um, so I personally, I know the corn ones, I think we’re a little more healthy, but I personally was more of a fan of flour ones.

Robonzo 27:14[Laughs] That’s awesome.

Michael Walker 27:16
Yeah, sometimes you throw a banana in there if you want to get really, really fancy with it, but, but really, the thing that changed everything around for us was our lead singer had that idea to basically approach fans who were waiting in lines for shows and introduce ourselves and, and share some more music. And I was a super shy, awkward kids like, I was stuttering and shaking as I walked up to people. And it was really, really scary, but ended up working really well. And we sold 24,000 CDs doing that in about four and a half months, and one of the bands that we were doing it on, called All Time Low decided to bring us on their next tour. And that was kind of our big, our big break. And so this workshop that I teach that really 95% of our traffic comes from, this really just shares that strategy and just like, hey, this was the number one thing that we ever did as a band probably. And this still works right now with… Well, that is when there’s not a global pandemic. But, you know, we’ve had quite a few artists who’ve gone out and done that. And there’s one band, there’s two guys in the band that made $11,000 in a single month going and doing it and there’s people, and it’s awesome. But I also realized that most people like 99% of people that were hearing that story loved the story of how it works and saw how it works. But they’re like, I have commitments like I can’t just like leave and go follow tours or, or I don’t really want to go through that or just meet strangers online for tours. It’s scary. So really, what we’ve pivoted to is, is this, this model of there’s a virtual we call it virtual tour hacking, the original one we call tour hacking. So it’s like meeting people and in lines for their shows. And this is really based on the same principle. As when we walked up to those people online, but it’s done virtually using those messenger campaigns, and you still have conversations, it’s, it’s really like, it’s it’s very similar, but it’s just done virtually, and it can be automated and scaled. So that’s really what we found has been a lot more accessible to the artists that we’re working with. And they’re like, Oh, yeah, like, great, I don’t have to go, go stand in lines and meet strangers, but I can actually still grow my audience significantly by by using this strategy.

Robonzo 29:25
And you can make soft peanut butter and banana tacos much easier from the comfort of your home while you’re doing the virtual tour. [Laughs]

Michael Walker 29:33[Laughs] I need to add that for our website, that’s a main selling point.

Robonzo 29:40
That’s great. Yeah, so you know, I was imagining that you’re, you know, maybe doing the big podcasting circuit and I know that I saw where you’re going to do another interview here in a while and I saw that you did one with another mutual friend, blanking on the name here and the face is totally recognizable. And but yeah, it sounds like some of the, basically the same system that you’re able to very similar to what you do for your artists or coach them to learn, you apply for your business today. So… that’s cool.

Michael Walker 30:11
Yeah, it is. It is funny how, how that happened. Like I’ve noticed this like fractal pattern that happens in people. anyone listening this right now maybe has noticed this in the past but um, it seems like a lot of the most successful online marketers are teaching in a way they’re teaching the thing that they’re using in order to sell their services. Like it’s happening there. That’s how they’re selling you into their program. They’re teaching you how to use that process to sell to different markets. And it’s interesting because it’s like, oh, this is self reflective. It’s fractal like they’re doing it. There’s the meta, the meta version of it. So definitely, there’s something powerful about that, that leading by example and being able to just like, you know, to to be sharing from that point, that point of experience when you’re doing it.

Robonzo 30:56
Yeah. Do you have a home studio there is that are you In a home studio where you can also record music

Michael Walker 31:03
I am yeah I got my… [playfully mock sings]. I got the… Yeah I got a nice little um studio setup.

Robonzo 31:12
Since you just hit a chord again… Don’t feel put on the spot. I’ll even cut this out if you don’t want it to be on there, but do you… You in the mood to play anything real quick?

Michael Walker 31:23
Oh man this is on the spot. Um, I mean first of all is the mind is Ron Pope

[Playing piano and singing] Trapped in the ocean. Change in the weather. I was prayin’ that you me would end up together. Wishin’ for rain as I stand in the desert, Holding you closer than most. Because you are my heaven.

Robonzo 32:05
Very nice man. Virtual clapping. Now was that someone else’s song that I’m not gonna be allowed to have on the podcast?

Michael Walker 32:12
Oh no I just totally ruined it. No that’s a cover of Ron Pope, Drop in the Ocean.

Robonzo 32:21
All right, nice. Very nice. Appreciate you. I think you’re the only the second person to ever play live on the podcast and I used to have feature clips of artists that I’d have on and there’s so much weirdness around having music on podcasts. And I was doing it with people who own their music and all this and you know, getting permission but I’m like, Meh, you know, it’s kind of a lot of added work anyway, so I’m just not going to do it anymore. But I have been thinking in the back of my head, I need to sort of put in the prep thing, by the way, if you want to play a little bit.

Michael Walker 32:52
Yeah, that’s that’s fun.

Robonzo 32:53
That was great. That’s fun, so deeply other instruments as well? You play guitar, don’t you?

Michael Walker 33:01
I do I play a little bit of acoustic guitar. Guitar was like the first instrument that I actually start playing for for myself, or like for pleasure, but the piano I was like six years old and I didn’t really want to learn how to play the piano, but my parents really wanted me to learn. And so they bribed me with video games and so I sat down, I learned learn how to play. But guitar in high school, I was super shy, awkward kid and didn’t know how to talk to girls at all. But when I picked up the guitar, I noticed that you know that people actually paid attention. And so the guitar was the first one I think I started the play and it felt good to be able to express myself in a way that I didn’t really know how normally and, and yeah, so the guitar is sort of like a passion, but I’m also much less technically talented at the guitar, but the piano I’ve grown up and that’s, that’s what I played in the band. And so I’ve got a lot more experience on the piano.

Robonzo 33:55
That’s cool. I think you’re in the majority of the crowd that learns when they’re young and they didn’t want to do it, but then the Really happy they did later?

Michael Walker 34:02
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And I think my dad, you know, he started started lessons when he’s younger and he ended up quitting. I think he always regretted it. So he really wanted to make it worth worth my while to to keep, you know, keep on it throughout. When I was growing up and the video games did it did work. I was a geek, I liked video games, so that kept me on the train.

Robonzo 34:23
That’s funny. Your dad still around?

Michael Walker 34:26
Yeah, yep. And I yeah, I talk with him and my mom every Sunday. And, and, yeah, I feel really grateful for them. That’s, you know, I feel like there’s, they’ve, their story is pretty inspirational. And they really they’re like big role role models in mind. So I appreciate that, that I had them growing up.

Robonzo 34:50
It’s nice. Well tell them it’s a, tell them that Robonzo said it’s never too late to pick the piano back up.

Michael Walker 34:56
Hey, I like it. I’ll mention that to my dad.

Robonzo 34:59
I mean, what else do you got to do? Right? With the spare time?

Michael Walker 35:04
I’ll tell them I’ll tell them that Robonzo said that and I think he’ll be like, well, if that’s if Robonzo said that then I guess, I guess I need to do it.

Robonzo 35:11
Yeah, my favorite I have former guests. His name’s Johnny Burgin, but for a number of years, he’s actually a blues player, but he went by the name Rockin Johnny Burgin. And one of my favorite things to say whenever I had the opportunity was, “Look, it’s like my friend Rockin Johnny Burgin once told me.” But I can’t say it anymore. He’s not. I can but…

Michael Walker 35:29
That’s a great name.

Robonzo 35:31
I know. It’s really nice. Yeah. So what’s on the near term horizon? For for your business for your music? I know what’s on the horizon for your family?

Michael Walker 35:44
Yeah, yep. So we got our baby daughter coming in about a month and a half. So we’re really excited for that. Um, in terms of the business kind of in the next few months, we’re looking at one thing that, that we’re starting to do is we want to create like a weekly live webinar system where basically we’re able to once a week do a live webinar where I’m just sharing some of the best, some of the best information and the best knowledge that that we have, with some artists we’re working right now and and then on the back end of that, inviting people to apply for the coaching program. So that’s one thing that we’re looking at, and I’m sure you know if anyone that’s listening to this right now kind of got into our ecosystem and started going through in the workshops that you probably find your way getting offered one of those webinars at some point. But that’s on the in the short term for the business and then in the next six months or so, depending on what happens with the Corona virus pandemic that that’s happening at the time we’re recording this. We’d love to do like a Modern Musician live event as soon as possible where we can actually just get everyone get everyone out, probably have some performances on stage and be able to share over like the course of a three day event. We might do it virtually virtually at the end of this year, if we need to. So that that’s on the radar, we’re really excited for that. And musically you know, we toured full time with with Paradise Fears for about about 10 years and then I started this business and started my family and I’ve definitely felt the stirrings in my musical my musical soul to want to, you know, record some more music and to produce some new songs. So, I’m working on a new music project right now called queue no ego, and it’s totally like in the initial seed state, and I’ve started growing using the same strategies that we teach our artists right now. I’m basically creating this new music project and got the first few hundred people in there right now that are sort of starting to listen and connect with each other and it’s, it’s fun like feeling like a baby again, and kind of seeing some of these relationships form. So I’m in the near like three to six month range, I’ll probably look to record with as as good of a producer as as I can find right now. That’s, you know, in the singer songwriter folk folk music and try to record a single single with them and release that.

Robonzo 38:07
Cool, man. I’m glad to hear it. I, you know, when I talk to educators who have some background like yours with music, I’m always, of course curious if they’re still playing or thinking about it. And that’s always nice to hear. When they are you are, so that’s cool. I’m happy for you on many fronts, but that’s great, and look forward to hearing some of that. So,

Michael Walker 38:31
Thanks, man, I appreciate it. To be honest, you know, it’s something that drew like a lot of fear for me when I initially started thinking about it, because, you know, with our band, I felt we had 10 years and I felt pretty proud of what we kind of established and, and we’re able, I was able to kind of draw from that experience in terms of starting our business. But with this, you know, it’s kind of starting from the ground up and also kind of thinking about, you know, like, I need to the proof is in the pudding like, I need You know, what if I like did this music and I released it and it just like, didn’t go well or fly after yourself then like that I would feel like a total hypocrite from teaching other artists how to do this. But then I realized…

Robonzo 39:11
That’s right, right. I mean, you’d feel that way, right?

Michael Walker 39:14
Absolutely, absolutely. And then I also realized like that the fear that I was feeling around releasing my music was literally the exact same fear that I’m coaching our artists around releasing their music, and it’s really more about being seen and being allowing yourself to be heard and seen. And there’s a lot of like, fear around that as humans, I think, and it really holds a lot of us back from releasing our music because we’re like, Is it good enough? Am I good enough? What if it isn’t successful? What if it flops and usually, all of that is just like, sort of garbage that, you know, does that just holds us back from from learning and growing and, and… So yeah, I’ve sort of had to reflect a bit and just be like, Oh, yeah, you know, that’s part of the process. Like that, that fear is is normal and, and I do feel really grateful for just the community that we’ve built and the team and, and yeah, like the strategies like it’s cool like I launched the system in the first week and I was like, you know, a couple months later I made a few dozen sales and and a bunch of new fans coming in who actually genuinely care about the music and there’s a guy who, like changed his profile picture on Facebook to like the graphics from from, queue no ego and I was like…

Robonzo 40:26
Super fan!

Michael Walker 40:27
Yeah… It’s like, you know, can I run your can I run your your fan club? I’m like, like, sure, like, that’s cool. Like we’ve never met before. You don’t know, I am like, this is this is awesome. And so, yeah, it’s like it’s it’s funny. In some ways. I’m sort of like a baby again. But I also have, you know, I’m drawn from this experience with with Paradise Fears. And I’m also working with all these other artists and we’re all in the same boat and a lot of ways I think, you know, there’s, it’s like the analogy that he uses. It’s sort of like we’re surfers, and there’s always a wave that’s passed, there’s a lot of waves that have passed. And a lot of times we’ll kind of try to catch up to those waves. It’s like, nope, like that is already past, you know, it’s gonna be difficult. But if you’re willing to sort of look at the unknown, you’re willing to look at what’s happening right now and kind of look backwards and be like, oh, there’s this wave, that swelling that’s kind of coming up right now. And if you can kind of swim along with that, then and catch that, then it can give you this huge initial momentum that kind of shoots you forward. So yeah, it’s… No one has everything figured out. Like, we’re all we’re all still figuring things out. We all make mistakes and, and we’ve just got to do the best we can with what we know.

Robonzo 40:58
And it’s constantly changing, right?

Michael Walker 41:41
Absolutely.

Robonzo 41:42
And have you assigned yourself a mentor, either in house or outside for this whole endeavor?

Michael Walker 41:49
Yeah, so I’m actually we’ve got eight coaches that are, that are in our in our program, that are working with artists, and so I scheduled a bunch of sessions for me. So they’re kind of you know, with their their boss, they’re basically like, going through this and helped me launch this and… You know also I’ve invested. When I first started the business I invested about $36,000 into different business coaches and mentorship, $36,000 I didn’t have, mind you… Like the monthly options. And I don’t know I it was, it was scary. There’s, there’s a while there for probably the first year or so where I hadn’t, like I still get I’d made a lot of mistakes. I was trying to figure out what’s going to land and how to how to make this successful and I was about to be a dad and probably at my lowest moment, I felt like a failure of a husband and father, because I didn’t know how I was going to provide for my family. And I got to this point where I was about $36,000 in debt and turned it… And it wasn’t until probably about the first year or so that things really started to click into place and I started to gain traction. And it’s amazing what’s happened in the last couple of years since then. But Yeah, it’s definitely been, it’s been a journey and that that mentorship that I invested into is hands down the best investment that I’ve ever ever made in my life. But, you know, it’s it’s scary. It’s scary to invest and… Oh… Siri is talking to me. She thinks I’m talking to you thinks I’m saying, Hey Siri, it’s scary to invest.

Robonzo 43:17
Shut up. [to Siri, laughs]

Michael Walker 43:21
But, you know, that’s I think the best investment that you can possibly make is into yourself and your education. And specifically, I think investing in your marketing as a business is always a really valuable investment because it tends to pay dividends.

Robonzo 43:35
Yeah, cool, man. I love it. I wish you all the success in the second half of the year. It’s really nice to meet you hope stay in touch. Look forward to hearing your music. Thank you for spending time with me today.

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