How to Know if You’re a SELLOUT
Episode 016 of The Indie Musician Secrets Podcast
INTRO: There are no secrets to success, just things you haven’t learned yet. And once you learn them, it’s up to you to apply them. I’m Jamaal, aka Boss Eagle, Billboard-charting hip hop artist and music business coach. Join me as we talk digital marketing, social media, technology and more, and share interviews with industry professionals to help you unlock the “secrets” and take control of your music career. Because we ARE the new music business, and this is the Indie Musician Secrets Podcast.
What’s up? What’s up? What’s up? And welcome to the Indie Musician Secrets Podcast. I am your host Jamaal, aka Boss Eagle, Billboard-charting hip hop artist and music business coach at Business Minded Musicians. I want to welcome you to today’s episode where we’re going to be talking about how to know if you are a SELLOUT. That’s right, how to know if you are a sellout. But before we jump into that, I do just want to remind you that you can download and listen to the podcast on all of your favorite platforms. Also, don’t forget to rate and review that would be great, and it will help us to continue to move the podcast forward.
So without further ado, let’s dive right in and talk about how to know if you, as a music artist, are a sellout!
I was recently at a venue and I heard an artist say this. And the reason for that was this artist said that they had recently gotten a nine to five job. They’d just gotten a nine to five job and said, “Well you know, I’m a sell out, sold out.” And I’m thinking, ‘oh, like what venue? Congratulations!’ You know? But they said, “I sold out. I got a nine to five.” This artist said this multiple times. And it just really stuck out to me because I am an artist, as you all know, and it just got me thinking. I wanted to create an episode and just talk about this a little bit because I wonder how many other artists out there feel the same way.
So the question that it poses for me is: Why is having a job considered being a sellout?
Why are you a sellout because you have a nine to five, or because you have a traditional job, or because you do something to make a living while you’re working on your music career? And I think that part of it honestly, is that it’s an old mindset. To be perfectly honest with you, I think as Ari Herstand would talk about: it’s that old Uncle Joe, right? That old Uncle Joe that’s in the back of our minds. That old Uncle Joe that sits around who probably gave up on his dreams, and who has been telling you,
“Well if you haven’t made it by the time you’re 25 — if you’re not famous by your early 20s it’s not going to happen.”
And old Uncle Joe doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Old Uncle Joe has no idea about the New Music Business. Old Uncle Joe is used to 8-tracks and vinyl and cassettes and the old recording industry model. That’s just the reality — Uncle Joe doesn’t know he’s talking about.
I think also part of that old mindset, of why we think that we’re a sellout if we have a job, is because we have this aversion to anything that even remotely seems like it’s “corporate” or “the man.” Because we have gotten these mindsets for ourselves that anything that resembles a suit and a tie — it’s bad. We can’t be the man, right? And I think part of what goes into that is unfortunately so many of us have heard this idea of broke artist, starving musician thing. And we’ve taken offense to that historically. People will say, “Well, do you want to get paid or do you want to do what you love?” And it’s like, ‘well, you can do both.’ Those don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
But the problem [for] a lot of us, if we’re being honest with ourselves, [is that] we wear this like a badge of honor — the whole broke artist, starving musician, even though we get offended when people say that because they’re basically invalidating our dreams. They’re delegitimizing our journey. We get offended when people say it, but truthfully, we wear it like a badge of honor. We want this pity, this sympathy. If we look like we’re starving — like, ‘I’m starving for my art’ and all that. It’s like, well, you don’t have to. That can mean whether it’s on a permanent basis or a temporary basis or contract basis. Sometimes that means you work a job while you are working your music dream. So I just want to hopefully encourage someone out there to know that there is nothing wrong with having a traditional job.
I have a friend in the music community here in Colorado, who is an amazing, amazing, well-known artist in the area…who also loves her day job. Loves it. And I think that’s because we’re humans. We’re more than one thing. At the time of making this podcast. I don’t have a traditional job. But when COVID hit, I drove a FedEx truck. Some of you guys know I drove a FedEx truck for six and a half months. You know what I mean? I’ve done all kinds of odd stuff — some traditional, delivering food and stuff like that. Over the past however many years I’ve done a lot of different things. And that’s also not to say that I haven’t been looking. I’ve applied for jobs at different points because, and I’ll get to this in a minute, we all have a different life context. You guys have heard me say it before: You have to operate within your own life context.
So there’s nothing wrong with having a traditional job. But there can be benefits to it, right? Help you pay your bills. That’s a good thing. Your landlord doesn’t give a crap how good your song is or how many streams you have on Spotify. Your landlord needs to get that rent money. The mortgage company doesn’t care about your gigs and your YouTube channel. They’re going to take that house from you if you don’t pay. You get to pay your bills — your electricity, your water. [It can] help keep collectors off of your back. How many of us have gotten in trouble with credit cards? Keeping the collectors off your back can help you avoid stress, and avoiding stress is good when we’re trying to make music. It can [also] help you…get this…it can help you fund your projects! Sometimes having a job can mean not only paying your bills, but can also help put some money in the coffers so that you can actually pay for studio time. And isn’t that a good thing? Don’t we want to make music? Don’t we want to be able to pay that producer or that engineer or that session musician? Of course. It can help us fund our projects.
It can help put food on the table so you can actually eat. If you were to come with me and be like, “Man, I’m starving from art. I’m only eating ramen.” I’m not gonna look at you and have more pity than I’m gonna have on the person who’s like, “I’m working a full time job, a part time job and doing my music.” I’d be like, ‘Wow, they’re hustling. They understand what needs to be done, what needs to happen.”
And another benefit of having a job is that you have now a built in new group of people to share your music with, to share your upcoming shows with, to sell your merch to.
Set up a hassle-free online store today with Merch Tower: merchtower.com
When I left driving FedEx, and went in to talk to my supervisor, he kind of knew [I was leaving] because I talked about my music in my interview. He said, “I thought maybe we’d get four or five months out of you, but we got six/ six and a half.” But he encouraged me. He said, “You have to go for it. As an entrepreneur, you have to you have to go take the risk.” He also said, “I’m too scared [to do it],” but you know, it was a moment of honesty. And here’s the really cool thing: Before we were done with our conversation, he said to me, ‘if you ever need a job, if things are moving slow or not working or whatever, you can always come back. I’ll create a position for you.’ No joke. I was like, wow, thank you, people don’t do that. And he said, “No, but it’s a testament to how much we valued you here; your work ethic and stuff.”
When we create those other networks, that can be not only an opportunity to share the things that we’re doing with people, but also create those relationships. Maybe down the road, for a temporary period of time, you might need to go back to a traditional job and you left such a good impression on someone that they’re willing to just go ahead and create a position just so that you can have work again. I shared with people, I told people. My old supervisor used to call me Boss Eagle when we were in the warehouse. So there [are] some benefits to having a traditional job.
And I just want to stress this: working a job does not mean you have to stop doing music. In fact, it doesn’t even really mean you have to slow down. You may have to make some adjustments. You may have to cut some things out. You may not be able to go out as much . You may have to reappropriate how you’re spending your money and your time. But it doesn’t mean you have to stop or even slow down, and that was something that a mentor once said to me. It doesn’t even mean that you that you stop or even slow down what you’re doing. You just become more efficient about it. You start really looking at your day, and figuring out where you need to put those hours in to pursue the thing that you are wanting to pursue.
Let me just encourage you to stop putting so much pressure on yourself as an artist. I think that’s probably where some of this whole “sellout” idea comes from — this pressure that you have to be somewhere at a certain time or a certain period in your career. Everyone’s journey is different. We need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves as artists, because partly what happens is that we indirectly put pressure on other artists. We perpetuate this sellout mentality so other artists are then like, ‘oh, I don’t want to talk about my job’ or ‘I don’t want to talk about this because I’m a sellout or whatever.’ That’s not the case at all. Remember, our dream, our goal, music or whatever, is the sum total of our creative endeavors. We have to remember [that] we have to operate within our own life context. My life context is different from yours. There are going to be certain responsibilities I have that some of you may not. Some of you may have responsibilities that I don’t. So there’s nothing wrong with doing what you need to do, okay? But just don’t give up on your dream. You just have to reschedule, restructure, figure out how you’re going to get all those things done in those hours of the day. But you don’t have to stop or even slow down.
So I hope that speaks to someone out there. I hope that someone out there hears this and says, “Okay, okay, I’m not a sellout.”
I want to give you one action item. I want to leave you with something that I think you can take away from this that might help propel you, and help you continue to move forward with your music and building your music business.
The action item for today is to add one new, low-maintenance, hear me when I saw that, one new, low-maintenance revenue stream to your business model.
- Create an online merch store and sell the heck out of it! And that’s something that you could spend a couple of hours doing, if you do it the way that I that I would help you do it. Then you don’t have to worry about anything. People buy from your website, it’s processed by the manufacturer, packaged, shipped and sent right to your customer. You just collect the margin. So that’s a great opportunity to make some some side money, to generate some revenue.
Want help with creating an online merch store, visit: merchtower.com
- Consider doing live streams on the weekends or after hours. Promote those shows to your new colleagues. You might even work in a cool spot where you can do a live stream. Maybe you got a job at a brewery and they’re like, ‘we close at 10. If you want to live stream from 10 to 11, we’ll set up the cameras and lights and you can you can hook it up, man!’ Start considering live streaming and then you can use your live stream to put up a virtual tip jar and collect tips and donations from people all across the world. And you can platforms like Sessions Live and StageIt.
- One more thing you can do, especially for those of you who play an instrument: consider teaching lessons in your free time. Or even better create a simple online course like Guitar for Beginners, that you can sell while you’re sleeping, or while you’re working, or while you’re gigging! You could package it as a course, put it on one of those free platforms like Thinkific and sell it. People can buy that all day & all night, anywhere in the world! And you collect the revenue from that.
Don’t give up on your dreams. If you’re interested in the first option, which is to have an online merch store, I do have a company called Merch Tower. It’s a merchandise and marketing agency where I help musicians and music-related businesses build and create hassle-free online stores with no upfront costs, no inventory stacking, no packaging and shipping and no ongoing monthly fees. You don’t even have to handle customer service! The manufacturer handles [that] as well, so it’s completely hassle free. If you’re interested in that you can go to merchtower.com. I’ll leave a link in the show notes. We’d love to help you get set up with an online merch store so you can start selling merch and generating revenue.
If you have any questions or anything you’d like to discuss any topics, you can send an email to: Questions [at] IndieMusicianSecrets.com. Don’t forget to rate and review the episode, I would greatly appreciate that. And as always, please, please, please feel free to share this episode, and any of the other episodes, with anyone that you think it would be beneficial for. So with that, go do your action item. God bless. And I’ll see you when I see you. Peace.
OUTRO: Thank you for listening. Don’t forget to follow the Indie Musician Secrets Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. And make sure to leave us a rating and review. Also share this episode with other indie musicians who you think it would be beneficial for. And for more helpful resources to help you grow your music business, visit us at: businessmindedmusicians.com. I hope this episode has served you we’ll talk to you on the next episode.
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