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Creating a Community of Songwriters

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Rigel: “I mean, I, I think from the beginning there was this little voice in my head that was like, Rigel, what if, what if this was a business? Like, could you, could you actually make money doing this? And like, I have no idea how you could actually make money doing this. Just hanging out with musicians and making music. Like how awesome would that be? And but I was, I was afraid to do it cause I thought as soon as I start charging money, everyone’s gonna leave and I have to start from scratch. And I brought it up with my therapist. He was like, why don’t you just ask them?”

On this week’s episode of Establishing your Empire I host Rigel Thurston. Rigel is a professional musician and founder of 100 Days of Songwriting which helps songwriters get into the habit of writing daily. We met over Zoom to chat about how Rigel turned his idea of keeping himself accountable to developing a motivational and inspirational community into a business. We also cover in detail how to create professional virtual concerts and how they become more than just Rigel playing music.

Listen On: Apple Podcasts | Spotify

100 Days of Songwriting: https://100daysofsongwriting.com

Blog post that Rigel wrote on setting up ZOOM for musicians: https://100daysofsongwriting.com/zoom-live-music-setup-for-iphone/

Welcome to the Establishing Your Empire show. A podcast that inspires entrepreneurs, creatives and future business owners to pursue their passions, grow their organizations and build their empire. My name is Daran Herrman and creatively I’m best known for my photography. But business wise my claim to fame is growing a company from $15K per month in online sales to breaking the one million dollar a month barrier. And I’m sitting down with interesting people to talk about their process, the lessons they learned and how they have Established their Empire’s.

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I love it. Well, I have Rigel here on the podcast. Thank you so much for joining. So Rigel, you’ll, you’re obviously a musician. I, I would assume at least with those piano skills. So why don’t you give us a little story about your name because a lot of that’s its unique name and I know you’ve actually, I know this story, but I think it’s probably a good embarrassing start to the podcast.

Yeah, this is great. So most people they, they asked me , I’m native American with the name Rigel and I say, no, my parents were hippies. And I, I asked them if they want the 12 seconds story and they usually say yes. So my parents, they are from the San Francisco Bay area and they had a daughter named Meadow and when Meadow was two years old, they thought, you know, this is a great time in life too, build a boat and sailed across the ocean. And so they built a boat from scratch in their front yard and launched off into the Pacific ocean with their two year old and sailed to Hawaii. And the way you get to Hawaii, the way you navigate, they didn’t have GPS back then. They have the stars and you navigate by Rigel star Rigel stars, a left foot in the Arabian constellation for the astronomy nerds out there. And by the time they got there I was, I was no longer a twinkle in the eye. Okay. I was, my mother was pregnant with me and .

So you’re named after a star. That’s actually, that’s, that’s pretty cool. It is. So, yeah. But yeah, sailing across the ocean with a toddler, that might be interesting to in general. But look, they did it and it might not be worse than quarantine.

And Roger, you, you do have a, you have some kids, right?

Yes. I have a four year old, his name is Ozzie

And is Ozzy a musician as well?

Of course he is a musician and artist. He loves to draw trains. I, I think he kind of airs on the art.

Yeah. So we have Rigel today. One of the things, so Roger and I met because you’ve had kind of this constant gig at Truluck’s, right. For like 10 years now. Is that about right? I was there with a, another friend who’s a photographer. He’s a minute humanitarian photographer, travels all over the world and we’re just like, man, this is really good music. So we chatted all that. And then one of the things I want to get to probably we can jump in right away is right. Or you’re a part of this you created or a part of maybe give us a story, but you have this 100 days of songwriting. Maybe give us a little background what that is and what that means,

Right? Yeah. Well, you know, I’ve been playing, I’ve been playing covers most of my life, all my life and jazz standards, pop rock, a little bit of everything. But I knew that if I was ever going to be more than just a cover musician, I had to start writing my own songs and I took like every online course I could find. And the thing about the courses is it creates a community while you’re in the course and there’s this energy that happens, but as soon as the course is over, it’s like everything dissipates. And I, every, every teacher would tell me like, the only way you’re going to actually get better at this is if you write all the time. And I did not want to hear that because I just wanted to learn the right thing and then be a great songwriter.

Yeah. Just just tell me this, you know, 6 million abs, I don’t want to do ads for an hour every day, just six minutes.

One tire ugly. Exactly. Okay. So it was actually, I was reading a real estate book called the one thing and it was this idea of like, what if, what if you know, you focused just gave like a C plus effort on one thing for a large portion of time, you know, a hundred days. And I was like, wow, if I could just like the one thing that would make the biggest difference in my life right now is if I, if I had a habit of writing songs cause I S I start and then I get discouraged and I hate when I’m writing. And then I watch Netflix and eat potato chips and then like six months go by and I still haven’t written a song. So I started this group called the a hundred days of songwriting just with like a ragtag group of people. I, I conned into this and and I did it. And out of, you know,

How did that first like week, month go, right? Like, were they all excited with you or like how’d that, how’d that start?

Yeah, well, it’s everyone, I mean this is, this is the way it’s been. I’ve done S I’m on my seventh one right now and it’s always like the first two weeks everyone is just all in and super excited and then it kind of trickles off and you have like the gung ho people are still hanging on doing it every day. And I have this little, this little chart this was my first one. And you’ll, you’ll notice like the first three weeks, it’s just like crushing it and then one little life event happened and it’s just like, Hmm. No, I love that data there. That actually is pretty fantastic. Yeah. Yeah. So was that common for other people you think too? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. For sure. And, but the thing is, is at the end of my first 100 days, even with my, you know, amazing start and then trickling through to the end, I had like two songs that I liked and I was like, you know what, I, I can play. I had no songs. I went from no songs to like, yeah, I could, if someone asks me if I write a song, like I have a song. Right. Which is amazing. Yeah.

And zero to two, like that’s the hardest, I think like going from, you know, 15 to 20 is way easier to zero to two. So there’s a lot of parallels here to other creative industries or maybe in any industry, really starting a business, being a photographer, just getting that start and the ritual. So you just, you had a lot of different things there. So why don’t you without, I know and I want to come back to kind of the, the class itself, but why don’t you talk about like some of your rituals daily, right? So if you’re doing this a hundred days of songwriting, like what’s a day look like for you?

So the typical good day is I wake up at about five or five 30. Yeah. And aye do some breathing exercises and then I put on my shoes and go for a walk and maybe a jog depending on how you’re feeling. Yeah. And then I get back and I do my, my songwriting for the day. Cause if I, if I don’t do it first thing in the morning, like the chances that it’s gonna get done or just X to potentially go down. Cause as soon as my four year old walks in at like six or six 30 you know, I’ve, it’s, my day is now consumed with four year old business. So,

So that’s interesting that you kind of don’t let your kid start the day for you. You’re starting the day on your own terms. Yeah. Which I think a lot of people, I mean it’s tough time. Look, you go where’s you’re waking up really early and you’re doing this. I mean but that is, I think something interesting. I think that a lot of us let external I whether it’s your, you know, your kid or you know, emails or checking your phone and missing text messages or whatever, I think a lot of people let their day start them as opposed to them starting the day on their own terms.

Yeah. Interesting. Yeah. And you know, something else that I discovered is that time of morning is also like, it’s before my editor wakes up. And so if, if I can tap into some of that kind of raw creative, unconscious energy I can get stuff on paper or just just get stuff out that I wouldn’t normally have access to once my editor’s like ready to

Jump in. And do you think that the a walk slash jog is a little bit meditative for you in the mornings?

Yeah. it can be I there depending on what I need to do. Sometimes I’m like listening to a podcast. Sometimes I am just like in the moment, breathing, appreciating nature.

Sure, sure. And then, so for the rest of the day, do you kind of tackle any other songwriting stuff or is it just, Hey look, I’m going to go, go, go, you know, do work and go back to your normal.

Yeah. Well so, so my, my personal rule so the part of the a hundred days of songwriting is everyone comes up with their own rule. It’s not about writing an amazing song or a song a day. That’s insane. It’s about doing some tiny little thing every day. And and so my first rule was like four bars of music or a lyric section, but I could spend four hours on four bars of music, like retaking vocals, tweaking, compression, reverb, all this stuff. And so I decided to make it an an an and that doesn’t work in like a family and a marriage. So I, you know, the discussion with my wife and I was like, look, I’ll do 20 minutes a day. And and it’s, it works cause like I can do some free writing in that 20 minutes. I can whip out a melody if I’m lucky. I’ll get an hour and I can do a song, but if I can do my 20 minutes, I will, I will sleep well at night. I was coming to my point. What was your question again?

Well, just, you know, w w throughout the day, like what, what else do you, is there any other, so you in the morning, you’ve, you’ve done some stuff, but is there anything else?

Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right, right. So so if I do my creative work kind of first thing, it percolates throughout the day. Like if I’m driving around, I’ll have song ideas, I’m like recording stuff on my, you know, iPhone, I’m dictating text to my notepad. So it kinda like the whole day becomes a little bit of a creative outlet.

And do you think that’s if you didn’t start the day with the starting creatively, do you think that would be difficult for you to continue creative throughout the day?

Yeah. And it’s, it’s, it’s hard cause I, I want to answer emails first and like whatever that urgent thing is, it’s like you need to do this, but it’s usually like in the grand scheme of things, not that important. And this is, this is the important thing, but it’s so hard and yes, if I answer emails first, like my whole day is about responding to people instead of like acting from this place of creative power.

Right. I love it. So tell me more about the a hundred days of songwriting. Like, so okay. You guys got started. We had a couple of people, things were rolling around for two weeks was exciting and then you kind of had a little blimp, some other prize blimps so maybe I kind of still like to hear about the, the first, a couple of them. Like how did those go and how did, cause it’s obviously much bigger now. So like how did it, how did it go? Those first couple of times?

Well, so I mean F it started out just as like a thing for me. I was really just like, conning people into keep me accountable, but I didn’t want like the kind of accountability that’s like, I’m going to hold your feet to the fire and we’re going to crush this under a days. You know, I wanted like that gentle, Hey, we’re all posting our work and we’re encouraging each other by showing each other what we’re doing. But one of, you know, one of my friends was is a classical piano teacher and I was like, do you want to do this Graham? And he was like, no, I don’t, I don’t write songs. And I was like, come on, you can do it. And like halfway through, you know, he, he started out writing like sheet music by hand, and then he’d write these little like operatic like skits that were like, kind of funny.

And, and he’d post them and then he had someone singing them and he’d play them. And then someone found a librettist found his YouTube channel. It was like, Hey, can you write the music for my next opera? Oh yeah. And so I made the next, so the next a hundred days he worked on an opera. So, so what, what kind of struck me is like this, this is not just making impact on my life. Like it’s, this is there’s something here, like I stumbled upon something that’s like getting people excited and transforming their lives. So, so, but you know, I mean my, that first 100 days, like there were a lot of life events that were just totally derailing me. And then, but I’d come back and I’d be like, you know what I’m going to do my, my little bit today.

Yeah. And so how often you guys meet? Like is it or is it like daily, weekly, monthly. Like what happens? How does that happen? Because I think that check in process is very powerful. And I think like, you know, personal trainers have figured this out. Like, Hey, look, just be, you just have to look at me every once in a while and you’re going to work out because you’re not gonna want to say that you didn’t work out right. Or whatever. Or you don’t want to

Not show up. Right. Well that’s a good, that’s an interesting, I need to think about incorporating that, that part of it. But, so it started out as a, as a blog, like I would post the day and people would kind of like post a link on the blog and it was super cumbersome and useless. And so it really didn’t work. It was kind of like a blog and an email reminder and we didn’t really check in that much. We maybe met a couple times through the first hundred days and then I moved it to Facebook. Mmm. Because it just has like the bones for sharing and created a, a private Facebook group. And, and we did that for a couple of years on Facebook and people would post their daily work, you know, unfinished clips or a little writings or like, Hey, I thought about writing the day, but like I just didn’t get to it. So the, the idea is to actually post every and then, but it was a safe place. Yeah, it was. It was a safe place.

Yeah. And what’s interesting there is any creatives have a tough time sharing. You know, the problem with perfection will actually not finished something cause we don’t think it’s perfect or we’ll like drop it or not share it ever. Like I have stuff that completed stuff that I never posted. I spent, you know, 80 hours on and you just like shelf it. Right. Oh my God. Yeah. And I also think that not only accountability there, that they were probably getting more comfortable with even showing other people their work.

Yeah. Well, and, and something that I, I in forest really early on was when we’re doing the 100 days absolutely no critiquing, there’s a loud which is, it’s a little bit of a cognitive dissonance for musicians because we want, we want people to, I want people to tell me that I’m awesome, but I don’t want people to tell me that I suck or, you know, and, or I don’t want the critique. But I also want to get better and you have to have critiques to get better. But the thing is, is the, the, the inner creator and the, the inner editor don’t dance well and I needed to create that safe space for the creator. I needed to kind of like shelve the editor and, and create a structured process for critiquing and that sort of thing. But for this like incubator, you know, just getting the juices flowing phase, I needed to have like a totally safe space. And I think it actually, it attracted a lot of people to the group because they were like, Oh, this is like, this isn’t a competition. I’m not, I’m not going to be, you know, criticized my personhood. Is that going to be like crushed by sharing something? Okay.

And again to go to the gym and mentality, like, you know, you don’t need to go to the gym to be the best lifter. Right? You’re just going to get better. You versus you like, and also just to literally log hours. Like I just need to put some time in because I’m going to get, I’m going to get better just because that’s the way it works. Right? Yeah. I might not become the best. Like literally I might figure out that maybe, maybe it’s not for me, you know, but at least I could have something. At least I could give it a good shot. Right? Yeah. I actually tried for a hundred a hundred days in a row. So how often does somebody come back? Do they do multiple times in a row that are they one and done? Like what’s, what’s, what’s that like?

Yeah. we have, I mean, most that original group still is connected to the group somehow. Mmm. So some of them have kind of gone off or they’ll go off and maybe come back. But it’s, it’s a community. It’s, it’s not just about the 100 days, you know, it’s like once, once I make it through the a hundred days with someone, like we have kind of a bond because we’ve like, I mean this is

Third of the year or the year you’re talking to every day.

Yeah. And it’s, it’s not just like, I mean it’s, it’s hard work. It’s like emotional turmoil. Two be creative in front of other people. And so like when you have this group of people that are doing that together, it’s like going to war together. It’s like a battle with yourself. Yeah,

I can see that completely. All right, so

When did you move it? Okay, so when did you, so I went to the website. Yeah, when we first met and I went to a website that, you know, like yesterday and this morning. So it’s obviously changed even in that period of time. So when did, when did you sit there and said, okay, you obviously knew you had something, but how did you change it from just like a Facebook group? Like let’s hang out to get there too, I guess you would call it a business. Like it’s an organization, right? So, so how did that change and why also?

Mmm, I mean, I, I think from the beginning there was this little voice in my head that was like, Rigel, what if, what if this was a business? Like, could you, could you actually make money doing this? And like I had no idea how you could actually make money doing this, just hanging out with musicians. And making music like how awesome would that be? Mmm. And, but I was, I was afraid to do it cause I, I thought as soon as I start charging money, everyone’s going to leave and have to start from scratch and aye brought it up with my therapist. He was like, why don’t you just ask them?

I love it. It’s such a simple answer is it’s like, okay, I can’t be that simple. Can it be, but it is like literally when, if, if somebody wants to start a business, well, my first things that I say, go talk to a hundred people. See what they said. Yeah. Would they buy it? Yeah. Like, do, would they use this service? Like, they’re like, well, no, no. And then I started getting the weeds. I’m like, no, literally, just see.

Yeah. Ask. Yeah. so, so there were kind of a few things leading up to the, to this moment of asking them that, that was kind of starting to convinced me that more and more that I’m onto something. I just don’t know how to package it. So like one of my I took a Berkeley online course, you know, four or five years ago. It’s like a huge songwriting school, like top right. And the professor was like, Rajul, I love what you’re doing. Like, Mmm, you know, if you, if you want to use me in any way, like I’m happy to do workshops for the group song critiques. And so we started meeting on zoom you know, every, every month or two or something like that, just as a group. And Shane would do a workshop or he would do a song critique and Mmm.

So that little piece was telling me like, okay, someone from who actually does this and knows what they’re talking about isn’t just like playing in a sandbox thinks that what I’m doing is valuable. Like that. That spoke a lot to me, but what really pushed me over the edge was, aye put out a Facebook ad and it started converting people to email addresses. I’ve done Facebook ads for my own music and it’s like freaking impossible to get an email address. Like, what can I give you? And they’re like, if you’re giving away music, like you’re trying to sell me something, I could do not trust you.

Right? Yeah.

So I started getting like inexpensive email conversions from this Facebook ad and I was like, Whoa, this is like I’m growing an email list and people are doing it. You know, they’re, they’re converting to my email list and then they’re signing up to the Facebook group. And I was finally like, I, I really want to do more with this group, but I can’t justify putting in more time. Like I can’t justify it with my family and, you know, be married and do this and do music full time and, you know, teach and all this stuff. And so I, I had I just asked the group, I was like, Hey, what would you think if I just charge like $5 a month for a subscription service? And they’re like, of course, like, that’s so worth it. And, and a lot of people tell me afterwards, like, I think that’s too little,

Right? Because we do value, we do put a value. So if you say it’s $5 we will my only value $5. Yeah. So to me, I actually think that that something like this that there should be the one to one option that’s like literally like $1,000 a month. But it’s not because cause one you’re going to give the value back of a thousand and that’s worth something different to everyone. But the accountability or maybe like everyday they miss like art it’s $1,000 but literally they’d get their whole money back if they did every a hundred days. Right? Every day they miss like it’s such a, it’s almost like they get charged the money as well. It’s, you know, just get them on the hook. Right. But I love it. So, so you’re going along, you find, you got, you got, you got some people on board, everybody’s like, sure, let’s do it. And so, but a lot of people stop here. Right. And I don’t know if you had a pause period of time to where you, even if people said yes, I’ll pay five bucks. Like did, like, how did you pull that trigger and what did you do?

Well so aye I had to create an alternative to Facebook because Facebook doesn’t, it doesn’t do music sharing. Well, it’s great for video, but not every musician. I like in this, when you’re going through the weeds of like being creative and like you’re just barely have time to do the work for the day and then you have to like put your face on the video. And I’m like, I’m feeling like bloated and I don’t let you know, like it’s just that, that’s just one more barrier that’s going to keep you from, from doing this. And so I wanted to create an alternative, a place where you could just do, you know, recording on your phone and post it right from your phone on onto the, the forum. And so I created a website. I’m using WordPress, which is just, you know, you can download a bunch of plugins and I actually paid for, you know, so now I’m like paying for real things.

Like, I’m paying for hosting and I’m paying for these plugins that are, you know, they, it’s real money. I’m paying for the email system and everything. The tech stack, you know, it starts, it starts adding up and I was like, there’s a certain number of people I have to have to be, I’ll actually just float the tech stack and that’s not even paying the operator me. Right. but I got, you know, I got probably I, I made the announce, I finally got it all working and I was like, Hey I need people to test this out with me. So this next a hundred days I’m just going to basically give you membership for free. And then it’ll start, you know, at $5 a month after that for all my beta testers.

So I got probably 15 beta testers. There is a handful of people, I just, they’ve been with me from the beginning. I was just like, you’re, you’re at forever member. Like you, you’re a believer, you never have to pay. And then and then I started siphoning some people off of the Facebook group and, and inviting them in with like a, you know, a free month or something like that. And if it’s not for them, then they can cancel and no big deal. And, and so that was last August. So August of 2019 is when I launched. And then we started our 100 days in September. Mmm. And you know, we have probably 40 people inside the membership, some of them paying some of them on like a trial basis and some of them free.

I love it. So we went from like this I this need for you to be held accountable yourself to other people getting value. Then you sit there and said, okay, let’s make a group. So we have create a community and then now you say, okay, well let’s make this a business and organization. And I think about a business is, you know, you need fuel, which is money, right? If you want to make this more legit or what, what could have happen is a Facebook group could’ve got bigger and bigger and bigger than how do you manage that? Right. And without fuel, that’s very difficult to manage. So what do you think your conversion rate of getting somebody to the weekly trial to actually converting them? Is that, you know, I don’t know if he had enough data yet, but like is that, is that pretty strong or is that like a lot of people fall out?

Yeah, no, it’s it’s actually pretty strong and it, I’m, I’m kind of the, the data that came in from the, the first hundred days, I’m just kind of scrapping that because something, I guess I wasn’t clear with some people that it would actually start charging in six months, but I didn’t have, I mean, I was clear, but I didn’t have a reminder system set up so people would, they’d be like, Hey, what’s this charge? And I’m like, Oh, I’m so sorry dude, I’ll, you know, credit that back to you. So we had the, there was a number of number of people that just, they didn’t want to keep going. Yeah. That’s what happened too. And sometimes that, you know, that’s always, that’s always funny. But you know, e-commerce wise we think about conversion rate like 3%. Good. Right? Yeah. Obviously that’d be tough for you cause you know, there’s a higher touch, but yeah, people are going to fall out no matter what.

So you think, how do you think, go ahead. Yeah. So there’s a couple things that aye that first, that first time and back in the fall, the first 100 days, I like realize that people are paying now and now I have to take this seriously. Like I couldn’t just be like, Oh, you’re not paying me. Well, I’m not, you know, I’m just, I have another life. I have to leave. I was like, this is my life. So I took it so freaking seriously and you know, they were getting more than what they were paying for. Like I, in my opinion and I actually ended up raising the price in March, you know, at the start of the new one. So if, if people joined before the, the spring 2020, they’d keep that $5 a month. Right. And then I bumped it up to $7. And I, I S I still think I’m way under priced. I’ll, it’ll probably keep going up, but anyone who joins in will forever have whatever their rate is as long as I remember.

Yeah. I mean, again, to me it’s also accountability. Like I think the higher the rate goes, probably the more somethings get, get, get out of it because,

Oh God. Yeah. How do you sell that though?

How do you sell that? Well, because, because look

It’s a better, do you want 5,000 people pay you 505 bucks? Or do you want to deal with five 50 people paying you $100? Right. and to me, I want want, I only want, I would rather those people to be really engaged, but again, I’m not the one that has to charge. So or ask for it, trust me, just pay me more

And you’re going to do better. But I mean I’m, there is an element of truth to that. It’s just like I,

Well, and this is also the reason why people hire consultants a lot like me that they come in and say, ah, this is how I see it. Like, cause you know, you get so close to it but it doesn’t matter. You’re going to, you look, you’ve already done a 20% increase of your price and yeah, and I’m sure your conversion rate

Didn’t change, right? No, it’s, I mean people are sticking around, but I think part of this process for me is, is like coming to understand my own value and like trusting that that’s real. Because up until this point I’ve just been like, this is the thing that I’ve been doing for me and I’m providing this community in a safe space. But how do you put a dollar value on that? I’m not providing like tangible like classes and this is what you’re going to you know, accomplish by the end of this. And maybe I need a little bit more of that. I don’t know. One, one thing that I did do is people were like, you know, they’re going through the a hundred days and they’re like, I need something to do when I don’t have anything to write. And so I actually created a a co a workshop that goes alongside the a hundred days called how to crush writer’s block in 100 days. And it’s just like every week I send out something, it’s like an exercise that it can be done in 10 minutes or 20 minutes. Something that I do when I’m getting stuck and you know, it’s anywhere from like a free writing type exercise to like some sort of melodic iteration type exercise. Anyways, I’m kind of going on a tangent.

No, that’s an amazing tangent. This, you’re creating more content. I mean, this is awesome. I just see this like, I think we’re in a moment at a time. Of course, you know, your, your couple of years in and it’s growing and growing. Like, I feel like, look, let’s look five years out and maybe this is a good question. Where do you see this in five years? Oh man.

Huh. Aye. I would love, so I would love it if this turned into . Mmm. Like an actual meetup where we would meet in person maybe once a year with like a big , excuse me, a big workshop or I dunno, some kind of thing where, because we have people from all over the world, you know, we have people in Australia and New Zealand, UK, Canada, Spain, like everywhere. And I think it’d be awesome to actually be meeting up in person cause I want wanna I’m like creating these bonds with people that deeper than a lot of bonds that I have with like my beer-drinking friends, you know? And I want to meet them.

Yeah. That, that would be really cool. And I bet you could do that. I think that might be easier than a, I mean, it’s obviously would take a lot of work, but if you did an online conference or I’m not online conference in person conference, I think it’d be super fun. Obviously can’t do it right now with the whole coven. Coronavirus you know, so your day job’s pretty much out, right?

Yeah, yeah. I remember we, we went on vacation to New Mexico like the day that the a hundred days started and it’s awesome. We’re like off in the mountains and I’m like creative and writing every day. And then we get back and I play like one gig at true locks and they’re like, you need to go home an hour early and we’ll let you know about tomorrow if we want you to come in.

And you’ve been there for 10 years. And it’s like

Like, yeah. I mean, I saw it coming, you know, the, all the, they actually held on a lot longer than the other restaurants. They were like, we’re waiting until the governor tells us or the, I don’t remember who, yeah, I was governor. Governor. Yeah. Yeah. Like and, and so they waited to the last minute and then it was like noon. Tuesday I think was a day. They were like, yup, you’re not coming in and we’re shut down. And and so I had to kind of figure out, you know, how, how I’m going to replace some of that income. So I, I decided to just do zoom concerts. But I, you know, I was thinking like, this is, this is what I’ve been been training for. Like, I, this is what the last like three years, I’m like being together while being apart is like, what 100 days of songwriting is all about. And like, and it’s super niche-y. Like using zoom for music is like totally nerdy and like w but all of a sudden, like, my skill set is like really valuable to people and people are like, how do you do this? And I’m like,

Yeah, so, so one of the things is I, the, you know, the whole covert thing has given you the excuse go ahead and start doing it because it’s not, it felt a little weird doing it beforehand. And I, I, I think it will stay around. I think people were gonna keep doing these things afterwards.

So

I think the first question I would have is, you know, what have you learned to make it better? Like the process of the zoom conscience, right?

Yeah. Well

Because I do have a lot of musician friends. I’ve had some musicians on here on the podcast, so I think some people will be listening of you know, like what can they do to make their, to start, I guess what we want and, and to make it better would be another question too.

Yeah. Well I think like one question to ask yourself is like, why do you want to do it? Because you know, there’s, I see a lot of musicians doing live streams to Facebook or Instagram and that’s awesome. I mean, if that’s working for you, great. But it’s a very different experience to be in a room where I can see everyone’s face, they can see me, but they can also see each other. And, and when you’re in zoom, there’s the gallery view, which allows you to like see everyone. If you’re on a computer, you have this gallery view and it’s, it’s kind of incredible. And there’s, there’s a point in every show where I, I forget that I’m on zoom and I’m just in the flow and kind of seeing people laughing or not laughing and responding. And then there’s like, kids are having their own little nonverbal conversations and it’s just like entertaining. And I think people right now, people want to be seen and they want to see other people. It’s not just about like entertainment, it’s about like creating this, this space that transcends politics, our beliefs. You know, and musicians have this really unique opportunity to create that space. And if they have like the tech knowhow, you know, you can do it with zoom and . Pretty fascinating.

What about the audio? So how do you get your audio?

Yeah, that’s professional. Yeah. So there’s always going to be some limitation with zoom for now. But aye, I wanted to do this like years ago and I just got stuck because I couldn’t figure out how to do it on zoom. And then I discovered original sound, which is this features. But basically zoom is really good at isolating the human voice and cutting out anything that might be competing with it. And so it’ll, it’ll even like listen to the way you type and machine learning, figure that out and start to cut that stuff. It’s listening for all these different sounds that aren’t you, which is great for a conference room. But terrible for a piano singer. And so what happens is you’ll play the piano and it’ll just die. You’ll hear it go and it’s like what? And, and it’s, it’ll start to sound garbled, like you’re kind of underwater. And so basically you have to turn off original or you have to turn on original sound to bypass all of that. Oh, that’s technology that zoom uses.

Yes. That’s actually just a setting in zoom. It sounds like. That’s not a, it’s not a third party software. You’re literally just found a little preference. Daddy funny.

Yeah. But it wasn’t, but it wasn’t like it was buried in these like user settings that were, you had to have an account, you don’t have to have a paid account, but you had to go into your account on the website to allow this setting to be available on your application. Now, so when I first figure this out in March, you could only turn on original sound on a computer, but this is huge. Okay. For musicians out there, like this is a game changer. You can now turn it on, on your phone on your device. And so like from anywhere you can get that higher quality sound, you know, you’re going to hear the air conditioner, you’re going to hear a lot of stuff, but you’re not going to get this garbled. Like

Jarek yeah. Weird. Suppressed. Yeah. Yeah. That’s, that’s, that’s amazing. So, because I would never even think about that. You know, when I’ve started thinking about audio quality, I’m like, okay, so you know, I’m thinking hardware, right? Right away. Yeah. And, and you’re like, literally, it doesn’t matter how I perfect hardware, zoom comprises it in a weird way or gets rid of it or so that’s funny. Ah, I love it. That’s, that’s easy cause that’s free. So what about, so what, so what, what else have you learned? Like, cause I, I’ve seen you and you’ve got like multiple camera angles. You’ve got like you’ve got a legit set up without getting too in the weeds cause there’s so many different ways of doing it. Right? Like what, what’s this, can I sum in general terms of like what a musician should do to make it more professional? Right.

Yeah. Well I think like if you want to go the one step up from just having original sound on, on your computer or on your phone you need to, I don’t really know about connecting interfaces to a phone. So I th I think like ideally you would have, Mmm, you would have an audio interface connected to your computer. And the thing is, is you really want to be on a computer anyways, so you can have that gallery view because you can see up to 40 people on the screen at the same time. And that’s like critical for this type of experience in my opinion. Otherwise it’ll like flash back and forth. And do you know anyone who’s like making a noise is going to get like the camera on them? So I would recommend really, I mean because I’m playing my piano through, I’m using a piano patch on my computer, virtual piano sound it’s way more complicated for me, but if you just have an instrument or an acoustic piano and your voice, you can just have a couple of microphones, run it into your audio interface, get the levels up, Mmm.

And, and turn on original sound and you’re going to get a much better quality sound and just like your, your computer microphone.

Yeah. And I, I think actually still the best thing that you said with all that stuff was actually just, Hey, turn on original sound. At least do that lease. And then computer, because it’s not the way you explained it, it’s not you providing just entertainment of, Hey, I’m playing, listen to me. It’s, I’m playing in front of all these people and let’s enjoy each other. Right. So I think that’s interesting about the, the laptop using a computer, whatever it is is important. I do whatever, obviously, but I think that’s super fun. So what about getting paid to do that? Right. So I’m sure the first time you did it and the time you did it on last Friday or whenever your last one was. Yeah, it was probably a different experience. So what have you figured out with, you know, because it’s always weird to ask for donations, but I think that people, Hey look, you’re giving me two hours in entertainment. Like I’m, I’m cool to pay. Right. So what, what have you figured out there? Well, you know what,

I can, I’m curious what people’s experiences on Facebook. I just don’t have anything to compare it to. So yeah, but I, I feel like I am creating a valuable experience that’s totally unique. It is different than just, you know, playing something that someone’s seeing on the Facebook live feed. So my, my first one, I, I have an email list with probably, yeah. At the time was like 380 people for my music stuff, just my music stuff. And I had a PayPal and Venmo and I just had those links that I, I included in my life straight. So yeah, there’s a couple things that are, that I’m doing. I’m, I have the zoom room, which is the place that people can actually come to interact with me. But then I’m piping that out too. My Facebook live stream where people can then they can, if they want to, they can just watch there and if they want to join in they can click the, the zoom link.

And just to be, just to be clear, cause I think I got it. So basically, yeah, the zoom is where it’s at. That’s where it’s happening, where you can interact. But if you just want to be a a viewership or even just so you can use it kind of as advertising ways it is, it is duplicated on Facebook. Right. But somebody can only watch, they can’t, you know, they can’t be in the little box and the gallery right. Would have to join zoom. That’s interesting because you’re not just saying, look, I’m not gonna be on Facebook. You’re saying, Hey, Facebook is a secondary experience, but it’s still there.

It’s like, like it’s like the, there’s my house and then there’s the front porch and like Facebook is like the front porch and it’s actually, this is, this is an idea that, that I’ve been using with a hundred days of songwriting. Like when I converted to the membership, I started to think of 100 days of songwriting is like, like the Facebook group then became public. At first it was a private group and then I was like, I need to have this great, this intimacy gradient. This is actually an architecture term that I learned from this book that I love called pattern language, but it’s about creating this kind of human, very natural human experience. Like you don’t walk into your front door and like your toilet is right there. Like you have the porch, you have the front door, you have like the code closet, then you go around the hall and then down and like then the bathroom is you know, furthest away. And so you have this

Right. Yeah. You, you, you have a flow that, and this is, that’s great cause this is something I preach all the time to, to businesses as like your online flow should just be just like your store, your retail store front. You, you don’t like, do you want them to naturally come through in a specific way that you can control. So it’s, it’s fantastic that you’ve thought about that user flow a little bit here.

Yeah. So, so yeah. And a lot of people like they, they just want to hang out on Facebook. They don’t want to be scene. No, that’s fine. That’s a lot. There’s a lot to ask from someone. And honestly, actually the audio is better on is way better on Facebook because I, I have this program that I’m using called OBS. It’s like a, it combines video and audio and you can pipe it off to different places and so,

And OBS is free I believe, right? Yeah. It’s been around a long time. Videographers, like myself, it was kind of the first way to get your stuff online through your camera.

Right? Right. And it’s, it’s another tech level up. Like if you’re going to get to that, it’s like this is, you’re gonna ha, you’re gonna make some mistakes and it’s going to get ugly. But, but so I, I have a stream going out to Facebook that’s actually way better because there’s a 15 second delay between you know, I stream and what comes up on Facebook. So it has all of this time to get the highest quality audio where zoom is like bam. I mean, there, there is maybe when I, there’s, there’s maybe like a 16th note to like maybe a quarter note difference. I, I’m, I’m using music terms because this is, I’ve tested this with students. Like they’ll turn a Metro, you know, alternative metronome on, on my side and they’ll try to play along with it. And it’s like, it’s like an eighth, eighth note, 16th note off. But that’s, that is like not much lag. You know, it’s not, it’s not playing live with someone, but it’s getting close. Sorry, I’m

No, I love it. It’s, I actually like that, the different directions. Right. Cause I think a lot of people could get it a value in other areas, so, so, all right, like besides a good time community, like answer this however you would like, but the amount of money you used to make at your, your, your gigs. Oh yeah. Truluck’s versus like what you’re bringing in. Like is it anywhere close? Is it somewhat decent? Like where, where’s that, how successful money-wise cause and money’s not the only a variant. Right. But I think it is one that, to say how, how well things are going with it.

Yeah. Yeah. Well, I, I, I’m, I don’t want to say what I make a true legs because I don’t think they would want me to say that.

Yeah, no, no. I just meant like percentage wise, like I said, is it somewhat close to where it was or not even close at all or

It’s somewhat close. So like the, the first, my first gig that I did was unbelievable. Like I played for two hours and I made $1,300. And like I, I don’t make that at an on a night. Well, that’s good.

I mean, it’s just amazing that people w we’ll pay for one for a virtual conference and did pay for virtual concert. Right. Not only like would they pay, but they did.

Yeah. Well, and those, a lot of those tips were like my friends that were like, here’s the a hundred dollars. Like you’re not getting another a hundred dollars different me, but yeah,

But, but keep going. Yeah. Like, let, let, let you don’t quit. I’m only gonna pay you once, but you, you, you don’t quit. Right.

Yeah. And then, you know, I’m making in the kind of two to 300 range on my other hat. Like since then it’s kind of back down to a more reasonable, which isn’t, it’s not what I’m making. During my, my true Lex day. But it’s, it’s like pretty awesome because I, so what’s happening is like I have this student who lives in Raleigh. I can’t even remember how he found me. I think he just became a fan on my music page and he found out that I lost my gig. I was like, Hey, I want to take lessons from you. So he started taking lessons, showed up to the happy hour, invited all his neighbors and then like his neighbors started inviting their neighbors. And so I have this whole like East coast kind of like thing that’s great. Like they’ll show up and like my Austin friends aren’t showing up, you know?

Well, I guess what I was kind of getting to was, so I see it as a lead generation, which is fantastic. But most importantly, if somebody like on the fence, whether they should be doing this and they see in other positions and that there, yes, you can make money virtually doing this. And also it can have external value, meaning like somebody could sign up for your song songwriting course or they could sign up personal lessons. Yeah. So that’s really what I was going. Whereas it’s not just like you’re just doing it for fun, which I think is a really good time because look, let’s face it, being at the home with family all day is great, but it’s interesting, you know? Yeah. Well, and speaking of lead generation, I mean what I tell people is like if you’re, if you’re going to show up to my zoom room, you have to register and once you register, you’re going on my email list.

And like I haven’t, the last time I like added people to my music email list was probably two years ago. And it’s just, it’s like a lot of work to get people on my music list. But now, like I’m adding people, you know, every week I’m adding people and I have my happy hour on Fridays and my kid’s concert on Tuesdays. And I’m like, my list is growing and yeah. It’s awesome. That’s, that’s a lot of fun. So what about a more personal question? Like what would you, what would you tell your 16 year old self, right. If you could give yourself some advice.

Mm man, my 16 year old self was really preoccupied with being incredible and Mmm. Stable. I th you know, I didn’t grow up in a family that had like a lot of money and I was like, I don’t, I don’t want to be when I turn into my parents and like being a flaky musician was not th I’ll, I’ll, I’ll, I didn’t think that being a musician was a real job. Mmm. But aye, like looking back, you know, I spent seven, 16 years, 17 years in the real estate business doing something that just didn’t like feed me. I mean there’s something exciting about making money in big chunks, but it was like sucking the life out of me and Mmm. If I were to talk to my 16 year old self again and I know that’s, there were people in my life who told me this like find what, what like brings you alive.

Follow that and it will like your, your brain will make the connection. It will, it will figure it out if you keep just keep at it. And that’s what I’ve found with, with all this music and the a hundred days of songwriting, like a hundred is songwriting is so awesome. I can’t believe, I’m like actually like I’m just getting past the tech stack cost and it’s like, like this could, could I really good paid to do this. Like this dream of just building community and making music and do you think that if you didn’t have all those years in real estate that you would enjoy what you’re doing now as much? Aye. I don’t know. I don’t know if I would, I, I don’t know because I have this like frame of reference now that is always like, you could always go back and do that and you’d B, it’s like nowhere near as great as what’s what’s going on right now. Any, any regrets? In general. Mm. Okay. Any regrets?

Mmm, I wish I practice my scales teacher comment. I know, but I I think I would be very deep in a different place musically if I actually like applied myself in practice. I love it. Yeah, we did. I did ask you kind of the question of like, wait, where are you still see yourself in five years with the a hundred days of songwriting, but what about you yourself? Where do you see, you know, it could be three years, five years, whatever. What does the future hold for you? Yeah, well, I think something that, that has emerged through this a hundred days of songwriting is seeing myself a, as a teacher, but also as a coach. And, and kind of like helping people find there own creative spark and like fanning it and helping them figure out how to fan of themselves. You know, I’ve, I’ve been through it and so like I, I know kind of my own roadblocks, but I think I can also help other people as well, but I haven’t really believed that I could.

So this is, this is this big like process of like, can I really do this? You know, I don’t, I didn’t go to college. I don’t have like a degree. I don’t have the, the credentials that qualify me for this stuff. Right. So it’s like I have to convince myself by doing it and getting that feedback and it’s just, it’s a matter of like getting the feedback and people like actually pain and saying, yeah, you’re, you’re worth this. So it’s, it’s like these like micro jumps into the abyss all the time, every freaking day. I love it. So

Looking back on the a hundred days of songwriting, what, what, what’s kind of one of the proudest moments that you’ve had?

Oh man, I, you know, honestly, I think one of the proudest moments was a couple of weekends ago when aye put on an open mic using all of this zoom stuff that I, you know, I’ve, I’ve dreamed about doing an open mic like with people all over the world sharing their songs and I did it. It was awesome. And we’re having another, another one this Sunday and I’m like, like, yeah this is happening.

That’s so awesome. And again, I think that, you know, some of the positives, I am an optimist, so I do, I tend to look at the, the positive side of even these traumatic horrible events that we’re going through on right now. But I think the world’s going to be different, right? There’s going to be something, the post Cova is different. So, and me being an online person like this is literally people are starting to say, okay, I should have gone online earlier or I should have done online better. How can I do that? So I get, I’m, I’m very busy. A bunch of people reaching out to me in that area. And what do you think, you know for you post coven? Like are you going to keep doing these zoom virtual happy hours, right?

I think so. I mean it’s, it’s, I’ve always wanted, I mean, I’ve been telling myself this for years. I mean, ever since I was at two Lux, like I would love to just have a gig, you know, where I can do my own stuff and I can just do my own thing and it doesn’t matter. And like that’s hap, it’s hard to do as a father in like a relationship and mortgage and you know, all these like adult responsibilities. I have to figure it’s, I can’t do, like I’m going to stay up till 2:00 AM 4:00 AM doing gigs. Like that’s not, I can’t do that, but I can do things during the day or during happy hour. And this zoom thing seems to be like working and I’m connecting with people that I grew up with who are like, man, you should do this all the time even when this is over. So there will, I’m, I’m absolutely positive there’s going to be some version of this that continues. Yeah,

I hope so. And I think people will still want it. I think that the voice in your head might sit there and say, ah, well no, that was only during that time period, but Mmm. I would disagree and try to fight boys. Right? Yeah. Yeah. Any mentors along the way? Or a book. You mentioned a couple of books too, if you want to take it in that direction too or,

Yeah, let’s see. You know, I’ve, I feel like I always have some mentors in my life. Yeah, a lot of it’s kind of working through personal stuff. And you know, I’ve, I’ve had a friend who’s, who’s like a Mmm, like a communication coach and he just kind of took me under his wing and like move the needle forward a little bit for me, so I could speak in a way that like connects with who I am and resonates with other people. I’ve, I read a marketing book recently that really kind of opened my eyes to what’s possible with marketing. Like I think when, when I’ve always heard the word marketing, I think like people interrupting my life to like sell me crap, you know? And what I’ve learned from people like Seth Godin and other people is like, my marketing is about finding out who you are and being like, so razor clear about who you are that it hits exactly who it needs to hit and it doesn’t hit anyone else. Like you don’t need millions of people. You just need like a thousand fans that are like, like die heart.

Yeah. 1,000 true fans. And I would say yeah. And in another way, which is the exact way what you’re saying too, I think is marketing is finding your narrative. Right? Right. And you have to diff, it has to be a very crystal clear narrative. 10 seconds. I got it already. Am I connecting with you or not? Right. And it’s okay to not connect with somebody cause if you’re general and , nobody’s going to care.

Yeah. Yeah. So speaking of narrative, the book that I was going to recommend is it’s called StoryBrand by Donald Miller. And it’s, it’s kind of using the hero’s journey as like the, the, the arc of bringing someone into your, whatever you’re selling bringing them in through a story where, and here’s the key. I’m not the hero, I’m the guide. They’re the hero. And so it’s about creating a story where they, you know, they, they become the hero or they’re, they’re kind of the main character. And I’m just, I’m just like the helper along the way, helping them and that, that’s been really helpful. I think that we should take that clip and put it on your website right there. Boom. It’s going to be on the website a hundred days of songwriting website because I think that’s very true. So I think I only have two more questions. Yeah. Answer this first one away, yes or no. And feel free to say no when after you answer the next question after this, will you play I an outro song? Yeah, maybe at like a, a song song. Not just that. Diddy. So it’s up to you. I don’t know if you’ve done voice warmups and stuff. Sorry, I apologize for putting you on the spot. But, so my last question and I end every podcast this way, is how would you like to be remembered?

Mmm. So aye. The mentors that have, that have come into my life. Mmm. Like they’ve changed my life after I meet them. I’m like, I’m a different person. I’ve see the world in a different way. Mmm. And I, I hope that I have that effect on other people that I can, I’m remembered as someone that like, you know, Rigel, I met Rajul and then like, after that things were different, you know? And if that, you know, maybe that’s a lot to ask, but I hope that I have that effect. Yeah. That’s how I’m remembered. No, for the, for the positive. No. Nice. Sounds fantastic. I, I completely, that’s an amazing way to put it. It’s like, you know, that you made a difference in somebody’s life that they, that it actually was a notable difference. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So what song are you going to play?

Well actually I was thinking about playing a song that I wrote during the last 100 days. Love it. You can do whatever you want. So the rest of the podcast is yours. I’m tripping it over to you. So you now, you now you own it. Yeah. And B, by the way, thank you so much for being on here. This was fantastic chat. I’m real excited. And what, we’re going to post this here, today’s Monday. We’re gonna post it on Wednesday, so we’re going to push this out. And before you start to what’s the best place for people to find you? Roger thurston.com. R I G E L T H U R S T O n.com. Or if you’re a songwriter, go to a hundred days of songwriting.com. Love to connect with you there. By the way, Daran, this is my first podcast.

There we go first. Yes. So any good? So I, I wrote this during the last a hundred days in the fall of a 2019 and it’s kinda personal. Like I, I was, you know, getting in touch with my inner child and and as it kinda turned into a song directed at my inner child, but then it, it also like my, when I was four, I looked exactly like Ozzie. And so it’s kind of like directed at him too. And it’s this, so it’s really, this song is for anyone who has an inner child basically, and it’s called hello my child. Let’s see. Can you hear? Can you hear my piano? Yup. Yup. Well it should be recording.

Hello. My child looks like you’re hunting for treasure. Please tell me hello. Salt. Your face. Your hair is when sweat man show. No, yo have faith when the waves to that seat. It’s been there before. You’re not a pirate man child. And you’re not a con. Not a tiring . No. Are you live? And little do hounds where the cow to violin. Weird. Say Dave. Time would say this is your chance to scatter the cross. That fills your chest scattered across.

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