Building Success In The Music Industry by Connecting, Building Relationships, Reaching Out To The Media & Not Relying On Facebook or Myspace
August 23, 2012 2 Awesome Responses, but Add More Here

21 Folks Who Stand Out As Thought Leaders In Their Niche & How You Can Too – Part 2 of 3


It’s 8 o’clock.

You’re walking down a city street late one evening after catching a special screening at your local movie theatre.

You pass a convenience store. Nothing interesting there, and you stroll on.

The sound of a muffled crowd gets louder and louder. “Someone’s having a good time”, you think. The muffles become claps. The claps become cheers.

You hear a string of words, then the clinking of glasses. You hear the most sensual sound coming from between the applauses. You hear a bossa nova guitarist. You hear what seems like the greatest guitarist you’ve ever heard.

You reach the outside of the bar. You look in, and that large crowd is just a handful of folk. “Intimate”, you think. But no. You peer in further, and the guitarist is playing his heart out. You look closely, and that crowd is deep in conversation, almost oblivious to the genius that is there before them. Only when the music stops do they turn around and start clapping as if an after thought once the silence sets in. The guitarist starts again, and he plays some more. They return to their conversation, and greatness goes unnoticed.

You, seeing all you needed to see, pass on by into the night.

Heather Fay does not let this happen. Her audience are so appreciative, that they will take time out their day, and listen to her live whilst you watch them do so.

“Heather Fay”

Singer, Song Writer & Champion of Google Hangout Concerts

It all started with Rick Goetz’ candid interview with Heather Fay on That’s how she caught my attention.

Heather Fay has as of 8PM GMT on August 19th, 230,021 followers or “circlers” on Google Plus. That’s amazing! To put that in perspective, taking a look at the Billboard Folk Album’s Charts right now, out of the Top 5, The Lumineers can’t even be found with their own presence on Google+, and only Ed Sheeran comes close, a young and exciting artist with 207,197 circlers, more than 20,000 folks less. That’s a lot of folks, right.

Heather Fay stands in stark contrast to that bossa nova guitarist performing to an apathetic audience. Her audiences, on the other hand, are infectious. She consistently seems to have an appreciative crowd, all willing to listen and watch her perform, publically too.

It’s human nature, to be curious about large crowds huddled together. You walk down the street, see a crowd forming, and two things are possible. Something interesting, or something troublesome is happening. That curiousity makes you want to find out. That attracts more and more people to check out what’s going on. She cleverly uses that to her advantage with one of those Google Hangouts.

In fact, Google+ Hangouts, is one reason why she stands out. Yes, her lyrics touch a chord, like in her song, “Breaking My Heart“. But how many songs have you heard where the words or the music were so beautiful from an artist you’ve never heard of, and they never got that song past you, their friends, their family and their living room.

“Many musicians have kept an eye on Google+ to see if it would be a platform worth utilizing to evangelize and keep fans updated with their latest news. Unfortunately, some new stats may make musicians think twice about spending their time on the new social platform.”

Heather was one of the first artists to go against the grain and the opinion that Google+ isn’t for musical talent. She uses Google+ Hangouts in new and ingenious ways that the musical, business and digital media all pay attention to. A great by-product of that attention is the spread of her and her music to folk who wouldn’t have discovered all that she’s about, at least so soon.

She was also part of a H.I.R.L. event, “Hangouts In Real Life”, which does sound strange, but it attracted a crowd who had experienced hangouts together online. She was one of the first to hold an open mic session with other musicians from around the world using the Google Hangout technology, that Google asked her to become a beta tester of their Hangouts On Air program.

A good lesson to learn from Heather, is to be the first at something. Like how Michael Jackson was the first urban artist to hit MTV. Heather could have tried to jump on the youtube bandwagon, or myspace, twitter and facebook, but Justin Bieber did it already through his gazillion views already, Soulja Boy was one of the first to leverage twitter to reach fans and create a career for himself in music, and then the Arctic Monkeys became huge through myspace reaching a stratosphere in music that they won’t be coming down from for a long time, even if their sound is getting more alternative. But they’re not the only ones. Look at Karmin with their 70+ million views for their “Look At Me Now” video! Even now it’s getting regular comments after being released on youtube over a year ago. But no one said they were the first to get big on youtube, more like, the first to use youtube to get big with a serious (non-comedy) cover.

But the media love news when it’s “new”, right. When someone comes behind you, unless they do the same thing but with a different angle, it’s no longer news-worthy. You have to come at it with an angle. For example, you can do it by location, by genre, by cause or mission. Let’s take the Google Hangouts thing. It could be, “Mod-Revival Bands Take On Google Hangouts,” and then you’d throw a google hangout party with fellow mod bands, and invite the media to share the good news. Or, it could be, “New York singers stage city love evening on Google Hangouts.” Heather has definitely been helped by her pioneering attitude, being the first one there, and the media have championed her, and will continue to spread her music.

“Andreas Oberg”

Jazz Guitarist, Song Writer, Composer & Champion of Modern Gypsy Jazz Guitar Playing

Swedish born Andreas Oberg is under-the-radar if you compare him to the likes of Lady Gaga or Katy Perry, but in the gypsy jazz world, and even the jazz world, he’s large.

He’s landed on to my radar. How?

By being the best.

And being the best isn’t easy. Right? Let’s play a quick game. Chances are, you will probably only remember one name, one person, at least at first. The first name that rolls off the top of your head, let’s go with that.


  • Best basketball player is………
  • Best airline is……..
  • Best comedy show is……..
How quickly did you think of the best. Pretty fast right?


Here were mine:
  • Michael Jordan
  • British Airways
  • Friends

Okay. Don’t get caught up in my choices (I’m just playing the game :) ).

But as fast as you come up with the best, you realise that there are tonnes more out there! How many basketball players out there at the top of their game? How many airline services providers are out there, many, you haven’t even tried yet? How many comedy shows on TV right now, let alone in the past, scooping up awards for the ultimate gong for funniness?

Being the best, and being known for at least, one of the best will get you attention. Andreas Oberg had gotten mine. But it has to be announced in some form, either from yourself (which could be considered egotistical), through someone else, such as testimonials, beating some world record or even by actually winning award.

If you’re a budding guitar player, typing in “fast guitar soloing” into youtube will bring up the man, Andreas himself. And when he’s sharing videos of past performances, he’s teaching folks how to play like he does. He’s even got a guitar school called, Andreas Oberg Guitar Universe.

He stands out because he is one of the maestros. There will only be a handful of maestros, and if you can be one too, you will set yourself up (and your band) for more attention from folk who appreciate greatness. But he is also a maestro because he teaches, and sets a precedent for the next level of skill in his genre. We know of Mozart and Beethoven, but they weren’t the only classical era composers. They did however, set a target to be broken or even reached, and those who do reach their standards, are very well respected for doing so.


DJ, Turntablist & Champion of The Dance Music Revival Into The Mainstream

It’s great to see artists who live their music, but at the same time, growing outside of their immediate worlds, being pioneers in a culture that they take to those completely oblivious to it. It’s reminiscent of the Minneapolis sound, when back in the day, Prince & The Revolution, The Time, Vanity 6, Sheila E & The Family all came with their fusion of rock, funk and new wave, and brought it to the masses who where completely unaware of what downtown (or rather Uptown) Minneapolis were getting up to on those cold nights.

A-Trak does this with almost a torch in his hand, spreading EDM beyond the night scene, and into literary culture. Here’s a comment made by a reader from a piece he wrote on the Huffington Post, titled, “Don’t Push My Buttons.”

“Given the lyrics to ‘Ray Ban Vision’, I was surprised to learn you were so erudite and articulate.:)…Seriously, great piece Mr. A-Trak. Well-written and spot on. Can’t wait for your next show here in Seattle, WA.”

 Yep. He writes too, and how does he stand out? Well, he’s not just another DJ living in the crevices of some club or house party poster pasted onto a lamp-post. Instead, he takes his thoughts and opinions and puts it out there to be judged by writing articles himself, and when interviewed, he goes beyond just his music, but talks about dance music as a whole, his peers and the DJ community. The whole thing is larger than just himself, and so when you read or watch his interviews, you get sucked into not just his world and his music, but the EDM world (though he thinks that’s a stupid name for it), and your more clued up because of him.

There’s a few lessons we can learn from A-Trak, but one is to be a torch bearer for your scene or music culture, helping those outside the radar to understand what it is you’re all about. Maybe you can do it by writing articles, but that needn’t be the case if you’re not a pensmith. All it takes is a group all part of the same scene, to do something together. As in the Minneapolis sound, that was Purple Rain, back in the day, you had the rise of Woodstock, with Heather Fay, that’s the Google Hangouts and the elusive real-time Google Hangout jam online. If you can bring something to the fore, the media could pick up on something new, unique and special.

“Ari Herstand”

Singer, Song Writer, Blogger & Champion of Showcasing Behind-The-Scenes Life Of An Independent Musician

Ari does not believe in luck, at least when it comes to a successful music career.

And it’s true, even now, with all the tools available to budding artists and musicians with access to a computer,  a lot of folk still have this thing about relying on a major record label to break them, and major record labels won’t even touch up-and-coming artists unless there’s a foot-print of social proof, because that’s their cue, that an artist will make them money.

Imagine, standing at the foot of Mount Everest next to one other person, looking towards where the peak is, even though it’s hidden far in the distance. He says, he’s “packed and ready to go”. He’s got his water supplies, his food supplies, clothing that he can change and wash for the weeks ahead before he reaches the summit, an oxygen tank, and a survival kit. You have nothing. No money, no equipment. You say, “I’m figuring how to get straight to the top without having to trek up there.”

“Fair enough,” he replies, and you see him walk off into the distance. Meanwhile, you draw up plans, shout down passing helicopters, and try to build some sort of machine that will get you to the top, whilst that guy is trekking it, step by step, one foot in front of the other. That’s the difference, that guy will eventually reach the top, slowly, but surely, as long as no mishaps don’t prevent him. You on the other hand, may never even get 10 steps up the mountain as long as you’re standing at the bottom, trying to build a giant sling shot.

Ari takes one step at a time, but their sure steps. He then shares his experiences, real water-proof experiences with his own blog, whilst featuring his music on

Ari stands out because he’s known on two levels. He’s living proof that you don’t need a major record label to be a successful musician, and he does this, not after being in a major record label, not after having a massive following from some previous career in the entertainment industry, but from starting from the bottom of Mount Everest, working his way up bit by bit, and unafraid to share what works for him, and could work for you.

He’s also a great song writer and musician…..

A good lesson is to share a behind-the-scenes world of what you do. You never know, folks may be highly interested in your world. It may not have to be a regular blog, but a documentary of life as, “well, whatever it is you do.” For example, you could film “life as a postcore band in London, the good, the bad and the ugly”. For fans who don’t know you, it may be a great way for them to become a acquainted with you and your message, for those who already know you, it may be a great way for them to get a deeper understanding of you and your music.

“Troy Carter”

Lady Gaga’s Manager, CEO & Champion of Uniting Technology & Music Entertainment

Okay, Troy isn’t a singer, a musician or even a performer. He is however, a seriously brilliant manager, great at meeting folk and connecting with people. But his biggest spot of genius, is “investing in companies like and while forming partnerships with platforms like Zynga to accrue fan engagement” ( All this was done in aid of launching one of the world’s most biggest stars of today, “eventually help the pop superstar sell more than 1.1 million copies of her 2011 album”. That star, would be Lady Gaga (as you can tell from the title, ahem).

He’s been around working in the music biz since the days of the Fresh Prince, working with P Diddy, and eventually forming his own company.

The strange thing is that he stands out, not because of his insane list of investments, his portfolio for companies he has worked for, or even the fact that he’s Lady Gaga’s manager. Imagine how many major label managers there are with investment portfolios. What makes him stand out is his willingness to share what’s going on in the music industry today, the fact that there are new trends that will affect how he markets his artist, and new opportunities that opening up, he shares how he’s using that. He’s giving everybody a chance to succeed in what appears to be a nose-diving industry by keeping the everyday-musician in the loop.

In this video, he made an incredibly valid point that was also echoed in 9th Wonder’s documentary trailer, though the trailer did come before. Troy pointed out that when an artist is small, or relatively unknown, fans feel like they have ownership over the experience, but once the experience becomes everybody’s and the old lady’s, then they lose that, and they become less passionate fans, even turning into anti-fans.

Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself. It does happen. On a personal note, think, King’s of Leon with their southern drawl, now, a huge stadium band with U2/Coldplay-ness. Or, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s ultra punky drum and guitar setup similar to the White Stripes but with 3 members in the band instead of 2. Now they’re electro. Or think of any artist who you started out with who then became huge, that passion you had for the band may still be there, but not as large as before.

So that nugget of wisdom is great for any upcoming artist.

A good lesson to learn from Troy Carter is to take time and form real relationships with people and add value to them in some way. Even in the candid keynote interview (seen in the video above), you can tell that a conversation with this guy will be like a solid month spent browsing through music industry mags and books. There’s so much to glean from this man. If we can form relationships with those who love the same things we love and add value by sharing what we’ve found, and what we’ve learned and discovered, those we help will not forget in a hurry. Look at myself, after watching that video, I haven’t forgotten Troy at all, and that was after no pre-acquaintance with him

“Leena Sowambur”

Business Woman, Author, Coach & Champion of The Fan Experience

Leena is another non-musician on the list. It’s true, you can make it in the music industry without having to touch the music making process. So Leena stands as an expert on digital music business through her websites Positively Music and Music Business Builder. Her title may sound vague, but when you add up her book titles, such as, “30 Ways To Make Money From Your Music” or “The Fan Experience“, you get an idea that she’s out to help those in the music industry earn a living from their work. Not an easy task, but she’s managed to grow into blogger, speaker, coach and source of advice for the likes of Jack Xji Oughton (writer and visual artist) and Trevor Fisher (a music business consultant and author of The Popstar’s Handbook) over the space of a decade.

How does she stand out? Because she’s not just a blogger. She comes with new thoughts and ideas about how fans consume their music. She even presents a realistic view of the music industry and the download problem that’s apparently crippling the industry. If you take the old cassette tape and go back to a time where you used to swipe songs off the radio, you can extrapolate that today with illegal downloads. Not the same, but very similar. Not to say that it’s right because it’s illegal, but that’s what’s happening, and it is part of the fan experience right now. For instance, here’s a statistic Praveb picked up on that can be used by a budding band.

“MSNBC suggests that 64% of teens discover music via YouTube (this may not be your targeted demographic, just making a point). Find out how your fans are discovering music and make your music accessible to them.”

Adding to that, her ideas are given away in the form of presentations, videos and ebooks. Plus her list of testimonials proves that her ideas and new ways of thinking have to be more than theory, they must work.

A good lesson to learn from Leena is to NOT just create a product or a service, but also having a freely consumable piece of content with equal or even more value. Sounds hypocritical of me, right (as I haven’t published any services yet) but it makes sense, and will make you look incredibly professional whilst at the same time, make your visitors feel they’re not completely losing out to great information or an experience because they pay for it first. You’ll help them receive something of equal value for free.

This is important. Adding value, and giving stuff away aren’t always the same. For example, giving a free MP3 away may be completely valueless if you’re band is unknown when a visitor lands on their website and there is no buzz about the song. They’d at least have to hear it first, and a great video would help too. However, if there’s a buzz and people are excited, like say, if the Rolling Stones were giving away one song from their next album, a lot of folks would be excited right, even if you personally weren’t. Then the prospect of buying other stuff wouldn’t seem so much considering the value you’ve received.

However, if you don’t have that buzz with the band, then you have two choices. You can either create that buzz through the media, or two, do something that will garner value. So instead of just having an mp3 download, it could be a chance to win something, like tickets to your next show plus a meal at your favourite nearby restaurant. Now that’d be cool. I’d enter for that every time if that meal were a full-plater at Nandos! If you could create some kind of online wall, where everyone who downloads the song can opt in to include their photo of them wearing something particular, or holding up some particular sign (not swearing that is), kind’a like “I Surf Because.” That would be cool too. It may take a spot of genius or creativity, but creating value makes it so much more engaging and entertaining for the potential fan, and that’s adding value. Asking the visitor to leave their email address with you, or share a video is a lot easier when the fan feels they’ve gain something already.


Musician & Champion of Beatboxing Concerts Live

Do you remember Police Academy, the movie, that is. Remember motor mouth? He was constantly fooling folks with the strangest sound effects and it was simply hiliarious.

See what I mean…..

But now imagine, that, mixed with music, and you’ve got a whole-nother level. Comedy factor, and music, all in one.

Here’s an ‘oral wizard’.

How does he stand out? He has taken something, beatboxing, which is quite nichey, and made it more appealing to folks who wouldn’t care about beatboxing at all. In the video above, he took his vocal escapades, his comedy factor, his beat boxing skills, and then completely turned everything on its head, taking the biggest classical music event in Britian, The Proms, televised live across the UK, and mixing everything together into one a 10 minute show.

A good lesson to learn from Beardyman, is that (well, if you would want to), you can take a subculture, merge it with an another subculture or even mainstream culture, and make what you do more palatable to a new group of people. Well, that’s easier said than done, so maybe you want some examples. Right?

Maybe a bad example, but UK singer and filmmaker Plan B wanted to come out with another one of those movies about living a hard life in a tough inner city world. Sounds old, even boring, only until you hear it parallels Broken Britain, which seemed relevant when looking back only last year to the riots that probably hindered the recession recovery.

Faith Dickey took tight roping to a whole new level. It’s great that a woman has just upped the ante on the sport, but you could say, tight-roping is boring. We’ve all seen it before. We’ve seen mountain tight roping, tight roping on a bike, tight roping in high winds, tight-roping without a harness. It’s great that folks can do it, but it’s nothing special (so I say like I can do it lol). So she did the whole action movie stunt thing, but for real, live, and with death waiting right when the milliseconds mattered. Was I watching? Yeah!!! You bet! This woman is a psycho!! If you heart doesn’t fall out your mouth after watching this video, you’ve lived too insane a life already.

7 More To Go

That’s the end of Part 2. Check out Part 1 here.

That was another intense episode, but  hopefully a very enjoyable read. Coming up, I’ve got a report coming out, and you’re more than welcome to read it. It will be released first to those on the mailing list, which you can sign up to below. And then at some point later this year, it will be released generally.


Beautiful Comments

  1. September 11, 2012


    Hey Farouk
    You’re right. We feel more motivated, or we learn something valuable. It shows us the possibilities.
    Thanks for your comment, and stopping by.

  2. September 4, 2012


    thanks for the inspiring stories
    i believe the more we read about such stories the more likely we are going to be motivated to succeed .thank you

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