MUSIC INDUSTRY COACH SPEAKS AT SXSW
Featured Image Courtesy of Kon Boogie of Street Geek Studios
THE ROCK STAR ADVOCATE
Suzanne Paulinski in Brooklyn, NY September 2018 | Courtesy of Kon Boogie of Street Geek Studios
THIS MUSIC CONSULTANT AND COACH GUIDES YOU IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to have this interview with us. You were recently at SXSW and HOFSTRA University. How was that experience speaking at those events?
For the last eighteen months I’ve been getting more involved in public speaking and I’ve been very intentional about getting in front of as many musicians and aspiring musicians as I can so I can help them shift their mindset from “hustle and grind” to “monotasking and building relationships that matter.” I fully believe in the phrase, “your network is your net worth,” and unfortunately too many musicians are focused on spamming their music to anyone they come across.
“Respect others and be open to being wrong, but get messy and drag your own seat to the table even if you don’t feel ready.”
- Suz Paulinski
This mainly comes from a scarcity mindset and a fear that if they don’t shout their projects from the rooftops it won’t be impactful. We need to reframe what it means to spread your message in order to have the most impact. Thankfully many organizations are getting behind this movement more enthusiastically and SXSW invited me to mentor musicians at their latest festival and schools like Hofstra University, Drexel University (my alma mater), Five Towns College, and others have invited me to speak to their students to help them better manage what’s on their plate and avoid burnout before they even graduate.
What made you start your business ‘TheRockStarAdvocate’ and why now?
After contracting Lyme disease I was bed ridden for quite some time. It would sometimes be a struggle to sit up, or even lay in bed and look at a computer screen. It took over eight weeks for the original antibodies to do their thing, and in that time I was miserable, feeling so held-back, feeling that proverbial clock tick-tock away as my future music career drifted further and further away.
I finally got sick of feeling sorry for myself and realized the way I was living my life before getting sick wasn’t too great. My twenties had flown by and I felt I have very little to show for it - no real relationships and a lot of little progress in a lot of different areas rather than a lot of progress in one particular line of expertise. I had spent years jumping at any job that came across my path. I lived in a scarcity mindset - if I said, “No,” to something I was never going to find my “big break.”
After hiring a pair of business coaches (Jordana and Gena Jaffe) who helped me slow down and redefine what it meant to be productive, I realized that my Master’s in Psychology was not an accident and by combining my love for helping others work through their own mental road blocks, my natural tendency to be super organized, and my new understanding of working smarter I could help musicians stop spinning their wheels. After working with former clients, like singer-songwriter Corina Corina, on their Post Tour Depression I realized their was a need for a different kind of coach on a musician’s team.
“Your network is your net worth. Period.”
- Suz Paulinski
How has starting your business changed your life? And how do you feel you are impacting the industry?
I feel that my life changed and then through acceptance and a positive mindset I was able to create this business that has given me the freedom to live life on my own terms. If I had a regular 9-5 I would have definitely been fired by now, simply by missing too many days of work due to not feeling well. I am sure I’d drag myself to work if necessary, but to be able to work later hours if I’m having a rough morning - it’s literally priceless.
I am thankful everyday for this gift and it definitely keeps me going when I have those days where I feel like, “What the f*ck am I doing?” And you’re ALWAYS going to have those days at times! It’s part of the deal - being a music-preneur is not easy but nothing that’s worth it is.
I’d like to think that my impact on this industry is helping others see there are other ways to succeed that involve sleep, healthy habits, and boundaries. I grew up in that “sleep when you’re dead” culture and I would scoff at anyone who thought there was any other way; I truly believed anyone not busting their ass each and every day was either lazy or entitled. Even though I wasn’t reaching my goals and I was stressed daily and far from clear on what I was doing and why, I had incredible blind faith that if I worked hard enough that success would magically happen. When the universe finally sat me down and said, “You’re not listening, so now this [Lyme] is happening,” I became obsesses with helping others “see the light” before they got to where I was at that point haha.
As a musical consultant, what would you say is the biggest asset for artists in the industry to achieve?
Your network is your net worth. Period. The gatekeepers in the industry now are the fans. Even from a business point of view, if you want a sponsorship or if you’re looking for a manager or booking agent, relationships matter. Treat people with respect, stop leading with your own agenda, actively listen, and come from a place of service. Your time will come to promote your own stuff and it will come a lot faster if you have a sea of people at your disposal who WANT to support you.
Be human and treat others as humans, not dollar signs. A student at Five Towns recently said something very interesting to me - I had said that music is no longer the product, the artist is. He said that he consumed plenty of music without knowing who the artists were. And that’s true, streaming culture has changed things. But to the artist whose music he’s listening to, he’s a passive fan - he’s not a fan they’re concerned with because he’s not going to invest in their ticket sales, merchandise, etc. He doesn’t even know their name.
But artists need to focus on those who are the SUPER fans - the ones who want to invest in the artist - and in order for them to become super fans they need to know the artist. They need to feel they can relate and connect to that artist. Engage, ask questions, share your experiences in and out of creating music. Build relationships and your career will benefit.
You released a book called The Rock/Star Life Planner. What can you tell us about this important and beneficial tool?
There are creative professionals who have the stamina to keep going and others who fall by the wayside. The difference? The habits they develop to maintain consistency in their work and balance in their life. Creative professionals can have the success they desire if they stay focused, act with intention, and stay accountable to their goals.
My good friend, Alyssa B. Jackson, and I created the first Planner back in 2016 and this year we were so excited to be able to make it spiral-bound and small enough to carry around with you in your bag. We’ve included sections that every creative professional needs to stay on top of building their career (i.e. sections to outline your newsletter, plan your social media, track your new industry relationships, manage your finances) with the help of additional digital tools such as an audio tutorial that will help you become a time management expert and bring down that ever-present overwhelm.
I receive the most touching notes from musicians and other industry professionals telling me how this book as changed the way they approach their career and it means everything to us. We have some exciting things planned for the 2020 version, stay tuned…
Congratulations on your informative MusicPreneur Mindset Podcast. What made you start this exclusive podcast that everyone should tune in for?
Yes! I’m super excited about and proud of this podcast. It was something I had thought about doing for a long time and on Jan 3 of 2018 I released it on Spotify, Apple Music, Google… all of the things! And the response has been great. It’s a lot of work and it’s not an income stream for me, but I love doing it.
I created it after my first live, in-person summit in 2017 - The Music-Preneur Mindset Summit - and the reaction I received from those who attended, I knew there was an audience out there for those who wanted to stop spinning their wheels just to try and prove themselves in this industry.
I focus solely on tips for time management, self-care, and a better work-life balance. The episodes fall into one of three categories - mindset, productivity, and team building. My brand as a whole was designed around those three areas of career building - finding out what matters to you, determining your next steps, and then building your team. All interviews are with musicians who have been able to build their own careers from their music, rather than with other industry professionals, so that listeners can hear first hand that it’s possible. It’s been downloaded over 20k times and I’m so thrilled it’s resonating with people.
How did you become so knowledgable in the industry?
I went to Drexel University for a B.S. in Music Industry (yes, I know how that sounds) and I was part of their first graduating class of forty students - it was a brand new program back then. While I was there I interned at Atlantic Records and was a college rep for WEA (Warner/Elektra/Atlantic), which basically meant I was in charge of mastering posters around Philadelphia when they had shows in the area and made sure the local record stores had enough CDs on hand (yes, I’m that old).
In 2011 I decided to go back to school for my Master’s in General Psychology and I stayed local and went to Queens College. While I was there I interned at an adolescent mental health ward and at a local high school in the social work department.
Where did the desire to be in the music industry stem from?
I can’t remember a time I wasn’t obsessed with the music industry. And not just music, even as a kid I was so intrigued by how the actual business worked. I loved watching anything that had to do with Motown Records, still my favorite record label, and I even went down to Disney to audition for the Mickey Mouse Club when I was 5, but when we got down there we learned that they were going to be cancelling the show (and I had to be 8 to audition anyway).
I didn’t like people watching me perform, but I always loved being around other creatives and people who liked to entertain audiences. I learned in high school that I LOVED the rehearsal process and hated the actual live performance part of it. So business school it was!
Who inspires you?
Anyone who is living not so much fearlessly, but in spite of their fear. I’m inspired by people who aren’t afraid to change course when something isn’t serving them and people who live by the phrase, “Why not?” Walt Disney has always been an incredible inspiration to me in that way.
I am also a fan of spreadsheets, and impeccable organization so entrepreneurs like Amy Porterfield, who has such an organized and intentional purpose to her brand, and businesses like AirTable and the Container Store actually give me huge bouts of inspiration.
What advice would you give to young girls about the music industry and achieving their dreams?
Oh man, I could take this so many places…. I’d say overall - trust your voice and speak up. Very few, if any, opportunities are “make or break” even though every opportunity can feel that way at times.
Respect others and be open to being wrong, but get messy and drag your own seat to the table even if you don’t feel ready - because you’ll never feel ready.
Besides your career in music, what are some interesting facts we may not know about you?
Aside from my 15+ years in the music industry, I have carried side jobs as a camp counselor at an equestrian camp on Long Island, a gymnastics coach at a local JCC, a paralegal, a merchandise manager at Crate & Barrel’s flagship store on Park Ave., and an assistant to the School of Science Dean at Queens College. During those jobs I also carried additional freelancing jobs and internships within the music industry as I worked on building my own businesses.
I was 28 and three short months after my father passed I went camping (for the first time) with friends and came back with 3 large Lyme-carrying bullseyes on my legs. Lyme disease has not only transformed how I function on a day-to-day basis, what I eat, and where I live, it inspired the birth of The Rock/Star Advocate and my mission to help others work smarter, not harder.
I look at my Lyme disease as a blessing and while I’m still learning the best ways to cope through occasional relapses, I use what I learn to inspire musicians to slow down and work more intentionally.
'ROCK BAND RELEASES NEW TRACK AND TOURS THE EAST COAST THIS FALL' | Read the full article now… https://t.co/oZ0gmM4y36
Any secret tips you could give to us that we all can benefit from?
Slow the f*ck down. It sounds simple and at the same time counter-intuitive but it’s been a game-changer for me. The universe had to step in and slow me down because I wasn’t listening to the signs around me, I wasn’t listening to what my body needed, and I wasn’t listening to anyone who was trying to be in my life and spend time with me.
Slow down. Listen because the messages are there.
Anyone you would like to thank?
100% my mom who has single-handedly kept me going every time I’ve wanted to give up on myself and get a regular job but also a few key people in the industry who took a chance on me and rallied for me when I was too quite to do it myself, before anyone else truly got what I was trying to do - Marcy Rauer Wagman, Esq., Lou Plaia of ReverbNation and Ariel Hyatt of CyberPr. And definitely Alyssa Jackson for creating the Planner with me and remaining one of my closest friends.