How Artists Helped Me Discover My Ultimate Mission In Life
I love Medium. It’s a source of insightful, thought-provoking, inspiring essays and stories. I’ve had the account for quite some time, and have been reading others, yet haven’t ever posted anything myself. To fix this, and to introduce myself to whoever is interested in learning more about me, I’m republishing this story, originally appeared on the Dotted Music blog. It’s particularly timely as we’ve just rolled out an update to WeSpin, which is the culmination of my life’s work so far as you’ll see throughout the article. I hope this post will help some of you know me better. Thank you for reading!
I grew up in a relatively small Russian town, where options were limited and nothing too exciting ever happened. As such, I never really knew what to do with my life. I ended up randomly studying computer science when I got to university, even though I didn’t have any internet access at home until I was 16 years old. This was 13 years ago. While some of you were starting to discover MySpace, I was going to a cyber cafe in the city to access the internet, where I’d download software on to diskettes to bring back home. Oh the nostalgia.
At the age of 18, right when I started university, I was lucky to land a job at what would become the biggest guitar website in the world. The office was located in a small apartment and I was among the first employees hired by the company. This job helped define my life and my career since throughout the seven years of working there, I got connected with the whole world, notably the U.S. music business world, all while being located in the Russian city of Kaliningrad.
At around the same time, I started discovering different genres of music, and the more I discovered, the more passionate I became about it — more than computers. I quickly got into different genres of electronic music, while joining a pirate radio station run by a friend whom I had met while being a DJ at school parties. It was a real pirate station, with a self-made radio transmitter — we were covering just around 20 square km, broadcasting on 98.8 FM. It was playing electronic music 24/7. I started to learn to DJ and got my own drum & bass show on the radio, and then I began occasionally performing in clubs.
Finally, we started organising our own events and had become the city’s biggest promoter within a year, popularizing a genre which next to no one had listened to in the area before. By following my passion, I was able to transform my previously uninteresting town into an electronic music hub.
As all of this was developing — studying, working fulltime on a big guitar media website, DJing and organising events — I started noticing a tendency: My stage name (DJ Matter) started getting recognition. I was working hard on making great sets, I practiced regularly, and I was spending a lot of money on vinyls. I was even building up a fan base. But despite the recognition and my newfound local “fame”, I knew deep down it wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing. It’s not what I was truly passionate about.
One day, a new friend of mine, who was producing music and was completely uncomfortable and unprepared to promote his music, made me hear his tunes. I was amazed, blown away even. It was a great stuff that I knew was meant to be heard, and all I wanted to do was to make that happen. I was the very first DJ who ever played his tracks, and I started generating ideas for promoting it. I can’t say he followed a lot of my advice, and mind you, not all my ideas were great at the time, however, he has since released his music on the biggest labels in the genre, gets played on BBC Radio 1 and while he still doesn’t care about turning his passion for music into a career, he is doing very well on the scene.
When I’d help organise events, I noticed that the other promoters only cared about getting money, but all that mattered to me was the satisfaction of the artist we were hosting. For me, the party was successful if the artist was happy. I still cared about what people wanted, but to me, my “customer” each night was the artist, not the crowd. Luckily, I had a great team in the promo group who helped with all organisational aspects of the show in order to make the whole event successful. I don’t know if it’s the best mindset honestly, but I did see that the crowd was happy at the end of the day anyway. I think in many cases, if the artist is happy, they’ll put on a great show, which will make the crowd happy. Which in turn will make the artist happy. I wanted to serve artists, not the listeners. And I wanted to help artists serve their listeners.
Through the years, I learnt a lot about the music industry and music marketing in particular. While at Ultimate Guitar, I got a lot of practical advice and knowledge from the various professionals I worked with. I then decided to share all the valuable music marketing knowledge and experience I had acquired by launching the Dotted Music blog in 2009. I also started consulting artists to help them with their marketing needs.
Musician’s Web Keeper
In January 2012, I decided to consecrate fully to helping musicians develop their careers. I quit my job as Editor-in-chief of Ultimate Guitar to relaunch Dotted Music as a digital marketing agency. I made serving musicians my profession, and somehow came up with the “Musician’s Web Keeper” title — due to my passion for technology. I started teaching artists more, too, giving private consultations and coaching groups of musicians and running a music marketing course at my friend’s XSSR Academy.
After running the agency for over a year, I started understanding better why so many music marketers I knew had been shifting to other industries. I knew of professionals that were making much more money serving entrepreneurs and real estate agencies versus musicians, and if money was what mattered to me most, I would have followed suit. But now, making a living in the music business was my challenge as well. The challenge itself wasn’t a big shock though, it’s what you would expect: indie artists don’t have a lot of money, if any at all. This challenge gets more interesting when you are an antipode of the corporate world; living a location independent lifestyle (my wife and I moved to Poland last year), not having a physical office, and with a staff spread around the world. This has allowed me to travel to various music events all while keeping up with my work similarly to my colleagues who reside on different continents altogether.
While Dotted Music is doing well as a boutique agency, working with a limited amount of artists, I felt that I wasn’t reaching enough artists. The agency made me realize that a lot of artists didn’t have the budget for many of the services we offered, nor for my consultations, albeit the fact that our rates were consistently lower than those of other consultants or my peers at other agencies. It was the realization that I had to create something else. Something at once more valuable and yet more affordable.
So aside the music industry blog, I launched the Stand Above the Noise video series, interviewing industry leaders about their views on the latest trends. I eventually also began a podcast with the same mindset. I made all of these resources available for free to anyone that could be interested in learning about music business regardless of their genre, or budgets, or fame. Through all these efforts, it became clear to me that my life’s mission has always been to serve musicians. And so, I took one final step by creating the biggest project of my life: WeSpin.
The New Chapter
We needed a music marketing platform to help musicians. To provide value and feedback, as personal as possible. Not a course, but a platform. Why? Because there is no magic bullet, simple single-solution to achieve success. No shortcuts. We marketers love saying so, but unless you understand that the secret is in embracing and enjoying the process, there is no way in achieving anything in whatever you do.
I am talking a lot about myself in this post, but I could never do anything on my own. We are building WeSpin with a small team of fantastic people who are passionate about helping artists as much as I am. WeSpin is an educational platform, showing artists how to grow. It is a community. It is a place where you get support as a musician, where occasionally you are provided with opportunities, and where you meet fellow, like-minded artists.
We didn’t do it the typical e-commerce way. Normally, such membership platforms are launched with little content, bigger scarcity and much, much higher prices. But we made it affordable right from the start. I know that $15 a month is not a low fee, it’s a couple vinyls, or a ticket to a club gig in your town, or a samples pack. But I will say honestly (and while I’m biased, I stand by my words): what we offer is worth much more than that. If you don’t feel that the platform is for you, it’s totally fine, we don’t want a single person to feel cheated or dissatisfied. This is a family, a community of people who know they want to succeed in music.
Hence, the first ten days on the platform are completely free. You get access to everything, for free. If you don’t like what you see — you unsubscribe, with no questions asked. If you like it and you get it, you’re more than welcome to stay and keep exploring as each week we’re adding new tactics and challenges, announcing new partnerships, and offering new discounts, and inviting new members who you can exchange ideas and collaborate with.
If you are a band, a solo musician, a producer, or a DJ, I invite you to become a part of our family, a place that will help you achieve more, much more — as long as you are ready to accept the fact that the journey won’t be easy, and are ready to work hard for your future. We’ll be there to help you through it. You can sign up for a free trial at wespin.co.
Musician’s Web Keeper