In this episode, Jared interviews host of the Being in a Band podcast, Monica Strut. They chat about being in a band (of course), writing original music, the PR/Promotion side of releasing music, and touring.
Hey gigging pros. It's Jared and I'm super excited. Today we've got a special guest all the way from across the world in Australia. I am here today with our guest Monica Strut. Monica Strut runs her own podcast that being in a band podcast, which is for savvy musicians and music industry professionals, who want to learn more about the music, business marketing, branding, strategy, mindset and all things well being in a band. Monica stret herself is a digital marketer, a music journalist and a musician. So, Monica, thank you so much for being on the Gigging Musician Podcast. Hey, thank you so much for having me. Oh, it's our pleasure. So we are the Gigging Musician Podcast, I would love to learn about your background as a musician. Yes, so I think probably like yourself, and like a lot of your listeners, I've been playing music since I was a kid. And it's always something that I've wanted to do. I've always wanted to be a performer. I started off in the school bands playing clarinet playing piano. And then I also started writing my own songs from a very early age. And then eventually, I figured that I should probably learn how to sing. So then I started actually getting formally trained in seeing after high school, I went to music college, I was always in bands mainly like rock bands, always gigging around locally and yeah, pretty much have always had the aspiration of taking it seriously. And there was definitely nothing I would have rather study at college than music. And I have Yeah, pretty much been in the music industry ever since I then became a music journalist, digital marketer in the music industry. Most recently, I worked for maniacs magazine, which is a Warner Music publication. So I was editor there for a while. And now I just run my consulting business alongside growing my own band. So yeah, as much music in my life as possible. That's awesome. So when you started to gig out, were you playing an instrument in addition to singing? Yeah, I was actually I used to play bass, as well as do backing vocals in my first serious band. And it was funny, like, I never really, bass never really was my instrument, I just kind of did it because someone in the band needed to do it. And when I eventually broke away from playing bass, and just wanted to become a lead vocalist in front of band and do all of that, it's that it's that funny thing where that barrier between you and the audience is gone. You don't have that instrument in front of you. And I kept drifting to the side of the stage where I normally would have stood if I was was playing bass. So now I don't play any instruments. I'm just, you know, lead vocalist, but yeah, I definitely recall that. It was an interesting transition. I felt very, very exposed. For sure. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have my violin on my shoulder. Yeah, yeah, exactly. I've been trying to, you know, I've been doing a lot of work on my stage presence in my own band. Currently, we actually worked with a band coach who actually works with like contemporary bands and stuff, not not in terms of choreography, but just helping them be better. And I'm now using my mic stand as more of like a prop, as opposed to just having it there as an accessory. So that's kind of like filled, filled a bit of a void there. Yeah, that's good. So I'm curious. I've listened to a bunch of your episodes. And you mentioned that you went to music school for popular music performance. Yeah. Could you tell me a little bit about that experience? Like, maybe why you wanted to go to school for that? And then what was that program? Like? Yeah, so I mean, as I said, like, there was really nothing that I wanted to study after high school other than music, and my parents did expect me to do some sort of higher education. And I was like, Okay, well, if I have to do that, that it has to be music, and I loved it. Like, honestly, when I was there, and I was between the ages of 18 to 21. I like it was the best I met some of my best friends in the world, I got to be surrounded by like minded people, for the most part. Every day, there was a lot of like partying, I really felt like it was pivotal in becoming who I am as an artist today. However, when I left off to you know, three very, very fun years with a bachelor's degree, I felt kind of lost. So a big part of my story and what I share online is you know, that feeling of all of a sudden having all of that support all of that community stripped away and also I realized that I hadn't necessarily learned a lot of skills that I could apply to myself as an originals artist as an original musician and trying to you know, grow a band or grow myself and my profile. We learnt, you know, a little bit about arrangements. Of course, we learned about performance as much as you can, playing out instruments, songwriting, a little bit of audio engineering, but it was really just kind of like, there was a lot of fluff involved in the course. And I think upon reflection, if I had to go back and do it now, I probably wouldn't, at the time in in 2007 to 2009. When I did do it. There wasn't too many other options out there. But I mean, even just the amount of podcasts out there now, you know, such as the Gigging Musician Podcast that people can listen to, and actually get tangible, real world knowledge for free as well. They're not like 40k in debt like I am right now. Oh, yeah, for sure. And I can totally relate to that, you know, I went to music school twice. And they didn't give a lot of hard career advice. It was a lot of like, oh, maybe you'll need contemporary music theory. But honestly, in all of the concerts and gigs that I've played, I've never used contemporary music theory. Exactly, exactly. And, you know, even the marketing components that we did learn those subjects, it was really old school. And at the time, MySpace was like, the best way of getting known as a originals band and musician. And there was nothing to do with the online space within this course. And I understand why that is. Because you know, things change so rapidly, as you know, in the music industry, that how could a curriculum possibly try and keep up? You know, everything has to go through like a board of directors and be approved and everything like that? So? Yeah, like, I mean, I'm sure it's changed now. But things change, like, every single month in the music industry every single day, sometimes. So it's like, how could those degrees possibly keep up? That's true. And I've also noticed, our teachers tend to teach what they were taught, which, when our teachers went to school, honestly, for many of them, the internet didn't exist. Yeah. So that's, that's so interesting. So is that kind of why you started to explore the world of music, journalism, and even marketing? Yeah, absolutely. So it started off as something I was doing on the side, I got a job in royalty, royalty collection and distribution, pretty much out of college. And then on the side, I was volunteering for music publication, because I always loved writing. And then a couple of years of doing that, and I was just really doing it for my own creativity, and also to get, like, tickets to shows for free. So there were a lot of perks involved. But then, when my band of six years actually broke up this original band that I'd been building and was my whole entire identity at that point, which, you know, wasn't wasn't ideal. When that broke up, I really needed to have a creative outlet. And so at the same time, the publication that I was working for, and got taken over by a new owner, and he was really focused on growth. And we were all already one of the biggest publications in Australia, but like he really wanted to solidify like social media strategy and everything like that. And they were also very much reporting on like, they were a metal, like a heavy music metal magazine, though very much still in like reporting on like 70s and 80s. Artists, as opposed to the up and coming heavy bands. So when the new owners took over, I kind of positioned myself like I really wanted to, I guess get out of the day job, because even though it was in, technically creative field, it was not creative whatsoever is very corporate. And I started to work my way up and became a senior staff member of that magazine and got to do like so many interviews and festivals and everything. And, you know, it didn't take very long within that role. And I also was a social media manager to very quickly understand that there was a huge gap in knowledge between musicians and the actual way that the modern music industry actually worked. And it's a side that I wouldn't have seen unless I actually worked for this publication as a music journalist and digital marketer. And I was already transitioning my day job into digital marketing as well. So there was a whole lot of other knowledge coming up, all of a sudden, it was just like, rapid growth period where I was like, Oh, my God, musicians need to know this. So yeah, after doing that, for a few years, I started my consulting business, and I've been really trying to bridge that gap ever since. Yeah, that's so awesome. I mean, what you just told me kind of reminds me of a quote that I've been hearing a lot is that you can't read the label of a jar that you're inside of. So when you're in a band, and when you're trying to pursue your music career, you can only see what's right in front of you, but your experience writing for the publication and just going to all these different festivals you got to see literally 1000s of you know quote unquote jars go by and try to put their music out in the world. So that's really cool that you got that experience. Yeah. And one of the things that stands out as well, it was, you know, if you've been like a gigging musician for a while, and you feel like you've hit a plateau in growth in, you know, whatever genre that you're a part of, there's, of course, this like, natural thing which happens and the way you become like, somewhat jaded about the music industry, and, you know, it's, you're thinking, Well, I'm really good at my instrument, I'm putting myself out there, like, I'm hustling, I'm doing everything that I possibly can. And it's not working, like I'm not getting these opportunities that I want to. And you kind of, instead of, you know, thinking about trying a different technique, or expanding your knowledge, it's much easier to blame the industry, or to blame a cable. It's like the media, people who aren't giving my band ago because they're mean, or they have some sort of vendetta against me. Or it's like the labels who were just like money hungry, or whatever. And it's very interesting, because I've just actually, like, as I mentioned, I just recently worked for Warner Music for a little while, this year. And especially like, when I started in journalism, I realized that people are in this industry, because they are so passionate, like whether they work for like a major label, like Warner, or whether they work for like a small blog, they're doing it because they love it. And I hate saying that there's like not that much money in music, because I really believe that we can change that paradigm. And we end that we can fight for a better pay and everything like that. But like, a lot of the time, you know, journalists are volunteers, and they are doing it because they love it. And I had full autonomy about what I publish, when I worked for the recent publication that I worked for. And yet, like everyone is just so freakin passionate. And I think seeing that firsthand, really opened my eyes of like, okay, I need to take some responsibility, and I need to upgrade my learning in my education and get the skills that I need for that, that are applicable to like 2021 and beyond. Yeah, for sure. That's a really interesting perspective. And you're absolutely right, it is about passion. That's why we get started. That's why we stick with it. But it would be better if that passion was matched with some sort of monetary compensation all around. Yeah. So I'm curious about the band that you had going for six years. Tell us about that. And what happened? Yeah, absolutely. So it was a band called vanity riots. And I had been dreaming up envisioning this band since I was in high school. You know, back when I was a bass player, I kind of had this like, dream of like, wanting to actually be the front person of a band. And I, you know, I'm a big Yeah, I'm a big, like, manifester, and stuff. And so I had like, in my, in my head, like, what I wanted the band to look like what I wanted it to sound like. And just Yeah, I just had these like big goals of what I wanted it to achieve in the world and the values and everything. And eventually, like that bands came into fruition and I met I met my like the guitar, the first guitarist of the band, and it was like we were soulmates, like literally, he could like anticipate, like, what I was needing in the song, and he would just write exactly what I was thinking. And we had a very, very special bond. And then he went back to Indonesia, because he was only visiting to go to university here. And I we ended up getting different guitars and getting heavier. So we were basically like a glam rock band. But we also loved like hardcore and like heavy music. So we would throw in like random breakdowns. I don't know, I'm not sure like if we even knew what we wanted to be, but basically, like, we were just gigging as much as possible. And we were really trying to solidify ourselves in like the local scene and the Australian scene and everything. And we're just playing as many gigs as we could, taking every opportunity, regardless of if it was right for us. And we thought just like, if we played as many shows, as we could, then we would have to grow and people would notice us and that like was the case, right? Like we did build ourselves up from being like an opening band, to selling out headlining shows, and whatnot. But then we hit this glass ceiling, and we didn't really know how to release music either. I think that that was the like the major issue. And as the online space became more prevalent in the way to have success, we really didn't have a very good release strategy. And you can't just rely on in person stuff to get exposure because it's very limiting. There are only so many hours and 70 gigs that you can play. So we ended up doing consulting with a guy who really like opened up our eyes to how to release music and stuff and that's when everything changed. And that was like one of the pivotal moments of like, why consult because I know that getting like that real world advice is is so, so important can completely like turn around and do a 180 on your career. And, yeah, like we ended up touring overseas and doing like major support slots and everything, and it was really great. But the guys were in, like other projects. And I, I don't know, like, it just kind of fizzled out. Like after six years, it just felt like, time was up sort of thing. Like, it's really hard to get five people who are on the same page and who have the same commitment levels. And it's hard, especially when people are in multiple projects. And, you know, they were in those projects before they joined, you know, this band and stuff. So yeah, like after six years, it really just like felt right to just end it and just start again and have a fresh start. Because I felt like I'd learned so much. And like if I started a new project with like a plan, and now I was working in the industry, I could bring up another band to the same level that we were at, like a lot quicker. So and that's like, pretty much where I'm at today is is I've been able to do that. But yeah, it's like, I felt like a lot of the six years that we were together, we're going around and around in circles, because we literally didn't know what we were doing. We were just like, taking guesses. Yeah, so yeah, that's awesome. But so that time wasn't wasted, because you were learning and you were writing music and you were connecting with each other and the audiences that you got to play for. And it sounds like you carry those lessons very well to your current project. Do you want to share what your current project is? Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So I'm in a band called the last model right now actually, today's that we're recording this is released a for our new single freaking out. So yeah, like, it's interesting. So when that band, the last band broke up, I really needed this, like fresh start, I was sick of that corporate role that I was talking to you about. And I wanted to Yeah, like just to kind of have this clean slate. So I moved to Melbourne, which is kind of like the LA of Australia is like the place where all the music venues is so creative. And there's a lot more opportunities down here and a lot more musicians as well. And yeah, like everyone kind of from around the country kind of migrates here. It's really funny. So I moved here, and I didn't find a project for a while, which was really, really frustrating. But I think I was just so burnt out from the last project. But yeah, that I eventually met Ben, my guitarist. And we really spent about nine months planning the actual launch of the band. And I, because I had been a music journalist for years at that point, I did our very first PR campaign, which was incredibly intimidating and scary. And we released our first song eventually with this plan and doing like proper PR and having all our ducks in a row in terms of marketing and everything. And it achieved like every goal that we had set for ourselves. And so that's like, that was a huge boost. And I was like, I have to teach other musicians how to how to do it DIY. But yeah, of course, like 2020 We, you know, didn't do too much. We recorded an EP though. So I guess that's an achievement. But in terms of like gigging, we weren't really playing because we couldn't. And but, you know, this year, we kind of relaunched rebranded, and we went from playing like zero shows and 2022, the first three shows of next year actually being festivals. So like, it's just were like, so just blown away by that because it's like gone from zero to 100. So I think next year is going to be a really busy year for us. And we're having a lot of fun. That's amazing. Congratulations for that. And for the launch of your single let's. Yeah, it's funny how like the timing turns out we're experimenting with releasing on a Thursday, not a Friday. So we've historically released on a Friday. But yeah, we should, we'll see how it goes. Yeah, for sure. I'd love to ask a little bit about what you said about doing the PR for your band, you mentioned that there was some fear in doing that. Which, you know, I get that because as musicians, we are all so I don't know, we all kind of have imposter syndrome. But you also have the tools of doing this as a journalist. So I'm curious like, I guess it makes sense that it's still scary to do especially for something of your own but how did you break through that fear? Yeah, it's so scary because like, you're representing yourself and if you get rejected or don't hear from someone, it's like there's no filter there. It's like it's literally the rejection is coming like straight to you as the artist. But that's cool. Like I understand how how the the media industry works and everything so It's like, usually rejection is like nothing personal at all, it comes down to like time, the time of the of the journalist because like, as we kind of like touched upon a lot of them are volunteers. So yeah, it was super, super scary. And what has been interesting is there are some publications that I realized, that did not like the fact that I was in the media industry and trying to pitch my own stuff, they thought it was like cheating, or disingenuous or something. And that like very rarely, like, you know, there was only probably like one blog that really comes to mind. But I've heard of this being the case. And it's so strange to me, because like, everyone needs a day job like everyone, you know, it should be commended that you're trying to contribute to the music industry. So there was a lot of like resilience as well, like when I had to cross that bridge. But yeah, it's also like, very affirming that because, you know, after being in it, like, as long as you know, I have, and you have, and like, probably a lot of your listeners have, sometimes you forget how much you know. And so by really putting it to the test, and like doing something like a PR campaign and having it go really well. Because I did, we hired a PR company, for like the singles and release after that initial single, but I've just gone back this year and DIY my own PR campaigns for two of the songs that we released this year. But the song today's back, hiring a PR company anyway. So we've tried everything. But like, yeah, it's like very affirming sometimes like putting that those skills to the test and realizing how much you actually know. So I think sometimes it's like a really nice challenge. Yeah, for sure. And it's always rewarding when you can overcome those challenges. Because there will be challenges, there will be haters. And those are kind of a sign that you're on the right track. So keep going. Oh, yes. As soon as like you start having success be prepared. Because yeah, from I mean, like most people are super supportive. But it's been very interesting. The top, do you have the term tall poppy syndrome? They're like, that's like a yes. Yeah. But it's like very prevalent. It's, like, very ingrained in the Australian culture. Like, it's very like working class, like, don't rise above the pack sort of thing. So yeah, it's like very interesting observing, like and watching that even some of my clients bands get bigger and achieving more opportunities. And there's always like, people that are jealous for lack of a better term. And that's the only reason why people really say shit about you or say like anything negative is they're just jealous. So yeah, I hope that that's helpful. That's like, kind of my key takeaways from this experience. Yeah, for sure. Well, thank you for sharing that. So we're getting close to the end of the episode. What kind of advice can you give to the gigging musicians who listened to this podcast? And maybe some of the clients that you've, you've helped out? What have you told them what to do? Yeah, well, I guess, like on on that note of kind of like what we're talking about, I guess, like, the key takeaway is, in order to be successful, I think in any industry, but especially the music industry, you really have to work on your own mindset before anything else. It's like just as crucial as practicing your instrument, in my opinion. Because, you know, resiliency is so important. And really backing yourself is so important in not only having a long term career, but also being able to market yourself sufficiently, you know, if you don't truly believe in like your product, and what you're putting out there and your music or yourself as an artist and your skills, you're not going to be able to promote yourself, as well as you possibly can. Because there's going to be some sort of, you know, subconscious self sabotage. So, I would say that, like, personal development and working on yourself, like so, so crucial for anyone who wants to be in the music industry. And a lot of people say that, like, oh, it's such a hard industry, and only a small percentage of people actually have success. And like what I've been saying is like, yeah, it is hard, but like, you can totally do it. And like, if you're listening to a podcast like this, you are actively looking to improve and it's like, you're already there. You already have the mindset it takes to succeed. And someone has to be in that small percentage. So yeah, I just think like, what your your confidence and your mindset is, like, so, so crucial, and my number one tip, yeah, it's an amazing tip. And I know that you talk about that a lot in your podcast. It's so important. Yeah. Awesome. Well, Monica, this has been an absolute pleasure. I can't thank you enough for being our guests on the Gigging Musician Podcast, and for all Gigging Musicians On this episode, how could they connect with Monica in the future? Yeah, absolutely. So you can head to Instagram. That's kind of where I'm hanging out right now I'm just at Monica Strut, but I'm on all social platforms at Monica Strut or you can check out my website, MonicaStrut.com. I've got a bunch of courses and consulting packages and stuff there. But yeah, just like, Come and say hello, and let's chat. Yeah, for sure. And subscribe to our podcast to the being in a band podcast. Oh, yeah. For sure. Well, thanks so much, Monica. And thanks for listening to this episode. It's been a pleasure chatting with Monica and remember, you are just one gig away. Thank you for listening to the Gigging Musician Podcast. If you love this episode, then please take a screenshot on your phone and post it to Facebook, Instagram or wherever you post up and be sure to tag me and let me know what you liked about this episode and what you'd like to hear in the future. That'll help me know what to create for you. Also, I would love to give you the most incredible free gift ever designed to help you book gigs and make a living doing what you love. You can get a copy of my Gigging Secrets book, just go to GiggingSecrets.com Right now