Producer Joe Solo on Music Biz Success

Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive! Podcast Episode 021

Today’s episode is an interview that I did during Canadian Music Week with producer and songwriter Joe Solo. Known for developing Macy Gray for 17 years before she hit it big with her debut album in 1999, Joe’s credits include Michael Jackson, Fergie, will i. am, Quincy Jones, and many others. Joe was very generous with his time, shared valuable advice for musicians and told some great stories of some of the talent he has worked with.


Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive! Podcast Episode 021

Welcome to Sing Dance Act Thrive featuring conversations with performing artists and industry influencers on what it takes to succeed in the arts. I am your host, Diane Foy, and I believe that you really can make a living from your creative talents. As a publicist, podcaster, and coach. My mission is to educate, motivate, and empower you to thrive with authenticity, creativity, and purpose.

Diane Foy:      Hello and welcome to episode number 21 of Sing Dance Act Thrive. Today’s episode is an interview I did during Canadian Music Week with producer and songwriter Joe Solo. Joe was very generous with his time and shared some valuable advice for musicians including some great info on music licensing and how to make it in the industry. And he told some great stories of some of the talent that he’s worked with including Macy Gray of how he met her and developed her for 17 years before she hit it big with her debut album in 1999. Joe’s other credits include Michael Jackson, Fergie, Will I am, Quincy Jones and many others. And now he’s spending a lot of time coaching other artists through workshops and books and guest speaking. So I won’t talk too much. I’ll just get to it because we talked for over an hour and I hope you enjoy it. So what are some of the highlights of your career?

Joe Solo:         Yeah. I’m glad you said some and not your favorite cause there’s so many that I couldn’t possibly you know decide. What was really neat about the music business is it’s an adventure and well definitely the highlight is like the day I broke through from dancing on the fringes of the big time to being a complete rookie smack dab in the middle of the big of time. Right. I had been developing from scratch Macy Gray for 17 years and.

Diane Foy:      Before she broke.

Joe Solo:         Right. And then when she broke I got calls from like every major music publisher in the world like all in one day total Cinderella story kind of thing. And over the next, it’s a month and a half kind of whittled down who I wanted to be with down to three and a little bidding were started. This was all because the song I wrote with Macy called “Sweet Baby” was going to be the first single on our second record. And that was really nice because not only breaking through and signed a half a million dollar deal a publishing deal which sounds like a lot but then if you take 17 years of work and divided by all those hours I don’t know if I was doing better hourly than letting McDonald’s french fry cook after taxes. But that’s cool I’ll take it. Probably the coolest thing was the first time I heard my music on somebody else’s radio and what happened was I was I live in Los Angeles. I was driving and my windows were down and this car pulls up next to me, it’s convertible. Couple of you know how much younger and there’s a couple of cute ladies in the car and they’re listening the song is blasting out of their stereo. And I’m like, hey ladies. And they look at me like I’m some creep and I’m like Hey, I wrote that. And they were like really? I was like yeah this is awesome. Anyways so that’s really a highlight you know hearing your own music in a public forum is very very satisfying. That’s why I do what I do now, which is venture people on both a large scale and a one on one basis on how to break through in music because I feel so blessed to have gotten the music dream. I want that for others. And there’s so many common mistakes people may that can be avoided if they just knew about them.

Diane Foy:      Right and 17 years with Macy Gray that’s a good lesson that it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a lot of work to get there. So maybe can you tell us a bit about the journey from meeting her to when she broke in the type of work that you did with her?

Joe Solo:         Yeah and it wasn’t just her, I was working with all kinds of artists. I serendipitously met her at this diner where she was a cashier and I was eating, I was paying my bill and just out of nowhere she says, Hey, are you a musician or a guitarist or something? And I’m like, yeah, I play guitar. I produce, a bunch of other instruments. I play the right songs and she’s like, well, I’m a singer and I’m looking for someone to work with so why don’t we try working together? She’s like completely out of the blue. No it was just paying my bill and so I was like sure, why not? The next day she comes over and she’s like warming up in the vocal booth. And of course at this time the vocal booth is a euphemism for bathroom you know but I’m listening to her voice and it’s just becoming obvious to me. This is a unique voice. And after about five minutes, I got on the talk back mic and I’m like could you come out here for a second? I want to talk with you. And she comes out and I said I will commit right now. No matter how long it takes. And no matter what it takes to be your producer and develop you, be your songwriting partner until we make it. And I will never quit. No, I will never quit on you. That’s her 17 years. It doesn’t always take that long now, but back then I was just starting out too learning so much.

Diane Foy:      So it’s all on your website. You have quite a few credits. Can I maybe throw some names at you and you tell me a little story? Quincy Jones.

Joe Solo:         Quincy Jones couple of things he has this foundation called 5 million kids, which is a foundation that brings in well-known industry people to speak to high school students and inspire them to follow their dream and their path and not getting into the drugs and the gays and all this. This is all I like South Central L.A. type of places. So I got involved with that and that’s very satisfying. And then also it’s got a publishing company and I wrote a lot of music for Quincy Jones Publishing and those are the two areas where we work. But what’s really cool is like, it’s such a small, small, small industry. Everyone knows everyone. Like no matter where I go on the planet I’m going to know somebody, you know, my business partner Matt whose twice as many people I do everywhere he goes no matter what country what cities the people.

Diane Foy:      Just downstairs within seconds of us meeting, someone stopped him.

Joe Solo:         We can’t walk through the hallways without like you know, you can’t get to the other side of the room in time without you know meeting somebody that we met last year here or 10 years ago somewhere else or whatever. But it all kind of comes together which is why I asked. I don’t inspire artists to just never ever quit because all these little seeds that you plant, some of them start growing into flowers and trees later on in life and it all comes together in a very nice way. I mean that song “Sweet Baby” we wrote in 1994 it didn’t come out until 2001.

Diane Foy:      Right.

Joe Solo:         Now the night we wrote it we took a couple of hours to write it. We were excited. We knew we had like a hit. Yeah. But it didn’t actually become one or you know another seven years. So be patient never quit.

Diane Foy:      That’s it and it’s sometimes hard too when you are in those down times to not quit. Like if you can’t pay your rent and things like that, you need to have that passion that you’re going to do it no matter what. And that’s kind of what keeps you going.

Joe Solo:         Yeah. And that doesn’t mean you can’t change direction. I mean the whole industry is populated with people who started out as artists or in a band or something like that. And then he discovered that for whatever reason, it wasn’t going to happen for them artistically, but maybe they still had so much passion for music that they went to law school and became a music attorney or a publicist like yourself or you know, a publisher or promoter, concert promoter, a & r person, record label executives. But there’s so many areas where you could be satisfied being part of the music business. It doesn’t have to be Beyonce, Jay Z level of superstar. You know that happens for a very few and it’s a lottery. It’s a lottery on top of the lottery actually. But just to go first full circle with your question from before, right when I was talking about how like it’s such a small world. All right. So I was elected to be Michael Jackson’s music director or the 45th birthday extravaganza that he threw at the Neverland Ranch.

Diane Foy:      Right.

Joe Solo:         And there’s all these celebrities there and also he invited all these kids from like you know orphanages and hospitals all kinds of stuff it was really great event. Thousands of people there. And so it was really it was cool to be the live I was the live stage music director for that. And it’s really cool to work for Michael Jackson and to meet him and come full circle and say so yeah I got to work with your producer Quincy Jones. oh yeah. I love I love Q that’s what we call him Q. And so that small world thing happens a lot and then that turns into other contacts and networking and networking is such a vital part of being successful in this business. You could be the greatest artist in the world but if you don’t know anyone and nobody knows you you’re not going to get very far.

Diane Foy:      That would have been the next name I throw at you Michael Jackson.

Joe Solo:         Well, there it is.

Diane Foy:      I’m a fan. I need to know what’s the deal. What was it like?

Joe Solo:         Here’s probably the best Michael Jackson story alright. During that weekend. You know he has a zoo on his property and this is not just like cage with a couple of monkeys. Right. He’s got tigers and lions and elephants and giraffes. He’s got a serpentine, the snakes and scorpions and tarantulas including North America’s largest albino anaconda. Now its also got some llamas. So I’m talking to bunch of people in the zoo area right next to this fence and also I feel this slimy sensation wipe up the back of my neck and I turn around and Michael Jackson’s Llama had just licked me on the neck, like his head came over the fence and he licked me on the neck. Now that morning if you’d told me before the day is over your going to get licked on the neck by Michael Jackson’s Lama I would have said 0% chance of that happening and it would’ve been wrong. See you never know what each day brings but it really is an adventure.

Diane Foy:      Yeah and for that event, is that where maybe some of the artists, other artists that you worked with? Like were there, I guess assume there’s a lot of performers for that event?

Joe Solo:         There’s a lot of performers and other celebrities too. There was this performer Ashanti I don’t know if you remember her. She was there. Macaulay Culkin was there, I got to meet all kinds of celebrities. Mike Tyson was there. I got to meet Mike Tyson. I don’t know if who BT is, he’s a EDM guy. He’s like one of the original pioneers of electronic dance music he was there. And creepy as this is so was Michael Jackson’s plastic surgeon. I met him and I was kind of like oh so you’re the one who’s just taken all the money, right? Not like telling him come on Michael, that’s enough. Or maybe he did and Michael said, well I want it anyway. I don’t know.

Diane Foy:      Yeah.

Joe Solo:         Yeah. That’s really cool. It’s just an interesting Michael Jackson story I have nothing to do with this but it’s a really inspirational story. After thriller was recorded, Michael when he listened to the final mixes, he thought it was awful. I mean he literally cried because he poured so much time and emotional investment into this record and he thought it just didn’t translate well. So Quincy says, well why don’t we do this? Why don’t we go back in the studio and we’re going to take each song one day per song and tweak the mixes or remix it as do what it takes to make that emotional convenience happen. And they went in they did exactly that. And that’s the record that we all know. It never surprises me when I’m making a record how sometimes it’s just the last couple final tweaks and moves that glue everything together.

Diane Foy:      Yeah the perfectionists the geniuses they always are very particular by every detail.

Joe Solo:         I’m admit it tweak-a-holic. But the thing here is that I may spend a hundred 125 hours on a single song that’s average but those perfections that you create once they’re done they last forever without any additional effort. So it’s worth taking that extra time to really nail it. To making sure just every possible thing is undeniable. No weak links zero.

Diane Foy:      When do you know when to let go? Because perfectionist, we can pick at things forever.

Joe Solo:         Yeah. You also just as a professional you have to also say you know you have to make decisions. That’s the thing. A lot of times you make a decision and just trust that. The future decisions you make on the song the music tweaking the mastering and mixing will work. You got to got a real strong gut sense of that time and usually if I’m going too far with something for some reason my computer crashes and they’re like interrupt the process in my head. And I was like all right you know. I’m not calling that like a sign from from the other world but it’s more like an interruption of being stuck in that over perfectionistic process. And then also there’s just time constraints in terms of budget, it costs a lot of money to work with me and you can’t go on forever you know with a single budget with a single number there. So decisions have to be made and that’s part of being professionals making decisions about what to let go what to not use. A lot of times artists like for producing themselves will record every idea they can think of. And then in the mix try and squeeze every idea into the mix and you can’t. It’s just becomes too much so you have to let go of some of your little babies. You got to kill some of your babies to make room for the others to grow after a terrible analogy. But the point is made.

Diane Foy:      Yeah for sure. I also saw that you did some work with the shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Dance in the Stars. What is it that you did there?

Joe Solo:         I didn’t work with them. These are shows where music of mine was used on the show.

Diane Foy:      Okay.

Joe Solo:         Oh, there it is.

Diane Foy:      That’s all we need. Yeah. Cool.

Joe Solo:         Yeah. So I’ve had at last count, maybe somewhere around 2,600 placements around the globe. That was about a year ago so its probably more now. And a lot of these placements are placed by my publisher which is ? But they don’t call. I say hey we’ve got a placement for you. Because they work with so many songwriters that they can’t spend their day all day long just calling and saying you got placement the way you find out is, you get your royalty statement six months or a year later you find out oh it looks like my music was I’m the dog whisperer. Or you know American idol, one of the songs that they were singing so and so forth. So a lot of times that’s how I find out where the music was used and especially internationally.

Diane Foy:      Yeah, you can’t keep up with it all for you.

Joe Solo:         No. So every time you know there’s just a new show that my music’s been featured on I just well not every time that it’s recognizable. I’ll add it to the list of credentials. Over time your lists are slipping like crazy alphabet because you’ve got all these different channels with call letters and call signs. ABC FTD MTV.

Diane Foy:      Did you get in to creating music specifically for a film and television?

Joe Solo:         I do. One thing I’m doing right now is I’ve been composing a cinematic EDM Library specifically for placement in film and TV. And he thinks there is that the whole point of the music, well if it’s for like a TV show the whole point of the music is to keep the adrenaline high so somebody doesn’t feel like changing the channel after watching a broadcast TV during the commercial. That’s the point. But for more dramatic thing or film. The job of the music isn’t to show off your music. It’s to support the story and the director’s vision of the movies for example. And to tell the audience how to feel in any particular scene. So let’s take for example like you got a Batman movie and the joker’s killing all these people as you’re playing like this dark horrific score that’s going to make you feel dark and feel like you know the evil of the joker. Well, let’s say you took the same scene where he’s killing all these people but played circus la la la la you would feel the joy and the folly of the joker. So the music tells the audience how to feel that particular scene. So it’s important to look at it and serve the director’s vision and the story’s vision in that way. As opposed to I’m going to show off how great my music is. And hopefully it will be great within that context. Then also you know a lot of times people want to get a song placed in film or TV which is in my opinion right now like the best way to break through. Because you get upfront money long-term royalties and you get instant hopefully worldwide recognition. If the TV show for the movies is a hit that can be one song that can make your career and if you do a TV show like a theme you picked for a theme and the show goes into syndication like Seinfeld or something like that. You’re set for life.

Diane Foy:      Yeah

Joe Solo:         Yeah and I know the composer Seinfeld’s Jonathan Wolff he’s a friend of mine. He retired at 43 he makes so much money off the royalties of reruns that he got out of the game basically unimagined in eastern United States, about four kids and just living his life. And he still speaks like I do and to give back. But one show made his you know financial security the real thing for the rest of his life. And of course that show turned into other shows. You ended up doing a lot of different situation comedies and known as like the situation comedy composer so here having a very good career. Or you take a show like if you mash, which the opening song is an instrumental version of a vocal song called Suicide is Painless and mash was made in like the late seventies or something but it still runs all over the world. All these different territories there’s always different channels that we have. I don’t know the writer’s name, but I do know that the writer probably experienced the two $300,000 a year in performance royalties making money for time passing.

So your songs, it’s like owning stock in a company. If the company does well, you make money for time passing it’s the same thing. So as a music business person it’s important to fit that way as well as be artistic. What I mean by that is let’s say you want to have what I call universal appeal meaning appeal to the large wide set of cultures and demographics. You might have to let go of certain things. For example I had an artist who wanted to be known as like great singer and great harmonica player. When he brought me his demos, like the songs had a 64 bar harmonica solo at the beginning of the song. I see you smiling and I’m like dude no disrespect to your harmonica but if you really want to break through on a universal level, can we shorten that to like maybe two bars and then have a maybe like a eight or 16 bar harmonica feature towards the end and let it be a component of a great song as opposed to the theme you want to focus on. As I doubt you’ll ever get radio play with this 64 bar harmonica solid beginning. Situations like that sometimes the artist’s ego will get in the way and say no that’s how my music goes and that’s how it’s going to be. And sometimes they say okay well that makes sense let’s try it that way. And there is no one knows for sure if that original version of that song would have done better or not. I think there’s things that you can do. Well let me backtrack for a second. Being successful is a big component in this life. There’s so many things you could do to tilt luck to your favor to maximize the chances of being successful. That’s why I’m out here talking to people putting out products and speaking all over the planet trying to help people get their music dream as best as I can.

Diane Foy:      Yeah so you spent a lot of time songwriting producing. When did you kind of transition to coaching artists and the mentoring and sharing?

Joe Solo:         Of seven years ago my kids they’re actually girls. And it occurred to me that I’m spending so much time in the studio that I’m missing the experience with them growing up. So I wanted to reinvent myself. So I came up and I’ve always wanted to be able to like help people. I love helping people. I love making people laugh too so I crack as many jokes as possible during my talks. You know have fun with it. Want to make good money. So I reinvented myself because of the you know, a hundred 125 hours per song. It takes in the studio. I was missing out and then growing up. So why don’t I come up with a business that I could give back have fun and make decent money, for time passing. I started what’s called the music success workshop. You know create a good product. You put it online and promote it properly. Then people can check it out if they want to buy it and you don’t have to let be right there hands on doing everything like where you’re producing.

I’m there for every single second of the production. Not In every case. Sometimes if the budget can’t afford me. I’ll have a co-producer do part of the production and I’ll do the beginning focus on the vocals and I’m going to focus on the final mix. But when I’m doing everything hands on it’s all consuming because I’m putting not just the time into it but every ounce of passion that I have. You know the songs of these artists they become like my little stepchildren that I fall in love with. I live with it. And even when I’m not directly working on it my brain still is it’s almost like impossible not to because you’re in the studio and you’re working out in the same part and listening to the same little four bar section over and over and over. Then you’re doing that all day. And then when after 12 hours of that, it’s kinda hard to turn that song off in your head it keeps going. You know it’s going in your head while you’re sleeping. Your brain is working things out the next day you wake up with new ideas you work on those and it’s all consuming. Yeah. Which is why if I’m going to work with somebody yeah they have the budget but I have to like them too as a person.

Diane Foy:      Yeah because you spend a lot of time with them.

Joe Solo:         Because it’s such a emotional process. Everyone is baring their soul. These songs are born out of their life experiences and in some cases they need this song to be partially written. Maybe they have great verses and choruses but weren’t able to come up with a bridge that is was as great as the other parts they wrote. Well you don’t want to have an entire section be a weak link so maybe I’ll write the bridge and we’ll co-own the song at some level or maybe they are writing with me from scratch. We split everything 50 50 and we’re starting with just nothing. And we are coming up with musical ideas and lyrical ideas from the ether, or our brains, working on the songs. That’s even more time and more consuming because now that I have little stepchildren of mine but we’re actually making these babies together.

Diane Foy:      Yeah.

Joe Solo:         But the real magic is when I’ve got ideas and the artist has ideas and somehow those ideas get hybridized and like baby ideas that are better than you known one of us alone would have come up with. That’s where like the magic of collaboration is. So I really enjoy collaboration so I want to enjoy the person who I’m going to be working with for so many hours and putting so much on my own emotional investment into. And I think who you are your character is a big part of being successful.

Diane Foy:      Yeah. It’s all about relationships in the end.

Joe Solo:         Exactly. Which means you’ve got to have a stellar reputation. Yes any of my buddies has been in the business you know for 20 30 years. You say what do you got? Everyone says the same answer. All I got is my reputation. So have character. Don’t lie. Don’t be BS.

Diane Foy:      And the industry talks.


Joe Solo:         Well everyone knows everyone you know so just be real. Be authentic. Nobody wants to work with the nightmare no matter how great they are because at a certain point your life is short isn’t it? So be cool. Be authentic.

Diane Foy:      So what are some of the advice that you give to young artists starting out?

Joe Solo:         Well I may have mentioned this earlier but the best piece of advice is just never quit ever. Quitting is not an option. Change direction, but quitting is not an option. Now one day you discover that you’re miserable but you can’t quit. I mean miserable for years at a time. Okay. Then maybe music’s not your thing and you know having a meaningful and happy life is more important than making it. Making it isn’t the solution to all of life’s problems. Once you make it, you just have a whole new set of problems. The problems with someone who’s successful. Everyone’s got problems but there will be ups and downs there will be minor and major heartbreaks along the way and if you just simply stay with it, don’t quit. Eventually something breaks opportunity that you didn’t see coming like it falls in your lap. You know I got a buddy he’s playing with Korn with a bunch of other bands but he also composed us this really cool video game music. He’s really good at it real high adrenaline and I guess someone at Electronic Arts, the number one video game company in the world, heard is music, and all of them said, we want you to do a whole library of these for us. And that ended up becoming successful and became his thing. Now when he set out to be rock star guitar player you know the idea of being this top composer of video music was not in his vision but that’s where the success for him started to go. So we went with it.

Diane Foy:      And that comes up by not giving up.

Joe Solo:         Right. So that’s not giving up but yeah.

Diane Foy:      Changed direction.

Joe Solo:         Exactly. Be on the lookout for an opportunity that might be different from what your original vision is and you might want to go with it or at least test the waters. I’m the same thing, I started out as a guitar player and my vision was to be a very well known and successful guitar player in a band. And when I came out to L.A. I was like 18 years old. I had a year of college under me and I was like I’m going to go for it music to my parents. I’m leaving school and going for it.

Diane Foy:      Every parent’s dream.

Joe Solo:         Well, in this case, my dad’s father and his 10 or 11 brothers and sisters are vaudeville performers, traveling vaudeville performers back in the day. So my dad was like yeah go for it. You know keep the entertainment the family entertainment going.

Diane Foy:      What kind of things does they in vaudeville?

Joe Solo:         Everything sing dance, comedy. I’m sure a lot of kids say they don’t know what Vaudeville is, but this is basically just traveling entertainers going from city to city and tour doing these variety shows. And you had to be good. You had to kill every night and every night was different. Just like touring you know live. Every show is different. But anyways so I was very lucky to have parents that were behind me. And when I moved out to L.A. That’s what I was going for was just being well known successful guitar player, touring, records, the whole thing. And the thing is, is that the band that I put together we kind of sucked. Not technically we were all very proficient but the ingredients were not put together in a way that people could relate to. We had this singer who was very androgynous and sang as super high falsetto and I’m playing this sort of combination of old school funk and big guitar. Then we had a pop drummer and bassist who you know did the best we could but we just never we never went anywhere. Meanwhile on developing Macy we we’re getting lots of attention and producing other artists in different styles in writing writing and writing all the time with different people and in different styles. And this is a song writer and producer. I started to you know make some decent money and get my name around in a certain point. And I was like okay I need to decide. I’m not going to continue pounding the pavement on this band thing which is going nowhere and costing you a ton of money. I’d be satisfied to have your career as a songwriter and producer. Yeah sure I can be satisfied doing that. So I made the decision to stop the band thing and go more on the direction that was already being successful and it was like the most liberating moment. Just the most liberating moment cause I had to let go of my original vision.

Diane Foy:      It’s hard sometimes to get there.

Joe Solo:         It’s very hard.

Diane Foy:      But then once you make the decision you’re kind of free.

Joe Solo:         Yeah it’s an adventure. The funny thing is as a public speaker, I’ve been told thought leader in the music industry. Started to get a lot of followers, people on my email list several thousand. I was thinking I could probably put out a record of my own music right now and do even better than before because you’re right I have audience now and even though it says a mentor and not as a artist. Maybe I’ll do that someday. Right now I’m still just focusing on helping as many people as I can break through.

Diane Foy:      What are some of the products and services that you offer?

Joe Solo:         Primary product the best one I have. I find that people can shave off years and years of trial and error if they just have someone from the inside show them the ropes. Teaching the secret handshakes crack the code of the music business music success book, which will be coming out soon at fine bookstores everywhere. So this product is called “Make it Big in a Box” and it’s hundreds of video clips of me speaking where I’m rendering advice to artists of all stripes and types. Some of them are long form videos where I’m speaking for an hour and a half to three hours and some of them are little clips where the one minute you get a piece of advice that could potentially shave years off your success. And then there’s hundreds of written tips too. All drawn from my experience and my observation of the experience of others, because you know when I started out I had a lot of buddies who moved out to L.A. and they were going forward like and met a lot of people on the way. And I could see who’s been successful who is still pounding away at it but hasn’t usually success and they’re still doing the same thing and not making changes and or the people who are starting to achieve some success and their story is building. You can look back and see it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look back and see what tends to be working for myself and for all these other people and what isn’t working. Now. Nobody can tell you exactly how to make it but I could tell you many many ways how to not make it.

Diane Foy:      Yeah.

Joe Solo:         Well a lot of people have this idea of how the industry works without this is where ego kind of comes in without actually knowing whether their idea is as actual as how it really works or not. So I try and teach that you know people think if you go into the big time studio that you’re going to make a record and they booked eight hours and they plan to do five songs and that’s not going to yield anything remotely useful, other than the experience of realizing that takes a lot longer than eight hours to do five songs. Artists often take six months a year to three years making a record. When I tell people a hundred to 125 hours per song, they’re like for a four minute song? Well yeah think about a two hour movies spent two years making it. At the time everything is done, it’s whittled down to a two hour movie. But that’s a record. And it’s not that long for every style of music. You know if you’re doing a more raw hip hop thing or EDM where a lot of it is programmed ahead of time it’s not going to take as long. But if you’ve got a lot of live drums and live instruments and layers and a lot of experimentation with arrangement it does take long.

But anyway, back to Make it Big in a Box, there’s so much experience and observation that can help other people. I had put it all into one package if people want to find out more about it or get it they go to Joe my website and look Making it Big in a Box. Right now normally it’s 2000 bucks. Right now we’re selling it for 995 and here’s the cool thing. In addition to all that video and written information it comes with a live one on one consultation with the music industry professional from my company or if they want to pay a little extra I’ll do their consultation with them directly. You could do it by phone, Skype or in person, so it doesn’t matter where in the world you are in person is the best if you’re in L.A. and we just come over to my place. We sit down we talk at one on one consultation is the chance for the artists to answer all a lot of questions or have their music analyzed and develop a roadmap of where to go from here. Where to go from where they are.

Diane Foy:      Right.

Joe Solo:         That is included with the Make it Big in a Box package. And right now since we’re just releasing this the first twenty five people who order, they’re going to get me as their consultant without having to pay the extra $700 cost for it. Also I know that musicians don’t always have 1000 bucks just lying around. So you could do a payment plan. I don’t charge extra for it anyway. You can do a payment plan where you spread it out over 12 months so it ends up being like 79 bucks a month which is like Starbucks money.

Diane Foy:      They can handle that.

Joe Solo:         Yeah if you think you know all the risks to know about the industry you don’t need any additional help or guidance or advice then you know, great. But if you want to get a lot of inside tips and direction and motivation and inspiration spend the 79 bucks a month and it’ll change your life forever.

Diane Foy:      A lot of resources that artists probably keep going back to.

Joe Solo:         Oh yeah. This is so you go to in the end, if you just want to test test the waters you get on my email list and I send out right away once you sign up it’s free. You get my music success video nuggets series, which are like a series of these three minute video nuggets. And also you get written tips every week couple times a week actually. And each one of these things you can start putting it to use on your career that very night. So instant change. But probably the best thing that comes with signing up to the email list is I’ve created a list of the 9 music career killing mistakes and how to avoid them.

Diane Foy:      Are you going to give us a couple now?

Joe Solo:         Oh you got to sign up to find out. But just to entice you like for example one of them is that people don’t understand this until they read it is having your music on iTunes. You go to joe and sign up. There you find out how that could be detrimental to your career? And a handful of other things that will hopefully avoid making very common errors that up and coming artists make. And it’s not their fault that they make these mistakes. You know what you know. You have to realize that there are things that you don’t know that you need to know to be successful. And they’re the quirkiest things too. For example if you’re trying to get your music and film in TV and you send your entire library of say 30 songs to some music supervisor thinking okay they’re going to see how first who I am and what my talent is not realizing that doesn’t matter to music supervisor because their job is to find appropriate music for the shows and films they’re working on. And for the specific scenes that need music.

Diane Foy:      You got to do your research when you’re contacting a music supervisor.

Joe Solo:         Exactly. So if they’re working on us on a space adventure and you’re sending your hillbilly cowboy music you’re just wasting there. You’re just telling them I didn’t do my research and these people are so busy they have so much responsibility and they don’t have time to listen to your 30 songs. In fact it bugs down their emails especially if like you sent the actual files.

Diane Foy:      Don’t send files.

Joe Solo:         Unless they request it, never send files always links unless they request something specific. And many of the music supervisors in Hollywood do have specific preferences and you’ve got to get to know that. How do you get to know something as personal as that? Well that’s where networking comes into place. You got to go to conferences and you got to do your research. You can go to places like the Guild of Music Supervisors website has a lot of great information.

Diane Foy:      Watch the shows that you want your music on.

Joe Solo:         Yeah make sure your music make sense for that show. Although everyone will say everyone including myself, well think well there’s so many different emotions to the show that they can use any kind of music. But if you look at if you look at TV shows they really have sort of a certain that fits within that show. And here’s a real good piece of advice. Real good piece of advice. Industry people are extremely busy especially music supervisors are extremely busy. So if you’re going to write them first of all, never send out all email that says hello or your industry person or hot. I mean I see that and it’s like, I don’t even bother reading it cause I already know that they didn’t take the time at all to research what I’m doing or what I’m all about. And the first thing you write is verbatim. “Thank you for taking the time to read this.” So before you get into who you are or how you think you can make their job easier and all kinds of things like that which is awesome. You got to put the right bait on the hook to catch the fish, which is another thing I teach is how the people of various roles in the industry think because like a music attorney and a publisher and a publicist in our person music supervisors. They all have different ways of thinking that are focused on what they do and what they need. So it’s good to learn that too. So you know how to approach these people. Then when you know how to approach these people, you have more confidence because you know what you’re doing and they sense that confidence in that is a big factor in success too because they want to work with a professional and a professional knows the business. Knows how to network how to talk how to speak the language of the person they’re talking to. I teach all this stuff and it’s all it’s all in the Make it Big in the Box package. Which by the way is not an actual box. It’s all online and you get a password and then you can access it whenever you want.

Diane Foy:      You’re here for the music week have you come up here a lot? I know you were here last year, this year.

Joe Solo:         Last year was the first year they flew me out to speak and I loved it. I was ignorant of how much Toronto is. It’s a major music center in the making. There is so much talent here and there’s so much support for artists here. The country supports artists with all kinds of grants after grants. Yeah it’s really amazing and the people are great. So when they asked me to speak again this year I said yes. There’s always like a really good energy. The other thing I do is a before and after session where I’ll play a portion of the demo that artist brought me to produce. That they created or created with another producer whatever, and then I’ll play the broadcast quality finished master that’s been not only technically tweaked perfection but more important as the emotional conveyance of the lyric and the spirit of the song and the artist. That’s all part of being a broadcast quality master. It’s not just engineering and mixing and mastering. It goes all the way back to the initial performances that you captured. But anyway, so I’ll play before and afters. People could hear the difference that a seasoned producer can make and it doesn’t just make a difference in how their song is perceived how well it’s perceived which is significant. But then it also sets when you have professional quality master it says a lot of things about the artist. It says I’m ready it says this is my music to a record company it says here’s the record it’s already done. You don’t have to finance it and guess what is it going to sound like and take that risk. Here it is let’s do like a distribution or something like that. So having that finished master changes in the most positive way the perception of you as a professional is a big difference. So I can say that because it doesn’t mean anything to people to hear that makes all the difference. And I have some before and afters on my website as well. Want to check that out so you get a sense of what I’m talking about.

Diane Foy:      Thanks for joining to me. Any final words of wisdom?

Joe Solo:         Gosh yeah let the “Make it Big in the Box:”and get thousands of final words of wisdom at But I’ll give you a real one too. Here’s a good one. A lot of people struggle with do I do music that’s authentically in my heart and soul? Or do I do the music that I think maximize chances of success? Because maybe that’s the style of the moment and the answer is you you’re authentic, you use it. That’s actually from my perspective that increases your chances of success more than hopping the style of the moment. Because when you’re authentic and when you’re real when that translates. You put on the speakers and touches the hearts of somebody move somebody. That’s what inspires people. That’s what inspires people. And your job as an artist, is to move them in some way whether it’s to entertain the fans or to let them know hey there’s we all go through heartbreak and loss of various kinds or and everything in between. So do the music that’s in your soul not what you think is the one that’s quote unquote likely to make it because it’s the style of the moment. And by the way by the time you make a record and do a marketing campaign especially if you get signed with a label it’s going to be two years later. And that style of a moment will have changed anyway for just do your authentic music. This can be very liberating for anyone who’s struggling with this. Extremely liberating. So that’s my piece of advice.

Diane Foy:      Wonderful. Thank you.

Joe Solo:         My pleasure.

The Aftershow Transcript:

Diane Foy:      It was so great talking to Joe. Wow he’s a wealth of information. Definitely check out his website. And now during CMW I sent some artists to different panels and workshops to report back what they learned and how they will incorporate it into their career. For Joe Solo I have Canadian singer songwriter Tamara Maddalen. She attended Joe’s Ask me Anything panel, so I’ll let her tell us what her takeaways were for links and show notes visit

Tamara Maddalen:      So one of the things that he talked about which I resonated with me was that you need to have a music business mentality and be professional and prepared because when you’re ready the business will come to you. You won’t have to be knocking on doors. So you really want to position yourself to be ready and that this industry the music industry is a small world. Everyone talks to everyone else and you need to learn how to network. You need to know your core business so that you can identify the obstacles that you meet along the way and be prepared to confront them. So being proactive seeing where opportunities come up and then being ready to capitalize on them. He also talked about a lot of things that you shouldn’t be doing. So things that you would be a detriment to your progress. And he gave a really great example of music supervisors. There’s only a small group of them and they all talk they all hang out one another with one another and they’re quite competitive with each other because they’re all trying to break the next best thing. So when an artist has a catalog of songs and they just mass email a bunch of music supervisors what they end up doing and you know in their mind and in their intention is they think, okay. I’ve covered all my bases. I’ve sent everything out to everyone I possibly know. Surely someone will think one of my songs is great enough to feature in a film or commercial. But by not doing their due diligence and not understanding who they’re sending their music to and tailoring their approach they’ve actually done more damage to their chances of being heard because a music supervisor will see this massive large file bogging down their inbox and just delete it. And then they’ll share that experience maybe when they’re golfing or hanging out with their buddies and they’ll all say yeah we saw that email come through and we too deleted it. So here you are thinking as an artist that you’ve done yourself you know some good and you’ve actually damaged your chances or blown your chances. So that goes back to being ready and knowing who your audiences.

And then Joe talked about taking your time and working on your craft and he gave the analogy of when he produces, he’s averaging about a hundred hours of production time per song. You know to evolve it to the point where it is a studio on radio quality ready. So I feel like myself over the last four years I’ve really done that without even knowing. I’ve always really put the music first and wanted to put first a quality product out and then figure out how to get it to market. But I couldn’t do it until I had a good product. Joe talked about being authentic as an artist and I think that goes with, with just being an authentic person in general but also in any business that you’re in. If you’re not authentic that’s going to come through in short order. Like if you’re trying to sell yourself as being something you’re not. As soon as you’re pushed, put on the spot you’re they’re going to rise to that occasion and deliver or you’re going to be seen as someone who’s not prepared and wasn’t genuinely authentic in what they were trying to deliver.

He talked about getting to know the music business and that’s where I think that I needed to work on. It’s strengthening my weakness and knowing the business language in the music Biz such as what a copyright is and what copyright does for you as a songwriter, corporate licensing. I need to get to know a bit more about how to get in to film and into potential commercials and using my music and other avenues that I didn’t think about earlier. You know just what a music supervisor does. I didn’t realize that there was a whole segment of professionals that do just that. He talked about when you are reaching out and you’ve made those connections and you’re networking that you’re gonna always want to be humble, polite, and not pushy. And he talked about experiences of his own where when he’s doing a business deal or networking with someone in the biz, they’re spending 95% of the time you know, just talking about life and their own experiences and general conversations about one another that have nothing to do with music. And then they’re going to do about 5% of the time will be focused on business. But that’s not unlike most things and most businesses where you want to spend time with your colleagues having fun and then you do a bit of work. But it’s really the relationships that are being built that you know opened the doors and push things further.

He talked about finance financing a good product as well. Which is really important and it is expensive. It’s been expensive for me to put this record out because I want to do the songs justice and I want them produced the way I hear them in my mind. So you know not cutting corners and if that means getting a second job or allocating money from other things other luxuries that you might have to forgo in order to make your dream a reality, then that’s what’s going to take. And taking your time to do that. So I didn’t rush into this record because I knew that I wanted to hire good people and collaborate with really great musicians. So I waited until I could afford it and that’s when I brought them in.

And then he you know we talked about once you’ve got a great product, how do you get it out? Well email databases is really important is to build a fan base slowly over time. And he even talked about doing it with a fat chunk of a thousand fans at a time, which when you break it down to those smaller segments of numbers, it doesn’t feel so daunting and overwhelming as an artist. Because I think how am I going to appeal to all of these massive people? Well, I don’t, I need to just do what I do slowly methodically and then build my fan base a small chunk of people at a time. And as I’m doing that and I’m engaging, I’m going to get to know my fans better. I’m going to get to know what their needs, their wants and their likes are. And I think that the music will just follow suit.

He talked about also offering music related products and services. So I need to expand my creativity and looking outside of the box as well. So now that the album is getting close to conclusion and I know that I’m going to be printing CDs and also some vinyl, what else can I offer? So I need to start getting creative about how to use my website and how to use my streaming services to find a niche product that represents me as the brand, but also gives my fans what they want. And I think that that’s going to take time to develop so that it’s unique to me and I am going to take my time to get it right. I’m not in a rush on that front. I really want to get that part right. He talked about when you hit a wall and your creative process, you should look at potentially writing in different ways. So maybe take a song apart of how you had originally written it and maybe utilize the verses as the chorus or write a new song around a bridge, which is very, very cool because sometimes we do get into writer’s block or we tend to use the same formula over and over and over again. So the style, the songwriting starts to become a little bit redundant. And I know that now that I’ve wrapped up this record and it certainly has a signature Americana, Americana roots rock sound for the followup record, I think that I need to get a little bit more adventurous and creative. So I’m going to definitely take those tips that Joe provided in the workshop when I sit down to, you know, start crafting the next album and maybe pulling segments of a verse apart or a bridge and rewriting it completely differently to see what I come up with.

He said something really interesting about when you have completed your work and you want to see, you know, you take it to market and you sort of test it to see is it any good cause you think it’s good because you’ve been working so hard. I’m producing it. But what are, what, what are your fans thank or what do your friends think that are like-minded in that type of music genre? And he said a trick to do is to sneak, be sneaky and just play it at a party without anyone knowing that it’s you. And he said, if your song is good, no one will say anything. But if it’s not good they’ll ask you to take it off within. Or someone will start complaining about or stating what is this crap within about 30 seconds. So I’m going to try that, see what I come up with, which is unsolicited feedback, which is like gold, right? And I’m a little fearful of doing it, but at the same time, I think it’s important to do because then you’re going to get honest feedback on what people think. Joe talked about self-doubt. And I think we all have that in general. Certainly, artists do. I know I’ve, I’ve suffered with it. It kept me from putting out new music for a very, very long time. And I’ve worked really hard at getting over that when I do have a moment where I’m thinking negatively. Even Joe addressed, he said, I’ve had self-doubt myself. All successful artists do. And you know, we start out in this business not knowing anything and we are literally finding our own path pathway to market, which will be different from every other artist. So we said when those moments of self-doubt come, allow yourself to ponder on it for about 90 seconds, that’s about it. That’s what you need to grow from it. But then be prepared to answer back with something that’s positive that reinforces the opposite and that’s gonna build your strength and your character. Like,

Diane Foy:       Hey, that’s my coaching.

Tamara Maddalen: It is your coaching. And in fact, I wanted to bring it back around to your coaching because we worked on that very exercise, having an actual statement that was self destructive. But having an immediate response to that. That was the opposite. And, and doing so I’m prepared now with actual narratives in my mind that I’ve pondered on. And when those moments of self doubt outcome, I’m ready to walk myself off the ledge as it were and reinforce that, nope, I’m on the right path and I’m setting myself up for success. I thought that that was really great that he brought that up because he’s extremely successful. And yet here is a person that has, we all climb the mountain as it were in the music industry and work with the greatest artists there are. And yet he still succumbs to that sometimes.

Diane Foy:      Yeah, we all do. It’s human nature.

Tamara Maddalen:      It is. Yeah. But he said, learn the ropes cause that’s the most important thing that’s going to serve you. Learn the music ropes. I’m not just musically, artistically, but of the music industry as well. And then never quit. No matter how hard it gets, never quit. And that’s really where I’m at now. I’ve started this, it’s four years. And, and I don’t know what this album will do for me as an artist and what level of success I will have commercially with this record. But I can tell you that everything that I’ve accomplished, even to the point of even being invited to be on this podcast with you, Diane, those are all successes for me. And whatever this album was meant to do, it’s already done for me. And then some. So, I’m completely blessed every day that I get to work with amazing collaborators, such talented people. And I, I’m just so excited about the future and I really wanna take advantage of every opportunity that comes.

Diane Foy:      Thanks for listening to Sing Dance Act Thrive. Be sure to join the mailing list at to gain access to bonus content, a weekly newsletter, and an invitation to our private Facebook group of purpose-driven performing artists and industry influencers.