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Secrets In Stereo 2 Years + No Live Shows = $97,000 In Defense of 1,000 True Fans - Part VI 

Here I go again….  It’s Part 6 in my 1,000 True Fans series. 

For this installment I asked my new friends at Sorted Noise in Nashville to introduce me to some of their artists who are doing it right.  I am happy that they introduced me to Josh Ryan. Josh fronts the group Secrets in Stereo and in just two years has made some impressive inroads by using social media (blogs) to bond with a tight knit community of fans who support him. What is interesting about Josh is the fact that he makes a lion’s share of his money from TV/Film placements and not from live shows. 

Ariel Hyatt: Do you believe that 1,000 true fans is a theory that can work?

Josh Ryan: (quoting directly from the article) “Someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work.”

Then, geez…absolutely.  Obviously, this means that it’s the artist’s responsibility to continue to crank out content, and give them something to buy.  And I think (as you are finding out with previous “In Defense” interviews) the number is much lower than 1,000 for a solo artist because of the low overhead.  Although I write, record, and promote under a band name, I’m actually a one man show.  So, this applies to my situation.


AH:  Are you currently making a full-time living as a musician from your music? And How many years did it take you from day job to part time job to F/T Musician?

JR:Yes.  My head is above water at the moment. When I moved to Nashville 3 years ago, I forced myself to only work part time.  I live by this thought process… Whatever you spend the most hours in the day doing, then that’s what you are.  If you work in a warehouse for 40 hours a week, and write songs and play shows on the weekends, then you aren’t a songwriter.  You’re a warehouse worker.  Writing songs and playing shows is just your hobby.  Like watching football. 

I know that thought process may rub some people the wrong way, but it worked for me.  I didn’t move to Nashville to be a waiter or a warehouse worker.  And, if that meant trading in financial “security” for time in the day to spend on my real job, then that’s what I had to do.

But, to answer your question more directly… I’ve been fully supporting myself financially with music for two years.


AH:  If possible (I know you may not want to share this information), can you share the amount of money you have grossed in the last 12 months, broken

JR: I’ll give you a larger sample if that’s ok.  Let’s look at the two years I’ve been self sustaining.  Also, I’ll break it down into Direct (money made directly from Secrets in Stereo music) and Indirect (money made from outside opportunities created by Secrets in Stereo music).  I will get into the details of each in the next question.


Direct Gross = approximately $80,000

Indirect Gross = approximately $17,000

Total Gross over the last 2 years = $97,000


AH:. Can you give us a breakdown percentage wise of the following:


A. Licensing for TV/Film/Advertising 59%

I made a decision early on to make this my focus for Secrets in Stereo.  Obviously, it is.  And, that will be reflected in the following numbers as well.

B. Live shows 0%

Yep… that number is right.  For a few reasons.  One, I live in Nashville.  You don’t make money playing in Nashville.  You lose money.  And, two, my overhead is very high to take what I do (and do it right) on the road.  Partly, because I use hired guns and those hired guns are good and expect a certain amount of pro level pay (Again, remember, I live in Nashville).  And partly because I have a fairly elaborate show.  Lots of players, lots of tracks, lots going on.

I intentionally listed “Live Shows” second, because I want to illustrate a point… There are more ways to make money in this business than those on  the traditional route.  Hitting the road makes A LOT of sense for A LOT of bands.  It just didn’t and doesn’t for me.  When I play shows, they have to count.  They have to have a purpose.  And that purpose (for me) isn’t necessarily to make money.

C. Digital Sales 14%

This is securely connected with licensing.  Placements equal digital sales. And the best part about these sales, is you don’t have to do anything (outside of the placement, of course) to get them.  You make money while you sleep. 

D. Fan Funding 5%

This is an on going campaign (as of Feb’10) for my next album.

E. Merchandise 5%

F. Physical CD Sales 2%

My focus is on digital.



A. Licensing other artist’s music 9%

B. Consulting 5%

C. Session Singing? 1%


AH:How many die hard fans, fans that will buy everything and anything from you, would you imagine that you have?

JR: About 100. 


AH: How long did it take you to build up this many fans?

JR: From the day I launched my Myspace (wow… that sounds so stupid now) until today.  2 1/2 years.  It’s definitely a snowball effect.  It was pretty hard at first.  The key for me was not only having small tipping points but being able to attack and capitalize on them. 

My first being my first placement 2 years ago… a 2:30 feature on an MTV show called Engaged and Underage.  The second that episode went off, I was all over blogs and message boards making sure everyone knew who sang that song.  Some of those fans I made then are what I would consider “die hard” fans today.


AH: What Do you mean you were “All Over Blogs? This seems like a very interesting tactic! Can you elaborate - what type of blogs did you hit?, how did you find them?  what did you say when you got on them?  how did you make “fans” out of that?

JR: There are really 3 levels to this tactic…

1. First things first.  I needed to be found when someone went to Google or Yahoo to search for me after they’ve heard the song.  I call it “Proactive Searchability” Although MTV has gotten better at this, at the time, it was hard for viewers to find who sings a song they heard on a show.  So, when I found out my song was going to air, I went to Yahoo Answers and Google Answers, created a profile, and asked the questions that I thought a viewer would ask.  Something like, “Who sang the song in Episode 7 of Engaged and Underage with the lyrics ‘I don’t wanna live a day with out you, I just wanna make you happy’?”  And this would all be before the airdate.  Then, I logged in with my Secrets in Stereo account, and answered the question (with links of course).  Voila!  Proactive searchability.

2. The next thing site I targeted was MTV itself.  They have a cool blog for everyone one of their shows called MTV Remote Control.  Engaged and Underage has been off the air for a while, and they had a blog post yesterday.  So, it’s pretty active.  For this site, I just went through the comments and looked for people asking who sang the song.  Then, I just answered them.  Simple as that.  Also, an answer is always better than just posting a comment announcing who you are.  If no one’s asking who you are, then your music didn’t connect.

Also, on MTV, they air all episodes online.  This is a great opportunity to become a part of the conversation as it happens.   The Hills gets over 1,000,000 plays online alone.  So, when I had a song or two in that show, I would stake out the live forum, waiting for someone to ask who sang that song.

3.  The third level of this tactic, is all the 3rd party blogs, forums, etc about the show.  All I did was Google “Engaged and Underage,” and a slew of sites popped up.  Obviously, Facebook groups were a great place to start.  But, there were also a handful of independent blogs that were ecstatic about hearing from an artist that was on their favorite show.


AH: Do you have a strategy with long-term and short-term goals in place to get to 1,000 true fans or for any future looking aspects of your music career? If so, can you share these goals?

JR: I have long-term, short-term, mid-term, weekly, daily, hourly, minute-ly goals (OK, maybe not “mintute-ly.”  That’s not even a word.)  But, all of those goals point towards my overall objective… Grab a potential fan’s attention, collect their info, convert them to a die-hard.

Tactically, that might play out like this…

1. A potential fan hears one of my songs on Grey’s Anatomy

2. I’ve written a blog on my site about the placement entitled “My song Not Today featured in the November 17th episode of Grey’s Anatomy.”  So, when that potential fan Googles “who sang the song with the lyrics, ‘not today, not tomorrow’ in the November 17th episode of Grey’s Anatomy,” guess who they find?

3. On my site, I give away a lot of music in exchange for emails.

4. 3 months down the road, my new fan knows all my songs by heart.  I send her email asking her to join the subscription portion of my site (A big goal for me in 2010).  She does.  And, now she’s a die hard.

AH: Have you ever made money from social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Ustream? Can you please tell us exactly how and correlate them?

JR: I don’t really see them as money makers.  Although, I’m sure the sites have effected sales.  If you’re smart and use them tastefully and creatively like Amanda Palmer’s auction, then it works.  But, even with that example, she didn’t look at Twitter as an ecommerce solution.  She looked at is a communication and community building solution.  It just so happens money was involved.  The moment we start looking at Twitter and Facebook as money makers, they will become Myspace.  


AH: Has your connection to the podcasting and online world, and your popularity with podcasters helped you to earn more money?

JR: I made a big push with PMN [Podsafe Music Network] a while back, and got great coverage.  I need to revisit that.


AH: What are your next steps to continue to help yourself move forward in your own career?

JR: My ongoing goal, is to continue to get TV/Film/Advertising placements, and build buzz and a fan base from the exposure of those. 

A big 2010 goal is build a well put together subscription portion of my site.  When you look at artist like Matt Ebel, it’s refreshing and exciting to see how that can be such a profitable platform.  If you do it right.

Beyond that, who knows where the industry goes.  Let me say this… I’m not one of those major label haters.  I think they aren’t really a logical solution for 99.9% of artists right now.  But, they aren’t going away either.  And they shouldn’t.  At some point, they are going to have to see working with an artist as a “joint venture” or “partnership” where the artist is bringing just as much value to the table as they are.  And when that day comes, they might make more sense to me as an artist. 

I’m looking forward to the day when an artist (hopefully me) comes to a major label and says… “Ok, I don’t need help with all this other stuff you offer.  But, I’ll partner with to you release and promote my record, and you get X number of points per sale.”


AH:  If you could give a band or artist any type of advice on how to start in social media, what would you advise them to do?

JR: The strategy of a few years ago was “be everywhere.”  And I think that’s true to a certain extent when referring to being “Googleable.”  But, I would say, go to where the people are.  Not more musicians.  Don’t waste your time building profiles on social media sites that won’t be around in a year.  Do your research, and stay up to date with new sites and trends.  I recommend,, and (of course).


AH: If you had $500 to spend on marketing and promotion, how would you spend that money?

JR: If it was just money that was given to me, I would experiment on a thing or two that I’ve been wanting to try.  Google Ad Words.  Facebook Ads.  Things like that.


AH: Is there anything else you would like to say about 1,000 true fans?

JR: As I read through my answers (and think about them from a reader’s perspective), I need to make one point.  Obviously, I can’t make a living solely based on the finances of 100 True Fans.  And I don’t, as you can see from my percentage breakdown.  That doesn’t mean that the theory is bogus. 

If I had 500 True Fans (and hopefully I will sooner rather than later), then I could never get a TV/Film placement again and be fine financially. 

But, that’s the beauty (and reality) of it.  You don’t have to depend solely on those True Fans.  They are the foundation of what you do.  They give you security.  But, then you’ve got all these other peripheral revenue streams to compliment and build that foundation.


AH:  How do you use analytics to your advantage? What are your measurable online results, and how do your measures help you with your music career?

JR: I’m a big data geek, but I realize most people aren’t.  If someone just wants basic info that might open their eyes and answer some questions, the “Insights” section of your Facebook Fan Page is a great place to start.  It’s fairly basic, but it’s got some great info that can help an artist begin to shape their target audience profile.


AH: . On a scale of 1 to 10, would you say you share a lot (a 10) or are you guarded in what you exposure on social media sites about yourself and your personal life?

JR: I share things that I would want to hear from an artist.  As long as you’re personal at some level, you’re using Twitter correctly.  A fan doesn’t know what you’re leaving out.


AH: What would you say to a fellow musician, that thinks that Twitter is just sharing “eating a tuna sandwich”  and is stupid?

JR: Not much.  I got tired of trying to help artists that don’t want to help themselves a while back.  The reality is, if they don’t see the value in it, then they aren’t going to use it usefully.  Therefore, for them, it would be stupid.


Come hang with Secrets In Stereo

Official Website –

Twitter - @SecretsInStereo

Facebook Page –

So many artists ask me how to get their music placed in Film & Tv and Josh is blogging in deep detail about his experiences and hopefully he will give us all some pointers for how to generate placements. Josh is writing a series of detailed blogs on based on his experiences up to this point, as well as about his experiences over the next 4 months as he writes, records, promotes, and releases his next new album.  He says about  the blog posts: “I’m basically talking more in detail on what I’m referring to here in these answers. It’s going to be focused on TV/Film placement.” 

Here are the links to the first two…

Reader Comments (15)

Very nice article! I'm a musician in a similar position--a one-man band living in a city (NYC) where playing live is more of an expense than a source of income. It's great to see someone building a fan base using avenues other than concerts. I'll keep an eye on sortednoise, and I'm really looking forward to your piece on getting music licensed. Thanks again!

February 18 | Unregistered CommenterMister 1-2-3-4

To me one of the really under utilized things that is glossed over in this article is the importance of having your lyrics up online. If somebody here's your music & gets it in their head they'll search for it & with a lot of bands they'll never find it. I must admit that I'm lazy about this & have never pushed any of the bands on my label to do it. So I guess I should start pushing that.

The music placement model is great depending on the kind of music you do. But there are a lot of tricks to it as well. Some people are willing to give their music away for exposure (& maybe sometimes it's worth it) & a lot of music supervisors have no problem giving you low prices because if they have a budget of $10,000 they keep any extra. So know what you're doing on that. Also don't forget to register with BMI/ASCAP & let them know about placements in film/televison so you get your royalties. Also it is a nice idea to be willing to let your prices slide. I have done some stuff for back end deals if a movie gets picked up for distribution & while nothing major has happened from these things, it does help to build a commraderie with young film makers who might one day want to use you in a money making project to pay you back the favor you did early on.

February 19 | Registered CommenterBrian John Mitchell

VERY INSIGHTFUL ARTICLE!!! You outlined some really great strategies and ideas.

@Brian Mitchell
The lyrics thing is also something that I never quite considered.

Thanks a lot for the brain matter....

It's not just about getting your lyrics online, they must be in a place in which you have full control of! By this i mean, website/blog/forums etc.

Then there is the matter of them searching for them but them not coming up on search engine results.

This is intertwined with SEO and keyword optimization, which words do i prioritize? You HAVE to prioritize the correct words within a song's lyrics or they will still have trouble getting to the top of search results.

How i would go about it is by putting the lyrics on one page with H1 as the song title and then the main chorus/verse lyrics each receiving their own headings too, but h2/h3 etc. You have to give the main words that you think people will latch on to some form of recognition within your website design/development.

Then what else i would do is make sub page's to your lyrics page, maybe even use a subdomain on your domain and place just a verse or just a chorus on ONE page. Then give the lines that you did not give headings in your first page of full lyrics primary place on this new page. Obviously you will only end up with one paragraph or a few lines, but splicing up your song's lyrics and changing the headings around is the minimum i would try to do.

With this you are guranteed [with enough backlinks to your domain ofc] that if some one searches your lyrics, you will be found.

February 19 | Registered CommenterMartinT

Mister... Thanks so much! I'm glad you find the info useful. That is definitely my hope.

Brian... Great thought on the lyrics. This is very true. For me, I did two things. One, posted the lyrics on MY site. That way, when people search for lyrics they end up where I want them to end up... my site. Then, obviously, fans can copy and paste the lyrics to whatever other sites they want. Less work for me. And two, when I had a placement, I went to Google/Yahoo Answers and entered the lyrics that were used.

Universal... Thanks so much!

Martin... Adding to what I mentioned to Brian, Google and Yahoo Answers sites are, hands down, the first sites that pop up when someone searches for lyrics. Get on those, and you're good. No need to worry about SEO with Google :)

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

This is such great information. Thanks to Josh for sharing and thanks to Ariel for posting. This is some of the most useful information available. I find it interesting that actual music sales does not play a primary role in revenue.

I am very interested in the details of your upcoming membership site. This is a model that I have seen in various forms out there. Some are working really well. I will sign up to get updates.

Thanks again

Tom Siegel

February 19 | Registered CommenterTom Siegel

Tom... Thanks for the kind words!

Trust me, it is just as interesting me as it is you that selling music takes such a backseat. But, the reality is that we are moving away from strictly a "music" business, and more towards a tshirt/deluxe CD/DVD/limited edition artwork business.

I use this analogy in my ongoing blogs at MP3's are just business cards now. You pass them out for free, hoping to doing business with that potential customer down the road. And that "business" isn't just music anymore.

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Josh, thanks for being so transparent! I was very encouraged reading your interview because this is right in line with what I am telling the artists in my circle of friends, especially the non-touring ones. I just downloaded your record and like what I hear! Keep up the inspiration. Good to know you are here in Nashvegas.

Ariel, thanks for the interview. I recently got introduced to your work and reality-based advice. Love it!

February 20 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Dolan

Awesome article! I'm a solo musician that hires musicians to perform live. Every time I perform live, it costs me at least $150. One show I played costed me, $650. For one show! The reason I play live is to expand my exposure. But is it easier to do so online??!! Seems more efficient. To be a really successful musician, you have to tour. Can a tour be built merely by online presence? It has definitely been done before!

Interesting thoughts!

February 22 | Unregistered CommenterDerek Jordan

Great article!

The fan part is clear for me and all makes sense, but I wonder though what is the main channel you use to get Licensing Deals. Is it mainly networking, or you also use some web services for that?

Can you share some insight on that?

Thanks much,

February 22 | Unregistered CommenterPietro Casella

Derek... Very interesting question? Can a tour be built around online presence? I don't see why not, but I don't know if anyone has done it yet on a wide scale. If you view blogs as radio (tours are built around radio appearances, right?), and had a super strong story, it seems it could be done.

Pietro... I JUST posted a blog on the exact thing you are asking about. It's at

February 22 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Thanks for these really good pieces. Am tweeting the links as fast as I can....

February 22 | Unregistered Commenterkerry

A great piece - a must read for serious musicians.

This really does outline what it's all about to be a working - self funded - musician.

February 23 | Unregistered CommenterLaurence

This article was very helpful. I have one question that never seems to get answered. Artist talk about getting placements for their songs, but never describer the process or means by which they were able to do it.

Did Secrets in Stereo hire somebody to get placed initially? Was he simply discovered online by a music person working at MTV? There are far too many scam companies claiming their ability to get you placed without any real credentials and it would be helpful to outline a step by step of getting your music placed initially.

March 7 | Unregistered CommenterGabe Turner

hey gabe, josh has been posting a series called "a living breathing case study of a dyi artist" at he goes into a good bit more detail about getting placements. it should answer some questions for you.

March 8 | Unregistered Commenterthad

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