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Theo Katzman on Recording, Songwriting and Staying Independent

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The New Music Business Podcast with Ari Herstand - Theo Katzman (of Vulfpeck) on Recording, Songwriting and Staying Independent

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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.
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Theo Katzman on Recording, Songwriting and Staying Independent

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To celebrate the third edition of How to Make It In The New Music Business, the Ari’s Take team collaborated with Shuttershot Productions to capture Ari Herstand’s special interview and Q&A with the incomparable Theo Katzman. This episode was recorded live at The Grove’s Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles on January 17th.

00:00 Welcome
03:23 Theo’s perfect press release, recording process, touring with Vulfpeck
11:39 What artists can learn The Beatles’ Get Back documentary
16:23 Recording process: one take and one take only
22:17 Recording a live album, playing in the “red zone” (Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane, Led Zeppelin)
32:45 Why artists should never compromise themselves and their career
37:04 Authentic creative process, embracing mistakes in the studio
49:26 How Vulfpeck became so successful
52:09 How the Wim Hof Method’s cold plunging experiences inspired Theo
01:00:02 Songwriting process for new album, Be The Wheel
01:12:02 Album release strategy, distributing independently through TuneCore
01:19:51 Listening engagement from Spotify editorial playlists vs. algorithmic playlists
01:24:03 Launching new label, 10 Good Songs
01:28:17 What “making it” in the New Music Business means01:35:10 Q&A: How clubs can best set artists up for success

01:35:10: How clubs can best set artists up for success
01:40:47: Advice for independent artists who don’t have a big budget
01:43:35: Emotional quality songwriting and harmonic settings within western music (“Good To Be Alone,” Paul Simon, Bob Marley)
01:48:06: Creative marketing campaigns (Seth Godin’s This Is Marketing, TikTok)

Produced by the team at Ari’s Take
Live recording engineered by Maxim Adams
Mixed and mastered by Maxton Hunter
Music by Brassroots District

Video production by Shuttershot Productions
Directed by Brian Shutters
Photography directed by Kenzo Le

. . . . .

Ari: I’m very excited to talk with you today. Me too, bro. Yeah. Um, about, uh, well [00:01:00] first off, uh, for those of you, well, what’s so cool is that you have two albums, new albums that are out. One with Wolfpack mm-hmm. that just came out in December. Uh, schvitz, which we were talking a lot about. That’s right. Schvitzing earlier. Yeah. Um, and then with the Theo Kaman project, the solo record Be The Wheel. Yes. And, um, before we, we get into the record, I’m gonna, I’m gonna spend a lot of the time on On

Theo: Yes. And a third album that I’m producing for one of my favorite artists, may Early Wine. Oh, hell yeah. And that also is coming out soon. So it’s amazing. There’s a lot of, we were all silent for a very long time. Yeah. And now there’s a lot. And she’s opening your, your tour. I saw. Yeah. She’s gonna be opening part of the tour.

Ari: So I wanna, um, I wanna start by talking about. this, uh, your rec, your, your new stole record. Be The Wheel. Brilliant, brilliant work. I, it’s honestly, it’s some of your best work, and this is coming from a fan. I’ve listened to your previous records. Modern Johnny Sings songs in the Age of Vibe. Um, heartbreak hits, um, romance without finance many, many, many times. I’m a, I’m a fan, Theo. Thanks. I’m a big fan. I’m a fan, Theo. And this is, this is, um, this is great because it’s like, it’s, it’s one part kind of natural progression, natural theo cast progression, but you’ve really explore a lot of themes in this in a very, um, subtle nuance, but so effective way and, you know, but also you get more heartfelt in like a genuine, like, gut punch way. Yes. Than , than, than I’ve heard you before. And like the, you have a song, the final song on the record. Um, nobody Loves You Like Your Mother. That song. I, it’s, it’s the, it’s honestly. I think one of the best songs you’ve ever written. Thank you. It’s a beautiful, beautiful song. It got me to call my mom Good, which is a big feat. Great. So thank you for that. And I know she appreciates that as, as well. Awesome. Awesome. Yeah. But before we get into really discussing the record, um, you sent me a, uh, the press release for the album. Yes. And, uh, so I, I saw people here today have, uh, notepads and pens and that, um, you know, they’re, they’re thinking about, you know, they’re, they’re planning to learn a lot from our conversation today. Cool. So if you want to learn how to structure a perfect press release, this is it. And I know there is a section in the book about how to write press releases. 

Theo: It’s tough. There, there are such a drag. 

Theo’s Perfect Press Release, Recording Process, Touring with Vulfpeck

Ari: So, uh, this is Theo’s perfect. Press release. Say about myself. You know, . So here’s the Theo, when I, when I ask Theo, I’m like, can you send me a press release for the, for the new album? He’s like, all right, here it is. Dude lives in La Pandemic hits. La Sky is on fire. Dude seeks water. Dude goes camping, dude falls in love with Van. Dude buys van. Dude drives to the woods. Dude goes inward. Dude writes an album, dude. Dreams of Studio and said Woods dude. Friends, dude, friend sends him real estate listing of dream property. Dude, buy his house. Mid row trip dude sets up studio in house, dude. Records album in-house. Dude comes back to la dude, does Ari’s podcast, ? I mean, does a press release get more perfect than that? I don’t, I don’t know. I think 

Theo: that’s a custom, that was a custom one for you. But now I’m like, well, I should keep that.

Ari: Yeah, I think that’s going in the fourth edition of the book. Sweet, by the way. So . Um, but anyway, I, I want to talk about, um, okay, so. Talk about this process of, of getting a studio, a cabin in the woods, and creating a studio and then recording this record. Because when I hear this record, um, it sounds, uh, very live. Yep. And, and, uh, but the performances are so strong, but it feels like it’s so natural. I almost feel like I’m sitting in the room with you guys. Yes. As you’re playing. You are. So tell, tell me about it.

Theo: Yeah. So part of that is that, um, this new record, uh, I I, I always wanted to, I’ve been dreaming for a long time of doing this kind of workflow where, um, actually it really, pardon me. It was born over the years of working with Pec. Mm-hmm. , where we cut everything live. You know, we, we play live in the room, but we’re in a studio. So, um, a lot of people think of like live versus studio. , you know, like as if a live, uh, performance is gonna sound like a band in a garage with it coming through a pa mm-hmm. and basically sound like not that good. Yeah, yeah. You know, and then I think studio is like perfect and Wow. Polished, right? Yeah. But what started to occur to me over the years is I started noticing the records. I would come back to more and more just had this like, it’s hard to put words to it, but maybe one word would be like authenticity, where you go like, man, I feel it. Or organic, where you’re like, this feels like it really happened. Mm-hmm. right now, over the years with Eck, we would, you know, we started as an instrumental. Project. Yeah. That refused to be called a band. We’re like, no, we’re not a band, we’re a, you know, we’re a, we’re a studio. I believe the 

Ari: first little bit that was put out was that you were a, a like, German session musicians was like Yeah. The fake Wikipedia that, that first came out around that and, and yeah.

Theo: And you guys aren’t really, if you wanna mess with the internet and you’re not talking to Jack Stratton Yeah. . You’re doing it wrong. We’re running behind.

Ari: Yeah. Jack Stratton the, uh, the leader of, of, or the, uh, one of the founding members of Wolf Pack along with you. Yeah. Jack, who kind of does, he’s the mad scientist behind the curtain. He’s the 

Theo: mad scientist behind the curtain in terms of stuff like that being like, I, I remember when Jack told me that, he’s like, nah, we’re a German. Uh, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re like the last, uh, German, uh, you know, rhythm section man. Mm-hmm. . We’re not a band. I’m like, 

Ari: And then that went everywhere. And that was in all the articles that were written about you?

Theo: Yes. But then it, what We’re getting off topic, but that’s the topic, right? We’re going in. I got the question. Everything’s, I got topic. This is story time. Yep. Here we go. You gave me a microphone. This is a huge mistake. . Take my mic please. You know, um, anyway, we, that reminds me of, uh, cuz yeah, at some point people were like, well, do you guys wanna play this festival? And it’s like, what do you mean are, we’re not a band. Mm-hmm. . And it’s like, yes you are, you are a band. You know, it reminds me of this one time I was on tour with a different band. We’re pulling into one of the, uh, tunnels, like the Lincoln Tunnel or something with, with a toll. Mm-hmm. . I don’t remember which tunnel has a toll. We got any New Yorkers in the house, they all have a toll. Exactly. It was a trick question, right? . Hundred thousand dollars to the lady with a green hat. Yeah. Anyway, um, the, we’re going through the toll and we’re in this short bus, which was technically. it had, it only had, uh, two axles. Mm-hmm. . Okay. Set of front wheels. Set of back wheels. It’s a car. Hey. Because the car has two axles. That’s right. Right. That’s right. That’s right. So we get up to the toll and the lady’s like $35, you know, and it’s like $35, like Yeah. Says cars are 13, right. And she’s like, it’s a bus. And I was like, well, it a, well, actually, you know, it only has two axles. So, you know, turns out it’s a car, you know, Uhhuh. And she goes, look at it . It’s a bus . And I’ll never forget that. So that’s kind of what happened with Eck Uhhuh. I, he’s like, no, we’re a German rhythm section. He’s like, looks to me like you’re four dudes for man Arbor College band. Right. You’re a band. You’re a band. I was like, oh, okay. We’re a band. Yeah. I guess if it looks like a bus and it eats diesel, it’s a bus. Right. You know? So we’re a band. Mm-hmm. . Anyway, that long story, long, but, um, Okay. Where we, I got it. I got it. Here we go. 

Ari: So you, you learned from Oh yeah. With your non-band Voac Yes. Yes. On how do, how you kind of got started?

Theo: Yeah. We were, we were tracking all this stuff, um, instrumentally in the studio, but we’d perform it live and we’d, we’d, uh, you know, record in such a way that you could, um, capture, let’s say the bass guitar is gonna [00:09:00] be di direct input from the guitar into the recording console, right? Mm-hmm. , um, di the bass, same thing. So you have total sonic separation, total isolation of these sounds from the bass and the guitar, close mic, the drums. Very, they’re pretty much the only live acoustic thing in the room. Right. . And then the Wurlitzer Woody on Wurlitzer is also going direct. So you end up with this like total studio magic thing, but you got a live performance. Mm-hmm. and Jack had the idea of like, let’s put a camera up and film it. Yeah. This’ll be like watching footage of like old gray whistle test or something, you know, where it’s like, wow, is that Bill Withers playing live? And it sounds this good. Yeah. Like it’s totally possible to do that. And so over the years we were doing that, and then at some point Jack’s, you know, we’re gonna sing a song that I wrote mm-hmm. And it’s like I realized like, wait, I have to cut this vocal live. Hmm. Because that’s what VUL does. Right? And it was like, I can’t do that. You know? And then it was like, wait of, of course I can do that. I do that on stage. Yeah. Why can’t I do that in the studio? You know? So I did that in the studio and then I started developing this comfort with like loving, cutting the vocal live on Modern. Johnny sings that record. I cut three or four of the tracks. live in studio. Right. Isolating the tones like I did with vol. It’s a different style. I wasn’t, I wasn’t going for the vol aesthetic, but basically that same process.

Ari: Were you in an isolation booth while you were doing it live?

Theo: Yeah, like I’m in an isolation booth. This is on modern Johnny Sings. Yeah. I’m in an isolation booth. I’ve got headphones in. Sure. Lewis Cato’s on drones. Mm-hmm. , which is already you, you win already. Doesn’t matter what you’re doing. . Um, and Louis is in an isolation booth. And then Joe is in the other room with Lee, Joe Dart on Bass. Joe Dart on bass. Yep. And those songs I just noticed, like, man, those were the easiest to finish. Mm-hmm. like from recording to mixing to finish. Mm-hmm. . They were the [00:11:00] most thrilling for me. I felt like they pulled the most incredible performances I have in me, out of me. Yeah. I did stuff I didn’t even think I could do. Because I was brought up to the level. It’s like, yo, you gotta go fight Mike Tyson right now. It’s like, oh crap. Well I better figure out how to put, throw a punch, you know? Yeah. It was like that kind of, uh, stakes make the game thing. And I have to say, this is, I don’t know if this is Woowoo, but they all did the best on Spotify. Hmm. Except with one exception, which is like, what’s going on there? Like, is the algorithm sniffing the authenticity of the live capture ? I don’t know. Call me crazy. But that is the new algorithm.

What Artists Can Learn from The Beatles’ Get Back Documentary

Ari: That’s the new album, right? 

Theo: Well, when you come to my house, it is, it’s the new algorithm. That’s the new algorithm capture. So let’s go into that for a sec. Yeah. That’s cool. With the new album. Yes. Basically, I had always been dream as, okay. Actually, what happened was that Beatles documentary came out. 

Ari: Mm. Paul Jackson won where they, uh, were in the room. Yes. 

Theo: It was the making of Let It Be. It was called Get Back.

Theo: Yeah. Have anyone, has anyone seen that? 

Ari: It’s like six and a half hours long. 

Theo: It’s amazing. Yet you haven’t seen it. It’s very worth it. . I can’t recommend it highly enough, but it was like Peter Jackson. I said 

Ari: Paul Jackson. I meant Peter Jackson. 

Theo: I was like, I don’t know the guy’s name.

Ari: I don’t think it was Paul Jackson. No. The Lord of the Rings guy, Peter Jackson. That, that did the uh, yeah. Pulled all the old footage. Thank you. Yes, 

Theo: Yes. So when you watch that, I’m watching that documentary and it’s like, in addition to like seeing, I had to turn it off a bunch of times cuz like, it was like, oh my god, Jesus is gonna walk on water now. I can’t, I can’t watch this . It’s gonna turn the water into wine. I can’t do it. Yeah. Turn it off. Yeah. It was like, Paul’s playing. Let it be. And it’s like, right. And they’re working it out and yeah, this is the take. You know, like that freaked me out. I, I had to, I had to take a break from that. Um, and actually funny story, I started the documentary with my friend and his, at the time, seven year old daughter. And we were like, we start watching it and maybe a half hour in, she’s like, dad did the Beatles break up? ? 

Ari: Oh. Ooh. That’s like, Santa’s not real.

Theo: I know. And he is like, this is such a trippy thing. He’s like, Do they break up? Well, they did break, you know, like we’re talking, looking at the past, but she doesn’t know. Yeah, yeah. Okay. And he’s like, yeah, honey, they do eventually. And she, and she just like, she lost it. Oh no. She just, it was, we had to turn it off. It was like, and I, I felt her, I was like, I know this is really bad news. Hard , the Beatles break up. Yeah, I understand. It was so, it was so pure. Oh. Like I’m, I’m further from the source than she is at this moment with, with my 36 years of age. But I have to say, it still hurts. I feel you homie that that hurts as just as much now. Yeah. Yeah. Anyway, um, so I watched that and I thought, well, this is the template. Like we now all know. Everybody just saw that basically they put one mic in front of, there we go in front of every sound. . So if you’re singing, there’s one mic on you. If there’s a guitar you’re playing, there’s one mic in front of you. Okay. Ringo gets four. That’s fine. He’s the drummer. Maybe he gets four. I don’t even remember. It’s like a couple mics in the drums. One mic on everyone else. And that’s the record. Yeah. And I, and I don’t know, something, something like in my brain where I was like, this is the way you make records. Mm-hmm. You don’t need to do all this. What are you potentially losing? You know, when you, when you isolate everything and you comp everything to death and you just hit, just kick, please go. Go. Okay. Pace that everywhere. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Sarah Pace it ever. Yeah. Now I, I never did that. I have never recorded that way. And I understand that there are like different kinds of music and some of my favorite music is more like, maybe you might call it like, um, I don’t know what kind of art form, like is it sculpture to do that where you’re like, . I’m pasting, I’m copy pasting, but I’m making this amazing collage out of it. Like there is incredible art that was made in, in the modern era with contemporary production. I can’t do it myself because I don’t trust myself. I quickly lose the source. Mm. For me. So anyway, I saw that Beatles thing and I was like, I’m making my whole next record live. No headphones with bleed in the room, in a small room. So help me, God and I will die on this hill, is how I felt , you know? And, and, uh, luckily I have friends who are also crazy and very talented at recording in this way. And, um, yeah, there was a series of just like kismet, you know, events as as as, as they say, like, you know, when you start to sort of let life know that you wanna do something, it sort of starts showing up and. responding in that way. And I hadn’t even really told anyone this. And then, uh, Phil Weinrobe, who’s a great, incredible recording, engineer and mixing engineer. Mm-hmm. in, uh, out of Brooklyn in New York. He works a lot out of, uh, figure eight, which is a great recording studio there. But he also has his own studio. And Phil just hit me up and was like, Hey man, when are we making a record? Mm. And I’ve been a fan of Phil for a while, and I really like Phil. And I was like, uh, what are you doing on the 18th? You know, I was like, how about next month? You know? And he is like, yeah, cool. 

Recording Process: One Take and One Take Only

Ari: So, and but this is at the 

Theo: cabin. Oh yeah. Woods. I didn’t even talk about that. In mis in the middle of nowhere. Guys got a few minutes. What are we doing? 

Ari: I think, no, this is, well, let’s, let’s get that, because that’s really interesting because the way that you recorded Heartbreak hits, uh, your 2017 album, I believe. Yes. Um, didn’t you play almost everything on that record? You played the drums. Yeah. 

Theo: So because my first instrument is drums, I. . I, I really like when I write songs, I write with the whole band arrangement in mind, and the drums are like an inextricable part of the composition to me, even though they’re not reflected in the chords or the melody or anything like that. I just start, the songs is, the drums are in my head from the moment of inception of the song. And I can’t, I can’t do anything about it, you know? And I am a pain in the ass to work with if you’re a drummer, because, you know what I mean? Yeah. I, it’s like, uh, yeah, I love what you’re, would you mind? Well, and then it’s like, all right, let me show you writer um, yeah. But I, I also have really found incredible drummers in my life who actually, now I’m at the point where I’m like, no, I don’t wanna play drums on this. I want you to play on 

Ari: this. Mm-hmm. So with this record, I mean, you’re all, um, sitting around in a room. Yeah. No headphones. 

Theo: Yeah. So on Heartbreak hits, I rec, because actually it was quite funny. My, my friend Tyler Duncan, who produced that record. We go into his studio, we get drum sounds and I’m like, all right, yeah, let’s start with the first song. He’s like, what’s it called? I’m like, it’s called Hard Work. He’s like, okay, cool. I’m like, we get the tempo, put the click on, and I do a take. And I’m like, all right, yeah, that’s it. And he’s like, okay. Like he has no idea what the song is. I’m just like, yeah, we’re good. You 

Ari: just, you played the drum. There was no scratch or anything to that. No. Scratch. You just, you just knew 

Theo: anything. I play drums for the entire record. Just clicked with no audio. Yeah. Damn. Okay. 

Ari: That’s a skill. That’s . I 

Theo: mean, I don’t, I just hear it that way and Wow. So I did that and then I played Guitar, Uhhuh, , and, and Joe played bass. Yeah. And we cut that together, but we had a drum track, so I ended up playing most of the instruments on the album. Gotcha. 

Ari: So it’s, but then, you know, between heartbreak hits and Be the Wheel, you’ve now done a bunch of tours. Yeah. You’ve tracked many Wolf Pack records. Yeah. Um, and you’ve now figured out. The recording style and technique that is most meaningful to you, that can bring out the best performances and what you’d like. That’s the thing, 

Theo: man, if I, everyone, I mean, I’m not knocking the other way, you know, recording digitally with the ability to overdub every part has you, it, it can sound incredible and you can still really deliver and it can yield incredible results. And I’ve made many albums that way. But I realized that if the task is documenting the fiercest, Theo Katzman most vulnerable, Theo Katzman most raw, if that’s the task. Mm-hmm. , if we want that result, I, there’s only one way I can do that. I have to perform. That’s. You know, and there has to be stakes and like, if you can do it on tape even better. Cuz now that’s not gotta pay for that shit. Did you record the tape? I did, yeah. The whole album is live. Two two inch tape shit in my house in the woods. 

Ari: Uh, raise your hand if you’ve ever recorded to tape before. Straight to tape. Okay. 1, 2, 3. That’s actually more than I thought. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. That’s impressive. Um, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve been in a studio with a tape tap. Yeah, I’ve seen the roll tape. I’ve seen a razor on top of it, but there’s no way that, yeah, yeah. , 

Theo: I mean, tape is a, is a pain in the ass, you know, in a lot of ways. And it’s also just like so thrilling to me. I don’t know. It’s thrilling beyond it. It’s a freaking tape machine, man. It got, you’re like, wait, where is the sound? It’s like, it’s a rip in that thing. , you know? It’s like, it’s, and, and, and just to be clear, I don’t, um, . I don’t feel religious about the sonics of tape. I don’t think like, oh, you can’t make a great record. Not on tape. Um, what’s much more important is the performance. Mm-hmm. getting a performance, whether you do it live or not. So in other words, if you were to be like, yeah, I can’t, I’m not recording on tape. I have a $200 laptop with logic, no problem. Just record a performance of your voice, even if it’s an overdub on a sample, you know, as opposed to I’m gonna record 50 performances. Right. And take the best each [00:21:00] word. Now I know. Look, we’ve all done it. Look at me. I know you’ve done it. I’ve done it. If I could admit I’ve done it, then you’ve done it. Now it’s not like, it’s not like that’s a sin, but I think you, what you end up doing, and this is my whole new philosophy, okay. Is like if your music is going to be, uh, Say it. Lemme say it a different way. With music creation, we each have the opportunity to document our true selves in a given moment. The fullness of our ability to perform whatever that means. Now, I, I can almost guarantee that the first time you do that, you are not going to like it. Okay? Because it’s very difficult to like yourself. Surprise, you know, I didn’t make this up. It’s hard to like yourself, even harder to [00:22:00] love yourself. One of the ways you can learn to love yourself is you practice accepting yourself. One of the ways you can practice accepting yourself is recording a full take. Hmm. , 

Ari: I’m serious. I’m gonna tattoo that on my arm. I’m dead serious. Fantastic.

Recording a Live Album, Playing in the Red Zone

Theo: You don’t have to put it, you don’t even have to put it out, but it’s like, let let you know, stare in, let you’re playing for the Lord out here, like it is, like, you know, it’s like we’re, we are watching, we being our internal audience and ourself and whatever. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And it’s like, I, I, I got to a point where I was like, I can’t stand, actually, to be honest, I just got, I got a, I made records the other way. Mm-hmm. and I was like, something’s missing. Mm-hmm. , I’m proud of these albums. I think they’re excellent. . They’re my best work up to that time. But something is missing. Like I feel like my, I felt like, you know, this stuff is like impressive, but I don’t know if it like is something you’d just like put on and listen to. Now the numbers of my Spotify would say that I’m incorrect. People are listening to it. Mm-hmm. , you know, but there’d be this thing that would happen at the shows, which is like, man, I know I am on the edge of my own potential here. You know? I put out this record called Modern Johnny Sing songs in the age of Live. Mm-hmm. , which was the sort of live album. Yeah. From that tour. And I filmed it. I spent all this money getting a film crew in New York, Brooklyn Steel sold out 1800 tickets. My man was That’s right. That 

Ari: was there. You can see my head 

Theo: bobbing in video. Did you? I don’t know. Whatever tour. Yeah. We, you’re like, yeah, we had dinner. Remember? I’m like, I was there. Oh my God. . Sorry. No, no. It was cool. Yeah, it was, anyway. I remember you were there. Okay. Anyway, , maybe I don’t, I don’t remember. I don’t remember. 

Ari: No, no. You texted me afterwards and you’re like, I saw you bombing out there. Okay. No, that’s true. Yeah. I mean, come on. I’m here. There we go. Myro is like three feet taller than the rest, so it’s, yeah, 

Theo: exactly. You don’t miss it. Yeah. Well, and you know when you switch the night every night? Yeah. It’s, you’re just like, it’s like where I saw you in, uh, Dublin, it’s like, no, it’s Dallas. Like Dallas. Yeah. It is like the same people, but the Yeah, yeah, yeah. The background keeps changing. Yeah. Anyway, I was saying that I filmed that show, recorded it, spent a bunch of money doing that. My money, of course, I’m a indie artist. Mm-hmm. all to say I invested in making this live recording and then the pandemic hit and, you know, I was depressed and I’m sure many people were, but I, I went through a really hard time and I couldn’t. I listened to that recording and I was, I just couldn’t stand hearing it. Mm. And I couldn’t stand hearing my imperfections. Oh, wow. I couldn’t stand it. And, and I had hired my friend who’s really talented director to like, do that, you know, get the film crew put it together. And I didn’t even look at the video for a year and a half. Hmm. And I went to the woods and I had this whole other journey, you know, went inward. And then one day I’m like, I got the courage. I was like, I’m just gonna, like, I think I’ll just watch a little bit of the video. And the video looked insane. I was like, wow, this looks amazing. Yeah. And I was like, man, we’re kind of getting it. So then I’m like, all right, I’ll just put the audio on. Yeah. You know, and I listened to audio and whatever had happened to me in that time, in between it. Dang man, this rips like, find me someone doing this. Yeah. And I was like, wait, it’s me, . You know, the 

Ari: music didn’t change, but you changed. Yeah. You, you had that acceptance 

Theo: where? Yeah. And, and, and, and this was, this was a key nugget too, is my friend Bob Lester who directed the, um, the Moo, the film Robert Lester. I know him as Bob, what can I say? Um, he’s like, I, there was a couple moments where I’m like, oh man, I don’t really nail that. I didn’t really nail that. That’s a little outta tune. Mm-hmm. . And he goes, and he said, one, I’ll never forget this. I think this is a truth. He’s like, I’m paraphrasing it. Basically, he was like, when you let that be heard, you are telling the, the audience has this experience of realizing that you are playing at your edge and then you’re going beyond it. and that is the most thrilling thing for them. And then it made me think like, wait a minute, how many times have we, we have this sort of cliche notion in music where we’re like, oh, so-and-so is really good. And they’re like, what about that, that person, you’re like, oh yeah, it’s just like a, I don’t know, you know, like virtuoso, like, you know, boring. And you’re like, wait, how could it be that a virtuoso could be boring? I’ve been fascinated with this for a long time. Cuz I, I generally don’t agree, but do, are you guys, you know what I’m talking about? We’re like, oh, chops guy is 

Ari: chops cat. Well, I I think what it comes down to is, is like if they, the why virtuosos can be boring is if there’s no soul or feeling behind it or if it’s, if it feels inauthentic and they’re like, oh, they can shred. It’s like they know how to play all the notes, but is there any intention behind those notes? 

Theo: Agreed. And I wanna take a step further. Okay. I think part of our perception of whether there’s intention behind the notes, Is whether we can sniff that this person is actually getting into their red zone of challenge. You know? And if they just go like, and you’re pretty clear that they can kind of do that for 12 hours, you’re kinda like, I don’t care. Right. You know, but like, but Keith Jarrett gets in his red zone. Mm-hmm. , nobody’s talking about John Coltrane not getting in the red zone. Right. Right. What’s going on there? It’s like those guys live in the red zone and it’s not a chops thing at that point. It transcends it. So like Oscar Peterson, I know I’m going all jazz here, but like those happen to be the keepers of the furthest we’ve pushed American musical improvisation and I think, um, Oscar Peterson is like, what the heck man? It’s the most incredible, like, makes me cry and it’s chop. , you don’t think about the chops. You’re just like, why? Just a person is just playing you through the angels of, of si of sound, you know? Mm-hmm. . Anyway, I think that’s the difference. Yeah. Playing to your edge. And so playing to your edge probably includes you allowing your two or three notes that are a little bit out of tune yet totally acceptably out of tune to be heard. Mm. Because it also tells you that every single other note is in tune. Baby . This cat can really sing because he’s out of tune in that one spot. You see what I mean? When I’ve worked with other artists, that’s, that’s happened as well, where it’s like, oh, we gotta do that again. And I’m like, we’re not doing it again. It’s like, I got it. It’s outta tune. I’m like, I know, but it’s the only place in the record, and if you don’t let this happen, people are gonna think we, we tuned it. Mm-hmm. , but we didn’t. You’re just that good. You know what I mean? So we’ve gotten to a point where the technology is so good that we’re starting, we’re starting to have the potential to lose. our own ability to perceive whether something’s real or not. I mean, definitely in recorded music. Yes. I’m not trying to come here and be like, the robots are coming. It’s like they came. Right. It’s over. Like the It’s done. Yeah. Yeah. I think now it’s the beginning, you know, like, are you going to record? Are you going to make a recording or not?

Ari: Well, I think people are, are craving Yeah. Uh, the human connection. And because we’ve gotten so digital, it’s like however you make records, because I’m sure there’s a lot of people here that will still be able to have that intention and the, the humanity and they record everything within the box. Totally. And so it’s, it’s not necessarily even just about like, you know, tracking live in a room with other musicians and pushing yourself into the red zone, which is important. Anyone can push themselves to the red zone with whatever their, um, whatever their Yes. Their insurance, whatever their is, is. Yeah. Their tools are totally, it could be a doll. Um, but I think the humanity. Is really what you’re getting to and people are craving that. Yeah. And some of the most memorable moments for everyone on any record, whether it’s a du leap of pop record or whether it’s a Theo Kaman record, it is those, those moments of imperfection where you’re like, oh, that was a moment that happened real in studio, and they captured it and they left it in there. Yes. And then you always remember that. Yes. Because like, oh, there’s humanity there. 

Theo: Absolutely. How many, how many records can you think of where you’re like, if you know you, I mean, it happens even on Zeppelin records. It’s like there’s moments where Bonham drags just a hair . It’s amazing. And you’re like, miming the fill. And you’re like, but that one’s a little slower. Bang. It’s not like the guy can’t keep the freaking room 

Ari: together. Didn’t the best stuff. They didn’t the pro tools like seven milliseconds there because 

Theo: they didn’t have the opportunity. . So it’s, I, I wanna be clear, it’s not about digital versus analog. It’s about committing to a performance. That’s it. Capturing a performance. And yes, I agree. You can do that in your bedroom by yourself. , I will just say for me, as soon as the red button’s there, you know mm-hmm. as soon, not the red button. As soon as the opportunity to sort of like really hang out with the devil is there. Yeah. I’ll hang with them. Yeah. You know, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll keep ’em there as in like, oh, I could edit, I could comp from 50 takes. I’ll do it. You know, of course you’ll do it. It’s the, it’s like, but what I want to present to you guys tonight is the notion that you potentially lose your ticket to self-love when you do that. Now you might gain, I don’t know, maybe you’ll hit some cultural funny bone because your stuff is totally perfect and sounds amazing and you get more money in fame. That could be true. I don’t know. But you, you do have the potential to let the, the microphone and the d a w or the tape machine be the mirror. , and that’s where this stuff gets really deep to me. I don’t care if any of us make a living in music. Sorry. I don’t, I do. I know already he does . I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Myself included. I do care. Okay. All right. I screwed it up, . I know. No, that was good. I teed you up. No, I do. I do want you to make it. I do want you to make it all right. Wow. How do I get back from that? Here we go. . My point is that, um, that that would be a second order effect, ideally from every one of us getting, you know, engaging in processes that, that really force us to accept ourselves and hopefully learn to love ourselves. Hmm. Imagine doing that and then. making a living. Right. Wow. You’d be kinda like the happiest person to ever live. Yeah. 

Why Artists Should Never Compromise Themselves and Their Career

Ari: That’s not bad. And it is about it. This what you’re striving for. I think it’s, it’s, it’s not just, I think we as a society are so obsessed with fame and money. Yeah. In that we put so much value into the numbers and the bank account and, you know, the fame, the celebrity, and all of that. Whereas really what you’re getting to is, Where is that self-love and acceptance and the ultimate goal should really be happiness. Yeah. Not fame, fortune. Yes. We, we wanna be, you know, living comfortably. Yeah. 

Theo: You wanna be heard too. That’s real. 

Ari: Mm-hmm. , you know, but you don’t want, if you compromise yourself too much to the point for what you think you should be striving for, then you’re gonna lose yourself completely. Totally. And then you’re not gonna be happy no matter how much money’s in your bank account. 

Theo: Totally. And also, man, what you’re trying to do from, from what I know about you, is you’re trying to help people who are, who want to do this, you’re trying to help them do it more effectively. Mm-hmm. , that’s a beautiful thing. Yeah. That’s, I, I highly value that. Thank you. Yeah. Thank you. 

Ari: So it’s and, and, and authentically. Yeah. Exactly. And, and that’s the thing. It’s like we can. You know, we can take example from everybody out there and how they’re doing it and making it work in their own unique way. And this is why it’s so fascinating hearing your take on it, because you are doing it so dramatically different, differently from so many other artists out there doing it right now. Right now. Right. But making it work in your way and the, you know, the ultimate goal is for everyone to find what is their path. Yeah. It’s like nobody here can do the Theo Katzman thing because there’s only one Theo Katzman, but there’s only one of each of you out there too. No one can do it your way 

Theo: either. Yes. That’s a key point. Yes. So, so this is why I’m advocating for taking the extra time and possibly a little more pain to do, you don’t have to share it with anyone, but spend some time with yourself documenting yourself in this way, capturing a full performance on whatever your instrument or voice is. See how, see what happens. I, I. I’m pretty sure you’re like 98% of the way there. Like, you’re way better than you think you are. I, that’s one thing here or there. Fine. So work on it, you know? And, and [00:35:00] the, the joke to me is that, think of all the classic records we love. Do, do they, do any of ’em sound the same as any other one from the era? Are you like, oh yeah, Zeppelin three, it’s the same as the Eagles that year? No, it’s totally different. And by the way, it’s the same producer. It’s Glen John’s, you know, why is it different? Because it’s a different everything, including a different moment in time where someone takes a microphone out of a closet and puts it somewhere in some room. You want to get a unique sound, ta tear your mics down after every session, put ’em back up again. You know, you’re gonna get a different sound. It’s, it’s almost a joke. It’s like so easy to be, to become unique if you just. allow yourself to do what this art form is called, which is record. If you make a recording of a moment in time, it’s a unique moment in time. But if you only [00:36:00] drag in the logic drummer, you know, new, amazing sounding, perfect kit, it’s, you’re gonna have to work harder to get to that, to not sound like everyone else who’s also doing it, cuz everyone has that program. Does that make sense? Well, and that’s, it’s not impossible. Yeah. I just, I just don’t have the patience to make my album twice. I’m gonna make it once, God damn it, I can’t stand the idea of making this twice as in making it and then figuring out what it’s gonna sound like a second time. That’s like a special kind of hell for me. . Yeah, I mean, sorry for all the expletives. Is this okay? 

Ari: That’s okay. It’s too late. . All right. It’s too late. Um, yeah, and I think it’s like, you know, there is a way that you have found to make records that resonate so deeply with you in a way because it’s a, like how a lot of your influences and what, and how you resonate, uh, primarily with music, but it’s like the core of what everything is, is that authenticity, is that human connection is like, you know, going for that. 

[00:37:04] Authentic Creative Process, Embracing Mistakes in the Recording Studio

[00:37:04] Ari: You know, you do some production work as well. A hundred percent. And when you approach productions, is this, when you have your producer hat on and there’s an artist that pushes back and was like, I can, I wanna sing that again. Or I want to comp my vocals. Like, I know if I can sing, you know, seven Takes, we can take the best one and maybe take five will be the best. But like, how do you work with those artists, with your producer hat on who may, you know, not, um, be as comfortable with that process? 

[00:37:35] Theo: Good question. So I tell them exactly the way I really want to do it ahead of time, and I warn them that if we do the process, I want, it depends on the artist. Mm-hmm. . But if it’s someone who can really sing great songs, then I, I like to set them up in such a way that they are tattooed to the entire [00:38:00] thing. And if they make a mistake, Sorry. That’s it. That’s the one we’re going with. Cuz we all know that was the take except for that one moment. I try to, I try to set up a situation where you can’t, you’re trapped. Mm. Like, sorry, trapped and they know that going into work with, and they know that going into work with them and I’m not interested in doing anything else at the moment. So, yeah, because frankly, I’m not, I’m not wiz kid, I’m not d a w Wiz kid. I have some friends who are, and they’re geniuses and it’s like, please call them to, to take, if you wanna take a shot at what’s on top 40, like, don’t call me. I’m gonna get you to write a song and we’re gonna record it on acoustic guitar, but hey man, work for Jack Johnson. So, you know, maybe that’s not so crazy, et cetera, et cetera. So I just, I, I wanna be clear that I’m not trying to be, um, religious about the, the thing that I’m, that I’m trying to warn about is basically it’s gotten like too easy to [00:39:00] avoid. Performing. And so I don’t care how you make your record, I just think that performing something, mm-hmm. is the way, is the doorway to authenticity. Hmm. And you can take a hundred performances if you want, but be careful about like, yeah, you can comp I’ve comped, you know, but like there, I don’t, there’s some term that the Japanese have for this and I, I can’t remember what it is Phil told me about it, where it’s like there’s a certain amount of like, yeah, yeah, cool. We’re gonna, we’re gonna, you know, add, like splice it. Like, okay, dink, we put two things together, but once you have like 50 edited points, like you have broken this energetic field. Mm-hmm. And I’m sorry if this is ruining anyone’s day. I didn’t come here to bum bum 

[00:39:53] Ari: you out. We did have a couple people walk out. I 

[00:39:55] Theo: came. That’s okay. , you’re money back. Wait, it was free, wasn’t [00:40:00] it? Or maybe it wasn’t. I don’t know. Sorry. The point is okay. Oh my God. But my point is just that, um, that, uh, there, there is a doorway to authenticity. I’m just saying be careful with, depends what the goal is. But like, I, I would al, I would almost guarantee that everyone in this room has more, they can discover, myself included, about themselves and what their gifts really are with within the realm of recording and record making. Mm. If they take a little, slightly different approach. , um, to, to really trying to focus on a performance and even experiment with like, you know what? Let’s, let’s embrace bleed. Let’s see what that sounds like. Hmm. What does it sound like if the drummer has to, to hit really soft? Because if he hits too hard, he’s going to ruin my vocal take. Hmm. Now we’re like, man, we are tethered. It’s like, that’s like no one’s getting off this ship alive. If someone, if someone tries to take the exit, like, we’re all dead. You know? I mean, that’s like, I like that 

Ari: energy. , and that’s what I hear. Like the scary pocket sessions are like, um, because, and like, because they are, that’s all in the room as well and the trouble hundred percent playing so quiet.

Theo: Yeah. And, and they’ve, and as a result, guess what’s happened? They’ve gotten insane at doing that process. Right. You can get, they, they’re, and everyone they get to work with is just getting, they’re just getting better. Mm-hmm. and, and basically you end up becoming the, the wrecking crew man. Or, and you know, in terms of your, your skillset chops Yeah. Is like, People, um, you know, my friends who play on the late night shows mm-hmm. , they’re so ridiculously fast at learning songs. I mean, it’s like, it’s actually like freakish. I’ve seen cats be like, they’re like, and it’s like the tapings about to happen on the Colbert Show, and it’s like, it’s like I’m on in five and Batiste looks at me and like, he’s got an ear, he’s got a thing in, and he’s like, he makes like a C shape. Like, is this in? This is in C. And I’m, I’m like, I’m like, he’s like, cool. And it’s like, Bo and he is like, bank and he plays the whole song. It was like, I know he didn’t learn a forehand, like he’s that good. Yeah. How do you get that? Good? Obviously he’s a freak, andoid genius, but also you do it every night that way. Mm-hmm. . So I’ll just say whatever your process is, keep doing. Um, I just want to throw out the notion of like, maybe there’s a little trap door where you could find more of yourself in recording. Hmm. You know, it’s, you 

Ari: know, I think it’s also all about intention of, of what you’re trying to build and do with your career. Yeah. And, and because the, like, you have built a, a career where you have a die hard fan base. And what’s so interesting is it’s like, and they resonate with, with your recordings, with your lyrics, with your music, your performances. You know, you put on killer shows and that’s why people keep coming back. Um, , but it’s like we’re at a very interesting time in the music industry. Yes. Because there are, um, artists out there, um, who, you know, have, have triggered that algorithm so perfectly, um, where they’re getting gazillions of streams and the numbers are, are crazy. And you look at that and they can’t sell 50 tickets to their hometown show. Right. That’s tough. Now, you know, I, I I like your numbers, um, uh, in comparison. Yeah. They’re not crazy. They’re, they’re modest. Totally. You know, we’re talking like 170,000, uh, monthly listeners on Spotify currently, is what I’ve seen. And like, you know, 80,000 Instagram followers is, it’s like if we look at numbers, if you look at that and you’re like, oh. You know, that’s, uh, in, in the grand scheme of what the crazy landscape looks like right now, like, oh my gosh, that’s 

Theo: not much. No. It doesn’t even get you any real looks from it. The industry either. But you, even after you sell out the rooms that an artist 10 x the numbers doesn’t sell out and that’s what you’re doing. 

Ari: Yeah. You’re playing one to 3000 cap rooms. Yeah. And selling out all of these rooms and like, that doesn’t compute for most people in the industry. It’s like, wait a minute, you’re selling 3000 tickets a night and your Spotify numbers are what I know. And that, but that’s because you go deep, not wide. Ah, and that’s where we’re at is this industry round. Now, there’s a lot of artists that happened that get like love from all the Spotify editors and, and everything, and they, they go wide. They’re on every playlist. Everybody’s listening. They got millions upon millions of streams, but they can’t sell the tickets. They don’t go deep. They don’t have fans. Right. Fans. And you have the. , you have found your audience that is so deep that they will follow you wherever you go. You have a career. Yeah. Like you have a career and you will have a career for the rest of your life because these fans will stick with you for the rest of your life because you continue to push yourself. But it’s like you have found a way to connect authentically with that audience and not necessarily chase the editors or the algorithm or anything like that, which we are bombarded at all times with what you’re supposed to do. Totally. You know, I wrote a 650 page book on what you’re supposed to do. That’s good. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it’s also like, you know, studying what everyone has done. And what I keep coming back to is that like you have carved your own way, paved your own path in a way that doesn’t make sense to 99% of the people out there, but the 1% that really resonates with it loves it so much that you’re their favorite artist.

Theo: That’s really cool. I’m thanks for saying all that. I, I think you’re right. And I, and I. That was my dream, you know, to be honest, it’s like I just want to, and I, I also knew that to be, to be honest, I can’t do any of what you just said. I don’t know how you hit every funny bone, um, in the, in the, or, you know, in the, the industry is its own, its own kind of like thousand headed beast or whatever. Yeah. Right. And there’s all these people that are trying to, um, help and yeah. I, I’m, I’m, to me, like live performance. I also had the good fortune of like, starting to really play shows when I was a teenager. Mm-hmm. . So it was like, there’s nothing better than playing a concert to me. I love the studio. I love it. Nothing against the studio. It’s one of my favorite things in the world, but like, man, it’s the stage for me. Mm-hmm. . So it’s like that’s more important and I’ve had to eat it. as in my own ego many times and continue to when I go, man, well thing like these numbers aren’t that high. Yeah. It’s like, yeah, but the tickets are there. Yeah. So it’s like, oh, well, okay, I’ll take that. Yeah. Sounds good. And but that, that feels like weird even to some of the people that work with me who are like, man, it would be, you know, you gotta get your numbers up. And I’m like, how the tickets doing? And they’re like, well, you know, it’s sold out, but you know, I’m like, so it sounds like we need a ba bigger venue. Yeah. with a higher ticket price. Well, it’s like, and 

Ari: then it goes to like, what, what are the, I don’t know. Yeah. What are the intentions and like, what kind of career are you looking to build for me? 

Theo: That’s what I want. Mm-hmm. , you want to, right. And I love, and I also think like, you know, you and I have talked a little bit about some ways to organically promote your music on the internet. Mm-hmm. , and I want to do that because, I, like you said, I want to have lifelong fans. Like I, the, the, the way I was able to conceive of this was like, I had to think, well, who are the people that I, it’s like if Brandy Carlisle does something, I’m going to go, yeah, great. I want to hear it. You know, I have artists that are like my favorite artists, so it’s like, maybe I could be one of those artists for someone. Mm-hmm. , maybe for 10 people. Maybe for a hundred, maybe for a thousand, maybe for 10,000. Wow. That would be crazy. Yeah. But it’s possible. Mm-hmm. , you know, but, but how would I get there? I was like, well, I have, if I, I just knew that if I tried to mess with my, and it’s not like I’m some authentic from birth, like, Luca, me a Mr. Authentic. It’s been a process. I used to do stuff I hated doing. Mm-hmm. And luckily none. That worked at all. That’s the joke in my life. I got so burnt out doing stuff that didn’t, that I didn’t like cuz I thought it was gonna make me successful and paid. Mm. And I completely fell on my face harder than I, I could even, Ima tell. Yeah. Basically. I mean, also at the same, around the same time, like, my dad died and I had all these emotional things happen that just like, I felt like it felt like a certain kind of rock bottom. Yeah. Emotionally. And I just thought like, you know what, I’m just gonna make music with my friends, screw this whole thing. And my friends happen to be vol pack and so lucky me. Yeah. It’s like, what a joke though, that doing the most punk least give a crap thing turned into the most lucrative thing. Like, or whatever you wanna call it. It’s not like we’re, you know, we’re not. we’re not. And you’re selling 

Ari: out Madison Square 

Theo: Garden. Yeah. That, that’s good. That’s very good. That’s good. That’s very good. It’s extremely expensive to play Madison Square Garden. , I will tell you. Yeah. But, um, might be the most expensive room in the world. . Yeah. Like to turn lights on it. Sure. Um, but not, no, no complaints whatsoever. But yes, point is like if I, I, I’m not the right guy to ask in a way. Cuz I’m like, yeah, do ex do your most authentic thing? And everyone’s like, well, it’s not gonna work. I’m like, work for me, me. Well here, here’s 

How Vulfpeck Became So Successful

Ari: the, here’s the thing. And this is like, as somebody who is, has been following along the Eck journey Yeah. From the beginning and the Theo Kaman journey. Yeah. Um, you know, I picked that up. I kind of probably came into right around heartbreak hits time. Totally. I remember. 

Theo: But yeah, you were very supportive, my man. Thank you. . Um, 

Ari: but the, the thing that, that’s that why, you know, I’ve studied this for a little bit of like why Wolf Pack has resonated so deeply. , um, with so many people in a way, is that when everyone in the industry is doing it one way Exactly. Wolf Pet goes a completely different direction. It’s like 10 years ago, eight, 10 years ago when there was the YouTuber thing happening and everything was, they were pristine videos and everybody was lip syncing and it was, everyone figured out you could get a DSL r camera for 800 bucks, right? And like, you know, shot you light it really well. And then everyone’s making bubbly videos and like lip syncing to camera. We all remember that with the YouTuber thing was happening. Probably everyone in this room or most of us experimented with that a little bit guilty, you know, and it’s 

Theo: just like, same. I I, I traded my DS l r for a laptop like two years ago, bro. I was, I still got that Dizzler, man. I can’t, I’m know how to turn it on . 

Ari: And so it’s like that was what was happening and that’s what everybody did. And then when Eck comes out, you guys are in a room. Um, and it’s, you’re recording live and you’re shooting a one-take video on an iPhone it looks like. And it’s like really grainy. It’s like totally seemingly low quality video, but it’s this crazy performance that you’re in the room for and everybody’s capturing it. Yeah. And everyone’s like, whoa, that’s different. That’s really cool. And then everyone’s like, wait a minute this. And then they start resonating. They start sharing it cuz it was so unlike anything else. And now, I mean, fast forward everyone’s doing the live from the studio videos in Right. You know, a big part. I mean Silk Sonic, I would, I would attribute to taking inspiration from what Eck kind of started with this movement eight years ago of like live in the studio. The 

Theo: one, you know, everyone’s got that one text, you know. Ooh, who’s your one text? I got one text. There was a time in my life where I texted Anderson P and he responded to me and. I think he changes his number like a few times a week, . But it was like, Hey man, we were at the same festival and I had a meet friend of a friend. I’m like, I lo the guy’s, one of my favorite artists. And I was like, Hey man, you know, we’d love to kick it. And he was like, back pocket is my shit. Yeah, . And I was like, yeah. And then it went away. But , hey pack, if you’re out there, did 

Ari: you, did you frame, you wanna put it up on the wall? I mean, that’s . 

Theo: I I had a Google phone at the time. I can’t even reme. It’s all gone. You know, did happen. Yeah. 

How Theo Uniquely Promoted His Last Album, Inspired by Cold Plunging Experiences Through the Wim Hof Method

Ari: And I mean, but that’s, that’s the thing is just like when everyone’s doing it one way, if you pave your own way and do it completely differently, that’s, you actually excel a lot faster because you find your own way. Now it’s not necessarily easy to find that, but I find that like, okay example, and I don’t know how much you thought about this, um, But your promo, the Theo Kaman promo for, uh, modern Johnny Sings songs in the age of live. Mm-hmm. The live album, the streaming that was on streaming services was a 10 minute cold plunge, one take video of you going into some frozen lake. Yeah. And just waving at the camera, going into a frozen lake, um, just in your boxers and, and breathing deeply for 10 minutes. Yeah. And then in the caption was just like, oh, by the way, the, the record’s out. Yeah. And I’m like, the fuck . 

Theo: Yeah. And it was, it worked. And it was my most commented on viewed thing, . 

Ari: Well, and that’s the thing. It’s just like, you know, you would never expect, like, oh, how do you promote a record? No one in a million years would say, go take a cold plunge for 10 minutes in a frozen lake. One, take video record yourself. Yeah. And then just Right by the way that, you know, the, the record’s out. 

Theo: Uh, well, that, you know. Yeah. And I totally that, that was wild. But the thing is, I’m a, I’m, I’m a recent, um, in the last. Year and a half, I’ve gotten into the whim Hoff method. You guys may have heard of it. I dunno what that is. So this guy whim h is um, also known as the iceman Uhhuh . You may you He’s quite popular. Um, and he broke the Guinness record years ago for like longest submerged in ice. Couple hours. Mm-hmm. without changing his core body temperature. All this, he’s done all these tremendous physical feats climb Everest in his shorts with no shirt on and stuff like that. And so, but yeah, he teaches this deep breathing technique and cold exposure technique. And I did a retreat with him and it really changed my life, to be completely honest with you. Really profoundly affected me. And so I practice the cold. I have a daily cold practice and Wow. You know, when I’m in Michigan, I go on the frozen lake, you know, and when I’m in la. I go to a city spa if I can, or I take a cold shower if that’s all I got. But my point is not about the cold, it’s about the cold is something that is un that, that I do. Mm-hmm. So it’s like what happens if we look into our own lives? Like what, in what ways are you, are you unique? Do you happen to be like a typeface designer and a musician? Or like, maybe you’re, maybe you grew up working in a dentist’s office. I don’t know. What does a music video from a dentist chair look like? I’ve never seen one. Yeah, yeah. Like in other words, I, I would bet there’s something unique about you, which by the way, surprise, you’re totally unique. Every single person is totally unique. But even if you think you’re not unique, cuz you whatever, you’re like everyone else, which is obviously not true. There’s probably something you could find. And I, I take joy and I learned this from Jack. Jack would combine all of his weird interests. Fetishy weird. Like, yeah, I like type, you know, I like, yeah, I like mm-hmm. you know, jack strap. I like artificial zooms like on video. It’s like, what? Yeah, yeah. You know? Okay. Like, well that’s wrong. Obviously that is like W R O N G with an exclamation point after it , right. Full caps. But it works great cuz he is the only guy doing it because he fully embraced like, I’m just gonna do what I love, like, and combine all my weirdness into one thing. Mm-hmm. and that’s what Eck is. So I took that inspiration, was like, man, I’m really in into the cold. And to be real, the cold has informed a lot of the like hard opening that led to these songs. Mm-hmm. So like, I can’t think of a better way to show, to be like, yeah, I have a fully unedited, full 90 minute [00:56:00] live album with mistakes on it. Then going into the freaking ice and being like, . This is, this is Me. Wow. It’s the, it’s the cold plunge. Like the, the live vocal is the cold plunge. You know, it’s like, are you going to face yourself or, or what, you know. Mm-hmm. . So to me, that was the, that was a cool, yeah. And I was also kind of like, it was edgy to be like, all right, is anyone gonna get this? Yeah. is, it’s like, I don’t know, but there’re in that edge. There’s some. There’s some excitement and it, so anyway, and then you took 

Ari: that, well last summer, uh, the Levitate Music Festival that Wolf played in Massachusetts, uh, for Christmas in LA you actually stripped down, got into a bathtub full of ice water, yes. And ice. And they literally, like, you should watch this video. It’s on YouTube. It’s crazy. It’s like they have guys coming out and dumping ice in this bathtub, then filling it up with a hose, and then Theo gets from the drums, takes off the robe, they’re all wearing robes. He gets into this ice bath, takes the mic, and then conducts what looks to be a hundred thousand people in a singalong, and then he starts singing. And then you, you. , uh, and you’re belting from the ice bath. Yeah. And then you just stay there Yeah. For like the next 10 minutes while you guys kick into Dean Town and like, while you do another song. Yeah. And, uh, I, I’m probably safe to say that, that no one in the history of, there you go. The music industry has ever done that. . That’s true, 

Theo: man. We thought about it. It was like, it was like, wait bro, are you the first one to sing on stage in an ice bath ? And I was like, I couldn’t be. And then it was like, wait, of course I am. Of course you are. No one’s done. This never happened before. Yeah, I know. That was, and you know, people could be, you know, you could look at that and be like, oh, that’s boastful, or that’s like showy. But it’s like, once again, I keep saying it’s like surprise. It’s a, show’s a show. Yeah. You know, like, are you not entertained? You know that. But also it’s, it’s, the thing about the ice that I, that I love is it’s the ultimate equalizing thing. There’s no, no one can boast about the ice cuz Mother Nature will very, very easily kill e everything it wants to kill, including me and everyone here. Um, and the ice is, you can’t, no one, no one’s tougher than the ice. Yeah. Whim Hoff has just figured out how to surrender d so deeply to it that he can just stay there for two hours, which is crazy. Wow. Wow. But, but you know, I can do 15 minutes. That’s cool. It’s better than, it’s better than I was when I started. It’s not about the length of time. It was, it’s about like, so whenever anyone, any of that, like, wow, what do I think people went from like, what does this guy, who does he think he is to like being like, oh my God. Like a couple people emailed me throughout, you know, from different parts of my life and told me that they, they cried like it made him cry. Hmm. And it cuz they were like, wow, you’re, you’re taking like, A dream position of being on stage in front of 20,000 people and just like throwing cold water all over it. Yeah. Like it was almost this like ego death thing. Yeah. Which it is. Yeah. It’s like, um, anyway, the ice is just an example of something I love that I feel like is, uh, connected to the spirit of my music. Mm-hmm. , you know, so I, I would, I almost, you know, the new, the cover of my new album is not me in an ice bath, but it almost was it’s you in the band just because it wasn’t that great of a photo and I, and I, I sat with it longer and something else came to me that, that felt more resonant. But yeah. Anyway, I think we can all, if we, that could be a cool, like sort of intellectual homework assignment is like, just start thinking like excavating your life experience for like what is, what is like totally weird and bizarre about you and like what’s unique to you that is not. Oh yeah, I play guitar. It’s like, okay, what else? You know, and I not, and playing guitar is enough, but you know, just in terms of when people are looking for their promo edge, like maybe it’s in more fully incorporating mm-hmm. the aspects of you that you already have in your being. The weird quirks.

Songwriting Process for the New Album, Be The Wheel

Ari: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Um, I wanna, I want to get back to, uh, your songwriting process a little bit. Cool. Cause we haven’t really even touched on that. It was a lot of recording. 

Theo: Great. But can we also talk about my new label that I’m launching at some point? Absolutely. Okay, great. Yeah. 

Ari: Yeah. I wanna forget that , we, we planned out Theo’s release strategy backstage before we got on here for this new record. But, uh, we, we gotta, uh, I want to touch on that, but, um, so with the songwriting, um, how did you, how did the process evolve and were these songs written? Um, you know, after you went on this, this journey leaving LA in the van and, and buying this, this place, um, I mean, you explore a lot of. Different themes in this. Like something that has been very pointed throughout your music is, you know, kind of putting a mirror to society, but in a way that is, um, very, very human. And, um, so it’s, it’s, it’s never preachy, but it is, um, it’s, it’s meaningful because you pull out the humanity of it. 

Theo: And I’m glad to hear you feel that way. That’s my aim. 

Ari: Yeah. There’s this song, um, there’s, um, so it’s like on the, the only chance that we have this song Yeah. The only chance we have, the only chance we have, um, you know, it’s like you explore kind of the downfall of nuance and we’re like, you know, how almost like the, the biggest detriment of us falling into like our tribalistic Yeah. Behaviors and, and, uh, this like what, you know, social media has kind of done and what society has done and the, just the, the belief patterns that we’ve fall into. Um, you just kind of, we lose this fabric of what makes us human, which is like, Connection and family and friendship and community and all of that. Um, I want to, uh, I wanna read some of these, these lyrics cuz I like resonated with it. Um, you say you sing, um, 10 years of friendship, flush down the toilet, click of a button, and now we’re fighting a war each on an island totally silent. When we fall off the high horse onto the track, face down the high road, there’s no turning back. This is the only chance we have. And then continue. Yeah. Here comes the headlines. Keeping it simple like cops and robbers, like good and evil, as if the devil ain’t in the details. Yeah. Talk about Cool. Yeah man, this song a little bit nice. That really resonated with me.

Theo: I’m so glad. Thanks for for digging into it, man. Dude. Um, yeah, I mean, you know, we all just live through a totally bizarre. Nightmare. Um, for a multitude of reasons, or like so much, so much tremendous difficulty in the last two years, the world over. And, you know, it was just, I just saw so many people in my life get caught in a spiral of like, hatred, born out of fear. And it’s like, you know, people in my own family, like someone disagreed with some, someone said something on Facebook and now it’s like, oh, you know, there it goes, Thanksgiving and Christmas and whatever. And it’s like, man, are you kidding me, man? Mm-hmm. like, I’m not gonna do that. It’s like, yo, but, but she voted for, it’s like, I don’t care. Mm-hmm. , I mean, I care, but not in that way, you know? Like to me that I, I just kind of got, I got like, , I just experienced some things that made me have to real, I hadn’t, I had to face, um, the more of like the heart of compassion, you know, like starting to really be like, wait, I’ve been a huge problem in this realm too. Um, the, the talking points of the world, you know, the media is a, is a business surprise, , I keep saying surprise, but Yeah. And so it’s, I don’t, I don’t think this is conspiratorial, but like, they, they have to sell, they sell headlines and headlines are inherently a, uh, dramatic distillation of a situation. And if you only read the headlines, it’s very easy to be pushed in one camp or another. . And next thing you know, you’re doing the digital equivalent of like punching someone in the face at the grocery store. Yeah. . And it’s like the beauty, th the beautiful thing of about humanity is like, if you go to the grocery store, chances are if, if someone drops their banana, you’re gonna pick it up and go, oh, here you go. And they go, oh, thanks so much. Yeah. You don’t know who they voted for. You know, you don’t punch ’em in the face, but as soon as you go home and we lose that in-person connection. In other words, we have a built in sort of like group consensus, keeping the peace mechanism. And yes, sometimes some people violate it, but for do, for the most part, like we’re all in this room here, we’re all aligned in the spirit of music. But by the fact that we’re here, you know, it’s pretty unlikely someone’s just gonna go, Hey, what do you think about some random political issue? Right? Oh yeah. And you know, and it’s like, whoa, man, who cares? You know? Yeah. It’s not that those issues don’t, aren’t of consequence, but I, I just felt like. Yeah. I just had some experiences that really broke my heart. Mm. You know, and I had to write and it just, that song just came out. Yeah. Like in one sitting mm-hmm. . And, uh, yeah. So the, the chorus is, uh, the pre-chorus is says, but Oh, the feeling. Mm-hmm. , oh, the healing. When we fall off of the high horse onto the track, face, down the high road, there’s no turning back. Mm-hmm. , this is the only chance we have. Yeah. And I really feel that way because it’s gonna get more and more digital and it’s gonna get more and more streamlined and, um, you know, just the news that you need tailored to your exact preferences that you already have. Yeah. Whoa, , whoa. That’s gonna get far out fast. And it has gotten far out fast. We all. And there’s nothing we can really do about it in the sense that we have to engage with this world and we have this technology. And there’s also a benefit to it. Like the, the technology is beautiful in many ways. We have a map on our phone. We have, yeah. I can talk to Ari about this podcast. We could have been doing this from different sides of the world. Right? That’s all part of the same thing. Yeah. But I just, uh, that song is, is really like a prayer for, there’s really, honestly, there’s a couple prayers. There’s a prayer. This is a record of prayers, man. Yeah. 

Ari: Is, uh, is corn does grow. Kind of your, your response to this that almost felt like a, a utopia. Uh, this, this fantasy land wearing, you talk about like there at the Corn Ranch, we don’t have no flag to wave. We don’t have no face to say we don’t have no ammunition. Just row a little boat ever gently down the stream. If the truth is gonna float, then the lie is gonna sink and the corn does grow. Right. Is that like this? Is that this like, the response is like, you know, we could all 

Theo: live there. Yeah. That’s a nice read, man. There’s a lot of this theme on the album and yeah. The like, corn does grow. Um, I don’t know where I heard. Well that phrase came to mind, um, based on a Bob Marley quote that I, I read when I was a teenager, which, anyway, just that like, and corn, you could take any plant, but it’s like nature is going to do its thing. The water’s gonna flow. Like the lyric in verse two is, um, at the Corn Ranch, which is kind of, I’m talking about my property. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Yeah. Which is not even called the Corn Ranch, but I did it in the song. Hmm. At the Corn Ranch. Um, you and I don’t have to see eye to eye on everything. Mm-hmm. , we don’t have to share a vision cuz the water’s gonna flow you and I may disagree where the water wants to go. Que baby, you know? And anyway, point being I. Nature’s gonna do its thing. We are nature , surprise . . I feel like a very old man going like surprise. But yeah, and I just really, I, I see it all over in my lived experience day to day, like when humans can interact with each other, we, we almost have no choice but to see, to, to, to be compassionate with one another. If, if we’re really forced to interact. Cuz you know, you see someone again, grocery store with their child having a hard day. Maybe the kid’s got a, you know, is sick and is screaming about something and it’s like, hmm, that’s you man. Yeah, that’s you in another time moment. You know, we’ve all, we’ve all had those di had difficult times. So yeah. Corn does grow is a little bit of a, it’s, it’s a little bit of a, like me screaming on the Astrol plane, like, hmm. Like, it’s all gonna work out because there’s no alternative . Yeah. 

Ari: Yeah. How much of, um, the songs when you, when you, you know, take first person and you’re saying, I did this and I’m doing this and, and um, is kind of, uh, I don’t know, like literal or, or as reflective of your actual position in life. Like, uh, you know, you talk about in five wat rock of, of, uh, you know, you remember that girl from verse one. It’s like, we, we got married, had a kid, and that kid’s great. You, you’re not married, you don’t have a kid.

Theo: Correct. So at the moment, but, but I’m curious. Like not married and never had a child . So that is a fantasy, but it’s a prayer. You know what I mean? Okay. I want to have a kid and I want to be married. So there it is. I sang about it in the song. Okay. You know, manifesting. Yeah. Nice. Also, it’s like songwriting is a place where I like to take a lit. Cause people always wanna know, is that factually? Did that happen to you? Mm-hmm. . And it’s like, well, the feeling did. Yeah. You know? Yeah. The feeling’s absolutely real. Like my song playing Jane Heroin, I’ve never been a heroin addict. Yeah. I don’t ever plan to be, I’ve never used it and I will not. Mm-hmm. , part of the reason is because there’s heroin addiction in my family. Mm-hmm. . So that song is something that I grew up with a very deep feeling for. And when I experience the feeling of feeling like I was addicted to like the pain of missing a former lover, I thought, what’s the difference? Hmm. This is my song now playing Jane Heroin. Yeah. You know? Yeah. And, but people have come up to me and told me that that helped them like get kick heroin. Wow. Or alcohol. Yeah. Just to be like heard and seen in that way. Yeah. And some other people have been like, are you okay? Mm. Yeah. Yeah. And I’m like, that’s a, I’m okay with you asking the question, am I okay? Because I know I’m okay. And the reason I’m okay is cuz this, I put it in the song . Yeah. Yeah. That’s the sort of irony. Mm. You know, it’s like, yeah, you can, you can, the songs are a safe place. relatively safe. I’m sure there’s some things that would be really ill advised to sing about. But songs I would say generally are a safe place to let the full drama of human emotion play out rather than your life, you know? So it’s like, I sometimes bend, I sometimes like sort of blow out the truth. It’s like, yes, this feeling is true, but I made it way more dramatic. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And it’s like that song, I know I’m talking about my last album now, but like that song Best. Mm-hmm. . It’s a true story. Like I did get that email. Hmm. Signed best. Yeah. You know, and I was like, ah, . But we were in love for like a decade and I went, yeah. Like, God, whoa, you know? But then I like made it like, you know, there’s not like a, I didn’t get hit over the head by the dictionary or like whatever. I went all fancy on it. Yeah. Because there’s a thousand ways to eat a recess, you know, . And that’s, so, it’s like songwriting is finding all those different ways to say, to say the feeling.

Album Release Strategy, Distributing Independently Through TuneCore

Ari: So let’s talk, um, release strategy and this new label that you’re, you’re, yeah. Uh, forming, I mean, release strategy. I, I’m curious on your take, and I know we, we talked about this a little bit backstage before this, um, you know, we’re recording this, uh, when, when everybody’s listening to this, uh, podcast, the record will have come out. The record’s not out yet. Yes. It’s not out yet. When is the record coming out? 

Theo: The record is coming out, God willing, and the creek don’t rise in February, which is very soon. Now we’re mid-January. Don’t remind me, but yeah, we’re mid-January.

Ari: So, um, if I’m not mistaken now, I don’t know if this is gonna make your anxiety rise too much. Go ahead. Uh, the, the record you sent me, the Dropbox link was unmastered. Yes. And, and we’re January 17th. The record’s coming out in like a month. It’s still, how’s the mastering coming? You know, 

Theo: you know. Yeah. No, I, I have a, I have a, um, very, uh, very talented person in my life who I’m extremely fortunate to work with who just had a baby. Mm-hmm. , who also happens to be mastering my record. So we worked this out months ahead and it was like, I know, I know it’ll work, but because six months ago it was, you know, he obviously knew his wife was pregnant. Yeah. And it was like, yeah, this is gonna work out. We’re gonna get this done. And, um, I’m not on a li I mean, I’m on my own label, which I’ll tell you about, but I don’t have anything that can’t be moved back a week. Mm-hmm. You know, and that’s kind of the benefit of being Indie . Who do you use for distribution? TuneCore.

Ari: Okay. So that’s, you know, self, you can just log in. Yeah. You can hopeful upload, you can set the date for tomorrow or in three weeks or whatever. Yeah. And you do it yourself.

Theo: Yes. So I’m kinda like, yeah, first single comes out on 17th and I’m like, Yeah, if it’s gotta be the 23rd, I’ll make it the 23rd. You know? 

Ari: Now are you thinking about, because, you know, uh, if you wanna play the Spotify game, uh, they recommend, well, you know, get, uh, distribute the song. It lea they like to see like three to four weeks in advance. 

Theo: So you get I I wanted to ask about that pitch that, how real is that pitch? The other it’s real, I’m screwed, you know, 

Ari: Well, but it’s like we get back to like, what are your intentions here? Because it’s like, you know, I played call, I played the, I played the game. I’ve worked with a brilliant artist who played the game where it’s like, okay, we got it in five weeks in advance. We did the whole pitch. We set it all up. Zero editorial. Right. And then I know somebody who put distributed the record five days before the release. Wow. Boom. They got an editorial. So it’s, it happens. There is no like Right. Real, um, you know, law or rhyme or reason that a lot of times this happens. Mm-hmm. , sometimes they don’t, they won’t grab the first three singles. Right. And then sometimes they’ll grab a random song from your album that wasn’t even the feature track that you pitched to the editors. Bless. It’s hard to know. 

Theo: Bless the heart. Yeah. Yeah.

Ari: Do you, the heart, like, are you even thinking about any of this or does it not really.

Theo: Um, you know, it’s a good question. Bother you? No, I mean, I definitely think about it. I think that you asked what’s the intention and the, the thing is, I have a tour on sale right now that’s gonna be playing in the spring. The first date is March 29th in Salt Lake City. And I. of the belief that the entire album, that the fans should have time with the album before the concerts. Mm-hmm. . Um, I love playing new songs for people, but I don’t love playing 90 minutes of new material for people where they just go like, okay, whoa. You know? I mean, that’s, that, that’s a vibe too. But basically I feel like if you have people that are going to come to the show and they have the potential to come already loving the songs. Yeah. It’s a great cheat, cheat code. Yeah. It’s like, oh my God. Let ’em, let ’em learn the songs so they can sing along. Like, I love that. So, um, my goal is really to get the music out for that mm-hmm. and if it, if anything, I, I’m gonna do the strategy you said of like a few singles and then drop the album. Mm-hmm. , Spotify advertises that you need a. Lead time for Release Radar. To hit release radar. Yeah. That has been confirmed for me by some of my Internet Jedi friends who have take, who have taken much wilder risks than I will. Yeah. Like upload it the day before for the next day and whatever. Yeah. And you don’t wanna do that. I’m talking about Jack, by the way. Yeah. . Um, but, uh, and I know Eck is kind of in a different league in terms of reach, but, so yeah, I guess I would say the, the main strategy is like I have, because I recorded this album, so I did it, I did it live in this room, in my home in the woods, and there’s a tape machine in the other room, and we did it live to tape and then I did light over overdubs also following that process of like, you know, full performance capture. So what I mean is the lead vocal, the drums, the bass, the keys, the guitar is all done live on the way in. Mm-hmm. , no edits at all. and I’m not, whatever. I think you got, you guys care cuz we’re in this room. I’m not gonna like, advertise that as like, as if this is some selling point, there’s no edits, you know, because nobody cares probably. 

Ari: But I know who knows how to edit a tape anymore these days, 

Theo: right? I’m not, yeah. I’m not taking it. That’s another thing. It’s like, I’m not gonna learn how to splice tape for a reason, because it’s gonna keep me honest. But, um, those, so, so I filmed everything. So I have a video for each song and I would say it’s, you know, it’s essentially the both process of filming the session, except I also can’t edit video. So there’s no, there’s no cool anything about the video. It’s just one take. One take. And I, I think it’s really badass. Yeah. Um, and it made me feel very emotional watching it. And I know it’s the best I’m capable of, which is a very peaceful feeling I have. If I did my best. I know I did my best. Yeah. That’s cool. I mean, I rec, this whim h retreat that I went on was, um, ended up. I had to reschedule the album because like everyone got covid, um, like three days before we were gonna record it in May. Mm-hmm. The only available week was the week after Wolf did these, the huge festival. And then I had another gig that I had to drive through the night for, and it was the week post, this whim offer retreat. And during the whim off retreat, the deep breathing exercises we did, like brought up, I basically screamed un uncontrollably. Mm. Like very loudly at one point. Mm. And I, I really couldn’t control it. I had this like tremendous, almost like psychedelic level like scream thing happen and it really like burned my voice out. And then I went and did this gig in the ice and screamed in the ice, which I don’t know if, I mean I was belting in the ice cuz I had nothing else. Yeah. Yeah. I had to go like . All I could do was that one riff. It was crazy. I didn’t have a lot of voice left. Yeah. And it’s still a good show. I thought it was a great show. Great show. But. , then I had to go do this record. So I had to kind of accept that as well. And I think it’s perfect. It’s like, it’s even made it even, even grungier. Yeah. Um, and so anyway, I have a video per song. So my strategy is to do a couple singles, like maybe three, maybe four, um, each with a video and then release the whole album, but keep dropping a video a week, um, even though the whole album’s out so people can listen to the album. But then there’s this sort of promotable piece of, you might call it content. Mm-hmm. , except it’s actually the record. Yeah. And it’s engaging cuz it’s a live video. So my, my aim is to drop all those basically until the tour starts. Yeah. And I, that’s 11 weeks. , 11 weeks of Catsman. It’s a lot of content. I mean, I think it’s, you know, it’s not the whole year, but it’s like, well, if I sell out this tour, or if I, if that helps me sell shows and sell vinyl’s great. And that’s the ultimate goal.

Listening Engagement from Spotify Editorial Playlists vs. Algorithmic Playlists

Ari: Yeah. That’s the intention. And that’s the thing. It’s just like, I think the, the record is gonna do really well. Um, your fans are gonna respond really well to it. They’re gonna, uh, which means the algorithm is gonna respond really well to it. That’s a cool take. And we are in a post, uh, human editorial landscape on Spotify right now. Wow. The, the, the, you heard it here. You heard it here first. I, I, everyone’s head just went seven inches to the right. Everyone. I didn’t know that. Say more. A Okay. Here. So, uh, um, the human editors at Spotify are not as powerful as they were three years ago. It is now far better to get in, uh, algorithmic playlists than it is on these editorial playlists. The thing is, and I’m seeing this in real time, I’m studying the Spotify for artists backend, and I’m seeing what editorial playlists do with songs and what algorithm do, and lemme just break this down, why it is that way, because what are Spotify editorial playlists? It is one person that’s like, I think these songs are, are good and they’re gonna keep people on the, the playlists and, and, uh, keep ’em on our platform. On Spotify. I like them. Maybe the audience listening to it likes ’em. Maybe they don’t, maybe they like some of them and they skip a few of the songs and they don’t respond to the other ones. It’s like one person’s taste and so, What Spotify’s noticing is that the drop off rate on the songs, on these official editorial playlists are pretty massive, right? Wow. And like the save rate is not as high. The skip rate is becoming high. What is more powerful? What are the algorithmic playlists? What are these playlists? This is. The Spotify algorithm saying, oh, we know exactly what kind of music you like because we’ve been analyzing everything that you’ve been listening to. And so we are going to feed you through Discover Weekly, through release radar, through radio, through, uh, you know, X, Y, and Z. And now there’s a lot of these personalized playlists they’re calling it, um, where we know exactly what you like to listen to. So check out this playlist. It’s not created by a human, it’s created by the algorithm. And so you start listening to this playlist, like, oh my gosh, I like every single song in this playlist. This is great. Why would I mess with the, uh, you know, editorial playlist that somebody, John’s playlist? Yeah. John. I don’t know, John, you know? Right. And so, and I’ve seen this, it’s like, what, what happens is sometimes the, the official Spotify editorial playlist can be the kiss of death. Wow. You get included on an editorial playlist if you, your song doesn’t perform well on that editorial playlist, like your save rate’s not there, the skip rate’s high people aren’t saving it. Then it crushes, uh, what could happen with the algorithm. They’re not gonna feed it to anyone because the signals that that has sent Spotify is, oh, people don’t like this song, so let’s not send it to more people. But maybe just the people listening to that one editorial playlist aren’t responding because the first 30 seconds, uh, you know, they’re no drums and everything else on this playlist has drums. And that’s what people are there for. But people don’t give it, you know, three minutes to get to the end where like they will love it. Right, right. And. , all of this being said is that, and Spotify knows this too, like this is what we’re moving into this era where it’s less about these human gatekeepers and more about if your fans are responding, cool, then you are gonna be rewarded by that because that’s gonna send the signals to Spotify that like, oh, people really dig this. They’re listening, they’re saving it, they’re saving it to their own playlists. Let’s send it to more people. Let’s put it on more and then more and more and more. And it’s gonna just snowball and build off 

Theo: of each other. That’s very cool. That sounds like good news in a way. I think it is. It’s great news for most stars, most people making 

Ari: music, it’s, it’s less good. You know, it’s, I think it’s great news for people that have a fan base, for people that have an audience that responds really well. It’s less good news for the people that don’t have an audience that have been reliant on their best friend at Spotify that pops ’em in all of these editorial playlists and that like are living off of that. But I think it’s really good news. Um, You have a label? Oh yeah. Yes. Let’s get to that. And then we’re gonna take questions. Cool. And, uh, if you do have questions, we’re gonna stand for those questions. And there’s a mic over here. Nice. And if you do have questions, nice. Um, we can kind of ask the questions, but tell me about your label.

Launching New Label, 10 Good Songs

Theo: Yeah. So the label is called 10 Good Songs. Yeah. And, um, I don’t know if anyone’s been following my releases for the last few years. They all have that little logo on it. It’s a triangle. It says 10 good songs. And um, right now the label is just a label by which, I mean, it is like a sticker. It’s just like a label, , you know what I mean? Um, and, uh, it’s gonna, it’s, it’s going to be centered around pro my productions. Mm-hmm. . So that’s gonna be my music and artist that I produce. Nice. So May early wine’s new album is gonna be the first non Theo Katzman release on the label. Okay. And everything is going to be this process that I described. Okay. For now. Yeah. Of like people. . Delivering, delivering the goods. Right. Performance. Right, right in there. Yeah. And, um, full, full performances. What I’m, what I’m excited for is I think people will see like, okay, I mean the, you know, the new Wolf Pack and my album and this one that you’re gonna hear from May, they were all done in at, at my property. Hmm. And so there’s not like a sound that this studio has, it’s like, depends on the music. So Vol is produced by Jack and it, so it has his through the Nic Suppressor. , yeah. There’s a lot sonically that Jack does that is the unique full signature. My music sounds different than Maze, so I’m excited to show people that like, it’s not like, again, it’s not like, oh, everyone just sounds like a band plan through a PA in a garage. It’s not that. Yeah. Because I think that’s what a lot of people think when they think live. But now people are going to watch. May Earlywine, like just completely destroy this, crush, this cool. I don’t know if any of you know Phil Cook, um, tremendous, tremendous musician. Um, uh, his, his golden messenger, bony ver um, that that world. Um, Phil came to the house and played keys on it. Um, Joel Ock from la mm-hmm. , Paki lend home from, from Chicago. Anyway, it’s, it’s great musicians making this record. You know, you can see the, the, the baffle in front of the drum, the drums, like we’re, we’re doing things to mitigate bleed sometimes. But anyway, this label is going to be, um, the videos are gonna live on the artist channel, not mine. Okay. But they’re all gonna have this sticker, 10 good songs. So my, my aim is to draw a little through line on the internet of like 10 good songs, man. Nice. Because I, I once had a, a meeting with a manager years ago. When Heartbreak hits was kind of catching on. I had a lot of, it took a lot of meetings. Yeah. And, um, this one guy was like, what’s uh, what’s your thing man? You know? And I was like, what do you mean? And he’s like, well, you know, like good to be alone. I mean, that’s like country man. I mean like, that’s Nashville. Like, I mean, if you could get me 10 more of those, we could take this to Nashville Country’s really popular right now. Yeah. . And I was like, I just so frustrated. I kind of exasperated. I was like, man, my thing is 10 good songs, man. every time. Yeah. There’s no skippers. Like, what’s that? That’s my genre. Yeah. Is that, do I need a genre? It’s 2000, you know? Are you kidding me? Like genre? Yeah. Like I said, my friend’s seven year old. Cried about the Beatles for an hour and a half. Like that’s 50 years old. There’s no genre. Yeah. There’s The Beatles, there’s Skrillex, there’s Rihanna, there’s Chopin, Debbie C We are post genre. Yep. Um, so some of these, so anyway, this label 10 good songs. Cool. Keep an eye out for it. I’m, my, my real goal is to be able to get it to the point where we do vinyl pre-orders for each record and it has its own following. Yeah. You know, where I can come to an artist that who’s maybe unknown, but whose music I love and say, Hey, let me record you and we’re gonna sell a thousand units and we’re gonna pay for this record. We’re gonna do it. Mm-hmm. pretty low budget. , we’re gonna put all our sweat and t blood, sweat, and tears into it and let’s, let’s kick some ass on this. That amazing. That’s the goal. 

What “Making It” in the New Music Business Means

Ari: Nice. Yeah. Well, Theo, I have, uh, before we get to questions I have, this has been incredible. And, and so dude, love you bro. Love you. Thank you. This is amazing. Thank you, man. Um, I have one final question that I ask everyone who comes on the show. Okay. What does it mean to you to make it in the new music business?

Theo: My favorite question. I used to say, stop trying to make it and start making it . By which I mean, No, no. This is, this is in line with your thing. Yeah. Yeah. Make music, make your art. Make your life as much as you can in the line with what you feel like hell yeah. About and start there. It is not a bad place to start. What I just outlined is actually a very difficult thing to do. Um, but it’s the. in my experience, the sort of lower cost way of like, why not start with making the music? I meet a lot of people who are like, yeah, have you heard of this? And I’m like, no. And they’re like, well, yeah. Doing a lot of great things. You know, they got a manager, uh, lawyer, um mm-hmm. agent, you know, they’re with Wasserman. I’m like, oh, cool. Can I hear their music? Like, oh, they haven’t written any songs yet. . It’s like, come on man. Next. Gimme a break, dude. Because even if some, someone else is gonna write ’em their songs and then they’ll ride the, the golden pony to off into the sunset, but they won’t have gained that thing we just said for the last two hours. It’s like, what is it that you do? You know? So I’m not, I’m not trying to knock, uh, I’m not trying to knock anything, but I’m trying to say making it in the new music business to me is first and foremost making your best work. And that’s gonna change and it’s gonna improve. And if you’re like me, , your first album will be listened to much less than your second. Your second, even if it’s your best, will be listened to much less than your third, even if it’s less good. And your third will be less than the fourth. And that’s a good thing because this is a gradual growth thing. And you know, I’m not like a rich guy living in the hills of la but I make a living off of the music that I wanna make, that I have a hundred percent ownership over and it feels pretty damn good. So I think that that is, yeah, thanks. That’s right. And I, I also feel very lucky, you know, I’m extremely lucky. Um, but part of that luck is like choosing to follow the people who inspire me. Like when I met Jack Stratton, I was like, we became fast friends. And it was like I had professors who were like, What the hell’s wrong with Jack they would say that to me. And I was like, man, what are you talking about? 

Ari: Jack’s gonna change the world. Jack might take your job.

Theo: Yeah. . No, but yeah, Jack. So, you know, keep like really, th this is still a community thing. You know, one of the things people like get, they get obsessed with how to make it right. Yeah. They go like, I gotta figure out my Spotify strategy. Right? And then it’s like, what if instead of doing that, you figured out if anyone in your town cares that you play music. Hmm. There you go. And that sounds like a dis but it’s not. I mean like you have to humble yourself to that. There was a time when no one in my town cared. Okay, cool. Well I brought my, I had 10 friends. So my 10 friends cared cuz they have to care cuz they’re my friends. They care, whatever. . Wow. Not bad. Catsman, you know, you’re still a loser, but you know what I mean. . Yeah, right on . And anyway, then it’s like, . It’s the same as I heard Jeff Tweedy talk about it. He said, man, I, you know, they were like, what’s Wilco’s thing? And he said, well, I think we’ve always been pretty realistic. Like, maybe we could play a show in Chicago. It was like, first question. Mm-hmm. . But it wasn’t like it was, maybe they play one and they’re like, cool and they play a bunch more and they’re like, maybe we could play in like Will Met, or like, you know, a little bit outside of Chicago. Yeah. Yeah. It’s like people would love to skip that. And I, I don’t know that the live thing is necessarily a path to the digital thing, but I can say like, there might, there’s a value in it, you know, going out into the world and finding out, getting to test like relish in your obscurity. Use that, use this time if you’re, if you feel like no one knows who you are, like keep doing it. Keep getting better. Hmm. You know, I played rooftop gigs in LA for years and I, I cherish that time like, I’ll, I’ll never get to do that again in the way that I did then. Mm-hmm. , you know? Yeah. And I’m happy about it. It ran its course, but like, that’s a beautiful thing. Like, um, you know, using, [01:33:00] using that time as fuel to, to keep honing and discovering yourself, it’s, that’s real, man. That’s, that’s what this is. So, yeah. To me, making it in the new music business is first looking in the mirror and being like, this is the best that I can do. I’m sure of it. If you get to that point, as far as I’m concerned, you have pleased the Lord. You know what I mean? . And then beyond that, it’s like, yeah, let’s see if we can sell it. You know, it’s like, maybe we can’t, let’s be honest, I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone’s gonna like what I’m singing about on this album. This is my most brutally honest record, and it’s more, it’s more emo than anything I’ve ever done. And I’m singing about like, being shamed out of a community because of the, you know, Facebook or whatever, like we just talked about on my. Mm-hmm. on that song. It’s like, I don’t know if anyone’s gonna like that. Maybe they want to hear hard work. Maybe they want to hear Eck, maybe they want to hear Funky Theo. All right. You know, it’s not what I made. I mean, it is funky because I It’s funky. Yeah. . But, um, but it, you know, I wanna say something, it’s real and [01:34:00] I’m taking a risk. Mm-hmm. , but to me, that’s where the, I, I can honestly say, and it’s, it’s the first time I’ve ever felt this way in my whole life. And that’s why I’m so stoked on this process, because I think this specific process is a big part of why I feel this way is like, I’m fully proud of this album. I said, I feel this is my best work. And I asked you ahead, but you were like, oh, for sure it is. Which was cool, , because you could have been like, yeah, I don’t know, maybe someone else would be like, yeah, I kind of missed, you know, it’s like, but everyone’s gonna have that opinion. Yeah. Especially if you are fortunate enough to be reaching people. Yeah. There’s a lot of people not gonna like it, but, you know, that’s part of it. So, anyway, first making, getting to that point, making it your mission to be like, I am, I know I’m making my, I’m doing the best I can. Not at promoting myself, but at making the work. Start with the work. The work will never let you down, man. I swear to God. Music is never gonna let you down. You know the industry, that shit is gonna break your heart thousand times. Yeah. Still breaks mine, man. Still breaks mine, but not like it used to because then now I have the art. You know what I mean? Mm-hmm. . So that’s it. 

Q&A: How Clubs Can Best Set Artists Up for Success

Ari: Theo Katzman, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s take a few questions, but while we do this, do you want to, uh, stand with me? Cause I need to stretch my eggs. And if you wanna stand, um, yes. First question over here. Tell us your name.

Jenny: Hi, my name is Jenny. Hi Jenny. Nice to meet you. I was very, excuse me, interested in what you were saying about the performance value. Yes. Um, I booked for a small club in Los Angeles and, um, I was reading just the other day, your list of, you know, best independent or best clubs in la. It was a short list. Yeah. Spoiler alert. The club I booked for wasn’t on it. Um, but fourth edition . 

Ari: No, it’s okay. It’s okay. What’s your club?

Theo: Uh, trip Santa Monica. Oh yeah. Um, my question is, um, what can clubs be doing to set artists up for success? Wow. Great question. Oh my God. Woo. Wow. Dear Jenny. 

Ari: I mean, okay. For let, I’ll do my take and then you give your take cuz Woo. First off, thank you for that question. I mean, usually I think we feel oftentimes that it’s like a battle between the artist and the club and like, you know, oftentimes, um, artists feel that the club is supposed to promote the show and the clubs feel like the, the artist is supposed to promote the show and in the end, no one promotes the show and then everybody loses. Um, , I think, you know, with, um, how the club can set it up is to really, I mean it’s, it’s like, I think at least in LA cuz that’s where we are right now, is that, um, clubs have gotten very, and promoters have gotten very, um, greedy in the sense that because there are so many [01:37:00] artists here that, uh, they know that they can take advantage of artists and that there’s like the pay-to-play thing that’s happening. So one, don’t ever do pay-to-play, don’t make your artists buy the tickets and then sell the tickets and if you don’t sell a certain number of tickets, whether she’s taking No, she doesn’t do that. Thank you. Um, don’t work with promoters that do that, which is a big thing because there’s a lot of younger artists that are just getting started and I’m sure we all get these emails. We all get these emails that are just like, Hey, you wanna play the Viper room? You wanna play the Wiss? I booked the trou door, I can do this and duh this. And it’s like, all you need to do is sell 50 tickets and then you’re gonna sell ’em from $15 a head and duh. and then people don’t know that that’s not actually the way it should be working. And so I think that like, you know, thinking about what is it gonna be a fair deal? Also, we wanna make sure that you stay in business, but like treating the artists, like going after the ones that maybe you really love and respecting and working, looking at us like a partnership. And it’s not just like, oh, this is your show. Figure it out. Bring your crowd. Like let’s all work together on kind of making this, this work for everyone. And also I think like I really hate the LA thing of hit it and quit it. I hate that everyone is not, most venues are like, oh, well you have a seven o’clock, we have an eight o’clock, we have a nine o’clock, we have 10 o’clock. Who are you here to see? I got a tally sheet. Okay, you’re here to see the nine o’clock. Okay, they’re getting your $10 or you’re getting 70% of your $10, not the seven o’clock. And which then promotes competition amongst artists because it’s like, wait, don’t say you’re there to see Theo, he’s on a tent. Say you’re there to see me. But it’s like, but I wanna see both of you guys. So who’s gonna get my money? That’s a thing that I, I hate about how LA does it. It’s like if everybody just worked together and was like, oh, let’s promote a whole night of music. Then we’re all working together and we all have, um, you know, an incentive for the show to be successful. 

Theo: That’s good. Good call. Yeah. Can I, you wanna add Yeah, I’ll add a couple things. Oh, question. What’s the capacity of the room? 80 people. 80. Okay. Sweet. So small room. Yeah. And, um, you’re probably not bringing in like, you know Yeah, it’s a certain, it’s not gonna, it’s, it’s not the theater Ace Hotel. It’s not like Foy Vance is playing there necessarily unless he wants to do a special kind of smaller thing. Right. With an 80 cap room. I would say, cuz I love an 80 cap room, that’d be like, I love playing 80 Cap. Um, as, as you’re an, and you’re an independent room, right? So you promote the shows as the, you’re the, you’re the buyer or whatever. Partnership. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sorry to use the term, but, um, for me, cuz I lo I love playing an independent room as fa as, as advantageous in the artist’s favor as you can make the deal the better. That’s kind of obvious, you know, but that’s a big thing cuz a lot of, lot of places are not that great in that front. If it, if you can make it sound great, that’s great. And I’m not sure if you have a backline available at all. You do. Okay. That’s awesome. I think those are, those are three huge things like a working backline. Um, and a good sounding room and an advantageous deal I think are are huge. And 

Ari: don’t take a merch cut. I mean, I hate the venues that are taking a percentage of merch because it’s like, if you think that not you, I know you’re not doing it, but like there are venues out there that are 250 cab rooms and they’re like, oh, we take 10%, we take 20% of your merch. I’m like, well then can I have 10 to 20% of your bar? Like this is not, this can go both ways here. What’s the deal 

Theo: if I were new to LA and I wanted to play my music and I had, and I knew I could bring 40 people out and you were like, yeah, 85, 15 deal door deal. Sell whatever ticket price you want. I would be playing in a room every, every month. Yeah. You know? Fair enough. I don’t, I hope that’s helpful, . Is that everything you’re already doing? Probably. You’re like, sure. I’d love to talk 

Q&A: Advice for Indie Artists Who Don’t Have a Big Budget

Ari: you with a few after this. Yeah. Cool. We’ll keep talking. Yes. Thank you. Hi, 

Theo: uh, my name’s Auth and first of all, thank you for doing this and for all of your wonderful books. Um, . And I also just love the answer you gave her, cuz someone asked me to do a pay to play recently and I said, no. Okay, that’s good. For a second I had imposter syndrome, but then I was like, they don’t, I don’t need them, they need me. 

[01:41:11] Ari: Correct. Right. Yeah, 

Theo: that’s right. Um, so on that front, um, financial, I, I’m in not the best. Okay, I’m gonna start that over . Yeah, yeah. For someone that’s not, uh, financially super capable of making a music video or, um, uh, who has like the, who has the resources as far as I’ve performed, I’m a, I’m super creative and I love all my music. And what is the one biggest piece of advice that you can give to someone that just doesn’t have the money to do all those wonderful things that you tell us to do? Well, can I jump in on that? Do it. Yeah. Yeah. So, I would just ask like, do you have a laptop or a phone? iPhone. Okay. And you might not like it because sometimes people are like, my thing is I have to work with an ad piece orchestra. It’s my thing. I’m not saying you’re doing that, but as a, as a, as a left to the right of the spectrum, I’ve seen met people where they’re like, no man, you don’t understand. It’s gotta be ad piece orchestra. I’m like, sounds like you need $300,000 , but you only have 300. You know, and it’s like, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to let the finances force the production into like, what is possible for you. Because if you play an instrument in sing and write a great song, I’m sure you could capture that with a $50 microphone and the built-in logic plug-in suite and make something like very compelling with that. So it’s almost like be more minimalist. Mm-hmm. like, forget the music video. I mean, I film my entire new record on an iPhone. And the Vol record on an iPhone and this new one with May early on on an iPhone. Now the iPhone thing with VUL is intentionally more lo-fi. Just Jack does all kinds of stuff with it. Mine is gonna be just hi-fi, and so maybe it’ll look beautiful. I think it looks beautiful, but it’s like the iPhone’s a pretty good camera, you know? Mm-hmm. . Anyway. I would say minimal. Go more minimal. And as you make more money, scale it, you know? But don’t set yourself in some, like, I need to get a $15,000 loan so I can make a music video that’s gonna make me be taken seriously, because maybe no one will even see it. Or maybe they’ll watch it once. Mm-hmm. . But if you spend $15 and someone watches it once, it’s not gonna hit that. It’s not gonna hurt that bad, you know? And if anything, if it starts catching on, that’s kicking ass. 

Ari: Yeah. Great. Yeah. 

Q&A: Emotional Quality Songwriting and Harmonic Settings Within Western Music (“Good To Be Alone,” Paul Simon, Bob Marley)

Theo: Hey, how’s it going? Uh, I’m Kyle Wink, and, uh, first of all, yeah, thanks. Thanks again for, uh, I’ve been following both of you for a long time. Big fan of, uh, thank you ma’am of, uh, of the music and the, the podcast and the book, and thank you all that good stuff. Um, I was actually supposed to fly back to Vancouver a couple nights ago, and I was on the fence whether I should, you know, push my stay in LA a little bit longer. And then I heard about this, I’m like, [01:44:00] yeah, fuck it.

Ari: Thanks, man. Good decision. Yes. Thank you for that. Appreciate 

Theo: it. Actually, I saw you at, uh, Saturday. Saturday 

Ari: the other night. Ah, yes. The Monday. Monday on a Saturday. Yeah, I was, yeah, , 

[01:44:10] Theo: why weren’t you there? I, I couldn’t make that one, man. I talked to y’all about it, but . Uh, so I’ve got a question about, uh, about songwriting for, uh, for, I’d love to hear both of your takes really, but I think, um, with Theo in particular was something that I hear a lot of in your music and I know a lot of other, uh, music that I really admire is this like, element of like really stark contrast. And I think that’s present in your music in a lot of ways. Like, um, uh, you know, singing the, just these like guiding lyrics to like, something that you just like vibe into dancing Yeah. Right along or, or, um, uh, like Good to Be Alone I think was mentioned earlier today. Yeah. And I think that’s a really good example um, you know, you’re singing lyrics that maybe aren’t necessarily like what you would think they mean literally, but you know, you know what you mean just from, you know, all the, the context in the air. So I don’t know if that’s a question, but Yeah. I, I can speak to that. Yeah. Um, music, at least in as far as I can tell in being a Western, uh, you know, someone who grew up in the west versus the east of the world, like American music, western music, DIA harmony, or I should say the piano. The piano keyboard, those 12 notes. and the chords that you find, if you make triads out of each, each of them, they have a quality to each of them emotionally. Like we all know if somebody plays like C Major, we’re kind of like right on . Like it’s like, it’s like that’s what that feels like. You know what I mean? And then it’s like I flat the third and it’s like, it feels kinda like, oh, you know, that’s obviously a real simple way of doing it. But I like to [01:46:00] find, I like to be, and the more I write and the older I’ve gotten in my songwriting, the more I try to be patient with finding the right harmonics setting, if you will, for the lyric. Cuz it’s like, apparently, here’s a cool story. Any Billy Joel fans in the house? 

Ari: Hey, just saw him at Ms. , 

Theo: oh, don’t get me started. Anyway, , um, only the Good Die Young. Only the Good Die is really, you know, happy song. It’s like, wait, what? Only the Good Die young. Mm. It’s like actually kind of an intense song. Lyrically. Yeah. And app. I heard a story, I don’t remember where I heard it, so I’m sorry. But apparently I heard he was in the studio and Paul Simon walked in and it was like, he had written it as like a dirge minor ballad. Hmm. And apparently Paul Simon was like, man, that’s like, that’s too on the nose, man. Sad lyric, sad music. He’s like, it’s too much. Like, make the music really happy. Keep the lyric where it is. And that’ll just like be a totally wild experience where people will be like, integrating this thing, but it’s like, what are we saying? It’s like, you know, and I thought Bob Marley was always tremendous at that. You know, it’s like, feels so good. Next thing you know, he is like, throw overthrowing the government . He’s like, whoa. It’s like, whoa. You know what I mean? Marl is the, there’s, there’s a sort of way that lyrics can sink deeper, I think, and kind of hide in plain sight when you kind of like coat them in the natural feelings that the chords give you. Yeah. You know? 

Ari: Cool. It’s like sneaking the veggies in there.

Theo: Exactly. Sneak the veggies in there. Sometimes you need that support and sometimes you want it to just be like, no, it’s just a dagger to the heart. There’s no way around this pain. Yeah. Bang. You know, like four chord bang or whatever it is, you know, with the six in it, it’s like, forget it, dude. I’m a dead person. You know? . Yeah.

Q&A: Creative Marketing Campaigns (Seth Godin’s This Is Marketing, TikTok)

Ari: All right, we’re gonna take one more question for this and then we’re gonna do the, uh, the book signing thing and then we’re gonna ha be hanging out and you’re able to hang out, uh, as long as you want. But, um, Yes. We’re, um, final question. Let’s, um, yeah. Hi. I’m 

Theo: Razor J. Razor J Raz. I appreciate the information, the Soul talk. I appreciate the book. My question is, and actually Ari you really helped me with this a couple years ago when I did a podcast recording over Zoom. Yeah. Uh, couple years ago I was asking questions on that, how to pursue my music authentically. Mm-hmm. . And it was really helpful. And I feel like the past couple years I’m making music that I’m proud of. I’m making music that, and I’m letting go of what other people feel about it. And I find that I’m finding the people who do want to feel it or there. So I feel really good about that. Nice. So to relate to that is now that I feel more, more comfortable than I’ve ever had before in my life with my music now trying to explore to make sure people hear it in a way that’s so authentic. I think you gave a great example with Wim Hoff, and I really like that. I actually do Wim h reading myself. So cool man, I totally feel that. Awesome. But is there anybody. . One thing I like about music is that you can go find documentaries and you can sometimes find really cool interviews about people exploring the creative process and kind of showing how much caution they threw to the wind or the process and all that. But you don’t, I at least I haven’t found as much people talking about that in the marketing aspect, if that makes sense. Mm-hmm. and I felt like what you showed was really great marketing and super authentic. It felt just as artistic. Cool. So do you guys, besides that, which I really like that example, is there anyone else you can think of recently that’s maybe just, maybe people you don’t even work with but who’s caught your eye? Because what they do is just so effective in that way. I’ve heard Seth Goden speak about marketing in a really cool way. Mm-hmm. , I’m sure Ari can answer this better than I can, but 

Ari: that would be the one guy, I mean, his book, this is marketing is brilliant. I think it really makes you think completely differently about how to approach marketing and what marketing means. But I mean, I think what we didn’t, what’s actually really interesting, we are in the year 2023 right now. . Did we mention TikTok once this entire conversation? I don’t think we did. Right? Slipping What? Slipping. He says slipping. So, but here, but here’s, but here’s the thing. It’s just like, that’s the crazy part of the industry. Run. Theo’s not on TikTok.

Theo: I’m sorry. Hmm. I can’t, I don’t even, again, better or for worse.

Ari: There is no Theo Katzman profile on TikTok. 

Theo: Um, but here you have a chance to claim it now. Yeah. . 

Ari: But the thing is, is. It’s whatever you, the tool that you’re using, because there are some people who are marketing brilliantly on TikTok using the platform in extremely innovative ways, which I think are so creative, and I think, um, you know, are done in ways that like with, you remember the open verse challenge for those of you who have done that? Yeah. With using the duet feature because it’s like, it’s using the tools and the limitations of whatever you’re working with, whether it is the duet feature on TikTok or whether it’s $15 in your bank account and you want to, you like, make a crazy video and or whether it’s just like doing it live in the room and because that’s the limitation that you have constructed, right? And it’s like using those limitations, you can come up with really interesting creative marketing campaigns because it becomes, uh, you know who you’re targeting because you know who your, your audience is, but also sometimes your audience will find you based on that beacon that, that kind of, that lighthouse. Uh hum. That’s you’re sending out is like, people start to find that. It’s like, well that’s really weird and different and I don’t understand it, so that’s not for me. But then there’s gonna be a few people that are like, wait, that’s really weird and cool and I love that. That is for me. So to not like get into super, uh, I specifics, I do have a ton of specifics of creative marketing campaigns in the book, which you all have. Yeah. Um, so you can check that out. But I think just think refocusing the thinking around how you wanna approach marketing would be the way to go. 

Theo: And it’s gotta be authentic. Yeah. I think that’s the thing. Like when people have been like, like even that verse, I’ve seen people do these like sing a verse on my song. Yeah. And it’s like, oh, the verse challenge. Yeah. It’s great if that’s your thing. Yeah. But it’s like, I don’t wanna do that. But no offense, I just don’t think, I don’t, you know, it’s like I wrote this verse and it took me a very long time and I cried. I cried many tears and made much sacrifice for this verse. Like, I don’t really need to hear your verse . No offense, this is my song. You know what I mean? I feel, but, but if I were in a different context, it might be like, yo, resting a verse. . 

Ari: The managers are cursing right now in the, I see. The managers are arms folder.

Theo: I know, but it’s, but it’s like, I can see some tremendous artists I know in the room personally, and I’m like, I want to hear your thing, you know? Um, I’m sure there’s a way to build a creative marketing thing off of your thing. . Does that make sense? 

Ari: It makes complete sense, yes. Personally, I, I mean, I think the open verse challenge was a brilliant thing that that launch totally brilliant. We saw like 50,000 remixes off of one song that were these cool, creative, unauthorized remixes that really helped sometimes launch careers. But the beautiful thing about the current new music business that we’re in is like, you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to. If it doesn’t resonate or make sense with you, then definitely don’t do it. Only do things that resonate and make sense for you. Right. Agreed. Okay, cool. Thank you.

Theo: Thank you guys so much for being part of this.

About The Author

Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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