Wild dreams. Impractical hopes. Unreachable desires. Impossible ambitions. Crazy ideas. You’ve had them. I have too. That idea that you just had to tell somebody about but never got the reaction you envisioned, the “can’t lose” business proposal, the vision of your life that you would love to see. Are you making it happen? Is it just too crazy? Too risky? Too unbelievable?
“I’m going to be a rapper,” he said to me during our weekly one-on-one sales meeting.
I asked the obvious question: “You’re what??”
“I’m going to rap – I’m going to make music,” Robbie pronounced with conviction.
“Okay man. Good luck with that. Now go make some phone calls.”
As much as I appreciated his enthusiasm, I needed Robbie selling, not rhyming. And he did. He came to the office, made his sales, and generated revenue. He put in time each day, and then he went to his second job. In the studio – writing, collaborating, practicing – doing the work and producing. He focused on the dream and put some sweat into it, not waiting for luck and circumstance.
When I was 6 years old I was convinced that I was going to be a professional baseball player. At about 16, I liked my chances in life better with a job and a car than I did trying to be a professional athlete. And *poof* – the end of a dream. So when Robbie came into my office and declared his improbable desire for music stardom, I was surprised, confused, doubtful, amused – and positively rooting for him.
Flash forward to today. Robbie Gallo and Vokab Kompany have released two money-making albums. Garnering publicity and attention via their loyal fan-base and a growing support within the music community, Vokab Kompany have branded their unique, dance party, hard-rocking, slick rhyming, soul-singing, good times musical show. They pack houses, they rip stages.
The dream started small – very small. Robbie invited me to his first “show.” Robbie stood on stage with a boom box behind him and spit rhymes to a curious and entertained crowd. It was a gutsy maneuver, and a respectable effort for the first-timer. But Robbie knew that his dream had to grow, so he formed a partnership with local roots-funk band “Native Root.” The collaboration consists of singer Matt Burke’s highly stylized smoothed-out vocals, Robbie’s lyrical flow, and a full band with drummer Alvaro Nunez, bassist Aaron Cheatham, horn-player Jesse Molloy, Geoff Nigl on the keys, Karen Mills singing backup vocals, and Spencer Sharpe ripping the electric violin. They are a full-boat of talented musicians, creators, artists, and entrepreneurs.
If you’re keeping score at home, the dream-seeker list goes like this:
- Have idea you’re passionate about – check
- Do the work, even if it means long hours and loss of sleep – check
- Take risks and make yourself uncomfortable – check
- Find partners to help you grow your vision – check
Watching over the past few years as Robbie built a musical platform as an artist and entertainer, I noticed the parallels between the production, distribution, and marketing of music and the same principles of any business. A good idea is not enough – not even close. Your idea is as good as your ability to deliver a finished product to your audience. Music is an unpredictable and quirky business, and a tough way to earn a living. Getting started, the band maintains their day jobs, upholds family commitments, and manages a steady load of travel – and the business becomes that much tougher. But they push on through, hoping for stardom. Robbie shared the Vokab Kompany approach with me, and these tips work for any business.
1. Idea creation
“Creative thought can pop out at any time – the trick is to capture it. Always good to have a pen and pad close to you. A lot of people get a creative idea when they’re a few minutes from falling asleep. You wanna make sure you have something close to you to write with or you may miss a good concept.”
2. Marketing materials
“Whether that’s a shirt, sticker, or some other promo piece, you gotta get people to rock it – and you gotta give it out for free, but make sure you give it to the right people. The ones that are in “the scene” or go out a lot, or know cool things to do. Other people will ask questions and then you have your successful marketing piece. You also gotta be just as creative with your merch as you do your music. It’s a huge part of your branding and you want people to wear it or use it and be proud to.”
3. Finding partners
“We search and we follow up on every lead. As we begin to grow our brand the labels, mangers and agents start to take notice. They’re looking for good material too, and one of the main things I’ve noticed is they’re looking for artists that work really hard.”
4. Work your talent
“The format has changed, it’s not just about talent and you get signed. You gotta have a lot to offer – a good record, a great live show, and a hard work ethic. Keep building these and I believe it’s only a matter of time.”
5. Drive adoption
“You need to give people a little time to become familiar with the album. Most importantly is not to ‘rush’ the product or you may miss something that could’ve made that song better.”
And the crowd bobs their heads. Feet stomp, arms raise. Mic on blast, energy blaze. Earth shakes, bass pumps. Passion builds, people jump. Bright lights, electric sights, the flow, the rhyming, the quick steps on time and, the sound hits, the curtain lifts, the band stands, the beat drifts, take the stage, lay your claim, the fans rage, they chant your name! Dreamlike, unbelievable – and the hard work pays off.
I have watched Robbie and Vokab as they plotted this course, did the work, made it happen. I have heard the sounds of their team, each bringing their unique style to the art they create. Sacrifices have been made in hopes of success. Rest has been replaced with raging desire. The path to glory is in the willingness to completely commit – the willingness to Quit Sleep.
More Vokab videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheVokabKompany
Vokab Kompany on iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/vokab-kompany/id331619910