David VS Goliath – S1 – Episode 13 – Neil DeGraide
This episode is truly going to rock your world. Today’s special guest on David Vs Goliath Podcast is Adam DeGraide’s brother Neil DeGraide from Dirt Poor Robins. As an independent music band DPR is truly taking on the giant corporate entertainment industry and winning! Neil shares his strategies, ideas on how he is creating his art and sharing it all at a budget that makes sense. You do not want to miss this episode.
Adam DeGraide: Coming up today on David Vs Goliath.
Neil DeGraide: Nerves mean that I’m doing something important. So I flipped the script on it. So, it literally removed my stage fright. I haven’t had stage fright in an eternity.
Adam DeGraide: In order to be truly loved. You have to be equally hated.
Speaker 2: Welcome to today’s episode of David Vs Goliath. A podcast dedicated to helping small businesses leverage technology to not only help them compete against their large competitors, but win. Your host is currently the CEO of Anthem Business Software, a three-time Inc. 500 recipient, and a serial entrepreneur with a passion to help small businesses everywhere. Find, serve, and keep more customers profitably. Please join me in welcoming your host, Adam DeGraide.
Adam DeGraide: Hey everyone. It’s Adam DeGraide with another fantastic episode of David vs Goliath. Today, I have the privilege of having my brother from the same mother on the show, Neil DeGraide from Dirt Poor Robins. He’s going to talk to us today at what it’s like about being an independent music artist with no big label, big budgets behind him and how you can create an audience of your own by finding your space. It’s going to be awesome. Today’s episode is brought to you by Anthem Software, where you can find, serve, and keep more customers profitably in they’re all in one software marketing consulting platform. Take the 120-second tour today at Anthemsoftware.com. You can also visit us online at Davidvsgoliathpodcast.com. There you can apply to be on the podcast, as well as subscribe to receive email updates on the podcast. That is going fantastic. If you’re a listener, you can listen on any podcast application.
Adam DeGraide: And if you’re a viewer or a watcher of the podcast, you can see us on YouTube, and now on Spotify. Spotify has actually ingested our video version of the podcast. We’re so honored that they did. Thank you, Spotify. So if you’re a watcher, YouTube, Spotify. If you’re a listener, anywhere else you can find us. And we are so excited to have Neil DeGraide from Dirt Poor Robins. Neil, welcome to David vs Goliath.
Neil DeGraide: Hey, thank you. Thank you so much. This isn’t our first time we met, is it?
Adam DeGraide: No, it’s definitely not our first time we met. And as you guys can tell, watchers and the listeners, they can clearly see that Neil looks a little bit different than I do, as far as the full beard. You are much more distinguished. Some would say you’re much smarter than me.
Neil DeGraide: No.
Adam DeGraide: But one of the things that… I’m sorry, go ahead. What were you going to say?
Neil DeGraide: No please, please. You’re complimenting me. I’m going to let you run for a little while with that.
Adam DeGraide: That’s what I was just going to say. You might want to do that. It’s been far and few between, right? Neil, you and I loved music our whole lives, we’ve loved-
Neil DeGraide: Absolutely.
Adam DeGraide: We grew up playing music. Our moms used to make us practice piano, and Neil and I were pretty slick. We would have this way of we’d practice and then we’d run over to the clock. We’d put our stairs up. We’d move it forward.
Neil DeGraide: Yeah. Yeah. Right. Yeah, we’d move the clock forward, yes.
Adam DeGraide: Yeah, and then dad had to keep buying clocks. He’s like, “Why can’t we find a clock that tells time?”
Neil DeGraide: It was a problem. Yeah, so the clocks were always wrong in our house, and it’s because we didn’t want to practice.
Adam DeGraide: Yeah. It’s weird.
Neil DeGraide: But, so who knew? My mom and dad always used to say, “Hey, you’ll thank us some day for this.” And, thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad. You gave us the gift of music.
Adam DeGraide: No doubt. No doubt about they gave us the gift of music. I always tell people, Neil, because as you know, I ran a record label in the independent world for a little bit. Mot as successful as my other software businesses, as you know. But the quickest way to make $1 million in the music business is to spend 10 million bucks in it. And I learned that.
Neil DeGraide: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s not a terrific industry as far as by the books. So, even when you look at like large record labels, like Universal Records, so they’ll sign 12 artists and only one of those 12 will turn the profit. And they have to pay for all of the other non-collateralized loans they gave out to the other bands. And so, very few people are happy in the industry doing music. It’s a very small percentage of people that are killing it out there. And they don’t even know why it works sometimes when it does. So, it’s an iffy business. I mean, with the intelligence people have, most of the time they do themselves a favor to get into a more reliable industry than the music industry. But it’s alluring, it’s kind of sexy to be a part of music. So people get sucked right in.
Adam DeGraide: And clearly with the mustache, it’s very sexy.
Neil DeGraide: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. What’s funny too, because you know, I guess we give a little background… you just gave a little extra background there with the lessons. I had totally forgotten about the clock we used to abuse, but one of the first things we had as a musical experience was my dad used to bring home records. And I think you’ve heard me say this before, Adam, but my dad brought home two records. You remember the two records he brought home?
Adam DeGraide: I think so. It was KISS.
Neil DeGraide: Yes.
Adam DeGraide: And then it was Queen.
Neil DeGraide: That’s right. And you got to pick first.
Adam DeGraide: And of course, I went with the KISS because I’m a marketer.
Neil DeGraide: You went with KISS. And I went with Queen. Well, I was going to go with Queen either way. So, it wasn’t even like we had to pick. We were just going to go our directions. And so, part of the difference in our two paths in life is that I think KISS’s motto is that they weren’t like every other band, trying to be The Beatles. They were trying to be Coca-Cola. So I think that you, the branding, the marketing around that. For me, I was more wrapped up in the cinematic, theatrical side of music, the emotive side. So, that’s one of the differences in what we ended up doing. And it’s interesting to see what you’ve done, because you’ve been able to hang onto music as… obviously, you haven’t put the time into it I have, but it’s still a huge part of your life.
Adam DeGraide: Oh, huge.
Neil DeGraide: As you can see behind you.
Adam DeGraide: Clearly. Clearly a huge part of my life and I’m actually looking forward to this weekend. We’ll be playing together for the first time of years. That’ll be a lot of fun.
Neil DeGraide: Yeah. That’ll be blast.
Adam DeGraide: And when you think about David versus Goliath now, you think about the giant music industry, right? Or the entertainment industry, in general. What I think is so interesting about your story is that, after the independent label thing, we had mild degrees of success. You stayed at it with DPR, which is Dirt Poor Robins.
Neil DeGraide: Right.
Adam DeGraide: And you have continued to refine that and find a space in a market that gives you hundreds of thousands fans on a relatively low budget for you to be able to produce and distribute your music, because art is so important to you. The music is so important to you, and talk to people about what that challenge is like. You don’t have the hundreds of millions of dollars in budgets like a Katy Perry would have, yet your fans in some ways are just as dedicated, and in some cases, even more dedicated to the brand. Talk about the music of DPR in the beginning, and how it’s evolved over time to where you are now.
Neil DeGraide: All right. Well, something that was kind of a side hobby for us for a while has turned into over a million million streams a month with Dirt Poor Robins. And that happened without really a market budget or a big budget. So everything was kind of done out of pocket and in my own studio. So when you and I started making music, I mean, we were in the recording studio when I was 13 already. And we were actually.. it’s long enough ago that we were recording and putting things on tape. And so, but I was hungry to learn everything from the engineers. I mean, a hunger to learn is really going to go a long way when it comes to an education. So, I would just drive the engineers nuts. I would ask them questions. I would try to re-organize their effects. And it was a problem, but it was also a good problem I was causing, because I was learning at their expense and patience.
Neil DeGraide: But we had to adapt a lot. So we started out in 80s hairband stuff and kind of on the edge of metal sometimes. Or if Kansas was around still in the late 80s, that was kind of like our sound. And what happened is, grunge came along. And right away, I had a little bit of a disgust reflex to grunge, because it was sloppy. It had more energy and it was a little rougher around the edges, which was cool. But there was something about it where I had worked on this pristine technique and it just didn’t have a place in grunge. But that was my first encounter with a major change in style of music, where it’s like, I’m doing one thing, and the thing we were doing was dead in a year, as soon as grunge.
Neil DeGraide: No one was signing any of these hairbands. I mean, we were super young, so it wasn’t like we were in trouble, but they weren’t signing these bands. And I got really curious, because I started to focus on my favorite songs and favorite grunge bands, and that new genre that emerged, what kind of opportunity it afforded me. And I remember, so I started wearing corduroys and flannel shirts and stuff and grew my mullet out. And people I was doing music with were making fun of me for the adaptation a lot of times. So it was funny because within a decade, going back, and those other people that refused, that just hung onto that disgust reflex by the new thing, they were still listening to the same stuff.
Neil DeGraide: This is not a bad thing, but the ones that stuck with music were music teachers, I think that’s a wonderful a profession, it wasn’t my goal. And that wasn’t their goal either. So, everybody had kind of settled into something less, just because they had this… oh, this new thing came along and they defended their old thing for the sake of the chance to grow. Now, grunge didn’t last forever either. So, that was great. So, there’s been probably about 30 times I’ve had to adapt my approach over the years, but it wasn’t a forced adaptation. It was something I’d learned about how to see the new thing for what it was and what opportunity it gave me, meaning that whenever there was a new thing that came along, it was because there was an older thing that was getting a little played out and the new thing was going to be… it had more to do with the energy of where people were at and also offered me something new and fresh to dive into. So, adaptation was key to get to this point. Now-
Adam DeGraide: Adaptation is the key. Adaptation is the key to everything, right? I mean, even in small business, if you’re doing something and you’re banging your head against the wall and the market’s moved on from that, you have to find that space that is yours, that people want to be a part of, right?
Neil DeGraide: Right.
Adam DeGraide: And I was talking, Neil, a couple of weeks back to was talking Neil a couple of weeks back to Jessica Kendrick. It was last week actually. And she said that she created her business out of a lifestyle that she wanted to have. She thought it would only be her. What ended up happening is other attorneys wanted that lifestyle, because she found the space, created the space, they wanted to join her in that space, and they did join her in that space. So talk a little bit about that. A little bit about DPR, and how you adapted, and how you found your space.
Neil DeGraide: One of the things that happened in the music industry when I got my first record deal and I was looking at record deals, people were spending from $50,000 to $150,000 making a record. So, as a musician, you try to find a producer, maybe an arranger if you had some stuff that was outside of your wheelhouse, like strings or something orchestral. So, you would have an engineer in the studio who would record and you’d have a mixing engineer and you’d have the mastering engineer. You had all these moving parts and you’d hire people to come in. Well, people are well aware of this, but people started pirating music, very easily with computers. And that really started to hurt the ability for musicians to make money who were dependent on record sales. And simultaneously, streaming started to gain momentum. And so, streaming meant that you were only going to get paid when someone listened to your song and it’s a very, very small number.
Neil DeGraide: So, that was tough on the industry. And so, a lot of people had to adapt. So, in my situation, because I wasn’t doing my own music full-time, I was working for hire for other people, is that if I was going to work with other artists was like, “Well, now I’ve got to be the engineer, the mix engineer, the producer, the arranger. I’ve got to learn all these skill sets.” And luckily I had a classical background. I had learned orchestration. I had learned a lot of these things over the years. So it was just a matter of picking up some of the engineering tidbits. But by the time you’re done, to make the same money you were making, you had to do five different jobs. So, it was an adaptation that was really, for a lot of people, was their way out. And then simultaneously, the other thing that happened in this industry is that one of the things that ruins the music industry is everybody is like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams. If they build it, they will come.
Neil DeGraide: And he’s got this baseball field out in the middle of nowhere he’s building and people just happen to show up. And so, I think a lot of musicians have that delusion that if they sign a contract, no matter what contract it is or any contract, that if they just undercut other bands by playing everywhere for free, by doing everything just for exposure, that that’s going to pay off for them. And it really didn’t. It just ended up kind of souring the whole industry where the middle class started to go away. There was this small number of high class artists and a small number of lower class artists left. And everybody in every town, every club could fill up just enough people to stay open just by having a band come in and play for free. So, people stopped paying.
Neil DeGraide: So it’s like, well, what do you do? I love music. So, I wasn’t picking music because I saw a huge career opportunity. I was picking music because I saw Van Halen when I was 13. You were there at that show and-
Adam DeGraide: Yes, I was.
Neil DeGraide: And some musical experiences I had where it was just like… it just blows you over and it’s like, “I want to be part of this. This is magic.” And so, yeah, I never wanted to give up on music. And it was one of the few things I could get up and do every day without having to force myself. So, I knew that was important. So that led us to kind of where we are now. So, in around 2010, we started making independent records on our own, on our free time, in between projects working on other things, I’d done some scoring work. I’ve worked on podcasts. And then worked with other artists. And the artists pay the least, so I tried to spend the least amount of my time doing that. But anyway, so what was fun is I unlocked something with our stuff, is that it was… I started working outcome independent, meaning that I found the reason that I was least creative when I was working for other people is because I would get distracted.
Neil DeGraide: So instead of focusing on the emotion and the heart in the thing that I had right in front of me, I was focused more on the audience. And there was a time to focus on the audience, but not in that moment, because what’ll happen is if you start running stuff by sort certain people, and music is so subjective, you’ll just be running something by two conflicting tastes of two different audiences. And you just get stuck trying to solve something you can’t solve. If your music’s going to be hard rock, it’s got to be hard rock. If you’re going to play a guitar solo, it’s got to be a guitar solo that someone who loves guitar solos would love. And that someone who hates guitar solos is really going to hate. You have to go for the fact that you can’t win everybody over and you have to be undistracted.
Neil DeGraide: So that presented me a problem in the sense that I would lose all my energy as soon as I would go to the marketing side of things. So, I had to come up with a plan, considering it was just me and Kate, my wife, who’s the other part of the band, working on this band, and with a limited amount of energy to market. So, that’s kind of how we got to where we are now. So, we were making records and things were climbing. Our audience, once we went full-time with it, we were able to go full-time with this band four years ago, our audience has doubled every year.
Adam DeGraide: That’s awesome.
Neil DeGraide: So that’s been really great. So, but we have new opportunities coming up now based upon new changes in the industry.
Adam DeGraide: Yeah. And we’re going to talk about those in a little bit. I do, when we come back from break, want to talk to you about some other fun things, a little bit about music. I remember some of the outfits you wore back in the 80s.
Neil DeGraide: Oh, no, no. You better not have pictures. As long as you don’t have pictures I’ll talk about it.
Adam DeGraide: No, I don’t. I do not have pictures. And I also want to play a track, a 30-second piece of your music as well, for people to listen. But stay tuned, everyone. We’re going to take a break from our corporate sponsor, Anthem Software. We’ll be right back.
Speaker 2: Anthem Business Software system is designed to specifically help small businesses just like yours, find, serve, and keep more customers profitably. We do this by providing you with the most powerful software automations and marketing services to help your business compete and win in this ever changing digital world. Take a short video tour at anthemsoftware.com.
Speaker 3: (singing)
Adam DeGraide: And we’re back with Neil DeGraide from Dirt Poor Robins. That was the quickest in the history of universe-
Neil DeGraide: That was amazing.
Adam DeGraide: … from his perspective. For you guys it was at least a minute.
Neil DeGraide: Yeah, that’s right.
Adam DeGraide: We are back. Neil, some of the outfits you used to wear on stage were interesting. Tight pants. Your hair used to go all the way down to the halfway part of your back. You used to do guitar solos over your head. I remember those days. You used to climb on chairs. And you never broke a guitar like The Who or anything like that.
Neil DeGraide: Not on purpose, but I did break guitars.
Adam DeGraide: I’m sure you have.
Neil DeGraide: Yes.
Adam DeGraide: You’ve also dressed up like the cast of Mary Poppins.
Neil DeGraide: Yeah. Okay, so-
Adam DeGraide: Dirt Poor Robins.
Neil DeGraide: Okay, so we got to reel this in a little bit here. So yeah.
Adam DeGraide: This is true. These are true things.
Neil DeGraide: One of the things about genre. So, this is helpful for anybody. I know we’re talking about music and I think that clever, self-starting people are going to figure out how what we’re talking about relates to what they’re doing.
Adam DeGraide: Of course.
Neil DeGraide: So, music has genres, right? Genres have key markers that allow us to identify those things. You might never think about, like, “Why can you tell the difference between country and rock? And easy listening and classical? Why do you know what type of music it is right away?” And you also have a picture of what the people would look like performing that. So, with the genres of music, it always… let’s just look at the 20th century. There was new technology involved. There was a new zeitgeist, meaning there was a way, a new thing, opportunity, that was emerging socially. And there would be new venues.
Neil DeGraide: So, technology, for example, like jazz. Suddenly you could adapt new singing styles, because you could amplify your voice, right? And things that would’ve never been used in the past, someone like Bing Crosby, who’s got that kind of crooner, smooth voice that wouldn’t have carried, suddenly the microphones allow this genre and these new styles to develop with the technology. So, you have technological advances. You have venues. So jazz was born out of the speakeasies and bars and things like that. Gospel music was born to churches. And The Beatles turned your headphones into a venue. And arena rock, or Led Zeppelin, and hip-hop turned your car into a venue.
Neil DeGraide: And so it’s like, there’s always a new place, like disco in the nightclubs. And there’s always a new way to behave and a new place to have that genre exist in. And then finally there’s how people dress and act, like you were talking about all those different things. So dressing and acting, when you think of the hippies, you have a specific look that comes to mind. You think of people that listen to… or went to a sock-hop in the 50s, you have a look. You think of Metallica fan in the mid-80s, you have a look that comes to your mind. And so that’s something about this intuitive way people like to brand and identify with things, that they will start to imitate the things that they love and are giving their attention to.
Neil DeGraide: And so, that’s an important thing to think about, because part of your brand and your genre as an artist, or I can think in anything, is a list of things you are and things you aren’t. There’s things that we never do to create our sound. We don’t generally get bluesy in Dirt Poor Robins. We don’t generally get jazzy. Although we will throw in some rag time, you know? So, we draw more from cinematic sounds and cinematic scopes. We draw more from, oh, that sort of Queen-style, glam rock, those type of things. But we will never go other ways. We’ll never be a straight pop band. And so for people that are fan of concept records like Pink Floyd and Radiohead’s OK Computer, and records like that, or for you, Adam, Operation: Mindcrime by Queensrÿche.
Adam DeGraide: Oh, Operation: Mindcrime by Queensrÿche, one of the best concept albums of all time. As you could tell, remember guys, I’m the KISS guy. Although, I really not a big fan of KISS, truth be told. But back then I was.
Neil DeGraide: Not anymore.
Adam DeGraide: Yeah.
Neil DeGraide: No, you were then. You used to wear the makeup.
Adam DeGraide: I used to wear the makeup and everything.
Neil DeGraide: You had the lunchbox.
Adam DeGraide: That’s right, I did. But at the end of the day, Neil’s music is not like that. Actually, Neil. Let’s play a quick clip of some DPR. I’m going to show two different clips right now for the audience. Number one, it’s going to be 30 seconds of vocals and then 30 seconds of a lead that I love, or maybe even a little bit more of the lead that I love. And then we’ll come back after that stay tuned.
Speaker 4: (singing)
Adam DeGraide: And we’re back. That was awesome. The song that you listened to there was, All There Is. And then the solo came from, It Tore Your Heart Out. Neil, this is fantastic music, and I got to tell you, I’m jealous. Because as you know, I play guitar and people on that watch the podcast know this. I can’t hold a candlestick to the way you play guitar. And yet, I’ve never been jealous. It’s weird. I’ve been envious, I guess, is the word, because I would love to be able to do it, but I’ve never been jealous. You’re just so talented and so gifted and an amazing songwriter. And man, can Katie sing, as well. One of my favorite DPR tracks by the way, is one that you sing and it’s called, Solemn Dream, which I’m not going to play right now. That’s one of my favorite Dirt Poor Robins song. And you sing on it. And every once in a while in the shower, Neil, when I sing along with it, I almost sound like you, but it’s not [crosstalk].
Neil DeGraide: Well, we never [crosstalk]. Yeah, well again, we had a different set of priorities.
Adam DeGraide: Yeah, totally.
Neil DeGraide: You were really interested in creating the whole thing with music. The band, the management side. You just had that management spirit from the very beginning. I mean, easily, if I look back multiple generations in our family, you’re our most successful entrepreneur on both sides, for quite a few generations. So, you’re the anomaly, which is weird. Your skillset is the freakish one in the family.
Adam DeGraide: You know what’s funny? I’ve never thought of it that way, but you’re probably right, because-
Neil DeGraide: Yeah, I’m just like everybody else mostly, and you’re the freak. I like you for that.
Adam DeGraide: You know what? I’ll take it. Neil’s artwork, by the way, visually is fantastic as well, too. I can draw a stick figure and I draw a little house with a little sunshine coming down off the side and my kids think I’m the greatest artist of all time, until I show them something that you’ve done or their mother’s done, or Katie, your wife has done.
Neil DeGraide: That’s funny. Well, it’s coming handy too, because I’ve been used on a number of people’s projects, or people have brought me in. our friend, Sean Wolfington has done this, and to bridge the gap between the suits and the artist, because a lot of times artists don’t understand the other side of things. Now, I’m not interested in doing the marketing business analytics side of it, but I understand the necessity of it. And most of that we outsource as a band. I outsource it to my fan base to do these type of things, to tell me what’s resonating with them and what they want more of, and let them, and give them the tools to share it in the meanwhile. So, you were talking about the visual arts, but that’s led us to… I brought another clip here for you, because we had COVID last year and Hollywood’s had major problems.
Neil DeGraide: So, Hollywood is right now going through something like I just described with the music industry where the… okay, so the proliferation of the technology. I mean, most of the software people use, you can get in your homes. There are clever people with 4k, 8k cameras that are just doing some outstandingly beautiful stuff. You have this development and more access for people with the technology. But Hollywood, unlike most industries, is the last to give up the high budget items. Meaning when they’re spending $150 million making a film, we’re starting to see companies like Marvel start to tank on their movies, that were reliable brands. And it’s going to be very difficult for Hollywood in the future, hiring these big name actors, hiring these huge budget effects houses, and to keep going and delivering to this massive desire for content people have everywhere.
Adam DeGraide: Totally.
Neil DeGraide: Every streaming service needs content. And Hollywood can they take years to put a movie out and it costs hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s a huge risk. And everything over the years has gotten cheaper. Music has gotten cheaper. Everything else around it has gotten cheaper. Even the TV you watch it on. I mean, I just got an 80-inch TV in my bedroom and that would have been totally unaffordable to us a few years earlier. And the prices just keep coming down of things. So, Hollywood hasn’t made the adjustment. So, as we do these concept records, I had this idea. I was like, “Maybe if I give myself the right constraints, there’s a way to crack in to what they’re missing. Like, someone can come and run lighter and faster and work quicker and do something that maybe it doesn’t have that same Hollywood gloss to it, but it has a certain level of charm. It could have a certain… But it could be just as emotionally captivating.” And so, we decided to do our latest record, which we’re releasing episodically as a silent film to go along with it.
Adam DeGraide: Silent film. So, just for the listeners and the watchers to understand. Silent film. When was the last silent film, of any regard, made?
Neil DeGraide: It was called This Artist. Have you seen that? It was beautiful.
Adam DeGraide: I haven’t. When was that? How long ago was that?
Neil DeGraide: I don’t know if it won an Oscar. It was definitely nominated. It was within the last decade, I think. Really great movie. It was about the… well, I don’t need to tell people what it was about. Anyway, that was made. But so, people have a bad idea of silent films, generally. Because you might stumble across one and you’re watching these old silent films and it’s… I use the analogy, I said it’s the same as watching your kids. Your kids are like, “Hey, we’re going to do a puppet show for you.” And they start the puppet show and it just keeps going and going. And you’re wondering when it’s going to end. And it has no clear plot line. So, we don’t have the attention span for what silent films were. And also they were performed with live musicians back then. So it was like going to see a live band with a movie, which awesome.
Adam DeGraide: Yeah, that actually does sound pretty cool.
Neil DeGraide: Well, so, I think that people can transfer some stuff. I can kind of explain why the idea had-
Adam DeGraide: Well, before you do that, before you do that, let’s actually… I’m going to show a clip right now, about a minute and a half or so of a trailer, or a little piece of the actual episode. For my listers, you’re just going to hear a lot of sound, because you’re not going to hear anything. It’s a silent film. You’re going to hear the music.
Neil DeGraide: A nice piece of music, though.
Adam DeGraide: It’s a great piece of music. But if you want to see, visually, what’s there, you can watch it on YouTube or Spotify. Hang on. Here’s the actual clip. Enjoy it. We’ll be right back.
Adam DeGraide: And there you go, folks. That’s the clip that we just showed. And Neil, you were continuing on. I want you to make sure you explain to people exactly how they can translate what you’re doing into their businesses as well, too, and how they’re finding their space and adapting.
Neil DeGraide: Okay. So, what I have in front of me is I have this thing, this Hollywood. And we know what Hollywood does. We know the movies they make. And it just seems to be… they seem to be in a losing spiral, because everything’s gotten politicized, too. Every movie is like a… you can see someone’s political slant in the movie. And for me, honestly, I don’t care about the politics as much as I care about the fact that it makes it boring. The characters are predictable. You see a certain character doing a certain thing, you know exactly what’s going to happen because you know the person’s political beliefs.
Neil DeGraide: And it’s just like, “My gosh, I’m wasting my time watching these movies and someone wasted so much money making it.” And they’re not doing great right now. So, I looked at that and it’s like, okay, so we’ve got a couple of different factors. We have expense like, “Okay, I want to tell a big story.” The story I have has space travel. Takes place in what looks like to be the Roaring 20s. So there’s cityscapes, there’s flying zeppelins, there’s rocket ships. The clip you saw was from the prologue, which is more like this fairytale introduction, and-
Adam DeGraide: Very cool. Very cool.
Neil DeGraide: So it’s like, “Okay, so expense is a problem.” All right? So, I can’t compete. This script on paper, if I give it to someone in Hollywood, it would be a $100 million movie or $50 million movie or something. So, that was not going to do for me, obviously. So, I don’t have the budget to get large name at actors. And I can do the music myself. That was helpful. Okay. So, but if I want to do something expressionistic, meaning that I’m not going to worry about the realism so much, but I’m going to worry about it carrying that emotion. When someone can just tell you a story with words and you start to well up in your eyes, or things can happen that you don’t need these massive array of computers rendering out realistic lighting on dinosaurs to have a great story. So, we solved the problem of expense in a very technical way. One was to decide to do a silent movie. That meant that we could have our music over it and not have it conflict with dialogue. So that’s huge, right? For us, when you want to have lyrics or whatnot, and you didn’t have to space the dialogue around it.
Neil DeGraide: Two, there’s, in a silent film, generally the cameras didn’t move. And I don’t think you’ll necessarily, unless you’re a cinematographer, you’re going to be paying close attention to that when you watch our movie when it’s done. And you don’t… it just feels like, “Oh, this is what’s supposed to happen.” So, and because the cameras didn’t move, we can make every frame… like, if you pause it, it looks like a painting. It looks like a painting in the way it’s laid out compositionally. So it’s something you could just take a screenshot of and put on your wall and it would look as great art. And so also, because the camera doesn’t move and we shot this all on a green screen, so all of that was shot on a green screen, it allows us to do the special effects, very, very inexpensively. Because now I don’t have to track camera movement to put these backgrounds in and changing perspectives.
Neil DeGraide: So, and also color, that was another way of kind lowering a bar again. Now that actually save money on costuming, because things don’t actually have to be the right color, they just have to not be green, so they don’t disappear in the background, so.
Adam DeGraide: That’s a good point.
Neil DeGraide: Yeah. There was one thing after another. And then so also, because the camera’s not moving and because I set up this giant green screen, all I would do is adjust the lighting to match the angle of the light in the shot, is that we were able to go very, very fast. So we only have a couple of people that were legitimate professional actors. A lot of people I knew just had the right look and a great personality and they could do it. And so, by using this new strategy of filming, we shot the whole thing over a very short period of time. And we used slogan, which was, “Momentum over perfection.” Which meant-
Adam DeGraide: Oh, I love that. I love that.
Neil DeGraide: Yeah. So it was always momentum over perfection, which was I noticed if we slowed a scene down, we were trying to get every little detail perfect, the more I would have to do that in the next shot and even more in the next shot. So people couldn’t just react. They had to think and plan, and it was bogging everything down. So with momentum over perfection, the whole idea was to keep the energy up, to keep people in the moment, in a flow state. That’s an artistic phrase I use, because when people are in a flow state, they don’t have to think they can just do good things. And so, we had this flow state going. We got so much done so fast, because everybody was happy, everybody was having fun. And I wasn’t nitpicking over tiny things. If someone gave me something, I would just roll with it and try to make it work, or it would spark a new idea that would make it better. So, momentum over perfection was a huge aspect of moving forward.
Adam DeGraide: It’s funny that you say that, because I always talk about how progress is perfection in your small business, right? So I like it. Artistically, momentum is good, right? It’s definitely getting you progress, right? Progress is perfection in business. Now, Neil, we got to take one more quick break. And then when we come back, I want to talk about courage, because it does take a lot of courage to step out and say, “You know what? I am going to create a movie that I think people are going to like to watch.” And I want you to talk about that when we come back from break. But right now we have another message from a corporate sponsor here on David vs Goliath. I’m your host, Adam DeGraide. We’ll be right back.
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Adam DeGraide: And we’re back for the final segment with Neil DeGraide, from Dirt Poor Robins, talking about Queen of the Night, a new silent film that he is going to be creating and actually releasing right now. Episode one is out. Where can people actually-
Neil DeGraide: Episode one is out.
Adam DeGraide: Where can they see this Neil?
Neil DeGraide: Well, in videos where you can leave a link in the description, they can leave a link in the description, it’s on our Facebook page if you look up Dirt Poor Robins, but also, more importantly, it’s on our YouTube page. It’s streaming for free everywhere right now until… and we’re leading up to a release of the full film. Trying to build up some hype and some money to finish the production. So, by rolling it out episodically, we were able to give people content right away, and at the same time, generate momentum and an audience so that there would be more people there to see the final product and also give us more leverage with streaming services. So, that’s what we’re aiming for. We’ll see how it works. I mean, you guys can follow us along in the process if you want to see what we’re doing and what it’s like.
Neil DeGraide: I think what we’re doing is going to be appealing to a much wider audience than just our music style was in the past. So, from kids to adults, because it is-
Adam DeGraide: I love it.
Neil DeGraide: … imagistic now. And the music has a context to sound the way it does. And so we adapt as a band. We always sound like us, but this time around we’re doing some older stuff. We’re drawing from the romantic period, classically, 1920s and 30s popular music and those sort of styles, and what you would’ve heard of in a score back in that era. So yeah, so that’s what we’re doing. And yeah, it does take a small amount of courage, but I don’t know. I’m not… I don’t think it [crosstalk]-
Adam DeGraide: Well, so hold on. Think about this, Neil. It is truly a David versus Goliath story. I mean, and for anybody who loves this podcast and loves small business, you got to find the local artist that needs your support and support them. And this is a great way to do it. Go watch Queen of the Night, share it with your friends and family. Get it out there. I was so psyched about it, Neil, I decided to become an executive producer on it with my wife, Crystal.
Neil DeGraide: That’s right.
Adam DeGraide: And so we’re pumped, man. We’re pumped about it. But it does take courage, Neil. See, you take it for granted. So many people, thousands of people right now, that maybe even are listening to this podcast, they have an idea, but they’re locked in fear of doing it and they hesitate. And I always tell people that hesitation is the death of an entrepreneur, and action is the life of an entrepreneur. Because at the end of the day, you’re just doing something, getting out there creates that energy to it, but it does take courage. You have to not only want to get out of bed and do something, you have to actually say, “Okay, I’m going to do this.” What is it, Neil, you think in yourself that said, “I’m going to do this. I’m not just going to make another thematic album, which I’m great at already. I’m going to take it to a whole new level, add visuals, and do something very creative with a silent film.” Where you get that courage from?
Neil DeGraide: Well, I think it’s been building up towards this. So, it’s incremental steps, because I hadn’t directed a feature-length film. And I hadn’t, well, I hadn’t done any of the stuff. Know? I mean, I’ve done some video work on commercials and I’ve always been interested. And I always felt like I could do it, but I think that… so, here’s my thing about life in general. So from a very young age, I lost stage fright. I figured out how to get rid of stage fright. And it was as simple as when you go up on stage and you have a nervous feeling, like your heart starts to race and your blood pressure rises and you feel butterflies in your stomach, that’s the same exact thing you feel when you’re excited to do something.
Neil DeGraide: When you’re at a theme park or something you’re looking forward to, that you’ve paid to do, it’s like excitement has a identical feel. And so I was like, “Oh, you know what? This is a good opportunity. I’m excited to be here. These nerves mean that I’m doing something important.” So I flipped the script on it. So, it literally removed my stage fright. I haven’t had stage fright in an eternity and that was one of the things. But that goes with everything. That’s like stress. I don’t process stress as stress. I don’t get stressed. I think of it as excitement, right? So, when things are hard or even when obstacles are in your way, it’s like, “Yeah, it’s a chance to solve a puzzle.” So, but if you’re telling yourself that I’m having these feelings and you focus on them in a negative sense, they’re going to suck all your energy, right? So, two, and when it comes to courage is that you have to understand… so, like you mentioned supporting local artists,. Go support a local artist. You understand don’t feel pressure to give into some weird artistic community where it’s like, “I don’t really get this art. I don’t really like this art. But everybody’s [crosstalk] smart.”
Adam DeGraide: Yeah, it’s got to be good. It’s got to be good art from your perspective.
Neil DeGraide: Yeah. From you. Who cares? Who cares what anybody else thinks?And it’s the same think when I go out to make music. Now, we’re not aiming at the lowest common denominator. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I’m like. I have no problem with people that do that. But, again, like I said for it’s like, “Man, if I’m going to do a ballad,” right? “I’m not going to make a nice one. I’m going to go take it as far as I can. I’m going to make sure that this song tears your heart out, or breaks your heart.” It’s almost like I want to break people apart and put them back together in the same song or the music. So, you want them to really feel something. So you can’t apologize. So you have to understand that like, okay, if you’re in a metal band, which I’m not, but if you’re a metal band, it’s like you got to make sure that if someone doesn’t like heavy metal, they don’t like your band.
Neil DeGraide: That’s a really easy… you don’t try to win over that person with your heavy metal. You don’t try to convince the person that loves Mariah Carey’s, All I Want for Christmas that they need to like your grindcore band. It’s stupid. You’ll spend all your energy trying to get people that will never be interested in you or never pay attention to you. So, you focus on the thing you’re doing and you do without apology. And you just… it’s okay. It’s okay if something doesn’t work. And it’s totally okay if people don’t get what you’re doing. Not everybody’s in the market for your product. I know some people have businesses that are really… have way more ubiquity than what we’re talking about here, where it appeals to like, “No, no, pretty much everybody owns a toothbrush.” It’s like, “Yeah. Okay.”
Neil DeGraide: So, but you still got to make your toothbrush stand out. It’s the same thing. So, when you look at the people in the world that are the most successful, you really, generally, mostly know them for one thing. Like, “This guy’s a great basketball player, great football player. This person’s the best, whatever, singer in the world. This person is one of the wealthiest people in the world. This person’s known for technology.” They’re known for a thing. And the school systems out here are trying to make well-rounded people. And well-rounded people don’t have the escape velocity to make something happen on a larger scale if they’re well-rounded, because you really need to put all your efforts into a thing. So you need to be more afraid of not mastering and going for something without apologizing than you need to worry about, oh, I guess being a well-rounded person, necessarily. So, all of the people that spike through are people that just go for a thing, they don’t apologize for it, and they’ll make you second guess yourself for not understanding it, before they’re going to accept that they’re going to get off their own course.
Adam DeGraide: Neil, I think you said it so perfectly, by the way, you told me this once. In order to be truly loved, you have to be equally hated.
Neil DeGraide: Well, yeah.
Adam DeGraide: And I think that is so true guys, by the way. So, in your business right now, and we’re going to wrap up, Neil, we hope to have you back in the future on DVG. We got to wrap up right now. It’s been amazing. Hanging out with my brother from this same mother, Neil DeGraide. It’s been awesome. And for the listeners and watchers, guys, think about it. Your business will appeal to a lot of people, but it won’t appeal to everyone and that’s okay. Find your space, adapt to the things and the situations around you, and dominate and crush your market. That’s what David vs Goliath is all about. Inspiration, education activation, right here on DVG. Thank you so much for watching and listening. We’ll see you next week. Have an awesome day.