Interview with Rick Seibold [Making It in the Music Industry]


Today, we have a special guest – Rick Seibold! Rick has been the musical industry for a long time and has had great success in the tough musical industry. We will get to go over his ups and downs on how the musical industry works, particularly in the pop music industry.

Rick Seibold looks a lot like MacGyver, and often people have wondered if they are one in the same. As a solo artist, he’s toured the globe and charted albums on iTunes in the US, UK, and Canada, where he debuted in the top 5. Now an in-demand songwriter and producer, Seibold has collaborated with many notable artists, including Bethel Music, Rebecca Black, Katelyn Tarver, ‘American Idol’ winner Lee DeWyze and David Archuleta.

Key Notes

  • Rick does both singing, song writing and video production
  • Worked in various television/music places
  • Has lived out in his car a few times
  • Does singing/song writing for a great living – a great achievement in its own!
  • His biggest advice is to not go into debt for musical expenses such as equipment and software

Check out his awesome music by going to the links below:

Go through his interview to find out the ups and downs of a singer song writer…

The Interview

Interviewer: Where did you start?

Rick: I started teaching at the LA Film School a few years ago. I originally had been doing the song writing program, now I’m teaching the Business class there. I’ve been teaching the song writing curriculum there for the last few years

Interviewer: Prior to teaching in College, what did you do?

Rick: Prior to teaching in College I was doing music full time. I started as a  Singer / Song Writer and I toured country, put out a few records, and did the Artist thing for a long time.

Interviewer: Straight out of College?

Rick: Yeah, straight out of College I went to New York City. Before that I had interned at a record label and I worked at MTV for a little bit. So I had done that for a little bit. I lived in New York for three years and I was kind of doing the Television / Music thing. It was going really well. I wanted to make a shift to Nashville because I wanted to be a better song writer.

Interviewer: You shifted – Is it for country music?

Rick: Not for country music but I just wanted to – Nashville has this thing, where people go there, just by being in the atmosphere they become better song writers. I don’t know- like there is something in the water or whatever. Being in the atmosphere, being around great song writing, its hard to quantify being around so much great song writing, helps you understand how songs are crafted and helps you raise the bar in your own craft. So I wanted to be a world class song writer, so I moved to Nashville, Tennessee so i was there for a couple of years. I put on a couple of records while I was in Nashville and that was kind of like the start of my singer-song writer career.

Interviewer: when was that? When you were like 24 or 25?

Rick: It was like 2007, 2008, 2009 etc, something like that. So singer / song writer, touring, so I moved to LA because I loved pop music. I always loved Pop music. I always grew up with pop music, my parents listened to oldie stations, so I always grew up with this melodic pop music. So I moved out to LA, I kind of always envisioned myself being out in LA.

Interviewer: It’s the place to be!

Rick: Yeah. I grew up by the Beach, I grew up by the Ocean.

Interviewer: Where are you originally from?

Rick: Wilmington, North Carolina. Wilmington is right on the coast, it’s probably about 15 minutes from the Ocean. So I have been pretty close to the beach my whole life. So I have kind of wanted to be back by the Ocean. I love Nashville, but it’s just not close to the beach. It’ll always be a great place for me to visit but yeah, I love being by the ocean again.

Interviewer: Nashville, Tennessee, you went to New York. It was where Brooklyn?

Rick: I lived in Brooklyn for a year, I lived in Queens for a little bit, I lived in Manhattan for a year and a half.

Interviewer: Various cities! Then you moved to LA. Do you think LA is the place for song writers or musicial talent?

Rick: I think here or Nashville. Both are great places to be, London is great as well. But there are a bunch of different pockets where great music gets made. LA is probably the big- where all the best writers and producers are. If you want to write pop music, if you want to be on big records, here’s the place you have got to do it. I have just always loved media and pop culture and pop music and really wanted to make an impact in that realm.

So LA was kind of a natural place for me to go. It was funny that i even moved to Nashville. I was like man, I am never going to move to Nashville and I really loved Nashville. Being there for that couple of years, really, I just learned so much. but I am really glad that I am here in LA now.

Interviewer: When you talked about making pop music. What do you think, song writing in general. You’ve been to Nashville , you’ve kind of made so much music. What do you think needs to be in a good song, or what is the criteria that you think needs to be met?

Rick: I guess its just the way my brain thinks. The things that you need in a pop song are a massive amount of repetitions. You’ve gotta have fresh ideals, you’ve got to have something that hooks someone, you’ve got to have, well its like in anything.. Seth Goldin wrote a book called Purple Cow. Where he talks about your products have to stand out from the crowd. Its the same thing for music too. You have got to write something that stands out from the crowd. That also like grabs your ear or attention. So you need one or two unique kind of elements and then a massive amount of repetition and then a great sounding mix and that’s it.

Interviewer: So for you, when you made pop music.. how does the whole industry work? So basically you write songs, then do you give them to a record producer? How does that work out?

Rick: Most of the time I end up producing the stuff that I write on. Most of the time I end up producing whatever it is- Because I am also a producer. It happens all different ways, sometimes I’m writing with the artist, sometimes the songs will get pitched to an artist and they’ll cut them and sometimes I’ll product it, sometimes other people produce it and I’ve written it. After it gets pitched or whatever, there is just a whole bunch of different ways that it can happen. Most of what I do is working with the artist, and most of the traction that I have is in the TV and film world. So I’m writing stuff for television and film. Music supervisors will request the song or we’ll pitch the songs to them and they’ll pick it up. It happens a whole bunch of different ways.

Interviewer: How does the copy right thing work against people? I’ve seen people get in trouble, or get ripped off. You know how people go on YouTube, instead of buying your song, they will go get a program and rip your song or something. is there a way around or is it just the industry themselves fighting against that sort of thing?

Rick: It depends on how you look at the Industry. Cause I was born at a funny time, I am in my early thirties. So those of us that are in our early or mid thirties, we were kind of born around this time. Around when we were 18 or 19 years old. The whole industry is in this crazy kind of era where the 80s and 90s, or late 1990s the music industry was like a 15 billion dollar industry. Then in a matter of 10 years it lost 10 billion dollars.

So it went from a 14-15 billion dollar industry down to a 4-5 billion dollar industry because of pirating and because of the internet. Because the internet changed so much. And people got a glimpse of music for free, and they didn’t want to pay the costly amount of money that people were charging for music. It kind of returned to how it was. Music has always been a loss-leader. Except for a brief moment in time. RCA was a company that used to make stuff for the wars, and they brought a photographic company called Victors. So Victor recording was a label – RCA Victor was a label that started to move products. In the same way iTunes was created to move iPods.

Music was always a loss-leader except for that brief moment in the 90s, and they were making so much money and spending so much money and then all of a sudden the rug got pulled out from under everybody. So it was a really interesting time to be a musician. Because everything is changing so fast but it’s also really hard. It was great for the innovators and I think it gave me an opportunity to market my stuff in a really unique way.

You know- I was one of the first people to use Facebook ads. So I was able to sell a bunch of records doing that, marketing it really well. So even now, its shifting so much you know? It’s still an interesting time. Since we didn’t have the internet when we were kids. Now this whole thing is completely different. It’s just super interesting, kind of being my generation, we were the transition period. Now people that are 18 and 19, there is already a new guard, they’ve had the internet their whole life. It’s sort of settled, the dust has kind of settled. Its like a bomb went off in the late 90s and its like everyone was grabbing whatever they could. Just to survive!

Interviewer: They couldn’t handle the shift?

Rick: I don’t think the music industry handled it that well. I don’t think the labels could handle the shift. They obviously haven’t because there were so many mistakes that were made. I guess this is arguable but you know suing individual users or illegal downloaders for piracy or things like that. Just made the industry look- really bad. It wasn’t a solution to the problem, it was like a gaping wound and you’re trying to put a band-aid on it by suing an individual. In reality, when you needed to adapt, the ship had sailed. It wasn’t coming back.

As much as the industry wanted it too.. The mp3 was created and that was the future! No one’s going back to disc. They just want the mp3s, they don’t care about amazing sound quality. It’s funny, it was and still is an interesting time to be a musician, and an interesting industry to be in.

Interviewer: You mentioned you did a little bit of Facebook marketing. So how does it work? Basically, you have produced or written a song, and you have an ad that sends them to your page?

Rick: I put out records. I put out a few different records and I started using Facebook ads, when people would still click on them because it was so new.

Interviewer: about 6 or 7 years ago

Rick: It’s crazy how so much has changed. So I would just market stuff, I would push it to my Myspace page. Unfortunately, I wish I could have directed it to something else like a YouTube page but there was just nothing. You know, Soundcloud wasn’t around, YouTube wasn’t really doing music and you know, it was just not in the capacity that it is now. It’s just a different world now.

Interviewer: You don’t do much on youtube do you?

Rick: I mean if I had to do it now- If I had to approach the music Industry now I would probably do it much differently.  I mean, it was definitely, well my era of the music industry definitely lends itself to the innovators.

Interviewer: Is it the royalty from the music?

Rick: Youtube Ads, Brand sponsorships and things like that, people are making money off of that, or Album sales. Spotify, people are making a ton of money off of that. I have a few friends, a lot of friends, that pay their rent from spotify.

Interviewer: I forgot about Spotify, how does Spotify work? You put your music on and there and I know they run ads right?

Rick: Yeah they do, they also charge $10 a month. Which is what I do. According to who listens, they pay out according to how many listens people get.

Interviewer: Ohh, so instead of per view, its per listen. So this way Musician could actually make a living. Ten years ago this probably  wouldn’t have been possible. You could have the best voice and do covers- Are they letting people that do covers, get the pay per listen?

Rick: Yeah! You can do that. That’s part of copyright law, anybody can cover a song and put it out if they want. You can do that on YouTube, you can do that on Spotify.

Interviewer: Here’s the thing, you’re in from the music industry, and everytime I go to some sort of event and they do music or whatever and I ask them how they’re going. They say “its okay”- It’s gratifing who has done it before, and you’re now producing music. It’s great to hear it from your perspective and how people look at it like ” Oh! Okay Rick did it, and so can I”

Rick: Man, you have got to work so hard. You have to work really hard at this!

Interviewer: Tell me one instance or one story of what  you did and eventually you got it. Like when you graduated college, how did you get your start?

Rick: I hustled for so long to try to write great songs for TV and Film. That was something I really wanted to go for, I saw it as a way to earn income. It was a little pocket where people were making some really good money.

Interviewer: at that time you were just writing songs?

Rick: Just writing and doing my own artistry kind of thing. Making some really good money, and it was just a way to get some really great exposure, good resume and things like that. So something I really went after and honed in and learned how to do really well. Eventually that sort of broke wide open, and I have gotten a ton of TV and Film placement since then.

But yeah it took sloughing it out, year, after year, after year. Writing a ton of music, writing a lot of bad music and just figuring out what worked, you know? Talking to music supervisors and things like that.

Interviewer: But during that time did you have a rough spot? Where you weren’t making much?

Rick: So many rough spots, I pretty much lived out of my car- Twice! For like six weeks at a time. It’s funny the words that we used in the MITT training. I started music because I wanted to live with no regrets. I always knew that if I didn’t give it a shot or run after it, that I would feel like part of me had not given something a chance that I really wanted to do. So that’s why i started playing music. It’s funny when you start to get some success and you get comfortable, how you kind of rest on your laurels a little bit and you stop going for it. Something that MITT really did, was really kind of invigorate that feeling or living with no regrets.

I was playing Tennis with my brother last night, my brother beats me at tennis every time. I always play not to lose, I play it safe, but this time I was just like relax. I’m just going to play my game, and play to win every single time. So no matter what, even on the second serve I’m just going to try and hit, great, hard serves to him. For the most part I started doing that, and I hit the net a bunch, but you know I also Aced him a ton of times just because I was playing to win.

There is no other way to play. I don’t think there is any other way to do it without going 100%. You’ve just gotta be good, you have got to be really good. Some people are gifted with the ability to do it but even if you have amazing talent, it still takes years, and years. I have a friend right now who’s like blowing up, she’s got songs all over the radio and everything as an Artist. But she’s been slugging it out for ten or fifteen years, and she’s only in her mid twenties.

Interviewer: So she did it whens he was like fifteen or sixteen?

Rick: Yeah, I met her around when she was probably around fifteen or sixteen. But yeah man she has just been at it for a decade already. So it’s just hard work man, she’s been super talented the whole time. But it takes a good ten years, I think, to get really amazing at what you do.

Interviewer: So I guess the skill needs to be learned over time and consistently, right? It seems to be the reoccurring theme for anything really. So basically there is no magic pill for success. So the success that people see for whomever it is, I guess uh someone like Katy Perry, right?  I think I saw in one of her MTV videos with Travis McCoy then all of a sudden she had one hit single and then she became super popular. But prior to that we didn’t see her hard work right? She probably worked really hard between that, but I didn’t read much about it.

Rick: She put out a record as a Christian artist known as Katy Hudson but that was in her teens. But after that she signed to another label, got dropped, and somebody else picked her up. So she like went through the whole thing. She put her time in. There are a lot of people that are like that.

Rick: The biggest thing I tell people that are just starting out in the Music Industry is don’t go into debt. It will kill you.

Interviewer: How come you would go into debt in the first place? is it because of getting the equipment?

Rick: Yeah, you know because equipment cost money or just like put stuff on credit cards or whatever because you’re broke because you’re trying to make music for a living. relative to what you do.

Interviewer: Compared to like a standard job, you know how much you’re going to get if you get into the music industry. So is there a steep curve or exponential graph?

Rick: That’s pretty accurate. I would be making no money, there’s very few people- I’m in the middle class of the music industry I think, or maybe upper.

Interviewer: Compared to yourself to the bigger names and you would be considered like middle class? But if you compared yourself to the standard, you live out here. It’s great.

Rick: There are people in the upper echelon, making millions and millions of bucks. So the top percent. Because of the income gap because of this industry, you’re either making a ton of money or nothing. So maybe I am near the top, instead of being close to the bottom. It’s hard to even get to the middle class of it.

Interviewer: What do you consider Middle class?

Rick: Around where you can earn a living or sustain themselves off of their art. I have friends who have record deals and stuff that can’t even do that.

Interviewer: Why is that? Doesn’t a record deal mean you get paid off of royalties?

Rick: There are a lot of people who have record deals that have never made a dime off of their album sales, just because of the way the deals are structured. That’s a whole other thing.

Interviewer: So basically it’s the business that screws up the artist?

Rick: You can get screwed either way, who goes into shark tank and I want to give up like 85% of my business for absolutely no royalties in the future.

Interviewer: Is the desire to perform or present and share your creative talent or something like that worth it?

Rick: There are worse jobs to have. Being a creative is a lot of fun, i love being a creative. You know, i did get into to make a living at it. I didn’t get into – I can make a living doing a bunch of different things. For me now I just enjoy being creative, if I can do it through music, music is what I’ve been doing for over ten years. If I could do it, doing something else, I would  do that now too. I’m not as precious with my creativity as I used to be.

Interviewer: The fact that you were able to do it, is what everybody wants right.

Rick: You’ve gotta be smart, man, to do it. But if you’re smart you can do it, you can make a living at it. Definitely. You just have to be smart about it. you have to be strategical. You have got to have some business sense. I became good at the business side of things because I had to. The thing is, i would tell people is if you love music, then passionately pursue playing music. If someday you get good enough that the music industry starts giving you money to do what you want to do, people will pay you because they want to pay for music- then great.

Otherwise, becoming a full time musician has a ton of stress. Because you’re doing 90% to 95%- Well a lot of it depends on what you’re doing, but a lot of it you’re not really being creative. If you’re a full time song writer, then you usually have to write stuff you’re not emotionally connected to. If you are your own artist, you’re probably writing very little and doing a lot of connecting with fans and business stuff, just a whole bunch of other stuff that is not directly the art.

I guess I would say, if you love playing music, just play it. If it works out to where you do it full time, great, but I know a lot of happy people that have a great job because they became good at what they did in their job and they play music because its a thing they really love to do and they passionately play music and go after it and get better and they have this balance in their life.

It’s a funny thing when you’re trying to attach commerce to creativity, because you constantly have to perform in order to make ends meet. You’ve gottta pump out stuff, you’ve got to be creative, there’s this pressure to it like I have go to pay my bills with it or something like that. You can say it doesn’t affect it but it does. That’s no matter what level you’re on. Even if you have a great first record and you put it out. The next one is going to come attached to all this pressure, now people feed their families because of what you do, like your Managers or your Publisher or people at your label, whomever is attached to it. People are depending on you to produce and earn an income because they have kids too.

Interviewer:  Basically it doesn’t have to be an all-in?

Rick: If you’re all in, you’re going to go all in, no matter what anybody says. Then you go all in, those are probably the people that are going to make it. If you’re not one of those people, then find something else to do. Then just do it on your own time. You can tell when there are people that are wired to do this for a living. People tried to deter me, and say “I don’t really think this is for you”. Honestly I dont’ care what you think, i’m just going to do it.

Interviewer: Oh! This is a great topic, let’s dive into what your family and friends at the time thought. Since it was in college that you started, when was the time that you told them or let them know?

Rick: Shortly after. I had people that were close to me, around me, not many but a lot of them were really encouraging. I had a lot of people that were like “I don’t see this as you, etc.” and kind of you know, being too manipulative on their part.

Because you know, here’s the reality, man. I would never say I don’t see that as you. Anybody can be good at something after ten years of work. Look at Channing Tatum, remember Channing Tatum in step up? He wasn’t a great actor in step up. It was kind of cheesy or whatever, but you see Channing Tatum now in FoxCatcher, he was great!

He’s been doing it for so long, there’s no way he’s not good. He’s good now, you know? He’s probably not Tom Hanks yet but who’s to say he can’t get there? I’m sure he probably can, because he has gotten so much better. The same thing goes for music man, you get good by putting in the time. I would never deter anybody. If you’re going to do it, you will do it, if you’re not, you’re not going to. I don’t bother deterring people or encouraging people into it. You’re going to pick the path that you want. But for me music is not satiable. I had to do it. This is what i’m going to do, I’m not going to stop, I’m going to keep going no matter what. I sloughed it out for a lot of years.

Rick: I’m still a fledgling at the moment though. It’s just something I’m getting off the ground, just like the websites and stuff. So basically what I have done is I have sourced products from china. Here’s what i’m trying to do. Make money to design the lifestyle that I want. I want to be creative, I want to have the freedom to go do to the things that I want to do. Like investing in things on education products online, building out websites to launch courses or things like that. You know? Building an Amazon business where I private label stuff, order from china, then private label it and sell it over Seas or in America. You know to build residual income so that I always have income coming in. Like I said before the biggest thing is don’t go into debt as a musician or a creative.

I’m a huge fan of Tim Ferris of the 4 Hour work week. You know? Lifestyle design, he’s all about building residual income and building or doing things that work for him, so he has passive income. So anything I can do to create passive income. So for me I have a decade worth of material that I have created with my song writing career, and all that stuff can get leveraged for television of film. So at this point I am putting things in place to begin to do that. And nothing I have done is a waste! Even though its took years to kind of get to the levels that I am at now, and it might sound great, I can still go back and leverage and license out all the early stuff I created in my earlier years.

Interviewer: So for you, building the Amazon FBA business is one of the main things, so the music thing and you want to build a website where its kind of related to the online course. Then you have those three, so you just need one or two of those things to take off and then you have residual income guaranteed, then you can fund the rest. So what are you selling on Amazon?

Rick: Yeah, I sell products online. Equipment overseas, I do it in America, Japan and Germany. I have goals like how many products I am going to add per year. The thing is you can get one that pulls in $500, $1000 or a few grand a month. That’s one product. You can times that by 5, 10 or 30 or 900 like some companies are. Some companies are making millions of millions of bucks doing private label stuff from China. It’s relatively easy once you get all the grunt work out of the way. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of freaking work.  The truth of it is, it’s just a lot of work.

It’s hard and it takes time.

Interviewer: How did you come across Amazon FBA?

Rick: I came across it because I had a friend that did a lot of it. He started selling stuff overseas and he was like he found a product. It was a simple little product, he just went to a store and rounded up some stuff, and then packaged it, sent it off overseas and it sold out in a week. Then he was like, “Wow, this is kind of serious” So then he was like maybe I should find suppliers, now he’s selling tons of it a week.

So we’ve got a couple of products that we’re doing together and we’ll see what happens. Hopefully we build and we bring in passive income. So I can design a lifestyle I want to live.

Interviewer: What is your desired lifestyle? What is the lifestyle you’re talking about?

Rick: Deep down, I love being creative. The thing that I really want to do is to travel. Not in the US. I have been to 49 of the 50 States. I have been everywhere! I am a musician, I have toured everywhere. I would like to travel overseas and do that. I haven’t traveled a ton, I did a lot more when I was a kid but I haven’t in the last seven or eight years overseas. I would love to do that. I would love to create TV shows. I worked for this show Wipeout for a few years. Remember Wipeout on MTV? Wipeout is the greatest show ever.