Ryan Stanley is a Professional Coach, Band Manager, Screenwriter and Independent Film Producer. A graduate of iPEC (The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching), Ryan is considered by many to be the leader in Professional Life Coaching throughout the Music Industry. Whether it's becoming a better musician, businessperson, and/or just living a more positive existence, working with Ryan will enhance your ability to take the necessary steps so that you will be successful in any area of life that you choose. I have to personally thank Ryan for doing this interview as well as the insights he has shared in our sessions.
How did you get started in the music and entertainment industry?
That’s actually an interesting story. I got into the music industry by writing a screenplay, this ‘buddy comedy’ called Miscellaneous Debris for fans of the band Phish. In an effort to connect with Phish about the project, I reached out to their lyricist Tom Marshall on MySpace. Tom had a band of his own called Amfibian. Amfibian was in the process of recording an album at Sonic Boom Studios which I happen to live about 15 minutes away from. Having recently met one of the engineers for the album through a friend in NYC, I was able to show up while they were recording. While the script came up in conversation, the vibe at the studio was all about the album that they were recording. (This album would eventually be titled ‘Skip the Goodbyes’ and be released by Relix Records in 2007.) Having always been a huge fan of music, I was extremely excited to be there and continued to show up for the weekly Thursday night recording sessions. Seeing the album progress over the weeks, conversations often turned to what the next steps would be. Having an entrepreneurial background, I wasn’t shy about sharing my opinion and asking questions about the best ways to move the project forward. After a while, it was clear that we had some synergies and I was fortunate enough to fall into the position of manager for the band. Through this business relationship, I also became close with Anthony Krizan. Anthony was not only the lead guitarist, songwriter, and producer for Amfibian, but also the owner of Sonic Boom Studios. Anthony used to play with Noel Redding, was in The Spin Doctors and has written with industry pros like Lenny Kravitz and Jon Waite. I began to spend more and more time at the studio learning about the business and meeting colleagues and clients of Anthony’s on a regular basis. Eventually, some office space that was attached to the studio became available and I knew that I needed to be around the scene more, so I put my name on the lease. I went on to manage several other artists that I met through Anthony and Sonic Boom. It was this time as a manager combined with the previous 10 years of entrepreneurship and business development which would eventually lead me to a successful career as a Life Coach for artists and others throughout the music industry. But that’s a whole other story (laughs)
How did you get into that?
Well, I found that the things that I loved most about management weren’t necessarily the day to day operations of business but more of the interaction and inspiration of the creative individuals that I got to work with. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always been a bit of a serial entrepreneurand along with that comes constant lessons in personal development and an inner quest to be the best that I can be. I once read a fortune cookie that said “Overnight Success is anything but Overnight” and this might be truer in the music industry then most others. So, part of my “overnight” success as a coach was recognizing that, after managing bands for four years, there were things that I loved about managing and there were things that I definitely didn’t love. I obviously loved the creativity and I loved being around music. I loved working with musicians and I loved showing people their true potential. I loved being there during those moments when through persistence, patience and perseverance the people that I worked with would end up proving back to me, themselves and to the rest of the world that we were both right and that they could enjoy life and be successful at the same time. That was a really big inspiration for me.
As far as things that I didn’t love, I realized that if I was working with a band whose music I didn’t absolutely love, it became difficult to go to all of the shows and to represent the band with integrity. Because music is so important to me personally, I felt unauthentic going to shows night after night where I didn’t love what was being put on stage. Whereas with coaching, it doesn’t matter whether I like the music or not because it’s not really about my opinion of the music, it’s about connecting with the artist and helping them to be successful in whatever genre of music they like. My opinion doesn’t matter. I’m not coaching people on how to play a better type of music, I’m helping them to focus in on what they truly want and deserve out of life. I then hold them accountable so that they can be successful at being whom and what they want to be on both a personal and professional level. I also had a hard time working with the occasional client who wasn’t as interested in their future as I was. They may have been extremely talented but if I’m constantly reminding them why they should want to be successful or have to show up to gigs on time it loses its appeal for me. So with coaching, clearly I only work with people who are interested in being a complete success. They come to me because they want to be the better than they currently are. I’m not pushing them to do that. It’s something we’re working towards together. It’s a partnership that we both feel good about.
In the fall of 2008, I noticed that I kept hearing the term ‘Life Coach’ over and over in a short amount of time and thought ‘that sounds exactly like what I want to do’. So I did some research and found what I thought to be the best Coach Training Program out there (www.ipeccoaching.com) and I enrolled. So to answer your question more directly, I just found all the things that I loved about what I was doing in management and got rid of all the things that I didn’t love. Once I got my certification, I dropped all of my management clients except for Karmic Juggernaut and took the necessary steps to begin gathering coaching clients.
What is a life coach?
A life coach is basically someone to partner with, someone for you to bounce your ideas off of on a regular basis. A life coach is someone whose main job is to help you get focused on the direction that you are headed and then clarify on whether or not you want to be headed in that direction. Coaches challenge you to be better than you think you can be and enable you to get awareness about what you really want out of your personal and professional life. Sometimes, as artists and individuals, we think that we know where we’re going or we think we know what we want. But we’ve never actually discussed it with anyone, or even begun to put together an action plan. Then we have this conversation with our coach. Once we begin the coaching process, which includes gaining that clarity and that focus, it feels little bit easier and we know what steps we want to take, and maybe some steps that we didn’t know that we were missing.
I think another benefit to having a coach is having someone to hold us accountable. Often, life gets in the way for all of us but when we have a coach, we know that “I’m going to be meeting my coach on Tuesday and I said I was going to get this task done. It doesn’t matter if ‘this’, ‘that’ and ‘the other thing’ came up. I said I was going to get this done. I know that he’s going to question me about it.” So we’re a little bit more inclined to get it done. The more we start to get things done, the more we start to move forward. The more we start to move forward the better we feel about it. Often, the more we feel better about something, the faster we move forward. It’s a positive cycle that has proven results. It’s also nice to have somebody to for the lack of a better term ‘cheer’ us on and point out our positive sides. Our inner critic can be so strong sometimes, telling us all the things that we’re doing wrong. So it’s nice to have someone on the outside who can point out, in an honest, personal format, the things that we’re doing right that it’s okay to celebrate. It doesn’t mean we’re done and we don’t have to continue to improve but we all deserve to feel happy and recognize the things that are going well. Then take those accomplishments, feed on them to perpetuate our journey and help us to continue our path towards success.
What are some of the most common issues artists have that you deal with and what are some of the sorts of things you suggest?
What most people don’t realize is that we’re all exactly where we should be for the life that we’ve led up until this moment. That may seem obvious to some and ridiculous to others. But sometimes people don’t realize that. They feel like “I should be somewhere else”, or “I should be further along” “I should be happier” or “I should be more successful”. The truth is that we’re all exactly in the spot that we’re supposed to be. So “common issues” really vary depending on your level of success or depending on what you’re really looking for in life. If I’m working with musician who already considers themselves commercially successful, sometimes it’s more about finding true joy in their life and whatever they are doing on a daily basis. When I’m working with somebody who’s not as successful yet, those sessions usually start off with more action items. Often it is as minimal as spending more time in the studio, finding the best backing band or finding the proper management/booking agent. But what I find in most sessions, even in the ‘action items’ conversations, is that goals like “completing my CD on time” for instance, might turn out to be more of “How am I spending my time thinking about this outcome? Am I walking around telling myself that I suck and I’m never going to get this done on time? If so, how is that actually helping you? How much time am I focusing on how much life can give to me as opposed to what it is not giving me? And then through these conversations and open ended questions we begin to recognize what some of those thought patterns and habits are, try to shift them a bit, and then we come back and start refocusing . “Okay now we’ve realized all those things that we could be doing differently on an emotional level. How can we now take that to move forward to accomplish these action items again in a more efficient manner, and allow ourselves to enjoy the process?” Does that make sense?
Absolutely. So, how does what you do fit in with today’s ever-changing industry?
One of the best parts about what I do is that I’m able to work with people in all levels of success and all areas of the industry. With the direction that the music industry is headed right now, I’m confident that we are on the verge of the middle-class rock star. Clearly independent artists have more opportunity to make a good living today, doing what they love, than ever before in history. If you can figure out a way to sell 100 albums a week online at $10 each, that’s $52,000 a year. Is that the salary of a millionaire? No. But can you spend 8 plus hours a day doing exactly what you love to do and enjoying as much of life as possible? Absolutely! And who knows where it will go from there. I think the biggest challenge for artists who are starting out, or who haven’t “made it” as quickly as they expected to, is that a lot of the time it can feel very alone.
When you’re a musician or singer, you’re starting a business of your own. So you feel like, “Here I am and nobody really gets where I am. I know that I want to make this music. I’ve got these songs in my head. I’ve seen people succeed with less talent then me and I want to be a success. But I don’t really know how to do it. I’ve heard a lot of different stuff out there. I kind of feel like I’m by myself. What the heck do I do?” So by having a coach, you’ve got somebody that you can meet with on a weekly basis who is basically your partner in your life. Having this partner to help you be as a successful as you can quickly and in the most efficient manner possible can only help. I found that a lot of musicians had never taken the time to come up with a clear plan. You can’t run a successful business without any plan. For musicians, in a society where music is often considered a “hobby” by everyone until you actually make a million dollars, it can be tough to stay positive about where you’re headed. I love being the guy that shows people the truth. That truth is: you deserve to be as successful as you want to be. It just takes time, effort and a clear awareness of why you’re doing what you’re doing, what is the minimum level of success you need to do this full time and what are the proper steps to get there.
For individuals who have already reached certain levels of success, artists who may already have management, record, and touring deals, my coaching usually becomes more about understanding where they want to go from here. What direction do they want to take their career? How do they feel about touring? How do they feel about the pressure of constantly having to create new music that their fans are going to like? Every person is unique and has unique concerns and challenges in their life. Meeting with a coach on a weekly basis fits into their lives when they realize that they thought this is what they ever wanted. “Just wait till I get management and I’m on tour and my albums are selling!” When that actually happens, they find that for whatever reason, (and these reasons vary all across the board) they are not has happy as they thought they were going to be. So at that point it’s just about having somebody to really help you recognize what brings you happiness and set up some action plans and thought habits to really bring that happiness into your life. All while still maintaining what you’re doing, still maintaining the career, enjoying the life and the path that you’re on.
Aside from talent and business skills what can an artist work on to find success in their careers?
Clarity. I think getting a real clear understanding of what their goals are. Where do they really want to be? If they woke up tomorrow and if it was the perfect day, if their life was perfect, what would that look like? I think that enough people get caught up in the day to day grind that they don’t really even know what they’re chasing after. They just know that they’re not happy. Unless you have a specific goal, it’s awful difficult to accomplish one. People often say “Oh, I want fame, I want fortune, I want girls, I want to travel the world” and all of those things are awesome but they’re not specific. All those things are on some level what you believe will bring you happiness. But the truth is, that when we learn to create the happiness within ourselves first, these other things begin to flow our way a lot easier and shortly thereafter.
How long would you expect it to take for an artist to see the benefits from having a life coach?
I’ve had some situations where literally after one session clients have a new understanding of how their life can be completely altered for the better. In general, I usually say it should take three months to really understand what the process is about. In the past I’ve found that three months is enough time to look back and see the changes that the artist may have gone through and to compare where they are to where they were when the sessions began. At that point they usually have some clarity as to how far they’ve come and where they’d like to go. I’ve had some clients who enjoy the process so much that we’ve worked together for over a year.
From your point of view, what would be a short list of tips to success that you could share with artists?
Again, going back to getting clarity on what it is that you really want out of life. Once you decide what that is, never give up until you get it. The only people who fail in life are the ones who give up before they succeed. So, I guess get clarity in what you want and don’t stop until you get there. Everything else is just living day to day and enjoying the ride. The most important part in all of those things is recognizing our power to choose. Choose what you want to do for the rest of your life. Choose to always be moving forward on some level, no matter what. Choose to enjoy the ride. It’s up to you. Believe it or not, the more you look for joy in every moment of your life, the more you’ll see it.
How are your sessions carried out?
Most of my sessions are carried out either on the phone or via Skype, so I’m able to work with clients all over the world. They are generally ½ hour to an hour once a week.
Ryan is a Certified Professional Life Coach who received his CPC from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). You can find out more about him and see what some of his past clients have to say by visiting his webpage www.ryanstanley.com. He can also be reached directly by email at Ryan@RyanStanley.com