Talent Buyer and Manager Thomas Cussins- Why Mistakes are Crucial to your Success

Thomas Cussins is the co-founder of Ineffable Music Group, a company which manages the careers of Collie Buddz, Hieroglyphics, Stick Figure (who is personally managed by Thomas), and many more.  Cussins is also the Head Talent Buyer for the Catalyst in Santa Cruz, CA, the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma, CA, The Cornerstone in Berkeley, CA, and the Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo, CA.  He also produces the Levitate Music festival just outside of Boston, MA.
We conducted this interview live from the bar upstairs at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, so there’s a little background noise, but you’ll get so many great lessons from this episode.  Thomas breaks down the business in digestible, detailed, and transparent manner, so take his advice and run with it.
Thomas also reminds us of the importance of taking chances and making mistakes.  Having achieved success as both a manager and talent buyer, Cussins offers a unique perspective.  This episode is a must hear for anyone looking to stand out from the crowd as an artist, manager, promoter, or entrepreneur.

Check out this episode!







Show Notes:

8:57 Never burn any bridges
9:58 Thomas isn’t afraid to make mistakes
17:13 Thomas explains what impressed him about Stick Figure at the beginning
21:05 How Thomas created his own position with Collie Buddz by promising him $100,000 in his pocket
23:36 Having a business mind and the ability to produce can set an artist apart
25:49 Thomas breaks down how his company Ineffable is structured
27:02 Why producing festivals is such a high risk
30:05 What makes Thomas easy to work with
31:35 How upcoming artists should approach Thomas to get on shows
33:09 Opening artists should always have something material to give or sell to fans at shows
35:00 The biggest advantage of being independent is that we can move fast and make quick adjustments
37:40 The most important part of branding is having consistent content
40:07 The one thing Thomas makes sure to teach people he takes under his wing
42:53 What Thomas would spend a $1000 marketing budget on when promoting a live show
50:00 It’s important to swing at a ton of pitches
55:09 Making money in the music business often comes down to connecting people
56:40 Bouncing back from failure is essential
1:00:02 If Thomas had a $5000 marketing budget to release an album, here’s what we would spend it on
1:01:39 Thomas’s thoughts on buying onto tours
1:03:31 It’s important to roll the dice and take chances

Creed Bratton- Never Stop Believing in Yourself

Creed Bratton is the lovable enigmatic old man from the hit TV show The Office, known for some of the show’s funniest one-liners. What fewer people know is that Creed also co-founded The Grass Roots, and was a huge rock star in the late sixties and early seventies.  For over four years, Creed and I have worked together very closely, traveling and playing shows all over the country, and I’ve been fortunate enough to get a rare glimpse into the real Creed, a passionate, caring, hilarious, and brilliant artist, father (and now grandfather), and friend.  I wanted to share the Creed I know with the Indie Playbook audience, so you can truly understand the commitment and sacrifice that goes into building and maintaining a successful career. And Creed’s done it both as a rock star and a successful actor, so listen up as he tells his unique story and drops gems along the way.

11:11 Everybody should go see the world if they can
11:26 Creed’s near death experiences
18:21 Meeting Warren Entner and starting The Grass Roots
21:35 How Creed’s vision and love for his art kept him from quitting during his toughest years
23:44 The moment a Rolling Stones song reenergized Creed when he needed it most
28:50 Why a fear of success can be more frightening than a fear of failure
31:32 What makes Producer Greg Daniels so special
32:28 Creed’s biggest lesson from working with The Office cast
33:39 Creed’s different income streams including
37:45 Why Creed considers Jeff Bridges such a great success
45:58 Creed starts each morning hanging upside down on an inversion table
49:30 How Creed maintains his energy and the benefits of fasting
51:00 Rejuvenating through Transcendental Meditation
53:45 The importance of note taking for high achievers

Check out this episode!

Journalist Soren Baker- A Love for Hip-Hop Created a Lifetime of Opportunities

Soren Baker is an incredibly respected journalist in the world of Hip-Hop. After years of writing and interviewing numerous rap legends, he went on to become the editor at The Source magazine, which was the bible for all of us Hip-Hop heads growing up. More recently, his online channel Unique Access Entertainment has surpassed one million views on YouTube. As you’ll see, Soren is also a true Hip-Hop scholar, historian, and fan. Find out how Soren’s love for Hip-Hop culture and rap music has led to amazing opportunities to pen books and write for television and films.

13:59 Why Soren stood out as a young writer
16:56 Soren always tried to make the story compelling about each artist, no matter what his personal opinion was
19:58 Soren explains why he should have tried to be more visible earlier in his career
23:43 Why genuine relationship lead to great opportunities
27:23 YouTube as a revenue stream
34:51 Why Outkast is the best group of all time
36:57 Why A Tribe Called Quest went downhill
40:43 Soren sets himself apart by studying an artist’s entire catalog instead of just the single
47:04 Being a good listener is fundamental to being a good writer
48:06 Writers need to make the articles about the artist, not about themselves
52:11 The importance of being diverse in creating revenue streams
1:08:25 The importance of follow through
1:14:48 How Soren sets and accomplishes goals
1:18:19 Soren’s advice for an artist who had a $5000 album budget
1:20:31 The value or lack thereof of a publicist
1:27:40 Soren’s dad told him not to take a job he didn’t want, which led to a gig with Rap Pages

Check out this episode!

Artist Slimkid3 (Part 2) – Trust in the Universe and it will Take Care of You

Tre Hardson AKA Slimkid3 is an MC, DJ, and Producer, best known for his work as a founding member of the groundbreaking Hip-Hop group The Pharcyde (Passin’ Me By, Drop, Runnin).  Tre is also a black belt in Taekwondo, and teacher of meditation and hip-hop. Tre discusses the legacy of The Pharcyde, and the important role of creativity in establishing their identity.

  • 2:01 We discuss drug experimentation
  • 9:19 The importance of health and exercise
  • 13:08 Tre talks about his morning routine and eating healthy on the road
  • 17:44 Tre explains his belief in the law of attraction
  • 20:27 Tre on setting goals
  • 24:40 Why people are afraid to take action
  • 26:49 Being the king of your own game
  • 29:00 Tre talks about sacrificing for your child
  • 40:45 Tre describes hitting rock bottom
  • 55:29 How Tre would spend a $10K album budget
  • 1:02:24 Why to start regional and build out from there
  • 1:05:15 Slimkid3 on being independent

Check out this episode!

Artists- Win a Chance to open for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Raekwon, Rakim, E-40, or DJ Quik & Scarface

Perform with one of the Greats!

Have you always wanted to perform with one of the greatest Hip-Hop artists of all time? The Adler Music Group and The Indie Playbook Podcast are giving you a chance to win an opening performance slot on a show in your hometown with one of the greats.

In order to be fully eligible for this contest, participants must do EACH of the following by September 24th at Noon PST:

1. Subscribe to The Indie Playbook on iTunes at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-indie-playbook-presented-by-focused-noise/id1281792473

2. Like The Indie Playbook Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/theindieplaybook

3. Post a link to ONE of your original songs on The Indie Playbook Facebook page, along with your preferred date and city of performance (See below for options).

Please note, only post ONE song. Additional submissions will not be listened to. We will notify one winner by September 25th at Noon PST.

For more info and to listen to The Indie Playbook, check out www.focusednoise.com.

Potential Performance Cities:
September 26 – Carrboro, NC (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
September 26 – San Antonio, TX (Opening for Raekwon)
September 27 – Ventura, CA (Opening for Rakim)
September 27 – Charlotte, NC (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
September 28 – Sacramento, CA (Opening for Rakim)
September 28 – Baltimore, MD (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
September 29 – Oakland, CA (Opening for Rakim)
September 29 – Richmond, VA (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
September 30 – Eugene, OR (Opening for Rakim)
September 30 – Reno, NV (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
October 1 – Portland, OR (Opening for Rakim)
October 3 – Las Vegas, NV (Opening for Rakim)
October 4 – Tempe, AZ (Opening for Rakim)
October 5 – Joliet, IL (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
October 5 – Louisville, KY (Opening for DJ Quik/ Scarface)
October 6 – Oklahoma City, OK (Opening for Rakim)
October 6 – St. Paul, MN (Opening for Raekwon)
October 13 – Seattle, WA (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
October 22 – Berkeley, CA (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
October 28 – Fresno, CA (Opening for E-40)
November 16 – Columbia, SC (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
November 24 – Norfolk, VA (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
November 25 – Silver Spring, MD (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
December 2 – Park City, UT (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
December 7 – Petaluma, CA (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
December 8 – Santa Cruz, CA (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
December 14 – Lincoln, NE (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
December 16 – Albuquerque, NM (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
December 17 – Tucson, AZ (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
December 22 – Cincinnati, OH (Opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)

*The contest winner will be allowed a 20-minute performance in their hometown (or nearest city). Cities listed above. There will be no guest list, cash prize, or travel stipend. Winning performers will be given passes to the show, plus two extra tickets for friends or family. The winner is expected to communicate tech needs with the production coordinator, arrive at the venue on time, and begin and finish their performance on time.  Must be 21 years of age or older to enter.

Artist Slimkid3 (Part 1)- How Clarity and Creativity can Help you go the Distance

Tre Hardson AKA Slimkid3 is an MC, DJ, and Producer, best known for his work as a founding member of the groundbreaking Hip-Hop group The Pharcyde (Passin’ Me By, Drop, Runnin).  Tre is also a black belt in Taekwondo, and teacher of meditation and hip-hop. Tre discusses the legacy of The Pharcyde, and the important role of creativity in establishing their identity.


  • 12:35 Why The Pharcyde signed with Delicious Vinyl
  • 24:07 How The Pharcyde linked with J Dilla
  • 28:40 Why creativity and a budget are both crucial in making a great music video
  • 38:26 Tre explains the importance of clarity in making music
  • 51:20 Tre discusses staying humble as a celebrity
  • 56:18 Slimkid3 explains why he can’t listen to any other artist’s music when he’s in writing mode
  • 1:00:44 The one piece of advice Tre gives young artists
  • 1:01:22 Tre talks about building a team and making sure everyone around him is taken care of
  • 1:07:29 One important lesson Tre learned from De La Soul


Check out this episode!

Bone Thugs-n-Harmony Hurricane Harvey Benefit + Upcoming Tour Dates

Bone Thugs-n-Harmony Hurricane Harvey Benefit Show in Houston

Upcoming Bone Thugs-n-Harmony Tour Dates:

9/26 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
9/27 – Charlotte, NC – Neighborhood Theater
9/28 – Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Soundstage
9/29 – Richmond, VA – The National
9/30 – Reno, NV – Lex Nightclub
10/4 – Houston, TX – Scout Bar (Benefit Concert)
10/5 – Joliet, IL – The Forge
10/6 – Las Vegas, NV – The Platform
10/13 – Seattle, WA – Showbox Sodo
10/14 – Portland, OR – Moda Center
10/22 – Berkeley, CA – UC Theater
11/10 – Boston, MA – Art of Rap
11/12 – San Bernardino, CA – High Times
11/16 -Columbia, SC – Music Farm
11/17 – Savannah, GA – Savannah Civic Center
11/18 – Chicago, IL – Arie Crown Theater
11/24 – Norfolk, VA – The Norva
11/25 – Silver Spring, MD – The Fillmore
12/1 – Los Angeles, CA – Microsoft Theater
12/2 – Park City, UT – Park City Live
12/7 – Petaluma, CA – Mystic Theatre
12/8 – Santa Cruz, CA – The Catalyst
12/9 – Sacramento, CA – Golden 1 Center
12/14 – Lincoln, NE  – Bourbon Theater
12/15 – Denver, CO – The Fillmore Auditorium
12/16 – Albuquerque, NM – El Rey Theater
12/17 – Tucson, AZ – Rialto Theater
12/22 – Cincinnati, OH – Bogart’s
12/23 – Rosemont, IL – Donald E Stephens Convention Center

Promoter Sean Healy- Can Artists Benefit from Paying to Play Shows?

Episode 2 features special guest Sean Healy, owner of Sean Healy Presents, one of the largest independent concert promotions companies in the country. SHP operates out of Los Angeles, and the company promotes shows all over the west coast, as well as Chicago, NYC, and more. Healy has also been a controversial figure, due to his use of the pay to play method, or as he prefers to call it “pre-sale tickets”.

We discuss why Sean’s business model works for him, and he names 5 superstar artists that have sold tickets as part of a Sean Healy Presents show. Sean also tells us about the times he passed on Kanye West’s release party and a Lady Gaga show early in her career. This is a beneficial episode for any entrepreneur, artist, promoter, or anyone looking to build a successful company. Healy doesn’t duck any questions, and answers each question with honesty and thoughtfulness. Enjoy.

Show Notes:

  • 21:19 How George Clinton got Sean Healy into booking hip-hop
  • 24:31 How honesty helped set Sean apart as a promoter
  • 26:59 When Sean passed on Kanye’s College Dropout release party and Lady Gaga early in her
  • career
  • 33:56 The importance of being professional as a young artist
  • 34:45 How Sean’s Pay to Play Model has evolved
  • 42:19 Five artists who sold their own tickets on Sean Healy Presents shows and went on to become superstars
  • 46:02 Routines that Help Sean Begin Each Day
  • 1:02:51 If Sean had a $1000 promotional budget for a show, this is what he would spend it on

Rakim On Tour

The God MC kicks off his 2017 solo tour on September 14th. Catch the legendary Rakim on a select run through the Midwest and West Coast. More dates TBA soon!

  • September 14 – Urbana, IL (Canopy Club)
  • September 15 – Milwaukee, WI (Turner Hall Ballroom)
  • September 16 – Omaha, NE (New Generation Music Festival)
  • September 17 – Kansas City, MO (Riot Room)
  • September 23 – Fresno, CA (Strummer’s)
  • September 24 – San Diego, CA (House of Blues)
  • September 25 – Los Angeles, CA (The Regent Theater)
  • September 27 – Ventura, CA (Majestic Ventura Theater)
  • September 28 – Sacramento, CA (Harlow’s)
  • September 29 – Oakland, CA (New Parish)
  • September 30  – Eugene, OR (Lane Events Center)
  • October 1 – Portland, OR (Wonder Ballroom)
  • October 3  – Las Vegas, NV (Vinyl)
  • October 4  – Tempe, AZ (The Marquee)
  • October 6 – Oklahoma City, OK (Tower Theatre)

Brought to you by Focused Noise and Adler Music Group.


Manager Steve Lobel – Part 2 – How loyalty, integrity and hard work leads to longevity in the music business

Steve Lobel is a legend in the hip-hop game. After getting introduced to the music business by the late great Jam Master Jay from Run-DMC, Steve went on to become one of hip-hop’s most recognizable managers. Currently, Lobel manages the legendary group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and super producer Scott Storch, who has worked with The Roots, Dr. Dre, Fat Joe, and many more.

Steve blesses us with a ton of great stories and advice, including lessons learned from Russell Simmons, Lyor Cohen, and others. He prides himself on honesty, and he does not back down from any questions, sharing very personal details and great business guidance. This is a great episode for any aspiring artist, producer, or future executive looking for more insight on advancing his or her career.

Part 2 Highlights:

  • 1:10 Why 50 Cent is a perfect example of success
  • 7:18 Steve started every day out with a Mountain Dew and Snickers bar for decades
  • 10:17 Steve makes a “Things not to do” list instead of a “To do” list
  • 17:14 Steve shares his thoughts about the rappers he knew who passed away
  • 23:35 Why Steve now takes pictures with celebrities
  • 36:11 Do emerging artists need to move to LA or NY to make it?
Episode 1 Guest Steve Lobel
Episode 1 Guest Steve Lobel