Graham Cochrane - From Food Stamps To Success
Graham Cochrane is probably well known to most of us who are into recording and mixing. His channel The Recording Revolution has gained a large audience over the years and now has over 376,000 subscribers. Which is pretty awesome.
Graham's journey wasn't easy though, having lived off food stamps and really struggling to make ends meet. He didn't give up and kept pushing content out every week and eventually he picked up a momentum and it hasn't stopped since.
In this interview, Graham tell's us how he got out of his struggles, his tactics and techniques to bring value to people, how he organises his days to be as productive as possible and much more.
The Recording Revolution is one of the most popular audio blogs today, but take us back to the beginning. You said you were living off food stamps at one point, but what kept you going with The Recording Revolution and were there any times you thought about giving up? Were there any specific techniques/routines you used to keep going?
I thought about giving up weekly! In the first year and a half, I wasn’t making much (if any) money from the site but I was pumping out 3 pieces of new content every week. I had to treat content creation like my job. I would go in Monday through Thursday (I’ve always taken Fridays off) 9-5 and create new videos and articles, answer emails, and interact with followers on social media. It seemed like pushing a boulder uphill (a lot of work without much result) but eventually that boulder got over the top of the hill and has been rolling down since.
Where did you promote your blog initially? Was it mainly through posting videos on YouTube and hoping people would see it, or did you have a specific plan you stuck to?
I would write articles on my blog (so Google would pick them up) and post videos on YouTube - every week, without fail. Then I would share the posts on Facebook and Twitter. Eventually, a few pieces of content got picked up and shared by lots of people. At one point I did an article defending Behringer and their products (since people like to hate on them) and Behringer saw my tweets, re-tweeted (which got me a lot of followers) and reached out to me asking if I would do an 8 part guest post series on their site. That was super helpful in gaining a new audience!
It seems like many people believe success should happen immediately, and perhaps give up too soon and don’t see projects through. What would your advice be to people who are in that situation where it’s going really slow and it doesn’t seem to matter how hard they are working?
You’re right - good things usually take time. And most people quit too early in the process. I would say you have to be committed for the long term. That might mean having a day job while you start something new - so there’s less pressure. You also have to look for other signs that what you’re doing is truly valuable. For me, I didn’t have any income in the early days but there was a loyal fanbase growing and I could tell I was on to something.
The phrase “being the hardest worker in the room will lead to success” is a quote that keeps circulating on social media. What are your thoughts on this and do you agree?
I would tweak it slightly. Anyone can work hard - but are you doing what’s strategic? That’s the bigger question. Hard work does pay off, but only if that work is the right kind of work. So I would say “Dedicated, strategic work that adds immense value to people - will lead to success”
Work/life balance is a topic that has been coming up more and more lately. Why do you think our industry has been prone to rewarding, or looking up to people who work 24/7?
Our culture simply elevates work above family and above life in general. It’s the American way. We build. We explore. We pioneer. We innovate. It’s a sickness really. And when you’re caught up in it, it becomes hard to break the cycle because you see everyone else #hustling and you don’t want to be left behind. But that’s all a lie. Hustling isn’t a recipe for success - it’s a recipe for burnout. Smart, strategic, work is what’s most important. And then being able to sustain that for years.
How do you structure your day to be as productive as you can be? Do you have any techniques/tricks you use to keep away from distractions such as social media, news and email?
I batch my days and tasks. For example, Mondays are Recording Revolution content days. That’s all I do. No calls, no meetings, no mixing for clients, etc. Also - I never start my day with email. That’s like waking up and asking a hundred people what THEY want you to do today instead of doing what you need to do first. Rather I get the most important thing done before lunch. I end my day with email - only checking it once a day right before I “clock out”. I also stay off my phone all day (till after work) - it’s nothing but a distraction machine.
Email list vs Social Media - what would you say is the best argument on why email is the best platform to use to grow your business/brand? Secondly, how can artists or bands use this approach to grow their fan base?
Email List by a LONG shot. For two simple reasons:
1) Social Media followers are like bystanders. They’ve only committed to clicking “Like” or “Follow”. They’re interested in you, but only to watch from afar. Email subscribers are way different. They are warm leads. They’ve given you their email address. A whole different level of relationship there.
2) And the big reason why you don’t want to build your business or career on Social Media is that you have no control. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter - they can (and have done this) all change the rules. It’s their sandbox and you’re playing in it. I have over 100,000 followers on Facebook. But when FB changed the formula 3 years ago, now only between 4-18% of my followers see anything I post. My web traffic dropped in half because of that. That’s scary. With email, you OWN THE LIST. You can reach those people no matter what platform comes and goes or how the algorithm changes.
The best thing artists can do is to have their website (and social) optimized to capture email addresses by offering something cool and free. This could be an exclusive track or EP. Or a behind the scenes video, or a live concert recording. Anything fans can’t get elsewhere.
You have been doing your blog now for many years and you have probably met the most amazing people through your journey. Are there any specific encounters that have had the most impact on you?
It was a strange and incredible feeling to be a guest on Pensado’s Place considering all of my audio heroes have sat in that chair - and Dave Pensado is one as well! And then any time I learn that a major mixer or producer watches my videos it’s humbling. A good example is Irko - he’s mixed Jay-Z, Snoop, and Pitbull to name a few and he loves my videos. We’ve hung out both here in Tampa and in LA and it always blows my mind.
If you find yourself in a creative rut, either with creating new music or videos for your YouTube channel, do you have any techniques/tricks that you use to get the creative juice flowing again?
Listen to good music. Go back to being a music lover and consumer. It puts my mind back in the right space. Also - when I travel I get a million ideas. Something about being trapped on a plane.
Which record or single did you hear last year that made you go, “Can’t wait to share this with my friends, right now”? Your reason can be because of great production work (mixing) or just a great song.
Foo Fighters - Concrete and Gold. Just a gutsy record.
For people looking to grow their client base, what’s the most fundamental thing they need to focus on?
Simple - serve people. Find a way to add value to as many people as possible. Give first and don’t hold back. You will be rewarded.
Thank you for reading and let me know if you have any tactics or techniques you are using that have allowed you gain more clients or get out of a creative rut, below!