I am a failed musician.
Years of practice, dedication, driving hundreds of miles in a night to play a gig on no sleep, all was for nothing.
Until I realized that it was for something.
My failed music career led me to owning a digital marketing agency that is growing at roughly 80% year-over-year. This article explains how this was the case and why it might end up being the same case for you.
Stories such as this are so common that they border on trite, yet at the time, I never would have actually believed that things would’ve worked out as they did. I just felt like my dreams were crashing and burning in front of my eyes.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
The Early Years – Digital Marketing and Web Traffic
Indulge me in the use of the wayback machine to revisit my college internship. For two years I worked at a digital marketing firm in Manhattan. This was so early in the web that we didn’t even use the term “digital marketing”—we described ourselves as a “web traffic” firm.
While it was crappy enough of a job to make me want to change majors from business to Spanish, with a minor in Italian, I did pick up a number of useful skills. One of these was a basic understanding of how websites work.
My Career in Music
I recorded a CD in 2006, and got a distribution deal through a subsidiary of Sony. The good news was that my CD would be able to get into stores and iTunes (which at the time was quite a bit more difficult than it is today). The bad news was that I wasn’t going to get much of a promotional budget and I was going to have to do everything I could to make a dollar out of $.15.
Since I didn’t have much of a promotional budget for my album, I decided that I would use the skills I learned in college to build my own website and use my minuscule budget for other tasks.
Since I had exited the world of “web trafficking,” CSS I become a very popular part of styling the web, but I had been so far removed from it since college but I didn’t even know that existed.
I built my site in pure HTML.
It was extremely rudimentary, a bit ugly, but it was a website. This was the site that promoted my CD (I eventually recorded three!) but more importantly helped with bookings for my group, Franco Olivo y Alto Voltaje.
We toured, playing festivals and clubs up and down the East Coast, as well as performing as the opening act at Citizen’s Bank Park, home of the Phillies:
Franco Olivo the Musician Grows Up
In the years I was most active as a professional musician, I was an unmarried public school language arts teacher with no kids. I had plenty of time to play, gig, and record.
In 2014 I got married, and my wife and I had our first child in 2016. At that point, my priorities shifted dramatically. Not only did I see no future in performing, but I actually felt guilty indulging in my passion for music when I could be spending that time doing something more lucrative or with my family.
This was when I brushed off the skills I learned during my college internship and founded web design and SEO company 12khz (this name was a marketing disaster! But that’s a story for another blog post). I later changed the name and I was off and running.
Simultaneously I enrolled and subsequently graduated from the MBA program at the Fox School of Business, Temple University. I wanted to give my small business the best chance for sucess I could.
Sagapixel, the Premier Philadelphia Area Web Design and SEO Company
At first, it was just me, but within a few months, the business grew and I brought on another programmer as an independent contractor. Today I have a staff of several programmers and SEO specialists and while we are still growing and learning, we as a team are confident we create effective, user-friendly sites that customers and clients can easily find.
When I started I had an outdated baseline of knowledge… but so much was available on the web that I basically earned a degree in programming and SEO watching Youtube and listening to podcasts. It’s amazing what information is out there for the curious to find.
We currently have a broad variety of clientele, everything from a one-man basement waterproofing company to a large urban law firm. Diversifying is essential not only for the purpose of casting a wide net for potential clients, but to keep current with marketing and web design skills. I imagine in the near future we will have to be more selective, but for now my staff and I enjoy all of our projects both large and small.
I credit my early years as a “starving artist” for the drive and tolerance to start Sagapixel from scratch. It turns out my dream did not “crash and burn,” rather, it morphed into something just as creative.
I like to think that I am still as driven, curious, and creative as I was back then – applying those skills to running Sagapixel scratches that itch in a way playing guitar never did. Sales and marketing, as well as being a boss, each require a certain amount of performance acumen and confidence – skills I honed working closely with other creatives and performing onstage and in the recording studio.
Sagapixel is the realization of my artistic vision today. My 19 or 25-year-old self would have been very surprised, but interestingly enough, much of what made me love as a musician enabled me to love digital marketing.
Word to the wise… if you feel unsatisfied, don’t stick to one path just because you decided on it in your youth. Let your dream or vision for the future grow and change as you grow and change. You will be glad you did.
Contributed by: Frank Olivo, Founder, Sagapixel