How Josh Turned His Love Of Music Into A Thriving Business
Josh is a very successful and yet humble guy. Like me, he is kind of laid back and mellow when you meet him and he likes to enjoy the San Diego lifestyle: surfing, catching a sunset, enjoying a craft beer and listening to great live music.
The similarities end when it comes to music, however. I like to listen but Josh used to play- a lot. He has a true passion for music and would have loved to have been a rock star. OK, I would have liked to have been a rock star, too. But unlike me, Josh can play. Really well. But still, he came to realize his professional life was probably not going to be as a musician. So he went into other things.
Soon enough though, he realized he could remain close to music and make a living working with musicians even if he wasn’t performing. He found a sizable gap in the market for connecting musicians with venues looking for regular live performances. As a result of that, he launched The Acoustic Spot.
As a musician himself, he wanted to make sure the performers were taken care of and that’s a big differentiator in what he offers compared with other services that simply work to broker talent. He also wanted to make sure he was representing the very best performers and they were delivering as promised.
He started almost by chance but has quickly grown the business to the point where he was able to quit a great paying job to focus on the business full time and continue to expand it. He even got a buyout offer which he ultimately rejected, since part of his whole goal was to be working for himself, on something he cared about and not just be an employee.
I really enjoyed my interview with Josh and in my mind he is a great example of true entrepreneurial spirit and the ambition to love what you do every day while growing a very successful business at the same time.
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Listen right here:
Matt: Welcome to today’s podcast! Today’s guest is Josh Jose, an entrepreneur I have had the pleasure of working with for quite a while now. He’s got a very interesting business called The Acoustic Spot. Josh, let me just introduce you. Tell us kinda how you got started. Where the idea came from? What you’ve built? And kind of where you are now?
Josh: How did I start? That’s an interesting question. Well, I’ve been in music since 8th grade. First band was about my best friend’s. We played twist and shout from there at a town show. It kind of just kept going. Music just bit me. I’ve been one of those guys whose pretty convinced who wanted to become a famous musician. Over the years, I continue playing music, get really involved. But as reality set in, and just life, if you will, school. Just life. That happened. It got pulled away to different directions. The band broke up. We played all the way into our 3rd year Junior College actually. We did it for a long time, 8th grade to Junior College. We had some decent success playing for a good amount of people but life set in. the band kinda got pulled apart due to school. People moving all the way to San Diego from Santa Barbara. That didn’t help and I kind of really dove into sales. I got sales anywhere from spray canning machines to… I did professional organizing but sales is always the core of it. Got into a guitar company which really got me further into the music industry which I knew all along is where I wanted to be. About 5 years ago, when I was doing the bookings for a band back in the day, I’ve been always kicking around this idea and finally came the intuition where I came to a local bar restaurant where they have a live musician play and I just started asking the general manager about how they got their musicians and just kinda started poking around and realized that I can help them out bring some other musicians. I offered and that was kind of the kickoff. That was the brain king union. They gave me my first shot and allowed me to book Wednesdays from 6-9pm. But you know, first booking, once a week. It showed me that I can do it. And I got another venue that came on. So, I was doing 2 a week. It’s growing consistently to about 40-50 bookings a week. I am super happy about it. It was very natural… the way it progress… I was looking at working as medical sales as I was building it south which was the opportunity the way I did. But, I just got to watch this thing grow into a system or a community of musicians more than anything. I can’t believe for what it has become. It has become a community of musicians who really appreciates what we do for them and also the venues were really happy because they are getting the best musicians in town. Happy clients, happy vendors and I just sit at the middle trying to make sure everybody keeps that smile.
Matt: That’s awesome. It probably was a tough decision at a certain point where you got a high paying career, you’re doing well, you’re making good money, fairly stable, fairly flexible to your time, to decide to kinda switch to the business that you’ve started to build that was your passion but not nearly as certain as a career with a steady paycheck. How did you kinda decide what the tipping point was for you to move over and just say “Okay. I’m done with 9-5pm paycheck job. I’m going all in on the business.”?
Josh: Well, part of that was meeting with a guy named Matt at CapForge. Well, you help me look at the numbers and go “Hey! I actually do it pretty well.” So, that was helpful. I think I just always known I wanted to own my own business. I’ve made a lot of money for other people and I guess I kinda just came into the reality of what’s different if I just make it for myself? I’ll determine who gets paid or what from this and I don’t think was I ever questioned if I was gonna do it. It was just kinda of “when?” the tipping point was when I realize I woke up every morning and I spent 80-90% on the acoustic spot vs. my sales from the medical equipment. Since I kinda started getting to that point, I realized that it would be a pay cut but did I could’ve forward to make that jump? Yeah. No question. It was great. I did it.
Matt: Yeah, I think for a lot of real entrepreneur it’s always inside you. Whether or not you have the ability or the opportunity to make that leap depends on certain circumstances and things but sometimes you can’t control. But I think for a lot of entrepreneurs, it’s something that inside you. You don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to score on one of those Are you an entrepreneur? Test. It’s just there. It’s part of your DNA somehow and it’s always just a matter of when but not if. What makes your business, obviously you didn’t invent booking bands for venues, what makes your business unique and what makes you able to deliver a better service or a different service than what was out there? Obviously, you saw what was going on. You took your first shot. You booked your first gig. But, how did you develop a unique offering that allows you to be competitive and get as far as you’ve gotten?
Josh: People is first and foremost, I like to say this that we represent great people who happened to be fantastic musicians. That’s kind of Prereq no.1. Yes, talent of course. That’s not a question. What we’re going for is we’re going for people who are pursuable. They have charisma. They are polite. They respect the venue and the clients that they are working for. They’re just all around people that I would like to hang out. And I do. I do hangout with them myself and I think that something that translates to the venues. I actually receive compliments at all times that not only our musicians are great but they are genuinely good people. When you do that, I think that’s kinda the core of it. I met a lot of good people who aren’t the best musicians and in that case not really playing gigs. So, we got to have both there for sure but there are clients have the peace of mind in knowing that we take care of every aspect of their booking from initial “Hey! we are interested to the delivery and the load out of the musicians.” We’re just very cautious of making sure that we’re doing a good job and we’re doing it right. We’re doing it with a smile. I can’t believe it because that just the way I was raised. So, to me it seems very natural and like a no brainer but that’s the crazy part about getting older. You realize not everybody thinks like that. I guess that’s kinda of really delivering on how I was raised and turn that into a business with people that play music and that just becomes a beautiful thing. I can’t really complain.
Matt: No. that sounds like it is unique if you know most of the people in the business are simply trying to fill slots and going for volume and you’ve got what you can consider a premium offering where you’ve really taking the time to vamp the performers and make sure that not only they gonna deliver a great show but it’s gonna be a good all-around experience for the venue and the venue’s clientele and that people are gonna be respectful and come on time and do what they’ve been asked to do. That’s obviously gonna be a memorable experience for them and lead to repeat business which is a key to what you’ve got going on as recurring revenue and repeat bookings.
Josh: Yeah. Definitely. So, very thankful for that.
Matt: What are your plans for your expansion and growth? Where do you kinda go from here?
Josh: I’m at the next, fun, weird spot of needing to hire somebody but instead of taking that cliff for a jump and really do that, letting go of controls, one thing, the other thing is just making sure that you can commit to somebody and afford to pay them if they do a good job and pay them fairly. Nobody wants to feel like they’re getting a short into the stick. It’s really great now. I’m learning how to manage my time. It’s an amazing thing that I’m not so concerned about these dollars here and there as much as I know how much time is that gonna take me which has been a beautiful thing on recognizing which clients you should spend the most time with. As far as expansion, it’s really just kinda dial in San Diego. I’m almost here 5 years and I’ve got the thing working pretty well. just trying to string by a couple more processes and once I can get done, I like to be going to the other markets. Introduce our system of booking, the way we pay the talent, the tracking and the holologistics of it and provide people like myself who represent great talent yet need a little bit of help on the organization aspects. I think I can come in there and support them and provide them with something that can truly help musicians all the way up to coast and hopefully one day at Boston and just have a boat of acoustic spot agencies and some markets across the country that do what we do here in San Diego. Allow them to create a lot of opportunities for musicians locally then allow them to go to trusted venues with a trusted booking agents who they know is gonna pay them. They know how the process works. I’m getting way too far now.
Matt: Well, that’s kinda cool. The idea of a group of musicians that go on the acoustic spot tour so to speak and do 15 or 20 venues across the country and comeback and only ever have played at places that you’ve set up for them and have that, you know, everything would be taken care of. They will be able to spread their sound and performance pretty far and wide and be able to go there on audience but at the same time have kinda everything taken care of and set up and know that financially it was gonna work out for them. That’s kind of a cool vision. I think there’s nothing wrong with thinking big and aiming big. Even if you miss by a little, your miss is still pretty big. If you aim small, you may have achieved it. But it is much smaller than you could have done.
Josh: I completely agree. How I look back to what I started and where I’m sitting now, I just smile or “Wow! Wow! That worked!”
Matt: So, an interesting thing happened to you kinda of along the way. Different entrepreneurs face different times but your situation is maybe a little more unusual than most, you had a potential, or I guess there’s still possibly a competitor, moving to your space and kinda attempt to steal more over you. Can you tell me a little bit about of what happened there and what the story was? What the outcome was? How you reacted to it along the way?
Josh: Basically, when I entered the market, there was already agents booking musical around town. I just kinda found a gap in the market that I felt wasn’t being addressed and as history tells, it was a good choice because it seem to work well. But then, I had the interest of a new competitor who came into town, very well-funded. Money isn’t really an issue for them. It was actually their greatest strength. It is very intimidating kind of David and Goliath kind of thing. New company coming out who dropped $3 million. Before they even really entered market, I started with a $300. So, just a little bit of “Oh! Great” they immediately showed interest and actually buying me out just to get me out of the way and absorb what I’ve already done. It was scary. It was crazy to stare into a thing that could potentially take away everything I’ve been working. For more than 5 years, I’ve been working on the idea and the concept of the Acoustic Spot. It is probably my whole life, to be honest, how I get here. So, when somebody comes in out of nowhere with a lot of money threatening you or what you’ve built, it definitely scared me. Big lessons that I’ve learned from it. They made an offer which just didn’t reflect. I fill the work that I put in, what the potential is still is they just kinda have a different view on the market. So, I decided to not to work the other. They turn it to a much more serious competitor ever since. The lessons I learned from that is they made me really dig down and think about what I’m doing, why I do it? They made me identify myself. I kinda got lost in that daily routine of here’s my emails, here’s my checks – my daily thing. They pulled me out of that. They made me worry. They took me out of the way. I guess what I’m going with this is they just kinda slab inside the head and said “Hey man! What’s your strengths? Why you’re relevant? Why they’re not gonna steal all of you work?” I identified those reasons. I went out and opened 6 or 7 new clients within the next 5 months. They just kinda lit a fire in my butt. They also taught me what’s really important to me in life and what gonna come back to that time thing. I don’t know. Five million dollars vs. 1 million dollars if I have to work every single day and travel around the country and be away from home to make 5 million dollars vs. make a million bucks and I’ve got a life where I can take my daughter to the beach. I can go to surf. Take my wife to dinner. Raise a family in Southern California. That’s not bad. They reminded me that it’s not about the money, the lux it is about, the community of the musicians, and the lifestyle that has been created by the company. That’s what they did. They just made me more comfortable with what I’m doing. In despite their massive amount, I think I am still doing better than they are. I know I’ve been around for a long time. I’m gonna prove their brand that [inaudible 0:20:24.4]
Matt: Yeah. To go back to an earlier point, it’s very hard to put a prize on your willingness to do your own thing and to be an entrepreneur. If they had bought your company and taken over everything you’ve build and made you an employee of theirs, you may have had short term compensation or even some long term potential good for the community but you would have lost again the independence that you had in doing your own thing. And it’s very hard to put a prize on that. It made you stop and reflect and think about what you really wanted to get out of it, what your goals were. At the end of the day, there wasn’t enough money at least in their offer or to even come close to giving that up?
Josh: On the other sense, I’ve had one another, the second largest competitor in the market and they were filling me out, I mean, Right, everyone’s kicking my tires. The last 2 years, I’m always coming around trying to see what I’m doing. I’m requesting meetings. So, all I know is I put my head down and keep doing what I do when everybody else just keep up.
Matt: That’s something that… there’s different ideas about that but sometimes the way to beat the competition is to distract them with opportunities, not to turn out to consciously doing that. But, if you put your head down and you just do what you do and you don’t worry about your competition. You’ll probably end up being a lot more successful then, if every time somebody wants to have a meeting, you stop what you do and you go, you think about their offer and they distract you with this or that. They’re coming to you. You’re not going to them. Obviously, that right there tells you you’re doing something right. If you decide to do your own thing, you just keep doing it. Don’t let the distractions pull you away from your game.
Josh: Exactly. Like Mario Kart. You play Mario Kart?
Josh: Yeah. That was huge for us right? And then it’s like looking at somebody else’s screen when you’re racing, the more you look at your buddy’s screen, the more you’re running into walls. The more you are hitting stuff. I guess, that’s another analogy.
Matt: Mario Kart is a lesson for life. So, just thinking about where you’ve gotten to, where you came from, is there anything that you would do differently or you would go back 5 years and tell your 5 years ago self, advice wise or strategy wise? Things you learned over the time that you would do differently?
Josh: Yeah, I mean, if I go back now, we know what I know. I hit the ground with my full spirit. Now, it’s my story. It’s what I got. It’s how I got here. I don’t regret anything. The decisions I made twice you know a lot about the decision you make and how you react to the results of them. So, I’m not just one to ever regret something. It’s something apparently at the time I though was a good idea and part of the book there. If I could tell myself anything maybe “Don’t stress as much.” And like what we’ve just talk about, “Keep your head down.” Some of my biggest gaps or lows in business is where I take my head up and see what everyone else is doing. I’ve been always told myself the same thing. I think that’s how I’m still kinda do what I’m doing. There’s ups and downs. Sometimes you’re going up. Sometimes you’re going down. If you are down, just hang on. The ups are coming at some point. I guess I really felt like that when I started the business. I guess I felt pretty [inaudible 0:24:25.1] with a couple of outliers here and there. I am really happy for what I’ve done and how I got here and I’m really excited for what’s coming up next.
Matt: That’s cool. I think that is sort of similar of what I hear quite a bit is that the main thing that I would think about if I had to tell myself when I was starting would be “Don’t stress so much. Don’t hesitate. Don’t agonize over decisions. Just kinda go for it. Things will sort themselves out either way. But, spending all the time kinda worrying about what ifs and maybes and trying to make everything perfect before you start is generally kind of a waste of time. Just jump in and do it and see what happens. Fix it as you go.”
Josh: That’s a big thing, right? Everyone’s got great ideas. For all you know, a handful of them just actually put them into motion. Exactly what you said. Just get into it. Just start doing it. The more you talk about it, the less you’re gonna do it
Matt: and everyone gets sick of hearing about, right? They’re like “just shut up and do it already.” or “Stop talking about it.”
Josh: You could ask my grandma, all my parents of course. I always give credit to my parents. My grandma and I have this kinda special connection. She’s bailed me out financially several times since high school, my entrepreneurial process. But she always believed in me. She’s like “Oh, you’re gonna do so good someday. I believe in you.” I always look to her and like “Thanks! Thanks for the thousand bucks.” Now, we laugh. She goes “How this week?” and ask me about the private parties. Sometimes we get some pretty big one that come to our shows. She wants to know how much they worth, what the profit was. She is always so excited. She’s like “I always believed you could do it.” But there’s people whose years I talked off but I’m glad to say that it was backed by actual walking as well.
Matt: That’s the whole thing as to actually go and do it. Until that happens, there’s not really a lot to talk about when you start taking some actions. For people who are interested in checking out the business and see what you are doing, and who knows maybe booking some of your talent, where do they go online to find you and how do they get in touch?
Josh: Yeah, website is theacousticspots.com. There you’ll find a calendar of events that lists “quality”. I always have to say its “quality”. We don’t just book anybody. We only book the top 10 musicians in San Diego and book them at venues throughout the county from Carlsbad to Ranch Bernando. Down to Peril beach and of course downtown. In The shows, you were to find quality live music for happy hour, brunch, some late night sets. No take its. No covers. I love to belly up but sometimes you just want a beer and listen to a musician play music. That’s what we do. We provide an easy way with this as little as one mouse click to find something convenient to your house at a nice venue as well. Of course, we do private parties, corporate events. For those who a bit more involved, reach out to us there booking at the acousticsspot.com or you could always give us a call 619-800-0160
Matt: Got it. Do you ever get up on stage anymore?
Josh: I recently got married and played a song for my wife at our wedding.
Matt: That’s cool.
Josh: Outside of that, my public performances have gone away. I found a lot more success on my end behind the scenes and scheduling musicians who are much better than I to go out and play these gigs. You are not really gonna catch me playing.
Matt: Well, I was never a musician. I certainly enjoy music but nobody in their right mind would let me near in their instruments. I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me today and kinda tell us your story and share some of your lessons. I think what always struck me about you for as long as I’ve known you, is that you just kinda have this upbeat positive outlook and I think that’s awesome because business can certainly have its ups and downs and its challenges but you know what you want to do and you’re out doing it. That’s it. You’re not stressing about too much else and you’re keeping a good attitude. I think that’s a fantastic way to be. Again, I appreciate your time in talking with me today.
Josh: Thank you very much. You’ve been very very helpful in helping me understand what I’m doing as we grow. So, I appreciate your time and hope as well man.
Matt: No. Not a problem. I like to see people succeed. If I can have a tiny part from that, then so much the better. But I just like people live their dreams which is what you’re doing.
Josh: Thanks so much. You are as well. I’ve been watching you grow.
Matt: We’re doing our thing too. Yeah.
Matt: Alright. Thanks again Josh. I definitely appreciate it.