Marketing Success is Music to His Ears
Sitting under a spotlight, guitar in hand, Matt Schneider listens as the announcer introduces him to the folks nestled around the legendary Bluebird Cafe in Nashville one evening in June 2018. He does not soft-sell the talents of the sophomore Marketing major to the Friday-night crowd.
"Great singer, songwriter, guitarist. If you like artists like John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, I think you're really going to like the acoustic, pop blues style of Matt and what he brings," the announcer says. "He drove to Nashville today to play for you tonight."
Before launching into his folksy song "Wake Up," Schneider makes a confession to the audience. "He got one thing wrong," he told the crowd. "My parents drove me down here."
Schneider's parents have been vital to the already impressive success of this self-taught vocalist and songwriter. They've attended nearly all of his performances as far back as eighth grade, and by the time Schneider was looking at colleges, he'd already spent many nights working in bars, cafes and nightclubs.
His parents' support was key, but his natural talent for making music and marketing himself also helped. By the time he graduated in 2019, he had changed his stage name to Matt Waters and is performing his "groove rock funk-driven blues-based sound" with his band at over 200 shows a year—including opening for Judi Collins at Ludlow Garage in Cincinnati in 2018.
"You can do everything yourself," he says. "I had my first EP (recording) released when I was 16, and I did it all independently."
So it's no surprise that when he came to Xavier, he chose Marketing as his major. His dad said it would be a good field for him. So did Tom Hayes, Dean of the Williams College of Business, who recommended not only Marketing, but Entrepreneurial Studies as a minor. Schneider says it was the best path for him.
"The most influential thing that came from my marketing classes was a better understanding for who is the end consumer of your business," Schneider says. "The entrepreneurial class helped me step away from my business and learn how to find out if you are providing what people really want. Now I have an idea how to conduct that research with people who are my fans and learn how they can walk away from a show and know it was everything they wanted from me."
As a marketing major, Schneider knows that talent and determination alone do not equal success in the staggeringly competitive world of professional music.
"It's 100 percent who you know and how you luck out when you meet," he says. "And that's all about preparation and promotion."
Now Schneider is taking his experiential approach to life to the next level, relying on his natural talent for marketing and what he learned at Xavier. Hayes describes Schneider as "a sponge when it comes to learning about marketing and business. He readily applies all that he learns to his career. He thinks through every move and is very deliberate in his focus and strategy."
Schneider confesses his learning technique is different. But it's working. Schneider's second EP, "Easier Said Than Done," was released in October 2018, and his first full album of 10 songs is set for release in October. That's when he'll hit the road for a month-long tour of New England and the Midwest.
"I would take notes on how it applies to music, because I knew that's how it would make sense to me," Schneider says of his time in Hayes' class.
The approach also made sense to Hayes, who has invited Schneider to speak to other classes about his social media strategy and how he integrates the whole process across multiple media formats. Here's how "the process" works: Schneider performs a live weekly mini-concert on the online site Periscope with the intention of drawing new listeners to Twitter, YouTube and ultimately his website, as well as to Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and other online music sources.
"I have to leave this enormous trail and hope people can find me," he says.
As for the mythical big record label deal? That's going the way of the CD. But he hopes his steady appearances at venues around Cincinnati and other Midwestern cities plus his new album and tour help grow his fan base. The album, Few Words, will be available for purchase from iTunes and on CD and all major streaming platforms as well as at mattwatersmusic.com, Facebook and Instagram.
"A lot of things are happening right now," Schneider says. "Touring is a financially stable way to make a living these days because cds don’t sell as well and recording contracts don’t come as easily."
Hear more of Schneider's music at mattwatersmusic.com.