Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with VeraContent’s Carlota Pico and Ayaz Aftab Hussain, solopreneur extraordinaire:

Carlota Pico 0:13
Hi everyone, and welcome back to The Content Mix. I’m Carlota Pico, your host for today’s show. And I’m excited to introduce Ayaz Aftab Hussain, who is EMEA social media manager at a vitamin company and also a fellow podcaster and music coach at All About Helping, which he will tell us more about soon. Welcome, Ayaz, and thank you so much for joining us on The Content Mix.

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 0:40
Carlota, thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure. I love what you guys are doing. It’s really great to be here. Thanks.

Carlota Pico 0:45
Thank you. Well, the pleasure is ours. Okay, so I’m gonna break the ice with a marketing joke. Why don’t marketers like trampolines, Ayaz?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 0:55
Oh, okay, hit me hit me.

Carlota Pico 0:57
Okay, because they’re scared of high bounce rates!

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 1:00
Not bad, not bad.

Carlota Pico 1:03
It’s such a dad joke, but I love it. Okay.

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 1:06
Definitely a dad joke.

Carlota Pico 1:08
Now, Ayaz, tell me more about yourself. How did you get into marketing and what’s All About Helping about?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 1:15
Sure, sure. Okay, so in a nutshell, I am a solopreneur. So I run a YouTube channel and a small marketing agency designed to help rappers, producers, singers, DJs, songwriters, any type of creative market their music effectively. And All About Helping actually stems from my full name—Ayaz Aftab Hussain—All About Helping. It’s my grandfather, his name was Aftab, so I’ve channeled my whole company around him. And really what I try to do is reach out to record labels, management…reach out to PR companies and say, “Hey, I’ll run your Facebook and Instagram ads for you.” If you’re launching a headline tour, your very first album, if you launching any type of high impact activation, your first t-shirt line, let me help you, because there’s plenty of money leaving on the table. There’s pixel retargeting. There’s so many ways we can get your ideal customer to find your music. And that’s really what I’m all about.

Carlota Pico 2:17
Okay, so you’re all about music. How did you get into this industry? I’m assuming that it has something to do with your former role as a DJ or…?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 2:25
Exactly that, yeah, just as long as I could remember, just being a young kid, a teenager in my early 20s just wanting to break into the music industry. And I think once upon a time, I wanted to become a full time professional DJ. I quickly realized that lifestyle wasn’t for me. And you know, I learned from companies like Ministry of Sound, Grime Daily, Sony Music. I’m very, very fortunate to work for some of these guys. I’ve sponged up everything I could in terms of how they leverage their social media. I iemember, Jamal Edwards from SBTV, he would interrupt a board meeting to tell me on text message, “Bro. You made a comma mistake in that tweet, take it down and repost it.” And that attention to detail opened my brain up to how social media is meant to work for your fans, for your music listeners. And that’s where all the passion came from, from other people channeled through me.

Carlota Pico 3:22
Okay, wow. Well as a social media manager by day and a podcaster, and music coach by night, what transferable skills or lessons have you acquired from your day job that help you to excel at your night job as a podcast or music coach?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 3:40
Interestingly, I think it’s the other way around. So I think when new technologies come out, I can test them first in All About Helping. When Instagram Reels dropped, when you know, any new technology comes out, like TikTok, I can test myself and then present evidence in a team meeting or in a boardroom, how…what evidence I have—I’ve done experiments, these are results I saw, we should be doing this for brand. And I think in terms of transferable skills, because I’m very lucky to work in an industry that I do for fun, it doesn’t feel at work. So the transferable skill is the evidence that I can present—I know my stuff inside and out, because I live and breathe the social media for young musicians.

Carlota Pico 4:25
Wow. Okay. So basically, you’re testing out products across your social media channels through your night job, and then you’re applying those lessons to your day job.

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 4:38
100%. So if someone ever asked, “Oh, should we be on TikTok?” I haven’t just got articles, I’ve got real validation, what’s gonna work, what’s not gonna work. How are we going to adapt the strategy based on…I’ve done the mistakes so the brand doesn’t have to, you know, I’ve done the testing and learning first.

Carlota Pico 4:57
Right. Okay, so we are going to talk about what works and what doesn’t work, obviously, because those are major lessons and tips and advice that we can all learn from. So technology has brought the world to our footsteps. And now with COVID-19, everyone is competing for voice online, which means that competition is more fierce than ever. What advice you have for young musicians on a low budget who are struggling to find an audience online?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 5:26
Okay, that’s a good question. I think audience personas comes to mind a little bit. So I would—on a whiteboard, on a notice board, Excel—I would draw out my perfect customer. So I call one of them Benny, and the other one I call them Kelly. And I would write down everything I can imagine about this persona. So, their age, what bands they like, what singers they love, what websites they browse, what clothes they buy, and every time I was thinking of writing a caption or posting an imag—Would Benny like this? Would Kelly like this? And if you always have that customer in mind, and every move is predicated on, they’re going to enjoy this, it doesn’t feel inauthentic, then you can’t really take a step wrong. So for any entry-level artist, rather than talking to everyone, talk to Benny and talk to Kelly. That’s the best place to begin.

Carlota Pico 6:22
Okay, but then how do you talk to Benny? And how do you talk to Kelly? How do you actually tap into that particular audience?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 6:29
So rather than saying a loose rhetorical phrase, like “Check out my new single now!” you say something more appropriate and tonality wise you’d say, “This song is absolutely perfect for driving late at night with the windows down and your love of your life by your side,”; “This is the song you want to fall asleep to.” That type of caption writing is definitely going to capture someone’s attention more than “Check it out now.”

Carlota Pico 6:59
Oh I love that!

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 6:59
There’s a subtlety to it.

Carlota Pico 7:01
Yeah, no, I love that. Okay, awesome. What about distribution channels? Should they also be pushing the same message out across all their different channels? Or should they be like tweaking it according to different personas across Instagram, across LinkedIn, across Twitter, etc?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 7:15
Exactly, you hit the nail on the head. So there’s almost not a different persona, but a different tactic for how you speak to people in different places. So, Twitter is a great example, you might want to either break up your message over multiple tweets, LinkedIn, you might want to add a more professional edge. But most artists, unfortunately are focusing on Instagram only. And I’m on a big mission to try and teach people you’re leaving fans on the table if you ignore your other channels. So while Facebook may not be “working,”—inverted commas—like it used to, we all still have great fan bases that we are ignoring—they’re laying dormant that we’re not speaking to them. That’s not Facebook’s fault. That’s our fault. We have to take accountability that just because something’s not delivering results, we have to take the blame that my caption wasn’t entertaining enough, my content wasn’t thumb stopping enough, my content wasn’t gripping for someone to listen to, we have to take the blame. And that’s what artists need to do for themselves is be ready for some failures in order to achieve that success later.

Carlota Pico 8:23
Failures are definitely learning lessons as well. So rather than failures, I like to pitch them as a lesson learned. Okay, been there done that. Moving on to the next thing and seeing how that’s going to work as well.

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 8:33
Agreed! Fully agreed. The reason I sometimes say trial and experiment is because you can’t just say I’m giving up and putting it to bed. You have to try it 38 times for that one time it will be successful. No, just one and done. You know what I mean?

Carlota Pico 8:51
Definitely, definitely. Okay, so what are your thoughts on TikTok, for example? How can young artists leverage TikTok?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 8:58
Oh, it’s genius. It’s absolutely genius. The number one thing you should not do is only focus on yourself. What you should instead do is look at and research what is everybody else doing. If you find a trending song that is hot right now, you need to create some content, look at what the technical dance is, or the lip synching or the action or whatever movement is required for that song, and find a way to do that for yourself. So whether it’s digital marketing, or whether it is dancing or singing, there are millions of hashtags with millions of other people doing a synchronized movement. You have to be a part of that community, rather than just trying to do what you would like to sing, what you would like to dance. And when you find the recipe that works, the hashtags just work in your favor, and you accelerate. It’s absolutely crazy.

Carlota Pico 9:57
Ayaz, so there’s a bit of psychology, there’s a psychology component in marketing and in finding your right audience and actually attracting that audience to your brand, right? Because you kind of have to like think like think, instead of thinking of what you want to listen or what you want to consume, you have to think about why you’re audience would want to consume your content verses your competitors content.

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 10:19
100%. I think it’s that selfishness that cripples brands and altruistic brands succeed. Everyone who’s giving more than they’re taking are always going to win.

Carlota Pico 10:31
Okay, so on that note, what brands do you think are disrupting the market right now? And why? What do they bring to the table that makes them stand out?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 10:38
One of my favorite, kind of campaigns ever, is the Spotify end of year statistics. I don’t know if you’ve seen that. They call it the Wrapped—2019 Wrapped, they call it. And they give every artist the opportunity to download their metrics as an Instagram story or as a square. And so people post you know their net streams, the number of hours people listened, the number of fans they have, the number of countries. And it becomes a almost fear of missing out if you don’t post your stats, because every artist is posting their stats. And most people were being super grateful: “Oh, I’ve achieved this many results.” I saw it as an opportunity that people were giving me their data, so I pitched to every single person sharing their data: “Here’s how I can help you improve your number of streams for next year.” And I had a very successful quarter in beginning of this year, because I was…had the data to arm myself with the pitch and customize based on that artist data. I was able to do a lot more business that month.

Carlota Pico 11:45
Oh, congratulations on that. Of course.

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 11:47
Thank you. It was a good month.

Carlota Pico 11:48
Yeah, everybody loves a good month, right? We all want a good month! Okay, Ayaz, let’s say that you have 20,000 euros a month to spend on social media. What would you spend it on and why?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 12:01
Okay, fine, I’d split it into thirds.

Carlota Pico 12:04

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 12:04
Let’s do six and a half, six and a half, six and a half.

Carlota Pico 12:07

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 12:09
One third, I’d go all in on the influences. So I would want people—if it’s a product or a song, let’s just say both—I’d have people reviewing it, people using as product placement in their own content. They don’t even need to talk about it, they just need to wear that product or t shirt, whatever, listen to that song. Whatever. Heavily going influencer, one third. The next third I go on content creation, photographers, videographers, animators, lifestyle shots, product shots in studio, 10 second video, I would just get tons of content. And one third paid media. So I’d get Facebook ads, Instagram ads, and I’d segment my audience for my Benny and my Kelly and I would have you know different markets. I’d be saying, everyone living in London, everyone living in Manchester, everyone living in Edinburgh and segment my audience even further. And that 20K a month—in month one, we’d test a baseline. In month two, we would double down on what’s working, and kind of sunset everything that is not working. And then month three I’d probably have my recipe for success with it.

Carlota Pico 13:25
Very interesting. So then how would you reach out to the different influencers that you would want to be part of that campaign?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 13:30
Manually, very, very manually. I would search for the top 100 influencers in the space that I want to be in. I’d go old school, use Excel, and write a contact list of all of them. Or there are tools like Upfluence, Socialbakers, Zine—there, all these influence tools out there. But to me, nothing beats manual. Like, and even just to add here, I would engage with that influencer for three weeks before I even reached out to them. I’d want to be showing up on their Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. So that when my email hits their inbox, my name is familiar. I would never want to cold email someone, I’d want them to be so used to me being the best commenter on their stuff that they would say, right, I’d love to work with you, thanks for showing so much love to my content.

Carlota Pico 14:22
Those are fantastic tips, Ayaz. Okay, so you’re nurturing. Your approach would be to really to nurture your potential influencers, so that when they do get that message, they’re like, “Yes, absolutely! You know what, I appreciate that you have been so heavily involved in the content that I’ve been producing that I’m going to help you out as well.”

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 14:41
Exactly. I don’t want it just to be a paid to play scenario. They get approached by brands all the time that don’t understand how carefully you know, time consuming, it’s been to curate their audience. So if I respect their audience, they will respect my product. It’s a mutual exchange.

Carlota Pico 15:01
Okay, I love this. I wish we could keep on talking for hours and hours, but unfortunately we are limited in time. So I am going to move into my next question. Companies are collectively expected to spend $120 billion in digital marketing alone by 2021. So what is that, like six months from now? And obviously, a big chunk of this will be spent on social media marketing. With that in mind, Ayaz, what do you think is missing in the world of social media? And what do you think the future has in store for us as marketers?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 15:37
That’s a big number—120 billion you said?

Carlota Pico 15:39
120 billion US dollars on digital marketing.

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 15:43
Insane. What so what, you think what’s coming next, is that the…?

Carlota Pico 15:47

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 15:48
I think there needs to be a distinguishment between regular content and fan-only content. Right now many music artists are heavily pushing to “Listen to my music video!” or “Listen to my new single!” and there needs to be a line in the sand saying that’s all free, and the return on investment of the Spotify numbers is quite low in comparison for what you get. So I think the industry is shifting towards paid-only content for fans, things like Patreon, OnlyFans…Facebook is launching a new feature called “Stars” very soon. There’s Twitch, where you pay to subscribe to somebody. And these type of live streams would be experiences because you are very privileged to be a part of a world-renowned producer showing you on his screen how he makes beats. And yes, you are paying for that privilege but I think the industry will shift towards a pay me as a curator to hear me as a curator talk. And that’s definitely where a lot of artists are going to make far more income, because they’re gonna own the entire funnel of how they get paid. They’re not reliant on a service like Spotify to pay them their quarterly earnings. They will literally have PayPal flowing into their account from producer led content, exclusive content. And I think that’s the future to me.

Carlota Pico 17:20
Wow. That’s a very impressive response. Okay, so then what role would a marketer play in this future that you think will happen?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 17:33
Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. I think there’s opportunities then for brand partnerships. So either if it’s a speaker company, if it’s some DJ equipment—they are going to want to put their product in front of thousands of consumers that are so desperate to be part of this. Then things like affiliate marketing, come front and center and any type of product placement. So, if they’re wearing a T shirt of the best, you know, Native Instruments brand, everyone is subconsciously having their their sentiment of that brand being increased because of how cool it’s becoming. So marketers can then put the right brands in the right producer or musician based streams. That’s the future.

Carlota Pico 18:22
Okay. Well, we are going to be moving into our next section of questions, which are basically your recommendations for our audience. To get the section started off, I’d like to ask you about your source of inspiration or professional role model—maybe your grandfather?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 18:38
To an extent. When he was alive, he didn’t see me at my best. He saw me unemployed as a DJ trying to play for 50 pounds an hour. Right. I wish he could see the goal I’m setting myself nowadays. But beyond my grandfather, I’d say Gary Vaynerchuk. Hugely inspirational. I started listening to him maybe 2015? It just switch my mindset and I always had this competitiveness inside of me, and I think he unleashed it for me. Because I would say I’m quite a nice personality, very friendly. I’m six foot seven tall, but I am a very big cuddly bear, you could say. So he switched on my competitiveness to be the best. Okay, that’s really where my inspiration comes from.

Carlota Pico 19:29
He actually said the other day that it’s more important to hire talent according to the qualities that they can offer verse the skills because skills can be learned, trained for etc. And with that in mind, what qualities would you look for in a new hire in a social media position?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 19:47
Hunger without a doubt. I’d want to see a young me. I want to see someone who was challenging experimenting—”Shall we try this? What if we tried that?” Wanting to know measure the data of every single activation saying: “How can we get it higher?” I would want a numbers geek and someone creative at the same time. That’s probably the perfect content mix—pardon the pun—it’s like, it’s someone who is the best of both worlds. It’s the data mine and the free thinker as well.

Carlota Pico 20:18
I love the pun—The Content Mix. Nice little shout out to our podcast. Okay, what about an event, a hashtag, a group, a book—basically a resource that you can’t live without?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 20:31
A good friend of mine—his name is Michell C. Clark—he has a book called “Keep It 100,” and it is 100 daily affirmations. It’s my coffee table book. So that is usually once, twice a week I’ll just open it to a random page. Right? And it’s just one page is one affirmation. And he hits the nail on the head every single time. Michell C. Clark. It’s a black cover, just “Keep it 100.” It just starts my morning off in the best way when I open up his book.

Carlota Pico 21:05
Okay, so I do have to ask you then, what has been your favorite affirmations since then?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 21:11
Almost things you have to unlearn. So everyone has learned things over the years. And at some point, you need to unlearn some of the things that the world has taught you, to be open to learning a new way of doing things. That’s been very powerful to me, because, however, the industry was supposed to churn out a music marketer, I would like to think I break a lot of those rules and do it. If there was two paths, I take the third.

Carlota Pico 21:39
And especially with COVID-19, as well, we’ve had to unlearn a lot of things that we learned pre-COVID-19, adapted our marketing strategies to post and during COVID-19 and then we’re probably going to have to unlearn everything we just learned again to discover a whole new world once COVID-19 is over.

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 21:56
I kind of love/hate that phrase, “The new normal” If I could have rewound the clocks to the start of lockdown, I would have tripled down on live streaming. I would have gone live every single morning and every single evening if I had the chance to do it over.

Carlota Pico 22:13

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 22:14
And I would have a different guest every evening, and I would have my advice every morning. I think I missed the boat, because I was so focused on getting the clients back on track in this new normal and I took my eye off the content. So that’s hard when you’re a solopreneur to do everything. But if if I could do it over again, I would have thought audience first and not finance first.

Carlota Pico 22:39
Well, that gives me an opportunity to give a shout out to my team because behind me there is an amazing team of video editors, content producers, you name it, we have it. And thanks to them, I’m able to go live every day and interview wonderful people just like yourself.

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 22:55
You have a great team. You have a fantastic set of hands behind you. I think in my situation, it’s all me.

Carlota Pico 23:02

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 23:03
Every video editing, every podcast editing, every bit of graphic design. Like the only thing my wife helps me with is my invoicing and my like accountability of my goals. But she’s a superhero. Honestly, she is a superhero.

Carlota Pico 23:17
Well, let’s give her a shout out as well. And you recently, you both recently got married?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 23:23
Yeah, last summer.

Carlota Pico 23:24

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 23:26
Thank you so much, man.

Carlota Pico 23:27
Beautiful, beautiful. Okay. Well, to finish up this interview, I’m going to ask you as a social media expert, what’s your favorite app at the moment and why?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 23:36
Wow, just one, just one. Probably Hootsuite, their mobile app version. I have from my hand, I’ve got transparency on every activation happening in my day job to every country from my phone, and I can see all of my content. I am a geek. I’ve sheduled out 30 days of content at all times, so it’s all ready to go. It’s all edited. I’m focusing on October content, now. My September is already done. So Hootsuite allows me to just plan everything seamlessly way in advance.

Carlota Pico 24:15
Okay. Although I did say that my last question was my last question, but I do have to ask you one more.

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 24:22
Go for it!

Carlota Pico 24:23
So you’re a DJ turned marketer turn podcaster turned music coach, what does the future have in store for you, Ayaz?

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 24:33
I think to amplify what I’m doing right now. So my goal each and every day is to inspire 30 musicians each morning. Right? So 30 in a year would be 10,000 musicians. I’d like to add a zero on to that. I’d like to hit 300 musicians a day to hit 100,000 a year—that would be where I want to go. I went through a tough spot in 2014 when my grandfather passed; I wish I had a mentor kind of like me to help me out. And if I could be that for someone else that is my measure of success. I wouldn’t talk about how many followers…I wouldn’t talk about how much finance I’m bringing in each month. If I can help a musician in my situation back then that’s my measure of a happy life.

Carlota Pico 25:20
Oh, gosh, Ayaz, you just gave me chills. What an inspiring message to send out to our audience. We wish you the absolute best of luck. It was a pleasure to have you on The Content Mix, a pleasure to meet you as well. And I hope that our paths cross again very soon!

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 25:36
Hundred percent. I’m so grateful for you guys giving me the opportunity to talk. If I’m allowed to say just my YouTube channel and podcast is called “All About Helping” and it’s really about helping rappers, producers, singers, and DJs get better at marketing their music and I’d love to meet any listener who is a musician. I’d love to talk to you and I’d love to get to know you.

Carlota Pico 25:59
Excellent. Well, thank you. Thank you again, Ayaz. And for everybody listening in today, thank you for joining us on The Content Mix. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out The Content Mix. We’ll be releasing interviews, just like this one every day, so keep on tuning in. Thanks again, have a fabulous day and see you next time. Bye!

Ayaz Aftab Hussain 26:23
Take care, Carlota. Bye.

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