July 7, 2022

‘Money Changes Your Voice’ with Breakout Pop Star Tai Verdes

“I’m not special, I don’t think any artist is special...it’s all time on task.”


Nora chats with musician Tai Verdes, who rose to fame on TikTok in 2020, about songwriting, the importance of having a plan, the myth of overnight success and how his approach to playing the long game in the music business is to write songs that he likes. Tai’s forthcoming album “HDTV” is due out later this year, and he’s currently on a 22-city HDTV Headline Tour. For more info on our presenting sponsor, check out realvision.com/businesscasual. 

 

Host: Nora Ali

Producer: Bella Hutchins 

Video Editors: McKenzie Marshall and Christie Muldoon

Production, Mixing & Sound Design: Daniel Markus

Music: Daniel Markus & Breakmaster Cylinder

Fact Checker: Kate Brandt 

Senior Producer: Katherine Milsop

VP, Head of Multimedia: Sarah Singer 

 

Full transcripts for all Business Casual episodes available at https://businesscasual.fm

Transcript

Tai Verdes: I think that's the biggest thing that people are getting wrong, is that they're like, "Oh, I need money." I don't need money, I don't really need it at all—that's why I live in a fucking living room, is because I wanted to do things my way. I'm not trying to bring money into any of my art, because money changes your fucking voice and you can hear it. I look at it as such a long game where, okay, maybe I do want nice things or maybe I do want a bigger place in the future. Okay, cool. But do you deserve it after you write one song? I don't know, I don't know. I feel like you just have to stay modest for as long...because no one cares. I think it's just staying modest, staying modest because now when you're in the booth thinking of lyrics and melodies, you're not thinking of, "Okay, how do I pay for my car that I just bought?" You know what I'm saying? You're thinking about, "Oh, I'm just making another song today."

Nora Ali: For Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, bringing you convos with people you know, and some you may not know yet, to make business less intimidating. Because money talks, but it does not have to be dull. I'm your host, Nora Ali. Now let's get down to business.

We've all heard it at some point. Maybe when you were looking for career guidance, or maybe it was unsolicited advice from a friend, but at some point, someone told you to just do what you love. Well, it turns out there's actually something to that. Our guest today knows a thing or two about what it means to pursue your passion, and not the fame and money that might come with it if you're lucky. I guarantee that if you've been on TikTok with any amount of frequency in the last couple of years, you know his long-lasting big hit.

Tai Verdes: (Singing) You know what she said to me? She said, "You're a player, aren't you? And I bet you got hoes." I said, "You don't know me like that, I just go with the flow."

Nora Ali: Tai Verdes rose to fame in 2020, when that song, "Stuck in the Middle," when viral on TikTok, making it to the number one spot on Spotify's US Viral Chart. At the time, Tai was working at a Verizon wireless store in LA, writing music, living on spinach and beans, and searching for beats for his songs on YouTube all night. Since "Stuck in the Middle," Tai has continued to find success. Another one of his singles, "A-O-K," has more than 300 million streams and earned him the number one spot on Billboard's Emerging Artists chart. I spoke with Tai while he was on a 22-city tour for his new album, HDTV, about songwriting, storytelling, the myth of overnight success, and how his approach to playing the long game in the music business is to just write songs that he likes, and to not care what anyone else thinks. Now, we're not all singer-songwriters who have had viral hits on TikTok, but I loved this conversation with Tai because he hit on ideas that apply to all of us.

Money changes your voice, and this might be the hardest thing, don't let the opinions of others determine what you create. That's next, after the break.

Tai, thanks for the time. I know you're on tour. So we appreciate you joining the podcast. I'm so excited to chat with you.

Tai Verdes: Of course.

Nora Ali: So anyone who's ever been on TikTok for more than two seconds knows your songs "Stuck in the Middle" and "A-O-K," at the very least. I've been bopping to those songs for who knows how long, but it was not always virality for you. You dropped out of college to pursue music, you had auditioned for American Idol and The Voice, you got rejected seven times. You then released music under Tylersemicolon that didn't take off. After rejection after rejection, what was it that kept you going, ultimately?

Tai Verdes: Rejection doesn't exist, opinions don't exist, and I don't really hold the opinion of other people...even when you say the virality, that's holding the opinions of other people high in your mind, which I try not to do, ever. So even now, when people are commenting on my music and saying like, "Oh, it's so great, blah, blah, blah," I listen to it, but it's also, everything's so subjective, I'm just making what I think is cool.

Nora Ali: Mm. But to some extent, don't you feel like you need the opinions of others, such that you have listens, you have streams, you have revenue at the end of the day, to keep doing what you're doing?

Tai Verdes: No, I think you make something that you think is cool and then you figure out of how to market it. I think that's the biggest thing that people are getting wrong, is that they're like, "Oh, I need money." I don't need money. I don't really need it at all—that's why I lived in a fucking living room, is because I wanted to do things my way. That's why, when you see somebody sign a huge check or take a brand deal for some tea or something like that, I'm not trying to bring money into any of my art. So I'm going to make cool shit, and then you can listen to it if you want, but I'm going to be over here making shit. You know what I'm saying?

Nora Ali: So does that mean you'll never do sponsored ads, brand deals? Have you written those off for your career?

Tai Verdes: I do stuff for that that I think aligns with the things that I've done in the past. When I dropped out of college, I had this moment where I ate Chipotle every single day for six months. And that's what I'd do. I'd wake up, go to Chipotle at like 2:00pm, come back and then watch The Office every single fucking day. And then Chipotle was like, "Hey, you want your own bowl?" And I was like, "Yeah, I want my own bowl at Chipotle." For Bose headphones, those were the first pairs of headphones that I ever wore, and they had great noise canceling. So I was like, "Okay, I'm going to do Bose headphones." But just to do random stuff, no, I try to align it. I just did a deal with Venmo where you're just giving away money to college students. I wish I had money given away to me for college students.

Everything that I do is on purpose. I'm never going to just take something for the money, because really, I have set up this whole thing because I don't need it. I haven't bought anything, just because I'm trying to keep this so authentic and so my voice, because money changes your fucking voice and you can hear it.

Nora Ali: Money changes your f-ing voice. We hear all the time from creators and artists who are trying to be authentic, but I think you definitely take it to the next level. So if you do work with a brand, it definitely just has to be aligned with who you are as a person, even if it means Chipotle, because you love eating Chipotle burrito bowls.

Tai Verdes: Yeah, I'm not even talking about artists, I'm talking about kids who went to college and then they're talking about, "Oh, I've just got a deal for six figures right out of college," that type of shit. Think about the long-term game of what you're doing and what you're signing up for. Because that changes the voice, changes what you say and sign up for, it changes what you're valuing. Are you valuing your time, are you valuing your job, are you valuing your happiness? I just have that tier system pretty set out in my head.

Nora Ali: Yeah. Let's back up a little bit. You did audition for the MTV show Are You the One? You won the $50,000 prize. I imagine that amount of money was useful for you in continuing to pursue your career. Why did you make that jump into reality television, and how was that experience?

Tai Verdes: I did the reality TV thing first. And then after I did the reality TV thing, I did auditioning for American Idol every single year. It was concurrent, when I was doing it. The reason why I did it is because, why not? I just wanted to see what the industry is like. I was writing these songs two weeks before American Idol auditions, and going up to the producer and being like, "Yo, is this good? Is anyone going to give me a yes?" This is the one producer before the seven rounds that you actually get to the judges. You know what I'm saying? So I was just looking for a yes. When in reality, that was also molding me, it was like taking the temperature of the industry, like "Is this good enough yet?" And I was kind of half-assing it. I was writing a song two weeks before, not even practicing for a week. What happened after that was me just getting in my car and singing every single day for a year and a half. You know what I'm saying? Just practicing and not recording anything.

I think a lot of people get really stuck up in their minds that, "Oh, this version of myself is the version of myself that's going to make it." When in reality, is it? Why are you so attached to the way you are right now? Try to do something else and see if it works.

Nora Ali: So you really focused on honing your craft, and getting better, instead of just giving up and saying people aren't saying yes right now, that maybe means I'm not cut out for the industry. You worked to improve, then.

Tai Verdes: Yeah. And I don't even think about industry in that sense. I never even thought about, "Oh, I want to make it in the industry." I just wanted to be better. I just wanted to sound good. You know what I'm saying? For myself, when I listened to my own music, I wanted to be like, "Oh, I like this." Compared to listening to it and being like, "Mm, okay. But do I really want to listen to my own voice?"

Nora Ali: That's maybe a good metric to have, is do I actually like the stuff that I'm putting out for myself? But at the same time, while you're pursuing these creative endeavors, you still had to survive. You had a bunch of different jobs while you were experimenting with your own music. You worked as an intramural volleyball referee, you worked as a luxury sunglasses retailer. How did you manage pursuing your creative dreams while still making sure you could live and have a paycheck and survive?

Tai Verdes: I did it by, like I said, living in the living room, bro. You have to make sure that you are not using the voice of other people to judge what your outcome of the future is. I was paying $550 in rent in LA. I think a lot of people are like, "Oh, was the living room free?" No, I had to pay for that living room that I was living in. You know what I'm saying? But I was paying $550, which is totally fine. I just took it as a tax of what I wanted to do. But yeah, if you have a car that's too expensive, or if you have an apartment that's too big, then those things change the way you make your decisions. And I just made sure that everything that I bought was for the future. It makes it so much easier.

I wish I could tell everybody to stop buying clothes, and stop going out every weekend, and just do the thing that you like. And then if you're complaining...if you're not complaining and you're like, "Oh, I love my job," or "I love where I'm at right now," then keep doing your shit. But if you're complaining about shit, then you need to start spending time, money and investing yourself in the thing that you want to do. It's so simple.

Nora Ali: Well, break that down a little bit more. What does that mean exactly? Everything that you're buying should be basically investing in your future, making your future better. What do you not spend on? What do you spend your money on now?

Tai Verdes: I think I bought, maybe, in the four years that I lived in that living room, maybe two pairs of shoes. I would eat spinach and beans, and just relatively healthier stuff that you can get at the grocery store that comes in bulk. When I did go to Chipotle, what's that bowl? A $9 bowl. And then I asked them to double up the beans to give me more food. I don't know, I think it's just about being creative. You know when you're trying to do something that's good for the heart, and when it's not good for the heart. Because you can feel, when you wake up in the morning, and you say, "Fuck, I don't want to do what I need to do this morning," then you're probably on the wrong track. I think working on it, at the same time, is a little bit difficult too. But you get through it, because you like the thing that you like.

At the Verizon store, I'd work a full shift and then go to the studio, because I actually like the process of making music. If I had been doing it for people to listen to me, for people's opinions, then I probably would stop, because I would've gotten a thousand listens on a song, seven times in a row, and been like, "Well, this is stupid, no one's listening. So I don't want to do this anymore." It's just, you have to do it for yourself. And then flip a switch in your brain and figure out how to promote it. And that's where I think I do a good job, is making something for myself and not adhering to, "Oh, this needs to be for TikTok, this needs to be for the social media," because you can snip that. When you're trying to write something that you want other people to listen to, it's gross.

You can tell, you can tell. A thing that a lot of artists don't want to do as well is just market their art. They think it's selling out, or they think it doesn't align with them. But in reality, you're just not being creative enough with how you're marketing yourself. Because 0.001% of people actually care about the marketing of your artist project until you're at that 0.001% of a Kanye or a Doja Cat. So in reality, it's just how many people can you touch with your music?

Nora Ali: I like that approach. You're creating music for yourself, but then figuring out how to market it so that you can thrive, it can thrive, instead of thinking about, what does the market need and how can I cater myself to the market? So I think that's really interesting. We are going to take a very quick break. More with Tai when we come back

So Tai, we've been talking about how you write music that you like for yourself; you don't care what other people think. So walk us through the process for "Stuck in the Middle." How did you come up with that? And why do you think it resonated with people, even though you seem to not care if it does or not?

Tai Verdes: When I was writing it, I was on my little balcony of my little living room, and I was like, "Okay, how could I be vulnerable?" Because I think that my music before wasn't as vulnerable as it was now. In my other projects, I was just making stuff because I was new in the studio. You're uncomfortable when you first get in the studio—you don't understand that your words have so much power, and everything that you say is a reflection on yourself. So I was just writing and I was like, "Let me just tell the truth about what's happening in my life." She said I'm a player, aren't I? "And I bet you got hoes." And I was like, let's just make a whole song about what that's like. And I just use that same philosophy for a lot of things. It's, I think, very directed micro songwriting about a specific instance, it is my tactic, where I just think about something that happens in my life. I see someone walk by and I'm like, "Oh, we'd have some cute kids." And then I'd write a whole song about that.

You know what I'm saying? So if that's the truth of this songwriting, then what happens? Then, okay, the parents would be jealous, other parents would be jealous, they would make varsity teams and get straight A's. You just got to make a rhyme after that.

Nora Ali: Micro songwriting. I have not heard that before. Is that something that you made up, or is that an industry thing?

Tai Verdes: Man, I'm going to lie and say I made it up. It might be an industry thing, but I just really don't think it makes sense to write songs about, oh, you want to write about the truth, or love. Okay, big boy, do your thing, but I don't think it's going to be that easy.

Nora Ali: Yeah, so you're picking something that's very specific to your personal experience, because then you can write about it authentically, and then people will find it relatable, ultimately.

Tai Verdes: Exactly.

Nora Ali: So "Stuck in the Middle" obviously went viral on TikTok. But there weren't any viral dances or trends really associated with it, it's just nice background music for a variety of different kinds of TikToks. Why do you think it gained the popularity that it did? And how did this contribute to your feelings of significance, maybe, as an artist? Where people were just using the sound as something that's happy and brings them joy on all different kinds of content that they put out.

Tai Verdes: I really just tried to lean into the marketing aspect of it. I felt like I found a thing that I liked, and that other people also liked, and it was really cool to see how people were engaging with the song, how people were trying to make sure that when they were going to the recommended page, that were choosing my song to...whatever they were doing in their life. Because I think that's what they were doing, they were listening to the song already and then just wanting to use it to capture their life. And I think significance as an artist is an interesting thing as well, because I just don't try to believe in, just because you have songs that have streams on them make you significant. When I was a fan of Chance the Rapper, he had Acid Rap out, nothing, there was no streaming, and he also wasn't on the radio like that. So it's like, everyone has these big goals for, "Oh, I want everyone to hear my music," but what are you saying? You know what I'm saying?

Are you telling a story? I see Kendrick Lamar, he does a bunch of society...opinionated verses about his view on society and stuff like that. He has a message that he's saying. It's not really about how much he's streaming. It's about his purpose in society. And I think that for me, I'm just trying to show my feelings, as an individual that has been in different types of social situations. I went to every single type of school, I went to private high school, I went to public high school, I went to boarding school, I went to private college, I went to JuCo, I dropped out of JuCo and I dropped out of private college. I've been to like HBCUs. I just think that I'm not special. And I think that my thoughts can be original thoughts. I think that everyone thinks what I'm thinking. You know what I'm saying? I'm just trying to make music and then see what happens.

Nora Ali: Hmm. It's good of you to admit that. A lot of artists will think that, "Oh, I'm special. I'm the chosen one. This is why people listen to my stuff," but you're just making good music.

Tai Verdes: I don't think any artist is special. I think Kanye is not special, I don't think Kid Cudi's special. Even though they're my idols, I just think that it's all time on task. Of course they're established, it's because they love it and they're dedicated and they're trying every single day to make that shit work. If you try to make music, but you've only made 50 songs in your life, well, you're probably 2,000 songs behind Kanye. You know what I'm saying? That's why it's not hitting the same. You got to put in that work and that effort so that people can understand that you are an artist, you are making stuff. Just make shit.

Nora Ali: Mm-hmm. Yes, make it and then market it. You've used the term marketing a lot. What is your approach to marketing? What do you think projects that authenticity when you're marketing yourself and your music?

Tai Verdes: Giving things to people, that's what marketing is, it's giving things to people. Everyone's like, "Come listen to my shit." No, I don't want to. That's the whole point of it. It's just where I have made my marketing niche, it's not really that complex, I'll tell everyone because I know no one wants to listen, but just put your song on the internet. Don't give it any premise, don't give it like, "This is going to be the song of this summer." Fuck, it's not, it's really not. Especially if you tell me that it's going to be the song of the summer, it makes me want to throw up in my mouth. And I don't want to hear you talk about how good your song is.

Nobody wants to hear that, unless you are a Kanye West or someone who has that background, then it can be a different thing. But I think that you have to show the song first. "Oh, is the song good?" Then you can start talking shit. You know what I'm saying? I could start talking shit right now, but I'm going to wait until I got my four-album project out, and then I'll start talking. You think this is me talking shit? You don't even know. You don't even know where this about to go.

Nora Ali: So you let the music speak for itself instead of creating these narratives around it. But what is your approach to connecting with your followers on TikTok? I know you put out little glimpses of what you're working on, you post videos of huge crowds singing the refrains from your songs. I know you posted recently...you went back to visit the Are You the One? house, which I thought was so funny. So what is your approach to staying engaged and staying connected with those fans on your social profiles?

Tai Verdes: I just think it's just showing my life. I think it's just not being afraid to show what you're doing day to day, or an idea that you have like, "Hey, what if we went back to the Are You the One? house and just filmed it?" "Okay, cool. Let's do that." It's all about shooting from the hip with content. It's not about thinking about it that hard, or trying to look perfect all the time. It's about shooting some content, editing it down to the best parts, and then putting it out. And then thinking about it like it's a lottery. Because it is a lottery, especially on TikTok it's a lottery. Because you could get a video and post it on TikTok, and it could be sent out to a million people right now. You, on your phone, you, Nora Ali, could go on your phone and post a video and reach a million people right now. And I think a lot of people are underestimating the power that has.

It's going away a little bit, it's not like it used to be. There used to be only a couple of people marketing on TikTok. But now, I'd like to say, I got your favorite artist singing in the car, bro. I really do, I really do. There's so many people singing in the car. There's people showing their music in the studio, people doing acoustic sessions. Just show your art, show what you do, and then if it goes viral, then that's just more eyeballs on the thing that you're trying to share with people, which is your music.

Nora Ali: If TikTok is a lottery, and I agree with you, you just don't really know if something's going to take off or not, do you have any pointers for artists who are trying to break through for the first time, whether it's on TikTok, YouTube or other platforms?

Tai Verdes: Just write a bunch of songs. Don't let the views dictate whether you're putting music out, because perfect is not what you're aiming for. Your artist project right now is probably not going to be the artist project that's going to be at the Grammys. You know what I'm saying? You're going to have to evolve. So you have to put music out. A lot of people right now are probably stagnant because they're waiting for that song that they write and put on TikTok to get, I don't know, a 100,000 views or maybe a million views or something like that. That's great and all, but they're not understanding that you have to be creatively marketing your music, you have to market every part of your song. That's why I think music is going to go in a direction that's really cool, is that if you can get your whole song marketed, then everybody will be interested in the whole song compared to just a little snippet of it.

Artists right now are just doing two lines or one line of a song, and then they're expecting that to translate into an evergreen amount of listening. When that doesn't make any sense. You have to have at least, I'd say, 30 seconds. If I like 30 seconds of a song, I'm probably going to listen to the rest of the song if I like 30 seconds of it. But if I like 10 seconds, or just the trend of a dance...you've seen a bunch of TikTok artists come and go because only a small portion of their song goes viral. And I think that not only is that a factor, but you have to keep making stuff.

So if you only have that one song and you don't make another thing that connects, then it's hard for people get on board with what you're trying to do. Even people who have a song that has hundreds of millions of streams, then next time they put out a song it's 10 million, and now they're nervous that they need to get another song that's in the 100 million. It's like, "Who cares? Nobody cares about you, and you're going to die, so just put out the music, dog."

Nora Ali: Yeah, it's true, we're all going to die. So the point is, don't write music just to go viral for those 15 seconds on TikTok. Write real music that you like and has meaning to you. And the rest will write itself. Let's take this moment to take another quick break. More with Tai when we come back.

All right, Tai, you found a lot of success. I even hate to use that word with you because you're so, I think, in touch with what you are looking for personally, and perhaps don't care so much about finding success with other people. But when you were nearing 2 million Spotify streams for "Stuck in the Middle" a couple of years ago, you posted a video on TikTok. You were still at the Verizon store working there, and you explained that when things are going well, it doesn't just turn into a million dollars and a nice car, which I think is a great perspective. Why did you want to share that message with your followers, and how did they receive that message?

Tai Verdes: Well, I think there's two messages in that. If you're a young artist and you just wrote a song on TikTok, and you had this moment and maybe your song got 5 million streams, and now there's a label telling you, "Oh, we want to pay you a million dollars for five albums," and you take it, and you're like, "Okay, cool. Now I'm a millionaire and I'm 20 or 18 years old, and I just bought a car, and I just bought a new place. And I just bought all the clothes that I want." Now you're living in this costume of someone who's made it, when in reality you did one thing. I look at it as such a long game where, okay, maybe I do want nice things or maybe I do want a bigger place in the future. Okay, cool.

But do you deserve it after you write one song? I don't know, I don't know. I feel like you just have to stay modest for as long...because no one cares. I think it's just staying modest, staying modest because now when you're in the booth, thinking of lyrics and melodies, you're not thinking of, "Okay, how do I pay for my car that I just bought?" You know what I'm saying? You're thinking about, "Oh, I'm just making another song today." And that's why I think I've been able to just keep making music, is just because I don't have to pay for anything. Music changes your voice and you can hear it, you can hear it.

Nora Ali: Do you feel like you deserve nice things?

Tai Verdes: What is a thing, man? I deserve that I deserve to make nice things.

Nora Ali: But when will you get to the point where you're like, "I am going to buy a really nice car and an expensive apartment, and spend on the niceties of life"? Or do you think that that's not going to matter to you?

Tai Verdes: Right when I start talking shit, that's when things will happen. I'll be like, "Yo, I tried to tell you guys that I had the blueprint." You're going to come back and we're going to have a conversation, and you're going to be like, "Damn, you were right."

Nora Ali: So you talked about the long game, and folks that I've spoken to recently that have existed in the creator ecosystem for many years have hypothesized that you have to have an actual skill, and be a functional expert, to survive in this creator economy. You clearly have a defensible skill, you write amazing music that you love, and that subsequently other people love. But do you ever feel the sense of wanting to expand your brand to find other ways to make money, whether it's hosting a podcast, or more brand partnerships, merch, writing a book? Do you ever think about that long-term plan?

Tai Verdes: I just think about it as skills. I'm not only writing the music, I'm producing the music too. So it's like I have the taste that I'm putting into my songs. Every single one of my songs that I put out, you can tell has my feel on it because I'm producing it. But if someone was like, "Okay, you're going to be on this TV show," or, "You're going to try this," I love a lot of different aspects of artistry; that's why I make my own cover art. I like designing things. I wasn't meaning to wear the merch, but this is a sweatshirt that I designed. You know what I'm saying? When I was not doing music, I did Nike modeling, and I did standup comedy, which I was trash at. I did a podcast, I hosted a podcast. I was doing acting, but not to a point where I got to roles, I was being a stand-in and I would do auditions and stuff like that. So now I'm in music videos, and I'm acting. So it's like, I'm always just open to doing things that align...things that feel good, of course, I'll try.

Nora Ali: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I mean, because you've tried so many different things, your job now as an artist is not a nine-to-five. You've had "regular jobs" before, but the entertainment industry, as we all know, it's tough. Fame can be fleeting. Do you have dread ever that it's going to end? Do you ever think about backup plans, or is it all or nothing with music?

Tai Verdes: Honestly, it's not only end, but it only ends when all that shit of opinions start going into your head, and you're like, "Oh, I guess I got to stop making stuff because Rosie in Nebraska says I'm not good anymore." When you start thinking like that, then you're probably done. I think when you stop making shit, that's when you throw in the towel. Right now there are artists that I did not believe in on TikTok, that three months pass, and they've had two songs that now have 10 million streams, when before they had hundreds of thousands of streams on their music project.

And now I'm like, "Oh, you're on this festival thing. And you have a bigger fan base than before." "Oh, you got a support slot, and now you're performing, and learning how to perform and learning how to go on tour." As long as you keep going, then people will see that you're trying to do something. If you look at Jay-Z and Kanye West, those boys are 40 and 50 years old. You know what I'm saying? There are people doing it now and they're not fucking special. You can do it, just keep making shit.

Nora Ali: I got you, just keep going. How have you found navigating just the world of being a musical artist? Because there's so many layers now. There's streamers, record labels, managers, agents, all of that. Has that been tough to navigate at all?

Tai Verdes: I think it is real hard to navigate the music industry because it's all opinion-based. And I'm not going to lie, I try to say that people aren't special like that, but you have to know what you want. You know what I'm saying? If you don't know what you want, then it becomes way harder, because then people's opinions start getting in the mix. And now you're working with a whole different type of game. And if you're 18 and you're making a bunch of songs, and you don't know what you want your artist project to be, you don't know what your album is going to look like...the reason why I'm in the position that I'm in is because when I signed to a label, I wanted to keep all of my masters. I knew that already. I wanted to release four albums, I knew that already. I know the color of the cover art that was going to be of the albums, I knew the names of the albums.

If you're an investor in a project and you look at two people and say, "Hey, how much music are you going to put out?" And someone says, "I don't know, I just dropped this song," or, "Hey, yeah, I'm going to put out four albums. And I know the colors, know the names," which one are you going to invest in? And I think it's just all about future planning. It also helps as an artist if you have an album; you're going to care about putting that project out way more than a single song that you're trying to get on the radio. You're doing that for yourself. Navigating it is all about picking people that actually care about being on your team.

If you have someone just undercutting what you actually want do, and they're not giving you a specific reason on why you shouldn't do the thing that you want to do, then they probably shouldn't be on your team. I just use a lot of references. Everyone that I got on my team is because they've been in the industry and they know how to do it. My managers also manage Mike Posner and Trevor Daniel, who have songs that have been streamed a billion times, billion with a B. So when I saw that, I was like, "You guys have met and talked to everybody, you guys have been around the world, and I'm going to tell you what my boundaries are as an artist, and we're going to rock this shit, because you guys know what happens."

When we do get momentum, I want to be efficient with it. It's not like we're looking for it, but when we have it, we need to be able to call the right people and do the thing that the industry needs to do. And just having a plan—you got to have a plan, or getting in the industry's real hard.

Nora Ali: I think a lot of what you just described can be applied to startups and founders, where if you're looking for literally investment, if you have a very clear business plan and an idea of how many albums you're going to put out, the cover art, all those things you mentioned, you're much more investible than the next guy, who's like, "Ah, we'll see what happens." So I think that's great advice there. So Tai, before we wrap today, we do have a special bonus segment on the podcast that we are calling Shoot Your Shot.

Tai, what is your moonshot idea? That is, your wildest ambition, your biggest dream. If you could do anything in the world—doesn't even have to be related to music, what is that moonshot for you?

Tai Verdes: Well, I don't really think I have one of those. Damn. I'll tell you this. What I'm going to do is I'm going to get a Best New Artist Grammy. Why I'm saying that is because Best New Artist is the only category where you can have four projects out before you're not eligible anymore. Japanese Breakfast has been around forever but they just got Best New Artist, the nomination. And I don't even want to fucking win, I just want to get nominated just to be like, "Told you." And then I'll be good. And then after that, I don't really need any other accomplishments. And to me, that's not really even a moonshot accomplishment, but those are just two things that I think are in my brain a little bit here and there.

Nora Ali: Very achievable. Okay, we will leave things there. Tai Verdes, this has been so much fun. Thanks for joining us on Business Casual.

Tai Verdes: Of course, thank you so much.

Nora Ali: This is Business Casual and I'm Nora Ali. You can follow me on Twitter @NoraKAli. And I would love to hear from you. If you have ideas for episodes, comments, thoughts on episodes you loved, fun segment ideas, shoot me a DM and I'll do my best to respond. You can also reach the BC team by emailing businesscasual@morningbrew.com, or call us. That number is 862-295-1135. And if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. And if you like the show, please leave a rating and a review. It really, really helps us. Business Casual is produced by Katherine Milsop and Bella Hutchins. Additional production, sound design and mixing by Daniel Markus. Kate Brandt is our fact checker, Sarah Singer is our VP of Multimedia. Music in this episode from Daniel Markus and The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Thank you so much for listening. I'm Nora Ali. Keep it business, and keep it casual.