MF 070 : Matt Thomas and Ryan Keaton: From Playing in Bands to a Business that Connects Artists to t
Updated: Jun 16
Moving Forward kicks off a 3-part series on extraordinary individuals in music; starting with Matt Thomas and Ryan Keaton. Matt and Ryan are the co-founders of Sunstone Recordings, a company that specializes in high end licensing opportunities for up and coming artists. Learn how Matt and Ryan pivoted from playing band in local venues and selling CDs to disrupting the music industry by connecting emerging musical artists to today’s biggest films, TV shows and brands, including: Deadpool, Silver Linings Playbook, Madagascar 3, Game of Thrones, Smirnoff, Ebay, Netflix, to name just a few. Get inspired as Matt and Ryan teach you how to turn your passion into an entrepreneurial composition.
Successes at a glance:
Founding musicians of the band, Adelphi.
Co-founders of Sunstone Recordings.
Artists’ work has been featured in today’s top TV show and film promos, including:
Artists’ work has also been featured in promos for leading brands and companies today, including:
How Matt and Ryan get inspired to conquer the day:
For Ryan, it’s all about committing to early mornings; starting at 4:30 am w/ a workout at the gym, followed by breakfast. As Ryan puts it, this is how he gets his blood pumping and his mind clear so he can set out his day. The key to Ryan’s consistent momentum is physical activity and movement which leads to a “great positive feedback cycle.” If you find it hard to get out of bed before the sun is up, Ryan has a great tip: the first thought you should put into your head is a reminder of why you’re committed to get up at that hour and keep telling yourself that time is limited, so use it to the best of your ability.
Matt is also committed to early mornings and devotes those hours to music; combing through at least 80 to 100 songs, making it a point to choose tracks he has never listened to before. Matt also reads lots of music blogs and curated music lists to see (and hear) what is going on in the local scene. Music is not only Matt’s passion but a source of inspiration. Matt shares an “envy test:” identifying sounds that he wishes that he and Ryan had discovered or created. This daily market research helps Matt set the tone for the day.
Setback or failure that led to pivot and shift:
For Matt, playing in the band and touring, embodied his entire passion. So to see that stagnate was particularly difficult. A constantly changing market combined with surrendering control to a record label, culminated in a tough point for Matt and Ryan. The hard lesson was that giving up creative control took away the vision from the initial passion that Matt had when starting the band. The takeaway lesson is that Matt now stays true to his vision in all endeavors and in moving forward.
Ryan echoes Matt’s reflection that losing the band was a very difficult setback. For Ryan, and so many other artists, playing in a band was the ultimate dream from an early age. To see that fall apart created a lot of conflict for Ryan, as on the one hand he wanted to continue playing music and yet was completely disheartened. At this point, Ryan decided to take a break, go back to school and explore different avenues. However, Ryan kept finding himself returning to music as his expressive and creative outlet. Rediscovering what made him love music in the first place, allowed Ryan to pivot so he and Matt could start Sunstone Recordings.
Moving Forward listeners, as you have learned from our other guests, making that entrepreneurial pivot isn’t easy and setbacks will occur to test your mettle. The first trigger for Matt and Ryan’s pivot came from the frustration of seeing little to no return for all of their passion and hard work in music. Starting Sunstone Recordings was about recognizing a market opportunity in licensing music to huge companies and brands. Matt and Ryan were able to redirect their efforts in a way that could fulfill their creative outlet, allow them to maintain control, and make a living at it. However, getting to that mindset was just the beginning. As Ryan shares, when both of them were frantically working to complete their first major project, a music overlay for for the Madagascar 3 trailer, it nearly went to disaster. After working all night to get the session together, which including tricky timing and editing, the files got lost! This is where the second pivot came into play. With no time to panic or lament the loss, both Matt and Ryan scrambled to recreate their lost work. For Ryan, this moment solidified his belief in the work that he and Matt were doing and the pivot they had made to become entrepreneurs. And the end result … the second version turned out even better than the first!
Moving Forward listeners, Matt and Ryan have shared an incredible roller coaster journey of what it means to follow your passion. It’s not easy. You will be tested, multiple times, along the way. Both Matt and Ryan lived their passion playing in the band. When that went south, it would have been easy for them to walk away and do something else, something safe and something comfortable. Instead, they made the hard pivot, recognizing an opportunity and a new avenue to redirect their passion. Along that journey, they faced yet another major setback, one that could have completely derailed their chosen path. Instead, they doubled down; committing to their new business venture. As they both demonstrate, moving forward is about perseverance, hard work and being able to pivot.
Resource or cultural experience that inspired Matt and Ryan to move forward:
For Matt the most gratifying media is seeing the work that they’ve created fora TV show or movie promo. Anytime a trailer with their work airs, it serves as a reminder to Matt of all of the hours and hard work that went into making that happen. This also gives Matt an incredible sense of being part of a huge creative endeavor such as a film or television show.
For Ryan, his inspiration comes from seeing live music, whether a local band or a national act. Experiencing and witnessing artists who are putting themselves out there with their work, gives Ryan that “pull” to get back up on stage and be creative; calling back to his own days playing in the band. This is also a great reminder to Ryan of where he and Matt started their journey and how they got to where they are today. Ryan also loves the work of legendary film composer, John Williams whose iconic scores inspire him to move forward.
How Matt and Ryan stay organized and manage their time:
Matt: write down a few tasks that need to get done and estimate the time needed to get them done. For Matt, this practice is about setting the intention and the tone for the entire day.
Ryan: writing down tasks and prioritizing according to deadline. Ryan adds the practice of writing down tasks the night before so it’s fresh in his mind the next morning. Ryan also gets a great feeling of momentum by being able to cross off items from his list.
Favorite app / website / resource or productivity hack:
Ryan recommends Shazam (IOS | Google Play) which allows him to identify a song quickly from a sound clip via his smartphone. Ryan uses this app to catalog great, inspiring sounds and for market research.
Matt recommends Apple Music as a great way to discover new content; combining algorithmic searching with human curated playlists.
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Matt and Ryan’s Advice for you to Move Forward:
For Ryan it’s all about making the decision: eliminate the option of any other possibilities. To put into practice, visualize where you want to go and then make the commitment to go there. When Ryan lost the files for the Madagascar 3 trailer into the ether, he didn’t have time to lament, deliberate or consider. His mind was already made up to succeed. He visualized where he wanted to go so he was already in action, recreating the files. And as you learned on today’s episode, he ended up with a better result. Eliminate the options so you can have a set path to move forward.
Matt recommends that you need to be 100% clear on your creative vision. This will then allow you to understand it in the most simple terms. Having that clarity is vital for direction and for moving forward and allows you to maintain your creative integrity; acting as a compass so you never lose your way.