Interview with creativity expert James Taylor
James Taylor introduces his work as an international speaker and creativity expert in this interview.
James Taylor Bio
James Taylor M.B.A. F.R.S.A. is an award-winning speaker and internationally recognized leader in creativity and innovation. For over 20 years, he has been teaching entrepreneurs, educators, corporate leaders, writers and rockstars how to build innovative organizations and design the creative life they desire. As the founder of C.SCHOOL™ and host of The Creative Life Podcast and TV Show, he’s taught hundreds of thousands of individuals in over 120 countries through his online courses, books, videos and keynote speeches.
Please tell us about your work.
I am an international conference speaker, author, coach and consultant on creativity. For over 20 years, I have been teaching creative entrepreneurs, artists, educators, thought leaders, writers and rockstars how to build innovative organizations and design the creative lives they desire. As the founder of C-SCHOOL™ and host of The Creative Life Podcast and TV Show, I’ve have taught thousands of individuals in over 120 countries through my online courses, books, videos and keynote speeches.
My income comes from a number of different sources and includes a mix of passive and active income sources. As a child, I remember distinctly of a conversation my grandfather had with me. He said “never do things solely for the money James” and that has been my guiding principle ever since. Yes, I make an incredible living from what I do but what I truly care about is learning and helping others discover (or rediscover) their creative potential and how they can make a great living from it.
My active income streams come from my speaking, consulting and creativity retreats while the passive side comes from my online courses, membership programs and books.
What is your art or music background?
Early in my life I was a professional drummer touring the world and being in the recording studio. Then I began managing the careers of high-profile rock and pop artists as well as building publishing and record businesses.
After growing bored of the music industry I moved to Silicon Valley and became very involved in the fast-growing online education and edtech industry, helping to launch and build over thirty online music and art schools. This led me to speaking around the world about creativity, innovation, marketing and online education which is what I do primarily today. My clients have included Apple, Yamaha, Sony, Bertelsmann and Johnson & Johnson as well as high profile 1-on-1 coaching and consulting clients who range from Grammy award winning music artists and best-selling authors to creative entrepreneurs and innovative multi-nationals. I help them achieve exponential growth with their creativity and creative businesses.
How did you get started as a creativity expert?
I’ve always been fascinated by how people create and innovate at a high level. In my career, I’ve had the good fortune of managing the careers of rockstars and advising successful authors, speakers and entrepreneurs on strategic marketing. It gave me the opportunity to study them up-close and model their creative processes, to see their patterns, routines and mindsets. Initially, I started sharing this knowledge via my YouTube videos, which led to me interviewing more creatives for my podcast, which led to me speaking at conferences about creativity and coaching others on their creativity. It got the point when I didn’t have enough hours in the day to coach the clients that were approaching me so I decided to launch C-SCHOOL™, which offers online courses and high-end retreats around creativity
You are also a professional speaker, can you tell us about that?
I’m told I got up stage for the first time when I was three years of age to present a birthday cake to the pianist Oscar Peterson at an outdoor festival in California! I’ve been on stages ever since. First, it was as a drummer and I got my first paid gig when I was 10. I can still remember that feeling of getting up on stage, performing and then being amazed to get paid at the end of the night, for doing something that I would have happily done for free. From my mid-20’s to mid-30’s I actually went backstage and was the guy in the shadows pulling the strings and managing the careers of the music artists, performers, authors and speakers who were up on the stage. I know what it’s like to be both onstage and backstage and the highs and lows of both places. When I decided to become a professional speaker I put together a one-page website, sent out ten emails to prospective conference organizers, and within a month I had booked my first professional speaking gig. It was for $10,000, which was nearly as much as I earned in my first year as a touring drummer.
I talk about creativity and innovation. 55% of people in the world don’t consider themselves creative (according to a recent study by Adobe). I find that figure truly shocking. It’s my mission to help the 55% to realize that they have creative potential and show them how to harness and monetize it. I also speak at conferences for those who do identify as being creative professionals (e.g. artists, musicians, writers, entrepreneurs) but I tend to speak to those groups more about how to develop their creative process, creativity hacking or building their platform through marketing automation.
Do you think there are many paid speaking opportunities for artists?
Absolutely. I love what professional speakers like Erik Wahl do by making the process of creating art part of their live events. For most speakers when they get started it’s about building your brand and your craft as a speaker and making an offer from the stage to monetize your speaking. Then as time goes on you add other revenue streams on the backend of your speaking (online courses, membership programs, your own live events). I think most artists would benefit from doing some public speaking even if it is only to build their brand and following. In addition to live speaking gigs you also have online speaking gigs like online summits and paid webinars which can provide you with another income stream without even to go on the road.
Please tell us about your Creative Life Podcast and YouTube channel?
The Creative Life TV Show on YouTube initially came about because I wanted to share some of the incredible research that is being done around the neuroscience of creativity. Up until relatively recently creativity was thought of as a bit ‘woo-woo’ but in recent years a lot of new research is being published showing what is going on in the brain when we create and how we can hack our creativity. The Creative Life TV Show was my way of popularizing and making mainstream what was coming out of the research labs.
The Creative Life Podcast started because I’d be on the phone or having coffee with some incredible creative person from the arts, the sciences or business and I wanted to share their insights with others. The podcast initially focused on how that creative person became a success, but more recently I’ve focused the interviews on times when they struggled to make their creative work happen, when their projects failed and the lessons that they took from that.
My guests have included musicians like Amanda Palmer and Tommy Emmanuel, writers including Chris Guillebeau, SARK and Rolf Potts, professional speakers including Fredrik Haren and David Burkus as well as leading scientists, entrepreneurs, designers, artists and photographers.
How important has the podcast and YouTube been in promoting your work?
Podcasts and YouTube are most definitely not money spinners but where the value if from them is in building my platform, my list and my network. Even if they weren’t useful for my marketing I’d still do them because I love spending time having in-depth conversations with fascinating, creative people every week.
Do you have any advice for artists starting a podcast or publishing YouTube videos?
Make sure you are doing them for the right reason and realize it might take a while. One of my friends is a huge YouTube star with many millions of subscribers. It took him years to get traction but he didn’t care. He loved the process of creating videos and sharing them. I’d say when it comes to podcasts that consistency and quality are key. It probably took until my 100th episode to figure out what in the hell I was doing (and I’m still learning).