Corey Smith, the $4 million self-made musician, on what matters most


You may have caught the Washington Post article this weekend on Corey Smith, the country, folk-rock musician who grossed $4 million last year, and $1.7 million the year before that, through ol' fashion D.I.Y. The love of Smith's soulful Americana music, on the reluctance to grow up, drinking misadventures, family, spread through fans and not the machinations of any record label. Inspired by Smith's success and what I heard of his music, I reached him by phone in Philadelphia as he's beginning his four-month tour across the country.

Some quick facts, Smith was a high school teacher before becoming a musician full-time. He generates buzz by making himself available to fans after concerts, getting in that face-time and building connections. He and his manager Martin Winsch built their strategy, in part, by studying "The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution," and concentrated on building a following in the South--namely college campuses in Smith's home state of Georgia. (You can catch one AASU co-ed's restrained gushing over Smith in this interview on YouTube.)

What advice do you have for people who want to ditch their 9-5 jobs and follow their dreams?

Be responsible. "Don't quit your day job" is a pretty tried and true statement. For me, I didn't quit teaching until I knew I could raise a certain amount of revenue. The most important thing is getting your priorities straight, asking yourself what is most important. For me, that's being a family person, following my dream wasn't the most important. Family came first. When I got my priorities straight, I came from a less selfish place. You get to the point where you realize you're not following the dream for yourself, but to provide for your family--it's about everyone else, really.