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Hidden Gems: Meet Suzanne Paulinski of The Rock/Star Advocate

Today we’d like to introduce you to Suzanne Paulinski.

Hi Suzanne, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
When I was 12, I was watching VH1’s Behind the Music on DefJam and after learning what Russell Simmons, Rick Rubin, and Leor Cohen did, I decided I had to be in the music industry. I never wanted to be an artist; at most I thought being a backup singer for Janet Jackson would be cool, but I hated the spotlight. I love working with creative people and wanted to do everything I could to support them, I just didn’t know what that would look like.

I decided to go to Drexel University in Philadelphia where I was one of about forty students who started their Music Industry program. I also started their MADD Dragon Records company with a handful of other students, and the fact that it still runs today means so much. It was there that I began interning at Atlantic Records in NYC, thanks to a family friend who worked in their sales department. I spent hours beyond my required time going around all of the departments offering my assistance and shadowing the employees. I absolutely loved it and would still be interning there if it paid all my bills!

I graduated a year early from Drexel in order to take a job at EMI’s subsidiary, Astralwerks, as the Midwest Sales Coordinator. Not to age me, but upon starting there many of my major accounts were closing – Sam Goody, Tower Records, Virgin Megastore – it was a turbulent time in the music industry. As I say on my podcast (therockstaradvocate.com/ep2), I quit that job five times before officially leaving to begin my own company with my college roommate.

Being an entrepreneur is HARD and our company went through many iterations (label, consulting firm, etc.) before we decided to amicably part ways and in 2011, I decided to pursue a Master’s in Psychology with plans to leave the music industry behind. After graduating, I realized I could use the skills I had to help artists in a different way. I took some time off to deal with family matters and in 2014, after hiring a business coach, I launched the beginning of The Rock/Star Advocate as a mindset and productivity coach. In six months’ time, I quit my job to work full-time on my business and haven’t looked back since.

All these years later, I’m honored to be able to help musicians, industry professionals, and now agencies get clear on their next steps and find a greater work/life balance with custom time-management solutions. I’m currently pursuing a Master’s in Social Work in order to get my clinical license and do deeper work with creatives.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It’s NEVER a smooth road! However, the biggest struggles have also ended up being the biggest inspirations and motivators to my successes. For example, in 2013, a few months after losing my father, I contracted chronic Lyme disease. It can knock me on my a** and it forced me to redesign my lifestyle. I went from sleeping an average of 2-3 hours/night and working round-the-clock to putting my health first and working a maximum of 4-6 hours a day during the workweek. It served as the inspiration for how I would help creatives as The Rock/Star Advocate. It can still be a struggle, but honoring what I tell my clients to do – letting go of false urgency, setting boundaries, and putting my health first – always helps me bounce back.

Another major obstacle when starting out was the industry’s reluctance to jump on the #selfcare wagon. It was difficult to get speaking opportunities at conferences and collaborate with established businesses who felt my message had no place in their agenda. However, I was motivated by this resistance to scream my message even louder. I focused on the musicians and used tools like Periscope, YouTube, and Instagram to communicate my time management tips and address the issues I saw them going through on a daily basis.

Creating that direct relationship with them AND reaching back out to people I worked with at the beginning of my career (shout out to Lou Plaia, founder of ReverbNation!) was instrumental in helping me break down the barriers to bigger platforms within the industry. It was hard for event coordinators to ignore the message I was sharing when people were requesting me to be on their panel or provide a training to their audience. If you believe in your message and you know how you can impact your audience, never allow anyone to silence you. If I listened to industry vets tell me how little artists cared about time management, I never would have created and sold 100s of copies of my Rock/Star Life Planner each and every year since 2016.

Success is built on trust, so focus on building those relationships, one by one or group by group. It will pay off, you’ve just got to believe it will, otherwise why would anyone believe in you?

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
The Rock/Star Advocate was created to help musicians and industry professionals avoid the burnout and overwhelm I experienced in the first ten years of my career. This industry focuses a lot on “hustle” and pushes very toxic ideas of what that “should” look like. The Rock/Star Advocate’s mission is to #redefinethehustle and empower creatives to build a career on their terms. You don’t need to work 24/7. You don’t need to give away your art for free. You don’t need a label or manager or booking agent in order to make an impact and begin building your career.

I believe what sets TRSA apart is our custom and personalized approach to productivity and time management. There is NO one-size-fits-all blueprint to being productive. F*ck the 5 a.m. club! If you’re not a morning person, it will NEVER work for you. If your productivity rhythm dictates that your most focused hours are from 6-10 p.m., let’s do what we can to design your day to take advantage of that window.

I am proud to have built an inclusive, heart-centered business that puts compassion first and gives creatives permission to give themselves grace when it comes to needing a break in order to keep going. The messages I receive on a daily basis are mainly artists thanking me for allowing them to acknowledge their progress and stop the comparison paralysis. Whether with our group accountability and coaching program – The Rock/Star Slackers™ – or my private 1:1 VIP days, the goal is to change the way people view being productive and getting sh*t done.

How do you think about luck?
I wouldn’t say luck has played a role. I have definitely had privileges in my life that have allowed me to make opportunities happen – supportive parents in a middle-class family, strong industry relationships, being raised with a resilient work ethic with the freedom to fail – however, you can have all of the privileges in the world and still not create anything from it.

I would say my belief in myself and surrounding myself with people who also dream big have allowed me to be prepared for anything that came my way, good or bad. I don’t look at it as luck, but rather an awareness of opportunities that have crossed my path and the courage to receive them/go after them whether I felt ready or not (and hint: you’re never ready). “Bad luck” is just not being open/aware of the opportunities that are out there.

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Image Credits:

Headshot: Kon Boogie of The Street Geek Podcast Cover Photo: designed by Andrea Balogun The Rock/Star Planner Cover: designed by Alyssa B. Jackson

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