Us humans, we have all these labels for people, right.
Some are mean like calling someone a nerd or a moron. Some are self-applied like goth or grunge. Some clearly state a specific spiritual philosophy like Christian or Pagan. Some are about ancestry, others skin color, still others define the generation you were born. We use these words as a way to categorize traits or behaviors and all of it is a way for our brains to create boundaries. Wars are fought, rallies are held, weddings are arranged, all in the name of these boxes we create. When it comes to business, the words that create our box, our brand are important too. We can incite love or hate, connection or ambiguity just by our choice of label, the words and actions that define us.
Our guest today is in the business of creating these connections through stories that building better brands. Labels that describe him would be extrovert, connector, describer, storyteller. Dmitri Vietze has been building brands for decades. His business Rock Paper Scissors helps musicians, tech companies, and entrepreneurs of all kinds tell their story. In this episode, he’ll tell his.
We’re glad you joined us!
Here are some highlights:
What childhood memories led Dmitri to start a public relations (PR) business? (2:45)
Dmiti was born in Nashville, TN and lived there for the first decade of his life. His family then moved to Queens New York in the 1980’s. He spent his high school years there attending the New York City school for Music and the Arts (the high school from the FAME TV show). Dmitri was heavily involved in activism there speaking out against racism and cultural inequity. His activism involved a ton of public speaking, marketing, and sharing the story of the inequity he saw. After high school, he got a scholarship to attend the liberal arts college Antioch College with a focus on activism.
What’s the origin story of Rock Paper Scissors? (4:10)
At Antioch, Dmitri really drove towards the business maragement side of things. He still felt powerful about activism but he wanted to find a way to connect it with building a business. After college he took a job in Portland, OR. He started digging deep into the root of the music he loves. 80’s progressive hip hop used a ton of jazz samples so Dmitri started listening to more of that. That led to a love of African roots, afro-beats, and world music in general. Eventually, a record distributer asked him to use that knowledge to do PR work for their global clients. After doing that for a while he decided he wanted to pick his own jobs. In 1999, Rock Paper Scissors was born.
Dmitri is known for wearing vibrant colorful clothing. Where does that choice come from? (11:45)
Bright colorful cloths have been a think for Dmitri since he was a kid. He’s always just felt like it represented him and nis personality. As a business owner, he realized that people were noticing it and the bright clothes really proceeded him into business conversations. The work he does is creative, fun, and colorful. He wanted that to be represented in the visual palette people saw when he entered their space.
How has the music industry changed in the time you’ve been connected with it? (13:45)
The 90’s was really to boom of record sales and that feel off when online streaming of music became a thing. As physical record sales dropped, live music took more of a center stage. Huge festivals have been a thing and continue to bring in big bucks while offering artists of all sizes the opportunity to connect. The club scene has grown as well. In addition, digital sales have become more streamlined and paid for. Napster offered music for free, really hurting musicians, but iTunes, Spotify and other streaming mechanisms have monetized music in a way that ultimately help musicians.
Another trend is that more and more musicians are publishing. Recording music and videos is easier which is great but it also means there’s a ton of competition. The best thing to do is just kep producing and marketing the music you create.
How has Rock Paper Scissors Evolved? (21:55)
Dmitri loves technology. Rock Paper Scissors developed a ton of tech to support their PR work. He realized that he could apply his systems not only to World Music but also to tech companies, and all kinds of other entrepreneurs. The stories are very much the same.
How can businesses tell their own stories? (29:00)
- Don’t use cliché terminology.
- Start with the origin story and build from there
- Have someone else interview you and discover your own answers. Get that outside perspective
- Figure out what truly makes you unique
- Focus your story around a human. Give your listener someone to connect the story with
Rock Paper Scissors has focused on technology for music public relations but now you’re serving pure tech companies as well. How do they connect? (32:05)
Healthy tech brands tend to have four concepts at their heart: Equity, Transparency, Innovation, Networking & Research. This really isn’t any different than the musicians we’ve always worked with. It seemed like an obvious fit so we connected with some tech brands and the results have been great.
How has Rock Paper Scissors Evolved? (37:00)
Dmitri wants to grow into the pure Tech PR business and he wants to continue using Storyfinding methods where the masses are telling the story of the business in a way that’s decentralize from the business itself.
Mentioned in the episode:
- Fela Koti – Afro Beats artist
- CD Baby – “The onramp to the music industry”
- Paren Lamb – Indy Coffee House Playlist
- DIY Musician Conference
- Jack Conte – Pomplamoose & Patreon
- Storyamp – Automated music marketing platform
- DeveloperTown – “Software is eating the world”
- The Innovators Dilemma & The Innovators DNA by Clayton Christensen
- Edelman Trust Barometer
Special thanks to Dmitri Vietze for taking the time to share the Rock Paper Scissors story with us.
The show was produced and edited by me Jeremy Goodrich.
The music is by my good friend Mark VInten. In college we would get together most Friday nights and play music to the wee hours of the morning.. Here’s the thing though. He lived in a tiny apartment with about 200 neighbors. We had a drum set, amplifiers, and we loved to turn it up. Kind of can’t believe that the cops only showed up twice.
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