Jeff Miyahara is the co-founder and chief creative officer of KLKTN, an emerging tech startup connecting artists with fans. KLKTN recently launched a series of collectible mixed media artworks with two-time Grammy award-winning pop star Kimbra, and a first-of-its-kind NFT audio stem player, among other initiatives. A renowned music producer and songwriter, Jeff Miyahara has collaborated with Boyz II Men, Pharrell Williams, and Timbaland, has produced more than 270 artists, and has created works that have sold over 40 million copies around the world. Miyahara, a Los Angeles native, co-founded KLKTN with a mission to champion diverse and innovative artists, amplify their impact, and unleash new possibilities at the intersection of music, art, culture, and technology.
Where did the idea for KLKTN come from?
Over the last 21 years, I’ve been fortunate to build a career in the music industry, which allowed me to produce, discover, and nurture hundreds of incredible artists around the world. During this time, I’ve seen the industry go through significant change, most of which, from an economic standpoint, was not to the benefit of artists and their creative collaborators. I wanted to change that.
As an industry, one of the things we gained from the disruption of streaming was the ability to reach fans everywhere, who could engage with our music in an easy, direct way. But one of the things we lost was a sense of connection. People have always derived great joy from supporting the artists they loved, from collecting their CDs, tapes, vinyl. Yet it has become increasingly difficult for fans to connect with the artists themselves; not with a piece of content or a song, out of context, but with the real story behind the music. At the same time, many artists and their teams have been suffering economically in a new paradigm that’s inherently unfair. Musicians’ earnings from sales have declined since the age of CDs, but music appreciation has gone up. On top of that, the pandemic has affected the very core of how musicians earn a living, and one of the last few ways in which fans can directly support musicians: concerts. And part of the problem is the lack of mediums through which fans can show their support or channel behaviors that are very much alive and thriving: collecting art, making online purchases, paying for content that interests them or brings value to their lives.
So how do we fix this? How do we make collectibility and unique ownership accessible to a new generation of people? How do we democratize music in a way that benefits artists? Most of all, how do we ensure that what we are creating is a sustainable solution for the music industry’s future? That was the starting point for KLKTN, which helps creators connect with fans through collectible art and special experiences. We provide new avenues for artists to share and sustain their craft, and for fans to support the artists they love.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start most days around 7am. Once a week, I do a paper route where I deliver newspapers to about 26 houses in the neighborhood. It’s such a small act of service but it’s amazing how connected to the community it makes me feel. Then I enjoy the limited time I have with my kids, getting them ready for the day, taking them to school. I really cherish these routines because they give me a good perspective on what matters, and they set the right pace for the day. When I’m committed to starting every day of the week by doing something good, not by getting swept up in a frenzy of emails, I have a sense of clarity. And that clarity and consistency is what leads to productivity.
Around 8:30am, I’ll dive into the priorities for the day and sync with our KLKTN team. We are spread out across three continents and multiple time zones, so creating an environment of trust, connection, and support is vital. It involves asynchronous work along with one-on-one check-ins and being focused and deliberate when it comes to team calls. It also involves staying flexible and making myself available to my team throughout the day. One of our biggest strengths is in the talent we are attracting and nurturing, from our team to our collaborators, all of whom bring an incredible diversity of perspectives and skill sets. With this privilege comes the responsibility to honor their needs, to create the conditions that allow their creativity to flourish, and to ensure that everyone feels heard, understood, valued, and supported.
In addition to my role at KLKTN, I’m still an active music producer. My studio work begins in the afternoon, but not until I’ve taken at least 30 minutes to prepare a meal for myself, and wraps up by 7-8pm. To stay productive, I have to remind myself to infuse healthy habits throughout the day, with small steps towards taking care of myself, feeding my body, my mind and my soul. That way, when it’s time to lead or motivate others, I can draw from a source of energy, and from all the positivity and empathy that comes from it. The wonderful thing about this source is, the more you fuel it, the more its capacity expands, and the more there is to give.
How do you bring ideas to life?
For me, this starts with identifying what is absolutely unique and irreplaceable that you are bringing into the world: the intersection of your innate talents, developed skills, strengths, and values. Next comes channeling your curiosity to actively seek out others who may be like-minded in terms of sharing your values, but who may bring new perspectives through a different set of talents, skills, and strengths. Then you can join forces and help each other create and bring new ideas to life.
If you are just focusing on bringing your own ideas to life, there is a limit to what can be achieved, because your creative idea might be limited to your perspective, your experience, your knowledge. I’m much more interested in asking “What if,” fostering curiosity and collaboration, and staying open to change, transformation, and the growth that comes from it, because that’s endless.
What’s one trend that excites you?
NFTs are revolutionizing the worlds of art and entertainment and fundamentally transforming the market for digital assets. A new era in fandom is here, and it’s a very interesting time to reflect on the ideas of value, access, collectability, and democratization. I’m excited about ushering in a new era for the music industry, along with our team at KLKTN, and about exploring some of the larger implications that NFTs bring at the intersection of culture, technology, and creativity.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Starting the day with a small act of service, something that might help make someone’s day a little better, ultimately makes me more productive, because it gives me clarity on what truly matters.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Find joy in the process, in the pursuit. Don’t limit yourself by comparing yourself to others. Concentrate on your heart.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Disruption is only good when it benefits people. Not just when it makes new things possible, but when the things it makes possible have a positive impact on people’s lives; when it serves a higher purpose, when it brings us together, and when it brings value on an individual and societal level. The next frontier is in creating technologies that nurture emotional connection and that reassert our humanity.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
What a time to be an entrepreneur. Everyone’s got a shot. And not just once but multiple times. Don’t be afraid to fail. You’ll be more concerned about the ground below you, than the stars above.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
What has helped us grow is honing in on the premise behind the business. Recognizing a problem, recognizing a need people have today, and delivering a simple solution that provides real value. For us, that means delivering the types of experiences that fans are looking to get access to, in a way that’s easy, affordable, and sustainable, and recognizing people as super fans, while also meeting a real need from artists who are looking to sustain their craft and add value to their fans’ lives. We have also created an additional stream of consistent revenue for artists in between singles and releases, while helping them keep the flame and the story alive, and monetizing it.
Beyond the “what” and “why now” of the business, to grow, you have to surround yourself with the right people. I’m proud to work with a team who is constantly transforming what’s possible.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One of my earliest encounters with failure was in the late 90s, when I decided I wanted to hit it really big in the music industry. I went through the Yellow Pages, looked up all the major record labels, and I cold-called every single one of them. The whole experience was just one mistake after another, showing up with my demo tapes and essentially getting kicked out to the curb every time. There was only one way to overcome it: push past the discomfort and keep going — stay curious, work on my craft, learn about the process, and eventually, identify the one area I could add the most value to and be deliberate about that pursuit. I’ve been reminded of this lesson many, many times since then, and that’s the joy, getting a new shot at life, learning something brand new all over again.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’d offer the following question and be curious to see how readers across different industries respond or bring it to life as a business: How do we create new value, rooted in utility and in real use cases in people’s lives, with virtual resources?
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I have several hardware wallets for my crypto assets, and Ledger makes a great one for under $100. I think it’s important to realize that finance is really making some incredibly drastic changes, and it’s an important time to start learning about blockchain and the implications of what the future holds for us in the growing adaptation of decentralized finance and crypto currency. I advise against making haphazard decisions, but for the amount you’d be spending on a Friday night out: having a nice dinner with drinks, you could be well on your way to start building your digital asset portfolio.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
When it comes to sharing music or creative ideas, and sending large files, Digital Pigeon was a real game-changer for me. It’s the best file transfer service in the business.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’d recommend “Team Human” by Douglas Rushkoff. It outlines how vital it is, now more than ever, that we all work together to build technologies that better serve human needs, that nurture connection and make a positive impact.
What is your favorite quote?
“The greatest fear in the world is of the opinions of others. And the moment you are unafraid of the crowd you are no longer a sheep, you become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart, the roar of freedom.” ― Osho, Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously
- It’s more vital than ever that we all work together to build technologies that better serve human needs, that nurture connection and make a positive impact.
- People have always derived great joy from supporting the artists they loved, from collecting their CDs, tapes, vinyl. Yet it has become increasingly difficult for fans to connect with the artists themselves; not with a piece of content or a song, out of context, but with the real story behind the music. At the same time, many artists and their teams have been suffering economically in a new paradigm that’s inherently unfair.
- It’s time to democratize music in a way that benefits artists, and it’s time to make collectibility and unique ownership accessible to a new generation of fans.
- Technology can be a force for positive change, and the key to creating a sustainable solution for the music industry’s future.
- If you are just focusing on bringing your own ideas to life, there is a limit to what can be achieved, because your creative ideas might be limited to your perspective, your experience, your knowledge. But if you foster curiosity and collaboration, if you stay open to change and transformation, your potential for growth is endless.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.