“I only suffer in the last third” – Joey Kelly on digital transformation of the music industry, personal change & tips on mindset in the office

Published September 5, 2022
Estimated reading time 17 min

Joey Kelly Endurance athlete | Musician | Entrepreneur | Speaker Kelly Family GbR

Joey Kelly's avatar d.velop blog

An inspiring interview with Joey Kelly is behind us. Look forward to insights on how Joey Kelly perceived the digital transformation in the music industry, why the Kelly Family comeback would not have happened without this change, helpful tips on employee motivation and what it really takes to be successful – privately and professionally!

Joey Kelly on the digital transformation in the music industry

d.velop blog: The Kelly surname is still closely associated with music. There is and was a digital change in the music industry. How did you perceive this change?

Joey Kelly: When I look back over the last 40 years, how we started as the Kelly Family back then – at the end of the 70s – when my parents were still alive, I remember above all that we played a lot on the street. The street was our stage. There were a lot of ups and downs back then. That’s the way the music business is.

From street music, LPs, cassettes to CDs and streaming.

Many believe that Covid alone has changed a lot in the last two years. Digital formats have taken hold. However, the changes in the music industry, as well as every other industry, have been going on for the last 20-30 years.

A little trip into the past

Back then, in the 70s, people still sold singles, LPs. In the 80s, cassettes. Then came CDs in the 90s, the sale of which opened a big market, until a few years ago. And now CD sales are going towards zero. Now it’s streaming.

If you’re a musician who hasn’t kept up with the times, you obviously have a very big problem in the development in the music industry.

Joey Kelly

The 90s: Bravo and MTV on the rise

In the ’90s, print was the platform for musicians like Bon Jovi, the Kelly Family and the Backstreet Boys. Print was number one. Let’s think of Bravo! The Bravo newspaper had a circulation of over a million, and people collected Bravo back then, they didn’t throw it away. Bravo was a platform that reached up to 10 million kids and also adults. Even at the age of 25, I still looked at Bravo. There was something exciting for everyone. Among other things, there was a page with rock and heavy metal, techno and a colorful mix of everything.

the kelly family on the cover of bravo magazine
Bravo issue May 9, 1996 | Source: altezeitschriften.de

MTV as the music channel of the 80s and 90s.

“MTV Television,” is all I’m saying. The most important and biggest station in the music industry in the 80s and 90s. Today it no longer exists. It’s not even a platform for any music band anymore. In the old days, if you got a gig on MTV, you had arrived. They played your video clip five times a day for four, five weeks and that sold records like hell. That filled the halls. In Germany there was also VIVA. All that doesn’t exist anymore. That’s all over.

Comeback of the Kelly Family thanks to the digital transformation

Facebook post ensures full halls at the Kelly Family comeback 2017

We first officially took a break as the Kelly Family in 2006 and started up again exactly ten, eleven years later. On May 19, 2017, we played the first concert in Dortmund, at the Westfalenhalle. No one knew if anyone would visit us ten years later. There were also no record companies who believed in it or promoters. The whole thing went like this: We decided, okay, we’ll try a concert in Dortmund at the Westfalenhalle. Then my brother, in front of my eyes, with his smartphone, made a post on Facebook and the concert was sold out within 17 minutes with 14,000 people. The second and third concert, which were simply optioned up to that point, were sold out again by two postings. The first one in half an hour, the second one in two hours. We really didn’t think that was possible.

The Kelly Family owes its comeback to the digital transformation.

Joey Kelly

In the past, even if you were a very well-known band, you still had to spend a marketing budget of 20,000 DM to fill the Westfalenhalle. From the beginning, ads, billboards, radio spots, everything. Today, when you’re in a band that has a big following, you’re in constant communication with your fans. You’re close and it costs you absolutely nothing to let your fan base know. Ultimately, the Kelly Family has the digital revolution to thank for our comeback.

The kelly family music concert in dortmund with fans
Kelly Family Comeback Westfalenhalle Dortmund 2017 | Source: lokalkompass.de

The change in the target group of the Kelly Family

We started 2017 with our comeback tour. Almost three years, 100 concerts, 1.5 million spectators, 2 million CDs sold are behind us. Now, in 2022, we are facing a completely new challenge. We have an audience from different generations. We are lucky that most of our fans are families with children, and often the whole family likes the Kelly Family. The grandma thinks the Kellys are cool, the daughter, the husband also has to go to the concert and now the kids are coming too.

Kelly Family goes TikTok

Accordingly, our target audience now also includes the 10 to 20-year-olds who grew up with the Kelly Family’s music through their parents. So our audience is made up of fans from the past who are less streaming-savvy and the younger generation. We had an appointment with our record label yesterday to talk about TikTok, which is exactly the challenge we’re facing. Kelly Family goes TikTok. You really wouldn’t have thought that possible five years ago. Well, TikTok didn’t exist five years ago, but I never thought we’d be doing something like this. We’re fighting to be in the digital world. And we also owe a lot to this digital world. Because it’s only thanks to the digital world that the Kelly Family made a comeback without having to make an investment. There was no risk at all. That’s great.

Joey Kelly about his very personal change

d.velop blog: At this point we could already end the interview, because this answer was fantastic and very detailed. Thank you very much for that. But of course we are also interested in your personal change. You turned away from music as your main business and went into another direction. Why? What was the deciding factor?

Joey Kelly: Yes, well, on the one hand I am a musician. On top of that, I’ve had the honor of managing Kelly Family Management GmbH for 23 years. This is a trust that I have received from my siblings. That’s great. I’m really proud to be able to do that.

Joey Kelly on a rock by the sea endurance sport

From music to extreme sports

The second story is the sport, the adventure, adventure and this whole challenge. I have been following this for over 25 years. I discovered sports for myself in the 90s – in 1996, to be precise – as an optimal balance to this, shall I say, very eventful profession as a musician. Because in the music business you experience ups and downs. With every new record, every new tour, you ask yourself whether it will be successful. Will the record go to number one? Do you make gold records? Whatever. All these questions.

Sport is an outlet for me. It is a balance. It gives me strength. I also like the challenge, the challenge.

Joey Kelly

In the last 25 years I have completed 50 marathons, 30 ultra marathons, ten desert runs, the Race Across America four times, 13 Iron Man’s and many, many, many other races. I have crossed Germany twice with no money and and. It’s fun for me. But it’s also a kind of challenge with myself.

Joey Kelly and son Luke in a bus
Joey & Luke Kelly Bulli Challenge – From Berlin to Beijing without money – only with donations | National Geographic

Challenging yourself again and again …

Eleven years ago, I walked from Wilhelmshaven to the Zugspitze, 900 kilometers, without food or money. So it really was survival. I arrived after just under 18 days. It was great, fantastic. Then I did the same thing to myself again four years ago. However, the demand on myself was different, I just wanted to be faster. I knew I had more experience. I knew that I had studied the subject – not only ultra sport, but also survival – so I start with no guarantee, but with the hope that it will be better. And it did: I crossed the finish line after 15 days. And so it goes on and on.

Breaking new ground instead of quitting – even in times of Covid

The last two years have also been a challenge. Because of Covid, almost every marathon and challenge was rescheduled or cancelled. The North Pole Marathon, which I actually wanted to do the last two years, has been rescheduled because of the situation. So you go new ways. For me, quitting is not an option. Saying to yourself, “Okay, now I’m just going to take a big break and wait for everything to get better.” No, that’s not for me. So I designed my own challenge in Germany. This one I could do without being restricted by travel regulations or other constraints. A challenge that I produced myself with a team. In this case, I was supported by Stern TV and a book was produced for National Geographic.

Challenge accepted: the green belt – from the Baltic Sea to the Czech Republic

The challenge was the former inner German border, the green belt from the Baltic Sea to the Czech Republic. 1,400 kilometers. Not only rocking out at least 42 kilometers every day and experiencing this route, a historic route for German history, but also organized every day by three journalists that I installed on board as a team. Contemporary witnesses who accompanied me virtually every day and spent a few hours reporting on things that happened when the walls were still standing. From the west, but also from the east. It was even more fantastic than I could have ever imagined. It’s just a great story. A few top politicians and celebrities were there, too. The interplay of history and challenge, combined with nature, was fantastic.

“The green belt is the longest biotope in Europe, with almost 1400 kilometers and 150 nature reserves and has a great wildlife landscape. Due to the decades of closure, nature has flourished greatly along this stretch.”

Joey Kelly lives for the moment of arrival

d.velop blog: You say it’s fun and you say it’s a passion. But why do you put yourself through this pain?

Joey Kelly: Well, I usually only suffer in the last third. The last 30 percent is just struggle and agony and head and mindset, and especially the thought of not giving up. I live for the moment of arrival. An example: when I made the Zugspitze after 18 days, from Wilhelmshaven to the Zugspitze, the last 10 meters, just for these 10 meters and for this arrival, this moment that you have reached your limits and gone beyond them so that you get goose bumps, it was worth it. I feed on these moments. From this success, from this result.

I torture myself for 18 days, but feed on it all my life.

Joey Kelly

d.velop blog: That means, for you, arriving is the goal? Others say that the journey is the goal. And if and when you arrive and how fast is not important at all.

Joey Kelly: Well, the journey is the destination is certainly a good motto. There are people who say, “Yeah, I don’t know exactly what I want.” I then say, “Do something. The way is also the goal.” This approach is also a good concept, but for me, not arriving is out of the question. As Churchill said, “Never ever, ever, give up.” And it has always worked out so far. I have completed every challenge, every competition. Sometimes in the middle of it, let’s call it “bursting.” I underestimated the power I needed, then maybe didn’t divide the energy optimally. The competition was then much more brutal and harder than I thought or due to the weather it was even hotter or there was a lot of storm or whatever. Despite all adversity, I always arrived.

Joey Kelly by finishing the run with a medal in his hand

d.velop blog: Was there ever any situation, any challenge, where you gave up?

Joey Kelly: No, there hasn’t been a challenge out of over 100 challenges in the last 25 years where I’ve given up. No, it really hasn’t come up until now. Possibly in the future, if I should injure myself seriously somewhere, then it is not possible. However, I have already finished an Iron Man with a broken collarbone. I was often really so physically gone, pain in the legs, the feet broken or open and still it went on.

The Joey Kelly Mindset in the office?!

d.velop blog: You just talked about the mindset. If we try to break that down to the context in which we are on the road: Companies, people sitting in the office, working on the computer, maybe having completely different challenges, different challenges. How can I develop more resilience to solve the challenges? So-called resilience. Can you project that onto the things that drive you? How can I transfer that when I’m sitting at the computer all day, but I feel the same way, under pressure and in pain?

Joey Kelly: Yeah, the question that comes up is, how do I motivate myself? I think it’s important to have a profession that you feel is your calling. If you want to be successful in your profession, then it has to be something that you’re passionate about, that you burn for. And yet there’s the daily grind of the job. For me, there’s not a finish every day either. If I have to drive to Frankfurt right away and get stuck in a traffic jam because I’m filming four days with Stern TV tonight, that’s no fun either.

I am self-employed, I have a tax audit every two years. That’s no fun either, but it’s part of the job. It depends on the result.

Joey Kelly

d.velop blog: There is a great software that can help.

Joey Kelly: If you are an entrepreneur, you have to do a lot of, let’s say, “dirty work” to get a good result. We are currently producing five different documentaries. That’s why I spend hours on the phone every day just organizing. Starting with the project of putting the Kelly Family ship on the water or taking the Kelly Bus to Madrid. That will be a documentary about the Kelly Family History. Another current example: I’m doing the Panamericana in six weeks. This project has been in the organization for two years. Just all the organization, the vehicles that have to be up there until it starts. Only then does the adventure begin.

A team that shreds as a success factor

To be successful, one thing in particular is very important: an awesome team. Working with people who simply shred. In addition to the team, preparation is essential. Preparation for everything I do is half the battle, in my opinion. In a nutshell: good preparation, a strong mindset and the will to get things done together as a team.

The recipe for success of employee motivation according to Joey Kelly

d.velop blog: That means you also work with people in a team? What would you advise a company or a management, how can they motivate their employees? How can they make sure that they can act under pressure and that they have fun doing so?

Joey Kelly: I think it’s important that there’s a good atmosphere in the company where you work. Because I think the atmosphere accounts for about 50 percent of motivation. A good atmosphere increases motivation to achieve goals. In addition to a good atmosphere, respectful interaction is also necessary: A good tone, so that people simply feel comfortable. In addition, you should always give the people around you the feeling that they are needed: “Without you, we won’t get this far.” Also, trust is incredibly important, the security that you can rely on someone as well. I have a crew of nine people in addition to running the Kelly Family. I’m not the boss, I’m just responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly. We work as equals. I have a team that I can rely on one hundred percent, where we really work together as a team on the subject of “No Limits in Business”.

Whether it’s desert running or the office, it takes similar skills.

The comparison between a desert run, a marathon, an Iron Man, and someone who pushes the envelope professionally is 100 percent. You need perseverance no matter what you do. You need discipline, courage, passion, passion and goals. So, it’s all comparable one-to-one. That’s why I always say:

Life is a marathon.

Joey Kelly

Ultimately, you don’t have to run marathons at all. It’s a hobby that I enjoy. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t forget that health is important, and you can achieve that through exercise and nutrition. You simply have more energy, but people don’t have to run marathons. A marathon is already so much that it’s no longer healthy – and I say that, but a little exercise is important. Exercise is simply a good balance.

Even a Joey Kelly has fears

d.velop blog: If one experiences you in public, then it is always like this or it always seems like this: Joey Kelly, he can do everything, he manages everything he sets his mind to and never gives up. You also say that. Is there anything that you’re really afraid of, that you wouldn’t dare to do, that you wouldn’t do?

Joey Kelly: Enough. For example, I could never imagine doing deep diving. Or caves. I get fears there, thinking I’ll never get out of here or drown there. Or base jumping. There are a lot of sports that really scare me, where I think, “Wow, this is crazy.” It’s so out of control that you really don’t know if you’re going to live much longer or anything.

Other than that, I’m not really scared and I just enjoy working with people. I’m someone who loves people and I just like people and I like when you approach a project together.

Joey Kelly’s business model: Give ten, take one.

There is a business model that I can only recommend. If you want to grow as an entrepreneur, or as an employee, or whatever, and want to win people over for yourself, so to speak, and then want to stand professionally in such a way that people only recommend you and you can’t save yourself from work or orders. “Give more than you take!” That is, in English they even go one step further and say “Give ten, take one.” So give ten, take one.

It all comes down to long-term success

The only true success in life and business, I find, is long-term success. This success comes from investing in my team, my company, my partners, my customers, my family, my friends and treating them with fairness and loyalty.

It is important to live the values that we have now experienced again to a greater extent in the last two years. In business, too.

Joey Kelly

Lockdowns have made us realize: Who is really there for me when the going gets tough? Who is my family? These questions are more relevant than ever.

To ensure that long-term success in business, you have to give more than you take. That’s the only way to grow. On the other hand, should you be someone who wants to do fast business and is out to make a quick buck, you will leave a negative trail behind you. How far do you want that to go? We are in the digital world today. Transparency is 100 percent. No one can hide in business. That’s gone. You can’t go to France like you used to and nobody knows where you’re from. No, we are all over the world.

d.velop blog: I would have 1000 more questions, but I think that’s a very, very nice closing for this interview as well. I can only say, thank you very much for the deep, warm and open impressions.