A year ago, December 2016, I planned the release of my album. Thinking ahead, it’s a good idea to reflect. The purpose here is to evaluate experiences and set new ones for goals.
2016 In Review
When I sat down a year ago, I began researching album releases and timelines. I learned many lessons in 2014 with my album Hallowed and wanted to do a better with Diffused. I set some dates and began listing what I should do each month prior to release. I wanted to try crowd funding and set public and private release shows.
The crowd funding was a disaster. Read why it failed. I’m bad at asking people for money. I can’t blame being the awkward artist–I hate it myself and have a tough time doing to others what I don’t like being done to me. Seems like a Sunday School teacher would be proud hearing that. The other reason for failure is the point of “trying” over “planning and doing.” Not to sound like Yoda, but there is a huge difference in the two processes. Carrying the failure into 2017, I want to learn more about audiences and earning “fans.”
When preparing the release shows, luckily I scheduled things far enough in advance to secure venues. My vision included having other artists with me so people I brought would hear them and, honestly, anyone they bring would hear me. You’d think asking artists to play and giving them cash for playing a few songs would have been easy. No. I could repeat “no” many times to emphasize. NO! Couldn’t resist that one.
You’d think asking artists to play and giving them cash for playing a few songs would have been easy. No.
A few artists I asked, some I knew personally, didn’t reply. One cancelled at the last minute. That created just a little stress. The artists that did play, a couple whom I didn’t know beforehand, are all my friends now. Not just “music” friends but friends. That I didn’t expect. I’m so grateful to Nathan Jones, Lia Glynias, Joey Kenig, and Andy and Emily aka Catching The Westbound for being there. Thinking ahead, I really want to keep my friends. That might sound silly but pursuing music is very self serving. It’s easy to loose touch and be too busy to see each other.
Diffused came out in May 2016 and right around six months after its release, I realized I broke even. This was done with in-person sales and supporting shows. Thinking ahead, I’ve come up with better monitoring of income and costs of my musical endeavors. I’m a bit of a nerd (such understatement if you know me in person) and have some nice programmed spreadsheets to help me analyze and evaluate activities.
With the release of an album, booking solo shows became a priority. My goal was to book a solo show per month for the remainder of 2016. By the summer’s end, I had through October. By September I had through December.
Transitioning to a solo performer made me think about my performing skills. I teach, so I’m used to making up things on the spot to make teens and preteens pay a modicum of attention. I started using a looper pedal to give me a fuller sound. I had been playing in cover bands and can solo on guitar until my fingers fall off. Then I’ll go all metal and solo with bleeding stumps. Then I’ll… Little example of saying things to get attention. With the looper, I can build layers and add to what I do.
Then I’ll go all metal and solo with bleeding stumps.
The last couple months of the year, this idea blossomed, was savagely burned, and reborn. Thinking of putting on a show, I realized I could produce short tracks. I could play those into my looper with live guitar and create a full band sound. This is a game changer. Drums are the key to getting people moving. People dancing, observed from years of cover band experience, equate to more varied gigs. Meaning, instead of just doing the few venues that dig solo singer-songwriter stuff, I can move into venues that might have dancing and a different atmosphere. Thinking ahead, having options is good. That’s the strategy.
The above is the short, public evaluation of the year’s highlights. I’m a harsh self critic. Meaning, my OCD fueled turbo drive can spend hours and hours on what-ifs and should-have-beens. Every. Day. If you’re like that, practice controlling that tendency. You can control it and use it at will like other skills you might have.
Meaning, my OCD fueled turbo drive can spend hours and hours on what-ifs and should-have-beens. Every. Day.
The main categories of goals for 2017 are gigs, streaming, and working smarter.
One cover band I was in has taken a break. Seeing how a volume of gigs can burn you out, I’m really evaluating my gig goals. One paying solo gig a month minimum is the goal. I’m trying to get into different venues. Over the last few months, I’ve created a list of nearly 200 gig possibilities and how and when I have contacted them. When I secure a date, I move the information to another list. Ideally, I’d like to rotate through venues every few months. Then build upon that where I have two gigs every two months and increase from there. While teaching, two paying gigs a month is a good number.
As 2016 ends, getting this goal started has been tough. December is a tough time get responses from people. I lost a venue due to ASCAP threatening them. I felt in a hole. Luckily, I booked a featured songwriter spot in April then two January gigs were confirmed–one in a new venue.
Some friends do video streaming. It’s a new area for musicians to get exposure and make money. Personally, I feed off people being there. The creepy dude staring at my fingers as I play guitar actually makes me play better. But, if I can replace a paying gig by doing like a hour or so show each week, that would meet goals.
The creepy dude staring at my fingers as I play guitar actually makes me play better.
I actually tried my first stream yesterday. I didn’t tell anyone and no one watched, but it was funny. I had my phone tilted wrong, so I was side-ways at the beginning. Like when I practice by myself, I correct my mistakes. It was hard to go into “performer” mode in my practice space. I’m going to use Krue TV.
Combining the gig and streaming goals, I talked to one venue about streaming. We’re going to try that January 19, 2017. The plan is to do short streams on Facebook, Periscope, and Instagram and see which gets viewers. I might do Krue TV too. To further the plan, I hope to set a return date and repeat the process and look for trends in viewers. I drafted a simple business plan for streaming with income ideas that don’t involve tipping. Wish me luck.
Oh Ari Herstand…what you inspire us musicians to do. I’ve been reading Ari for a couple years. His advice is on target and detailed. I pre-ordered his book, How To Make It In The New Music Business. What I like, is the advice is applicable to many facets of life. Since I do have a career and my music goals are retirement focused, remember teachers have an awesome retirement age, I can take my time working toward my end goal.
One change I’ve seen in myself is my self value. A year ago, I would have driven a day for a free gig just to do it. Now, I’m figuring out mileage and other expenses and seeing which gigs are worth doing. I’m learning which venues, like Midwestern wineries and festivals, book months ahead of time. Looking through the value lens changes how you see things and trying to move into a different stratus presents new challenges.
What I’m doing after I finish this post is making a monthly chart of goals. I’ll see where I am with my vision and what else I need to plan. Most importantly is if I meet my goals, I’ll think of next steps to take. I have the luxury of time to build to my larger goal. Time allows me room to think, plan, act, revise, learn, and grow.
Time allows me room to think, plan, act, revise, learn, and grow.
I love connecting with other artists and I’ll continue blogging artists. Like when setting up release shows, I’m amazed at how many artists just don’t respond. I spent a lot of time over the summer pushing my music to blogs and stations. I can’t imagine why artists wouldn’t want free exposure. One artist told me they didn’t want conflicting sources of information. Huh? As for goals, a post a month is the minimum. Seeing posts grow in readers and artists getting good responses to their music and stories is a great reward.
Happy New Year
I’ll share how things go. Hope you enjoy what I have here. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to set some goals and grow yourself. Happy New Year!