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Posts Tagged ‘self-promotion’

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined”

That is the text on a kitsch little wooden sign that dangles from my work PC monitor. Presumably I bought it to remind myself that there is more to life than the nine to five (or in my case, 8:30 – 4:30) but it did start me thinking about balance and how bad I am at it.

Facebook helpfully reminded me recently that my fans hadn’t heard from me in eight days. It likes to do that. It likes to point out my inadequacies just in case I had forgotten to lie awake until 3am worrying about them. My own self-loathing couldn’t possibly be sufficient, now the internet has to pitch in as well.

Here is the unglamorous truth about being an unsigned, unheard of musician. You can only do music full time with money. Without money you need a job. But a job will sap every last ounce of energy out of you and make it very VERY hard to keep making music. And on it’s own, that’s already a challenge. Now add in self-promotion. Keeping fans up to date and building a following is another full time job. It’s ok if you have money, you can hire someone to do this bit for you. But without the money, you need a job. Circles and circles.

What happened to my optimistic plans of regular blogs, mailing everyone like a boss, free downloads, new content every week and all the things that I need to actually be doing?

In short, life. And life does this to everyone. In my case, my partner had surgery, and my new permanent daylighting project (aka my job which puts food on the table and keeps a roof over me and my keyboard) went stratospheric with intensity and busy-ness. I PA for two directors and do financial admin support, so my day is pretty busy. In the midst of all this, I simply ran out of spoons for anything else. I spent Mon-Thur, May-July coming home, eating dinner, going to bed, rinse and repeat. By the time I got to my dedicated Music day (Fridays) I was so worn out I was just sleeping and reading and trying to regroup so that my mental health did not become a casualty to the impending burnout.

So yes, it’s true. My fans on facebook have not heard from me in eight days. I haven’t blogged since April. I opened an instagram account which has remained unused. My mailing list is still languishing unused. I’m a terrible TERRIBLE promoter.

OK, well, I must have made some music right? Well, yes. I have written two things since FAWM in February. You can find those here.

Things are slowly starting to improve. My partner can now walk again, and pull weight around the house so I am not also doing all the cooking and cleaning. My workload is starting to settle down (either that or I’m getting used to it). I even spoke to PRS yesterday to sort out my tunecodes so I can claim on my live gigs from the start of the year (yes, that’s how behind I am).

I don’t really know why I’m writing this, other than I really want people to understand that when someone goes quiet for a long period of time, it’s not personal. That I still really appreciate the support of my friends and fans and that I haven’t fallen off the earth, I just got buried for a while and had to dig myself out. That this arrangement of having to daylight to pay the bills is not ideal but is one that so many musicians face because people have started to believe that music should be free, or that people should create art out of love and not want financial recompense. That I really, passionately believe that music has value and should be accorded respect, because no matter what you think of it, someone has poured their heart and soul into it, very probably after a long day of financial reporting, filing, street sweeping, serving in a restaurant, scanning items in a supermarket or cleaning toilets.

This isn’t the life I imagined. I have a way to go to get there. Thanks for your patience while I work on it.

 

 

 

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As many of you know, I recently set up a JustGiving page to make some money for Cancer Research UK. It’s been a really interesting experience, because I’ve realised in short order how similar it is to using a crowdfunding site to raise money for your music, in terms of strategies and promotion.

For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, crowdfunding is a way for people to raise money for projects. New films, albums, charitable events, inventions… it’s basically limitless. If you have an idea, and enough people like it, you can raise money to help you do it. You can offer incentives to encourage people to finance you, and generally having a crowdfunding campaign can be an excellent way to focus your efforts on your project. Crowdfunding platforms can be general (http://www.indiegogo.com/) or specific to music (http://www.akamusic.com/ or https://www.sellaband.com/ for example). There is a definite skill to being successful on these platforms, and a smattering of luck helps too, but you can give yourself a good start with some simple tips.

1) The first and foremost thing to consider is that your profile needs to be clear, concise and interesting. You need to tell your story clearly and quickly, but also draw interest and attention. You need to think of it as writing a business pitch so that visitors to your site can see exactly what you are planning to do, and why.

2) Use pictures, video and music! After a fairly impressively failed campaign on Sellaband one of the things I realised was that I just didn’t have enough good quality material to use. The harsh reality is that even though ostensibly you are raising money to help you release that album or make that film professionally, your demos must ALREADY be as close to professional as you can make them without funding. There is so much user friendly software available now that even the most uninformed bedroom musician can knock up a pretty professional sounding demo in short order, and it’s what your potential investors are expecting. They won’t take you seriously unless you do.

If you really lack the skills for home recording, video making or photography, rope in a mate. Recently the press published the story that there are actually only 4 degrees of separation between all of us on the planet…. in terms of probability,  it’s extremely likely that you know someone who knows someone who can help. Offer pizza, beer, chocolate, wine or *insert other suitable bribe here, and you’re away. Or talk to a local college and get a film student or photography student to help you for their portfolio. That is also a handy way to get cheap/free session musicians.

Also in relation to making sure you have enough material, either make sure you are reliably prolific and can produce a high volume of good quality work quickly, or build up a catalogue and release them to your profile slowly over time. People respond really well to regular updates especially if there are new songs to hold their interest. Which leads me to point 3.

3) Update, update, update. Stay in touch with  your investors and potential investors. I saw a lot of projects fail on Sellaband because the profiles were set up and then just left. Often, people might not invest immediately but will watch your profile to see how much activity is going on, if you don’t update, they’ll drift away to another more active fundraiser. Even if you haven’t got a lot to say, say something. “Good morning all, it’s a beautiful day and I’m doing lots of songwriting…” – that sort of thing. Anything is better than radio silence.

4) Target friends and family first, as an empty profile won’t get investors yet. In fact, the first person who should invest in you, is YOU. Get that balance off the £0 mark, as soon as you can. Encourage friends and family to invest and ask people to spread the word. And be prepared for a long slog. This is not an easy road.

Finally what I would say is that crowdfunding on the big platforms (Sellaband, AKA etc) is probably not a good plan if you are a relative unknown. You might be better off doing what I did, and self releasing an album, for a few hundred pounds and build up a following. Waiting to use a crowdfunding platfom until you have an established a solid fanbase not only increases your chances of success, but the process of building your fanbase will help you learn how to manage your crowdfunding campaign once it gets started 🙂

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