2017 was a big year for me, and I’m ramping things up in 2018. I feel like I’m hitting my stride as a musician, so rather than doing anything totally different, I’ll be doubling down on what has been working, and sharpening my focus. I’ve got four overarching goals; refine my brand, enlarge my audience, release new music and collaborate.
Each of these targets has some specific goals and actions attached. Here’s how I plan to get there.
Refine my brand
The more I look into artist marketing, the more I see that everything begins with knowing who my audience is. Which means knowing who I am. This is surprisingly difficult.
I’ve been asking you who I sound like and why you listen to my music. I’ll keep doing that, and work through some worksheets I’ve found to help this process online. Leah McHenry calls this discovering my ‘micro-niche’ - a specific, laser-focussed group who is into what I make.
So far this process has led me to update my one-line bio to this;
“Bow tie rock to haunt your heart”
Bow tie rock isn’t a real genre, of course, but ask most singer-songwriters their genre and we’ll hum and haw about how we don’t fit into any box. So why not invent one that is evocative of what I’m doing?
To me, ‘bow tie rock’ speaks of a ‘classy-ness’ I try and bring to everything I do, and it speaks to effort. I get dressed up for every. freaking. show. Even on video.
‘Bow tie rock’ also juxtaposes worlds, which suits me fine. I never feel fully at home in folk, because I like some grit and edge. But if I’m a rocker, I’m a decidedly nerdy and dapper one. I care that my socks match and I’m good at computers. So be it.
That second half - ‘to haunt your heart’ - speaks to the emotional and spiritual impact I aim for with every song. I want to reach inside of listeners with my lyrics but even more so craft sonic spaces you can live inside for a few beautiful moments.
I’m curious to know what you think of all this. Even it it’s the right ‘branding’, there’s the whole question of how to communicate that clearly with people who have no idea who I am. I’m glad there are smart people who teach this stuff.
Middle Class Musician
As 2017 closed out I enrolled in Derek Webb’s online course, “Middle Class Musician”. Webb assures me that a solid middle-class income is possible making music on my own terms, harnessing the power that is the world wide web. He’s done well for himself so I’ll do my darnedest to follow his advice this year.
Enlarge My Audience
I’ve been consistently pumping out content on Facebook and Youtube, and I’ve found a good rhythm The goal now is not to create more content, but to better leverage what I’m already making so that more people interact with it. This means upping my blogging and social media game to capitalize on the music, podcasts and videos I’m creating.
I’ll be running Facebook ads to help promote everything I’m making to new ears and eyes. Especially my weekly live broadcasts. I’ll also be upping the audio quality of those broadcasts in the near future and I’m toying with ideas to make each week more unique. I may do some live shows on location (any ideas?) and invite some guests to play along (interested?)
Concerts Near and Far
I have just landed a ‘residency’ of sorts at The Art of Cake, where I’ll begin playing monthly early this year to new ears. My first outing there was fantastic on all fronts.
I’m aiming for three house concerts this year because I love the listening-centred space. If you’d like to host one, it’s simple. Let’s chat.
I’m also aiming for a small tour (even a weekend will count for this goal!) and at least one festival gig. It’s time to play outside my hometown, and this is the year it will happen.
As my audience expands, I expect to see my various online communities grow as well. Specifically, I’m aiming for at least 100 views on every YouTube video I release, 100 email subscribers and 200 Spotify followers. This would mostly be an extension of the growth I’ve already achieved in 2017, so totally doable.
I rounded out 2017 with 10 patrons on Patreon, which is so awesome. My Patreon community enables me to do much of what’s on this list and to dream bigger in 2018 than I have before. I hope to have 50 patrons at any amount of support by the end of 2018 and I know I can get there.
I’ll be focussed on releasing content to Patrons first this year - whether it’s a new single, a new Youtube video or episodes of my Make it Small Podcast. I’ll be posting weekly to my blog in 2017 and Patrons will be the first to hear about those posts - and first to even access many of them.
Record New Music
2018 will be the year I record an album. Finally. I may not get it released this year, but it will be recorded. I'm applying for grants soon to fund this project, and I’ve got some people in mind I want to work with. I have a lot of music in me and I want to hear it played the way it sounds in my head, live, with other musicians.
I’ll be releasing more self-recorded singles throughout the year, too, with a Holiday EP in mind for late 2018.
I haven’t decided which song it will be yet, but one of my 2018 releases will be a well-produced cover, which should help me gain some traction with new listeners.
Collaborate with Other Artists
I’m getting hungry for a backing band. I had a taste a couple of times in 2017 and I notice a marked rise in energy when I have a band with me. I’ve resisted this for economic reasons so far, but I’ve met some great players who are willing to take some risks with me, so I look forward to more full-band shows in 2018.
I plan to practice monthly with the band this year so we are ready to rock.
In the summer of 2017, I began my first long-distance co-write with Chelsea Marie Davis from California. The song is called “War of a Waltz”, it’s beautiful and I cannot wait to finish and share it with you.
I’d like to write and release one more of these cowrites this year because every time I do it I learn a ton.
Super-secret Duo Project
Well maybe it’s not that secret, but I have an indie-pop-duo in the works with the fabulous Lora Jol. This project lets me play with beats and buttons more than usual, which I’m really excited for. Expect a show or two from us this year.
I’ve got a fair amount of work ahead of me, but because I’ve established some solid weekly rhythms in 2017, I know I can do this. This will be the lens by which I judge opportunities and obligations in 2018. Because I have support from my community, this is all possible. Thanks for being with me as I win, and fail, in the coming year.
In hope …