I'm back for another round of that most daunting battle with my inner critic.
Last year I set out some big goals for myself and missed a few I'd most hoped to reach. I'm still short a new album release.
If I let failure stop me I'd never set a goal again, and if I did that, I'm afraid the music would simply fade away. It's all too easy to retreat into the safe and comfortable.
And so it is with full knowledge of my naive optimism that I present to you my big stupid musical goals for 2019.
Become a Better Musician
I'm a good songwriter. My lyrics have improved a lot over the years and I've always had a thing for catchy hooks (hello 80's pop!)
I can sing pretty well in my range and I can fake my way around the more difficult notes.
What I cannot do is read music. Not a note, really. Nor can I play a single scale on my guitar.
I often hear a note in my head and have no idea where to find it on the fretboard – which isn't great for playing live.
I'm a decent guitarist but I'm sloppy. Uneven. Being in a band has tightened up my performance skills but I'm not done yet.
This year, I'm going to work on my chops. And not just on guitar.
I'm going to learn to play piano, and with that, I'm going to learn basic theory.
I bought myself a Roland Go:Piano during boxing week and it's super fun to sit down, turn on the 'rhodes' electric piano sound and jam out. Problem is, I have no idea what I'm playing. And when both hands need to play at once, they don't want to cooperate.
I've used an app called Yousician in the past. It's like Guitar Hero but with a real guitar or keyboard. It's fun, and I actually learned a lot from it, so that's where I'm going to start this year. Rather than log another half hour of Wonka's World of Candy on my iPhone, I'll plug away at practice with Yousician, because it's almost as fun.
I'm also heading back to Santa Fe this year for a songwriting workshop with Over The Rhine, and taking part in a local songwriters group whenever I can.
Onward and upward.
Release More Music
When I didn't get the grant I wanted to make an album in 2019, I did some soul-searching. I think I found something there that's more life-giving than saving every penny I own for a stressful week a studio where the clock is ticking and a huge marketing campaign awaits on the other side.
In this age of streaming and music discovery, there is a better way forward.
Near the end of 2018 I began to release a song every month.
I wanted to get more plays on Spotify and Apple Music by keeping all of y'all engaged. I've already seen results, racking up more plays in the final month of the year than I had in the entire 11 months previous. Heck, I even sold some music in December!
My numbers are still nowhere near pop-star status, but if I can keep the momentum going, I'll be very happy with my progress by the end of 2019.
Many of these songs will make their way onto an album. That's still a goal and still serves a purpose outside the digital world. Radio wants albums. Festivals want albums. Fans want albums. I'm getting there one song at a time, and increasingly at home, where I can invest in my own studio to make music on my own terms. Because money isn't the only obstacle. Studio work takes a lot more time than banging out a guitar solo at home in 45 minutes.
Play Less Shows with More Focus
Speaking of time management, over the past couple of years I've played more than a show every month. Sometimes I've played a few in one month. That frequency makes good financial sense for me and keeps me in tip-top performance mode, but it also makes it harder to promote every show. It's hard to know what my real draw is when I'm splintering my fanbase. It can be difficult to offer you a compelling reason to come to this show, rather than make well-intentioned plans to catch the next one.
I'm seeking out a different type of show this year, and saying 'no' more often, which means you might see my name on a few less Facebook event banners.
Send In The Band
This year, I'm going to play two shows with a full band. At minimum, that's a drummer and bass player.
These shows will be at venues geared more towards live music and less towards coffee. They will be more risky but more rewarding.
Risky because there may not be guarantees and I will need to pay musicians.
Rewarding because when you come to these shows, you'll get a high energy experience with special moments we'll both remember. In short, you'll get your money's worth, and I'll make my money back. I hope.
I'm a little scared but a lot excited. I've been recording some material with a band and it is going to sound so good live.
The Return of Facebook Live
I used to perform live on Facebook every week. It was fun (most of the time) and I learned a lot of technical skills.
My life is a lot different now. I have a part time job during the days, for one thing.
But I also have a better environment (we moved in the summer) and better equipment for Facebook live performances.
I enjoy performing live online. I like the energy that comes from the pressure. I like being able to try new material.
I love the idea that people can hear and see me play from home. My friends with kids, my friends with mobility issues, my American friends and my just-plain-busy friends can tune in from anywhere.
Reality dictates that I cannot pull off a great Facebook live show every week, so I'm going to curate a better experience once a month. With friends.
My goal is start performing longer concert experiences on Facebook Live with guest musicians later this month. I've met so many great musicians here in Edmonton and I'd love to share their songs with you.
These monthly concerts will be on a weekday evening, so you can tune in from home after work. Music-to-digest-your-supper-by. These will be fun, delightful, surprising experiences and I cannot wait to share them with you. Make sure you're signed up for my email list so you don't miss the launch.
Traveling Road Shows
In addition to Facebook live and band shows, I want to continue playing out-of-town shows like I started last year. Come spring time I'll plan a road trip or two with a car full of guitars. Red Deer, are you ready? Calgary, I'm coming! Saskatoon, it's been too long.
The Patreon Butterfly Effect
My last big goal of 2019 is to build my community of supporters over on Patreon.
Patreon is a membership site for artists. This means you can become a "member" of the Von Bieker community of patrons, and support my music directly, for as little as $1 a month.
Little to you, perhaps. But big to me.
Every patron shows me that someone really cares about the music I'm making. I have way more listeners than I have patrons, but my patrons really get it. They are the wind beneath my tiny butterfly wings.
This year I've revamped my support tiers, naming them all after different styles of bowtie. Of course.
I introduced a $1 support option. These are my 'butterflies'. Yep, that's a bowtie style. The one you're likely most familiar with, actually. $1 a month gets a shout-out on social media and early access to a lot of my online content. There will be bonus patron-only content this year, too.
My goal for 2019 is to add 25 new butterflies to my Patreon community. I've got a new video in the can explaining all of this and I'll be doing a big push later this month to get there.
With 12 Patrons now, I'm shooting to near 40 by the end of the year. The money I get from this support helps my career in so many ways big and small but it's so much more than money.
The support of these additional 25 "butterflies" will feel incredible.