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« MusicThinkTank Weekly Recap: What I Learned From Releasing Monthly Music Videos for a Year | Main | YouTube is NOT removing music! Well... probably not yours anyway. »
Thursday
Jun262014

What I Learned From Releasing Monthly Music Videos for a Year

Last June, I committed to releasing one new music video every month for a year. So, here I am one year and thirteen music videos later.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. IT IS NOT EXPENSIVE TO MAKE MUSIC VIDEOS

AUDIO:
Of my thirteen videos, I recorded the music to nine of them on my Mac at home. For much of the year, I used GarageBand (free) with MXL 990/991 mikes ($100 for the two) and only recently upgraded to Logic Pro X ($199). I go into a professional studio and work with a producer on the songs for which I anticipate having a wider audience.  For me that means songs that are released around the Jewish holidays and others that I think have a good chance of taking off.

VIDEO:
I shot my first video with a video camera. The footage looked OK, but not great. Then, last summer, I decided on a whim to shoot some footage with my iPhone 5. Turns out it shoots better than my video camera. I shot seven videos with my iPhone.

At some point this year, I met a talented visual artist named Avraham. He is 15. He is learning his craft. He has now been involved with three of my videos and exclusively shot my last two. He has a high-end camera and shoots my videos for free. I tell him what I’m envisioning and then I give him lots of room to take ownership as the Director of Photography of the project. This arrangement greatly benefits both of us. Because I do not pay him, I am able to afford to make a lot of videos; Avraham gains professional video experience and mentorship and is building a serious resume. What 15 year-old do you know who can say that he’s already filmed two successful music videos??

I edited ten of the videos in iMovie (free) and I recently upgraded to Final Cut Pro ($299). I also have an annual subscription to videoblocks.com ($129) for use of their stock footage. I created one animated video on GoAnimate ($79).

When I need people to be in my videos, I ask my friends and fan base. People are thrilled to be in them and will do it for free, especially as my popularity continues to grow.

2. PEOPLE VIEW YOU AS SUCCESSFUL WHEN YOU ARE ON YOUTUBE 
Over the last year, people have been responding to me differently. They view me as someone who is a famous, successful musician. Last summer, I worked very hard to book a particular local gig. Nobody wanted to host the concert and just a handful of people showed up. This year, people from that same group are clamoring to see me play. People want to be part of a winning enterprise and they are star struck because they have watched my content on-line and know that many others have as well.  I can command more a higher fee for concerts becasue people’s perceptions of how much I am worth as an artist has changed.

3. CONTENT —> FEEDBACK —> IMPROVEMENT
The more you produce, the more opportunities you have to learn and improve. For example, when I started producing videos, I didn’t want to figure too prominently in them. Many people told me they wanted to see more of me, so I put more of me in them and the feedback is that people are enjoying my new videos more.

4. GET COMFORTABLE WITH IMPERFECTION
I could have spent months on each of these videos and then each would be perfect. Instead, I chose to work quickly and settle for good enough. You have to be comfortable with good enough to produce a lot of content, and quickly. I’m not crazy about everything that I released but, for the most most part, it’s good enough. Some of the songs and videos that are my least favorite turned out be other people’s favorites, so there you go.

5. THE POWER IS IN THE SUM OF THE WHOLE
I got a lot of press this year on two of my videos, I’m Camping Out at Trader Joe’s and I Believe in Miracles. Others moved some people but didn’t have the same mass appeal. That’s OK because, now when people look me up, they see a ton of content, which indicates that I am successful. It shows breadth and depth and people can listen to a few songs and know right away if they like my music and message. They also can (and do!) spend an hour on my YouTube station just for fun.

When I contact people for gigs now, I point them to a couple videos to show what I do. Having more options to choose from means I can better tailor my email to each venue. And, the venue can see exactly who I am and what I do and decide if they want to book me (more often that not these days the answer is “yes”).

6. IT MAY MAKE SENSE TO GIVE IT AWAY
I send out each video monthly to my fan base and ask for nothing in return. People can also download each song for free in exchange for an email address. I now include lyrics and chords to all of my songs with the videos. I do this because I am cultivating a long-term audience that relates to me and my music. I hope to do this career for the long run and I am thinking decades down the road. The more I am out there, the more people like my music and perceive me as being famous and successful, the more inquiries I get about doing gigs, the easier it is for me to book gigs when I initiate the contact, and the more music I sell over time. 

7. EVERY VIDEO PRESENTS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR NICHE MARKETING
Every video I produce has a different theme, and therefore a chance to market it to new audiences. One video of mine, I Miss You, was picked up by Grief Digest Magazine. My Jewish holiday videos make the rounds of Jewish press and blogs.  My Trader Joe’s video (and subsequent concert) was all over the local Denver press and in Trader Joe’s blogs around the country. I am working now on a song about the craziness of working and raising children and I intend to market that to Mommy bloggers and parenting publications.

8. INVOLVE AS MANY PEOPLE AND ORGANIZATIONS AS YOU CAN
I’ve learned that it’s good to feature lots of people in my videos because then they will share it with their networks. It doesn’t hurt  to be strategic about asking your friend with the widest networks to appear in your video. I will also often give a shout out to related organizations at the end of a video or, if appropriate, a list of resources related to the topic. Those individuals and organizations will generally then share the video with their networks. When people feel involved, they feel ownership and excitement about the project. 

9. IF IT MAKES SENSE, CULTIVATE AN AUDIENCE OF CHILDREN
I didn’t plan to cultivate an audience of children.  I featured children in many of my videos mainly because I have three children and many of our friends have children and those are the people I know.  What has happened is that some of my most ardent fans are now children - and, by extension, their parents!  Parents love wholesome content for their kids and my videos provide that. I have started playing many more children’s concerts this year, which people and organizations are generally more likely to pay and pay well for than adult concerts (people are more likely to spend money on their children than on themselves). 

10. MEET YOUR (POTENTIAL) AUDIENCE WHERE THEY ARE
It’s easier to meet people where they are than to convince them to come over to where you are. That’s why I release Jewish holiday videos for Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah and Passover. People are looking for holiday-related content to enjoy and share so it’s a great time to cultivate new fans. Plus, new people can discover my videos every year when those holidays roll along. My Trader Joe’s video took off because, as one fan told me, that song “tapped into an existing zeitgeist.” The news outlets were clamoring for news about Trader Joe’s finally opening in Denver and there wasn’t going on so they were ecstatic to have something to highlight… my video!

11. PRODUCE AS MUCH CONTENT AS POSSIBLE AROUND EVERY VIDEO
I don’t just release each video. I post on social networks multiple times during the making of each recording and video. Once I have a bit of footage, I post a 30-second trailer announcing the release date (I’ve learned that trailers gets better exposure with the  Facebook algorithm if I upload it directly to Facebook rather than post it on YouTube and link to it). People love learning the origins of artists’ songs so I now write a blog post explaining the origin of each song and link to it under the video. That enables me to reach my blog subscribers and gives me another chance to post something once the video is released.

12. IT’S SMART TO SET CONSISTENT CREATIVE GOALS
Many artists have commented upon the helpfulness of setting consistent creative goals and reaching them. It’s good for the soul and doesn’t even give you time to consider having writer’s block. It makes you better at your craft. This year, I improved upon songwriting, song production, creating videos, social networking, marketing, and so many other aspects of being a singer/songwriter. In addition, I am booking more gigs, selling more albums, having more fun, and making more money. 

13. WHEN YOU’RE READY, BUNDLE YOUR SONGS AND RELEASE A CD
When I used to release a CD, I would do everything I could to build excitement and get press around that release. Now, I release one song and video a month as well as lots of content around the process. This gives me many opportunities to connect with old fans and gain new fans.  At the end of the year, I stop giving away free downloads, have the songs mastered and bundle them into a CD. I’ve learned that people are excited to own songs that they already know and like, even though they may already own some of the downloads. I did this last Hanukkah with my album Year Round and am planning to do it again this year. Year Round had a mix of homemade and professionally produced songs. Although I can certainly hear the difference between the two, the majority of my audience can’t. I’m guessing Year Round cost me in the neighborhood of $5,000 (three songs professionally recorded, complete album mixed and mastered, duplication), spread out over the course of a year. People seem to be enjoying it more than my last, fully-produced studio album which cost me around $15,000 and required a crowdfunding campaign to fund it.

So, this has obviously been a successful project for me and I am continuing to produce monthly videos. Please leave any comments or questions below and I will be in touch with you.

 

Julie Geller is a singer/songwriter who is saving the world one song at a time by writing original, uplifting, positive music in English and Hebrew. You can watch her latest videos here. Sign up for free monthly music at www.JulieGeller.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments (5)

Julie,

Your "I'm Camping Out at Trader Joe's (in Denver, Colorado!)" music video is such a blast! I just shared it on my Facebook page. I've been rooting for a Trader Joes here in Fort Wayne, IN for the past 5 years.

This was top notch info and insights.thank you

June 27 | Unregistered Commentercudda brow

I am glad that you bring this topic up. I whole heartily agree that just one video per month will create enough momentum to propel a career. You deserve a pat on the back for figuring this out before the majority did. I love the point you made with strategically inviting friends with a strong social presence to appear in your videos! Stay inspired...

June 27 | Unregistered CommenterChad

Julie, thanks for this detailed description...it's a mini-tutorial, and it's quite inspiring. What impresses me most is that you were fully willing to start small (iPhone vid and GarageBand) and you just kept going. You obviously have a clear vision, and ability to follow through. - Dee

June 28 | Unregistered CommenterDee

Julie, thank you so much for sharing your story! I'm a singer and my husband started accompanying me musically for my benefit and now he is just about as in love with playing music as I. I have been trying to accompany him in his goals and adventures in sailing. Last summer a friend introduced us to the "Distant Shores" DVDs and I got the idea to put the two things my husband and I love doing together and we are slowly working towards our own sailing adventures, while combining our love of music with it. I just recently started video chronicling it. So I'm really at the beginning and trying to learn what I can and this article was so appreciated! My desire is to encourage other couples, to support each in their interests, as they chase down their dreams, make love and strides towards the heart's desires instead of war! I believe it is the way we keep discovering the person we've fallen in love with and I believe it can be done in such a way it brings couples together instead of pulling them apart. It saves a person, a couple, their children, their family and in time perhaps society... I'm a hopeful romantic!

I have also written a love song to Trader Joes. We do love our TJ's! Like you, I want to make a positive impact on the world as I go through it. My goal is "to help each person my life touches find inner peace, so we can collectively put the "peaces" of the puzzle together and finally see the picture it creates, World Peace!"

Again WONDERFUL article THANK YOU! :-)

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