This is part of a year long monthly series chronicling my journey to be fully supported by music within one year. My original post can be viewed here.
A little over one month in and we’ve played 7 shows and distributed about 600 CDs. It’s already been a learning experience, as we expected, and we’ve already had some ups and downs. Here’s a brief overview of the good stuff and some of the things we’re learning along the way.
The Good Stuff
- As a result of winning a local talent contest, I’m being sponsored to represent my town at the America’s Got Talent Auditions in Chicago in November(airfare and hotel paid), and I will be headlining a local show to promote it.
- After playing a concert for an influential colleague, the host offered to have a dinner party featuring the band to local businessmen and women as well as to some of Branson, Missouri’s most respected musical acts
- Received our first “Album Review” for our EP here
- To receive week-long front page feature on LikeZebra.com*
- Figured out how and where to distribute 250CD’s per week consistently until we hit 5000. (We also got a CD duplicator that’s making things a lot easier:)
The Learning Stuff
- We learned a bit about sound mechanics while playing in various venues of different sizes. Our second gig was at a huge Baseball Stadium, so we were really happy we were prepared with a good sized PA, but when there was only 6 square feet of room to perform from we had to learn to cut down a little. I was a little surprised at how well people responded to our PA-less performances, but it just goes to show that it’s not the size of the boat that matters…
- While we were playing one of our shows at a local salon, we noticed the owners getting on their laptops telling their friends about us through facebook. They started taking pictures and videos of the show and posting them online. As I saw the pictures and videos being posted, I understood that the people who really liked our music wanted to be a part of something bigger. And we, in turn, want to get them more involved with the music and our story. The question was “How do we get people more involved with our music?”
Einstein is believed to have said that if he was given one hour to save the world, he would spend 55 minutes determining the right question to ask. Once he got the right question, he said, he could easily answer it in 5 minutes. Once I articulated the question, I immediately understood something that I’d been reading about forever. It really clicked. I needed a community. Well, really I we just needed to put the systems in place for a community to form easily and naturally. When more and more people start talking about us, we want them to have some place they can all meet and interact with us and each other. Since great models of community-oriented musician websites like NIN.com and KinaGrannis.com already exist, the real work is only to find the appropriate tools to make the community possible.
- I realize that at some point, I might be forced to play when I’m not feeling all that great once I’m doing this full time. So last week when I got a little congestion and sore throat, I decided the show must go on, and played and sang for an hour long set. I had taken care of my voice all day, and had non-caffeinated hot tea with honey throughout the day to keep my voice clear. The performance actually went really well, but as soon as I was done, I felt like my head was going to explode and could hardly breathe. I was in bed for two days straight and had to cancel the next show. Maybe it would have happened anyway, but I’ll just let my body heal first next time.
- The single most important things I’ve realized/remembered this month is about stories. I have to thank an anonymous commenter on my article last month for helping me keep this in the forefront of my mind. Though my story isn’t exactly what “Dg.” envisioned, in principle, he was exactly right and I really appreciated the way he prefaced his comment as well.
One of the big problems with hearing music online is that it’s just a song. Don’t get me wrong, music is great, but stories are what draw people in. If a song is not connected to any experience, the song, as well as the artist, is quickly forgotten among the mass of music that exists online.
When I recorded this EP a little over a month ago, I added three additional tracks telling the stories behind the songs while the music plays quietly in the background. We started giving out CD’s on Aug 20th and right away we got a ton of feedback and response. While the overall feedback was good for a demo, the overwhelming majority of the response was about the stories. People were really interested in whether or not it had really happened and whether this girl and I were still together. The story had immediately established a reference point, and as a result people were really able to connect with the music quickly. My initial idea was to have that only be available on the physical copy, which I’m only giving away at shows, but I saw what was happening and changed my strategy. As of last week I went ahead and made all the stories available for download as well.
We’ve already learned a lot and have much more to learn, but in the meantime we’re having a lot of fun, meeting tons of new people, and preparing a lot of great content. Thanks to everyone who reached out with words of encouragement and/or caution after my first post. After this post, I won’t be doing more updates on Music Think Tank, but will be moving my monthly journal to MicControl.com, which is probably a more appropriate platform for this specific topic.
P.S. Derek Siver’s advised in his TED talk this year not to tell anyone about your big plans because sharing your goals with the world makes you much less likely to achieve them. Since apparently I missed the memo, I hope to be one of few exceptions ;)