Feel of the moment:
TL;DR:I signed up on a music submission site and learned a lot about how my creative endeavors are received. Based on that, and a bunch of other things, I have outlined my goals for 2016, or at least some of them, anyway.
I read somewhere that if you state your goals in a public space, you are less likely to achieve them. That is true, however, I need some way to hold myself accountable for remembering the things I want to achieve this year. Constantly keep my eyes on the prize, so to speak.
Hmmm…where’s that pinning feature?
Anyway, as stated previously, I have planned a post for outlining my goals for 2016. But, first, in relation to that matter, I wanted to share some experiences I recently had with a music submission site, and the next steps that might happen as a result.
A few months ago, a really good friend of mine, Jinny Royer, finished her EP and emailed me requesting some suggestions on promotion. I hadn’t really done much in the terms of music submissions myself, lately, but I did notice that about a year or so ago, I started getting emails from sites such as Music Connection, Music XRay, TAXI and Music Clout promoting song placement and recording contract opportunities, among other things. I had no accounts with them, I had other things on my mind at the time, and I was still trying to piece together my home studio in a new country, so I didn’t bite, but I forwarded the links to my friend, in case she was interested.
After visiting her and a few other music-minded folks in CA this past November, I decided to follow my own advice and start getting back into the swing of things with my music, at least in terms of getting some professionals to listen to what I do and, hopefully, offer me something, if not advice on how to make it better.
First, I started with the song contests. For obvious reasons, I entered “Family Says” into both the International Acoustic Song Competition and the International Songwriting Competition. Even an honorable mention would do wonders for sales (I had one purchased download since September, folks. One. I ended up matching it and sending the proceeds to Save the Children UK. I am sure they loved the overflow of cash received on my end…moving on…). I think it’s got a fair shot at the Acoustic Song Competition, but, from my experience, it may be considered too much of a didactic downer to get anywhere in the International Songwriting Competition. Eventually, when the International Songwriting Competition opened up again for a week, I quickly wrote and recorded “Summer in the Winter Rain” and redid “The Stars and Me”. I’m a little happier with how “Summer” turned out than “The Stars”, in that the amount of effects I put on the virtual instruments and my voice were a little less jarring on one song than the other. In other words, my attempt at being both uber-super dance producer and diva was slightly more successful on one track than on the other. They still both sound incredibly overproduced within an inch of their 4 minute+ lives , with massive amounts of reverb used to try to disguise the fact that I am trying to sing these big songs at 8:00 in the evening without pissing off the neighbors, in a big, fat hurry. I was still not happy even after comping my takes, but my resulant vocal track will work for now. I am not sure how far either of them will get, for even with the more positive themes, the chord structures may be thought of as a little too complex to be considered viably commercial pop. And the massive overproduction. And the voice…eh whatever. But I am happy enough with the compositions that if they can be strong enough to overcome all these obstacles I put in front of them under the mistaken notion of trying to “sell” it, and actually make some finals somewhere, I will be a happy camper.
Anyway, another thing I did was that again, following my own advice, I set up accounts at a couple of submission sites, MusicXRay.com and MusicClout.com. So far, I haven’t done anything at Music Clout, but I have been pretty active at MusicXray, allowing them to pull ALL of my songs from Soundcloud (even the private ones), and submitting a couple of my wonky demos to their Diagnostics program, where up to 5 music industry professionals rate your song on 5 parameters, and it gets promoted to twenty initial fans on the site.
I have to emphasize that you don’t actually “buy fans” on this site. You buy access and outreach to potential fans. Listeners have the option of “fanning” you or rejecting you based on the song as presented to them in their preferred genres. It can be pretty brutal, but the market place can be that way.
So, how did I do?
The first song I submitted to the Diagnostics program was frankly something I chose at random. This track was composed and recorded on my Nexus 7 tablet, using Caustic 3.0 for composing and instrument generation, Audio Evolution Mobile as my DAW, and my trusty Roland Duo-Ex capture as my I/O audio interface. This song was written as a quick end to my participation in the 2014 FAWM Challenge, and the results are below.
This is, admittedly, not one of my better tunes. I made a feeble play at the current pop market with the ‘whoa, oh ohs’ in the chorus, it was pretty obvious that it was recorded straight off of a mobile device, with no update since the initial time of recording, and the arrangement needs some punching up to bring it out of the 90’s into the now.
The eventual consensus from the professional music industry types to whom this song was sent bore that out.
In other words, my song is better than 13% on the site. Nice.
These ratings, honestly, were neither unexpected nor unsurprising. While I am glad that the last guy at least liked the composition, bringing my rating on that perameter up to three stars, I pretty much knew going in that this song was not really ready for prime time, and, if anything, I was hoping for something that would shed some light on why certain things were the way they were, and if I could get away with such product, and if not, how could it be fixed?
But you can’t get too much feedback from a star system, can you?
The next song I submitted, which was over the holidays, was “The Stars and Me”, which I had also submitted to the International Songwriting Competition. The current version of this, in all of its wallowing glory, can heard below.
Of course, due to the holidays, the ratings for the song from the music professionals did not come in until New Years’ Day, and afterward. At the time of this writing, it is doing worse in the star ratings than the previous one did.
Happy new year! You suck! BAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
Lest I allow these ratings to discourage me, I have to remind myself of all of my favorite singers’ tales that I read in various magazines, and what they went through before they hit the big time. If I let some faceless executive’s opinion get me down, then I am in worse shape than I thought I was.
Then again, I have to consider their thoughts on the matter and what I thought I was going to get when I submitted these songs. I had already admitted that the first song wasn’t my best, and that the second song was rather complex in chord structure, was oversaturated in everything in terms of production, and that my singing on it, frankly, isn’t wonderful, because I was in too much of a hurry to get it done in order to learn to sing it properly. So, do I let these ratings get me down, or do I acknowledge that they have confirmed to me what I already know, learn from this experience, and adjust accordingly? And now that I know what to expect, rather than further waste my money and their time with these diagnostic experiments, just work on getting a better product out and then try again.
The real story in this exercise, however, is in the fanbase development.
As stated previously, this song was initially promoted to 20 persons who use the site to find music in their chosen genres.
Out of the 20 to which “Everyone Deserves More” was initially promoted-
12 fans is 60% of the initial target market reached. According to the site, that’s pretty much amazeballs.
The price per fan listed is based on how much it would cost to further acquire and maintain fans with this song. $0.55 per person. According to the site, it is also pretty much amazeballs.
I have an audience for my crappy demo! Who knew?
That last sentence came off a little more cavalierly than I intended, and granted, those numbers might change drastically should I decide to invest further money in obtaining a larger target market for this song on the site. But, for me, the incentive to work on the song and to make it 100% better has come from knowing I have these fan numbers to back me up. That someone listed to the song and, for all its fault, liked it enough to possibly invest in me as a fan.
“The Stars and Me” did almost as well, getting me 55% of the 20 initial fans in my target market on the site. And this was before the professional ratings happened.
Granted, after that song was “fanned”, I ended up redoing it. I have no idea how it would do now as far as the fans are concerned.
So, based on this information I received above, I have outlined some of my goals for 2016 for the development of my music “career” such as it is.
1) Don’t be like Old Navy and deny that I am an artist. I am one, and I need to not be ashamed of that.
2) Someone at FAWM mentioned taking a songwriting course at Berklee through Coursera, and frankly, I think I will look into that as well. In fact, the songwriting course is part of a whole Modern Musician module that includes music theory and mixing as well as songwriting and marketing. Because, let’s face it, my mixing skills could use a LOT of work, and my songwriting is pretty much stuck in the 1980’s, and is completely out of sync with what is happening now. It’s as if I have completely forgotten how to write a pop song, if I ever knew how to.
3) Thanks to MusicXRay, I now have an honest to God set of fans (small as they are) that aren’t fellow composers or musicians but actual listeners. I have put together my mailing list, but I am still trying to figure out how to introduce myself to these folks, who found me three weeks ago on a music site, without coming off as spammy or smarmy. I also have to figure out what they want and how they want it, if they are willing to pay a little money to get what they want, including whatever freebies I through their way, what price point is comfortable for all, and if I can leave the genre they found me in (Dance/Electronica) without them bailing on me, say, in case I wish to do a country song, or something. Relationships are hard…sigh…
4) I am going to try to continue this one song a week challenge to the best of my ability. I also need to do many other things on my day to day schedule. To that end, I will arrange my day (or try to) in accordance with the following:
Fan contact (once I get that in place)
The German study is the two hours I set aside each day to learn and practice the language with the goal of obtaining a B1 language certification in June, so as I can stay in this country indefinitely. The goal in 2016 regarding this is to maintain this regimen, do my homework, go to the classes regularly, and be as conversant with my co-workers as I can. The songwriting can be done on the SBahn and Ubahn using all this software I have on my phone and tablet. If I get home early enough, the voice workout can be done in 15 minutes to a half hour. I recently got my electric guitar back from my brother in law overseas, so plugging into some computer unit and playing along with some software with headphones should not be an issue. As for fans, well, I am not used to having any, and I am horrible at outreach, so this is something I really will have to work on. Which leads me to…
5) Just try to be a better person, overall. Be kind to people. Participate in communities more. Listen to other people’s songs more and get out of my head, which is where I have been living for the past 4 years. All these songs I have written, they have always been about me and what I expect from the world. It’s time for me to write from the perspective of others.
6) Instead of just bitching about my mistakes, learn from them and proceed accordingly.
7) Figure out what I did wrong, fix it, and enter more songwriting contests.
8) Take more chances and submit to more opportunities, even if my song is less than standard quality. You just never know…
9) Over the christmas holidays I gifted myself with some hardware and a LOT of software. I think I am set with my virtual and offline studio for a while, so the goal is now to save a LOT OF MONEY.
10) I would like to release an EP or two this year. This is the year where I need to decide if I continue my electronica route, if I further attempt shoehorning Burt Bacharach-type chord changes into my Calvin Harris knockoffs as I had been doing lately, or should I attempt another genre, such as country, which I am thinking about doing in February as part of the FAWM/RPM Challenges for this year. This will probably be up to the fans, who found me in the Dance genre. At least for right now.
11) Travel, travel, travel
12) I have subscribed to a lot of newsletters concerning mixing, the music business, recording, marketing, et. al. They have all been very helpful, and I will need to do more of that.
13) I need to get better at networking.
14) Participate in more challenges: Aside from the FAWM and RPM challenges, as well as my personal once a week challenge, there are others around the internet that I would be interested in. Don’t want to get too busy, though.
15) And finally, for the first time in my long life, after writing songs for almost 40 years, not getting any of them published, and recording them and uploading them to the internet for over 15, I have to ask myself, what kind of artist do I want to be? Strictly recording? Will I be on stage at some point, or touring? Do I just want to write and get paid for it? Do I want to write songs for placement in TV shows and movies? Do I want to, or need to, write something for the pop charts? Or do I want to write something specifically for the fans?
I think that, for right now, until I am seen as getting better at what I do, and I see myself as getting better at what I do, and not allow myself to take so many career “breaks”, I will cater to, and increase, the fan base (it may even whittle down to one or two, at some point, who knows), and give them what they need.
Because, for the first time in my life, it can’t be all about me, anymore.