Category Archives: Music Success in Nine Weeks Blog Challenge

Where’s Kelly? (ep. 3214)

Yeah, I know I haven’t been blogging much lately. And when I venture out of my man cave and interact with people in the real world, they tell me “hey, I’ve been really enjoying reading your blog”, so I figured perhaps I should at least blog about why I haven’t been blogging lately, just in case people are curious. Truth is: I’ve been really busy. “Busy doing what?” perhaps you did or did not ask. This particular chapter of everything about my latest CD “Passage” is about ready to close with two main events.

The first, which took a long time to prepare, is my upcoming CD Release Concert next Friday, Nov 18 at Fremont Abbey Arts Center. (Get tickets here.) It is a joint release concert with good friend Jessica Ketola, who’s CD “Sea of Tears” also just came out. If you are in the Seattle area, please come to the show. This will be fun!! We rehearsed my set on Monday and I am quite pumped about it, the musicians I recruited are going to do a great job. They will also back up Jess and I know they will do her material proud. There are a lot of little details that still need to be firmed up, just like any event. I’m planning on audio and video recording the concert as well. If you are thinking of coming to show and have a digicam and tripod  you would be willing to lend for the event, I am thinking of setting up a few and just leaving them on.

The other piece of the puzzle is the kickoff of my 3-month PR campaign through Ariel Publicity. If you recall, I entered a contest last year blogging about my adventures working through the book “Music Success in Nine Weeks”. I wanted to wait until Passage was released before I started the campaign. As I was filling out all the intake data, I realized I wasn’t satisfied with any of my self-authored bio material, so I hired a professional bio writer through them. I just got the first draft back for review. So, sometime in the next couple of weeks we will start the campaign, just in time for Christmas. I plan to blog about it.

Once all the craziness dies down, I will be more aware of humorous things to take pictures of and blog about. Or… does the craziness ever really die down?

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ASCAP Trip Recap

Sheesh, I was congratulating myself over blogging every day about the ASCAP Expo, but I had to split a day early to attend my nephew’s wedding in Tucson, so I was running out of time. By the way, if you ever have to take an early flight out of Burbank airport, the rental car counters don’t open until 6, good luck finding breakfast, things are pretty darn mellow. I was freaking out a little over returning the car, but it only took five minutes to go through security, and they don’t have those full body scanner thingies.

The Expo was beneficial, I got a lot out of it, I wish I could have gone to the whole thing. Since this was my second year, I was more selective about what I wanted to learn, so I wasn’t quite the wide-eyed sponge from the previous year. By the way, have you ever seen a sponge with eyes? I personally haven’t. I propose we ask Nemo for the definitive answer. Well there is of course Sponge Bob Square Pants, but we’re talking reality here. (Right, and I just suggested interrogating Nemo.)

One fun thing was that I got to meet Ariel Hyatt in person! She is the owner of Ariel Publicity and author of “Music Success in Nine Weeks”, which you will know if you go sleuthing around on this blog, I won a 3-month PR campaign by participating in a blog-writing contest.

Once again, she moderated a panel about using social media for fan engagement. It was very useful information. I found out that research indicates that the best times to post to Facebook, send out emails, etc. are 11AM, 3PM, and 8PM. Also, when you send emails at 6AM, it will be sure to show up in the first page of people’s email inbox, (unless one is getting spammed to death). Another tidbit is that anything you post on Facebook or Twitter has about a 30-minute shelf life, so you really can’t over-post status updates because otherwise people just won’t seem them. It makes sense if you think about it. How often do you click on the “Older Posts” link at the bottom of your news feed? It goes against my aversion to annoying people but I’m just going to have to get over it.

I also stopped by the Bandzoogle booth, where they were evaluating people’s websites and giving advice. I had one of the founders of Bandzoogle look at mine and his first reaction was that there was too much information on my home page. It needed less stuff, bigger fonts, more white space, and an obvious focus of the main “call to action” element on the page. My call to action is the email signup widget and do to my tend to be verbose, it got kinda buried on the page. If you’re interested in receiving my newsletter, you can sign up here: http://kellycarpentermusic.fanbridge.com

So the last two days I did another website makeover. The signup widget is clearly displayed, my Passage promo video is right underneath it along with a picture of the Passage Special Edition CD, and I did some menu reorganization. Go check it out at http://kellycarpentermusic.com

Well that’s about it for now. The first picture is of the Renaissance Hotel where the Expo was held in downtown Hollywood. And the picture below is of an auto repair shop that obviously does not want to sell gas. The actual average price of regular in that neck of the woods was anywhere from $4.25 to $4.35 a gallon. Ouch!

Ciao!

Yep, that's $4.85 a gallon.

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Music Success in Nine Weeks – Nine Weeks After

Yes, it’s hard to believe that about nine weeks have already gone by since the end of the Wave 1 Blog Challenge. I am so grateful for the challenge and the amount of progress I made during that time. I thought it would be good to reflect on how things are going now and share that with y’all. So what have I been up to since then?

Well, first of all, I won the grand prize for the Wave 1 blog challenge! This means I get a free 3-month PR campaign from Ariel Publicity whenever I want it. When I started the blog challenge, I decided to give it 110%, fully expecting to win. Of course, I knew there were 82 other contestants that were “all in”, so as much as I wanted it to be me, and visualize it so, I was still very surprised to win. I am so grateful for Ariel and company! Even if I hadn’t won, the amount of progress I made would have been reward enough. But it’s great to win! Here are some highlights of my progress since then.

Making a New Recording

After nine years of no output, I went into the studio in Vancouver with some friends and started work on my new album. The post-production is taking longer than I expected, so I won’t have it ready for release until after the new year, at which time I will take advantage of the PR campaign. If you’d like to keep track of my progress, I have been making a video blog series that you can see on my website, KellyCarpenterMusic.com

My 15-Second Pitch

My official pitch is “Instrumental piano infused with splashes of Chill, Jazz, Americana, and Post-Rock. Perfect for daydreaming, relaxing with friends, and beach sunsets”. When I share this, people appear a bit perplexed, asking questions like “what’s ‘chill'” or “what’s ‘post-rock'”. Of course, I can use this as an opportunity to hand then my card with my website address. But I have also added a bit more meat to my pitch once people land on the site. Speaking of…

My Website

I have been keeping tabs on the wave 2 and 3 blog challenge contestants and have found their website development ideas to be very helpful. So, I decided to do a mini-overhaul of my own website which I launched last July. One major change was to make the front page dynamic where before it was pretty static except for changing the free song I give away. I have moved my “news” section to the main page and am updating it at least twice a week. I am also employing BandZoogle’s available page elements more fully. I now consider myself an advocate for BandZoogle; I suggest you check them out if you are a music artist and still not sure who to use for your site.

My main page also features an expanded pitch: I am a music artist, songwriter, and producer in the Seattle area who is currently focusing on “Instrumental piano infused with splashes of Chill, Jazz, Americana, and Post-Rock.” What does that mean? Well, imagine the “new age” stylings of Kevin Kerns, David Lanz, and Michael Gettel, mixed in with the jazz and Americana influences of Dave Grusin, Lyle Mays and Bruce Hornsby, against a backdrop of Chill and Post-Rock beats and textures. The result? Perfect music for daydreaming, relaxing with friends, and beach sunsets.

Social Media

There is so much to continue to develop regarding social media. For Twitter, I try to do at least five tweets a day. I find that Echofon is a great Twitter client for the Mac. It makes it easy to find new people to follow and also to increase your presence by retweets and follows. I get an average of about half a dozen new followers each week. As far as Facebook goes, I find it challenging to get people to visit my fan page, and more importantly, interact with it. I started video blogging my album project and have tried creating FB events around each video blog episode release. When it comes to personal and professional blog posts, as well as events, I am spreading out the timing of sharing them on FB profile and fan page. For example, when I do a new video blog, I will share it to my FB fan page one day, my FB profile, the next day, my BandZoogle page the day after. That way, my announcements don’t get all clumped together in the FB news feed.

I am also keeping track in a spreadsheet every professional thing I post or share and then checking out the analytics of my blog, BZ, and FB fan pages at the end of the week to see what the effects of those posts are. Of course, I want to drive up my site visits and search engine rankings so it helps to know what’s working vs. what’s not.

Blogging

This, by far, is my greatest opportunity for growth. By blogging, I am referring to finding music blogs that feature music similar to what I do, commenting on songs, and building enough cred with the blog hosts to be listened to when I send them songs to consider. I believe that a nine week course could be developed just for this piece of the puzzle alone. How about “Blogging Success in Nine Weeks”? Short of that, there is an excellent free e-book by Chris Bracco called “How To Really Get Your Music On Blogs”. You can find this on TightMixBlog.com. I highly recommend it.

Mailing List and Newsletter

I roll my own HTML for my monthly newsletter and then send it out via FanBridge. They have a great preview feature so you can see exactly what your newsletter will look like before you send out the full campaign. You can save multiple drafts and also manage multiple mailing lists. Good stuff.

One thing to know. If you like giving away a free song in your newsletter, don’t bother trying to imbed a music player in your newsletter. Most mail web services will throw a fit over security issues and possibly divert your email to the junk folder. So now, I simply include a link. And I just discovered FanBridge makes it real easy to download a song; I’m going to check it out.

I am still tweaking the free song giveaway. I get very few email signups via the freebie. So I am trying a “mystery gift” approach where they won’t hear the song until after they sign up and download the song. Currently, I am using BZ’s signup widget, although it is a bit confusing what the difference is between a email member and a full-fledged member, the latter of which requires a separate signup process.

By far, the best way to build the email list is at events. I am doing a couple of keyboard workshops this weekend at a conference and hope to add at least 200 people to my list. We’ll see.

Networking

A well-timed opportunity during the blog challenge got the ball rolling with live networking. I am pretty shy and introverted, but when I went to a local “wine walk”, it wasn’t difficult to figure out what to ask people to get them to talk about themselves. “What made you decide to get into the wine business?” “How would you describe this wine?” And in the case of the local “boutique” winemakers, “What do you do for your day job?”.

How Do I Do All This?

I am in this full-time. I don’t have a day job. This is a good thing, but it is also challenging because I have a lot to learn about effective time management. I realized that I needed to work out a weekly rhythm in order to be consistent with all my business activity. This is what I came up with:

  • Mondays – Work on the newsletter email list, catch up on email, read and comment on music blogs, post and promote the video from last week on FB profile page
  • Tuesdays – Catch up on social media, write a personal blog and post to FB profile page, post video to BZ news blog
  • Wednesdays – Work on newsletter or finish up whatever free songs I’m working on this month. If it’s the week before the newsletter, it’s time to change the free song for the email list incentive. Share the previous day’s personal blog post on the FB fan page if it’s professionally oriented, such as this blog post.
  • Thursdays – Create new music day!! It’s important to set aside time to just create new stuff, whether it’s some instrumental music or songwriting (music with lyrics, which I haven’t done much in a while). The fruit of this work is both mentally beneficial as well as material that I can use for freebies. Since I’m getting into video blogging, I can do a lot of this with the digicam in record so that I have fresh video content.
  • Fridays – Produce a video for the video blog, then post it to YouTube and share a link to it on FB fan page. Also, create a news post on BZ about whatever I’m up to. And finally, review web traffic analytics on my main music site (kellycarpenter.com) my songwriting site (kelsongs.com), by BZ site, FB fan page, BandCamp, etc.
  • Mondays – And that brings us back to “doe”, also known as “rinse and repeat”

Pomodoro

All the above is necessary business stuff and, of course, on top of that all, I have projects I need to work on, such as my new album, keyboard workshops I’m preparing for, practicing music, etc. So much to do, and it seems like I never have enough time to do it. The sheer weight of stuff to do and the fact that I have ADD, means that I need some type of time management framework in order to not get too overwhelmed. Enter the “Pomodoro Technique”. Major thanks to fellow blog challenge alumnus Neil Milton for telling us about this. This blog post is already way too long, so I won’t go into detail here, but if you struggle with time management and feel shamed by the clock that seems to be moving faster than you’d like, check out PomodoroTechnique.com.

If you found this post useful at all, please express your gratitude by “liking” my FB fan page which can be found at http://facebook.com/KellyCarpenterMusic and/or share this post on your FB profile. We all benefit when we share the love.

Cheers!

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A dark night… and then a ray of light

Hopefully my title doesn’t come off as overdramatic, but yesterday (October 5, 2010) will be a day I will always remember.

It started out the night before. I simply could not sleep. Every once in a while I have what can best be described as a mild panic attack. I know people who have full-fledged panic attacks and I don’t put my experience in that category. But, sleepless in Seattle I was.  (To be technical, I live in Woodinville, a suburb of Seattle, but close enough.)

What was robbing me of sleep, you may ask? (Even if you didn’t ask, play along.) It was me totally freaking out, wrestling with the question, “How the heck am I going to be able to make a living off of music?”. Yes, I’ve blogged about this before. Yes, I am still freaking out. Most of the time, the freaking out part of me is submerged by the optimistic “things are going to work out” part. Except at night.

In the morning I decided it would help if I worked through this anxiety by journaling. As I was journaling, it occurred to me that it might help if I sat down with Excel and start doing some financial workups. My problem to solve: How to build up the business to achieve a certain average monthly revenue by January 2013. I have more to write about this in a subsequent blog post as I would love to get people’s input and suggestions. It really does take a village.

It helped to journal; it helped to do some math, but it didn’t take away
the overwhelming question: How am I going to make this work?

And then, suddenly, I get this text message from 40404 (meaning someone on Twitter sent me a direct message). If you’ve been following along with me on this journey, you know that I have participated in the Music Success in Nine Weeks (MSi9W) blog challenge over the summer. It was a contest, the winner receiving a complimentary 3-month full PR campaign. My Twitter message yesterday afternoon was from the Ariel Hyatt, the author of the MSi9W and the moderator and judge of the blog challenge.

Guess what? I WON!!

Can you believe it? It’s been over 24 hours and I am still in a state of shock. A 3-month PR campaign. Wow. Pinching myself. At some point it will sink in.

And then to cap things off, yesterday was my parent’s 65th anniversary. 65 years!! Amazing. My brother and I took them to Outback and we all had a delightful dinner. The manager treated them to a glass of champagne. It is a total miracle that my Dad is still with us. The medical people shake their heads in amazement. He is one tenacious 86-year old. What a blessing!!

So, a dark night followed by some wonderful news and then a celebration.

A day to remember, indeed!

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Music Success In Nine Weeks? – A Retrospective

Is it possible to achieve music success in nine weeks? Really? It seems too good to be true. But it all depends on what you mean by “success”. Does success mean that I’ve “made it”? In my case, no—at least not in the sense that I am making a steady living from music. But one has to consider where I started from when I started the course and where I am now, and I can definitely say that I am well on my way.

I just went back to read my very first blog post when starting this program. Here are excerpts from that first post to give you an idea where I started from.

With fear and trepidation I am jumping off the cliff. The cliff represents the safety of all my self-doubts about my ability to “make it” in a music career. The cliff represents all of the reasons why I haven’t done this before and why I now can’t do anything else. “Jump and the net will appear” so the saying goes. I guess I believe it, but I won’t really prove I believe it unless I jump.

My cliff, to (hopefully) make a long story short: I am in my 50’s. I have always wanted to make music my career. But due to my pragmatic nature, I went back to college in my early 20’s and got a “real job”. While I made a comfortable living, I still did music on the side. I got involved in contemporary worship music in the 90’s and I got several songs published. One of those, “Draw Me Close” has done very, has been sung around the world by millions, has been recorded by the likes of John Tesh and Michael W. Smith, and is now considered a worship “classic”. I’m not making this stuff up. I have been SO blessed by this success.

After the turn ‘o’ the century, I recorded a piano instrumental entitled “Draw Me Close”. (Shameless exploitation of the success of my hit song or just being a smart business person? You decide.) I had some early success—selling out my first batch of 1,000—and people love the CD. But sales the last few years have slowed to a trickle. I totally want to do another one, but without proper promotion, I have been hesitant to put the money in.

A recent hand injury forced me to leave my comfy career in computer programming. I can still play piano without too much discomfort, but typing away at a computer keyboard all day long is no longer an option. So off the cliff I go…

So that’s where I’ve started from. My goal is to build up a career performing and recording instrumental music. But currently, I barely gig much at all and I only have the CD that I recorded nine years ago to offer as merchandise. I feel like I’m starting from the very beginning.

Music success in nine weeks? Have I “made” it? Not yet. One can’t expect miracles when starting with very little. But I am much further along to making headway in the current environment. Consider what I have accomplished through the steps in Ariel’s book:

  • I now have clear goals of what I want to achieve
  • I can now clearly articulate in a couple of sentences what type of music I do
  • I now have a central website focusing on my performing and recording career
  • I am now giving away some songs for free to lure people to my site
  • I am now making sense of Twitter, using it more effectively, and truly feeling a part of the global community of artists, musicians, writers, and music industry people.
  • I am now learning how to engage the global community of bloggers by listening to what others have to say and finding my own voice in the conversation.
  • I have sent out my very first newsletter and am committed to sending one out every month or two. And I achieved over a 50% open rate!
  • I now have a system in place to grow my mailing list, and it is growing! In fact, 400% in the last two weeks!
  • Just three weeks ago, I had three wonderful opportunities to practice real live networking. Utilizing the advice in the book, I made myself memorable in my interactions and have discovered a thriving, local wine industry which has great potential for marketing my music. And… I played my first winery gig last weekend!
  • After nine years of no new music, I have been so encouraged by my progress that I’m going into the studio to record a new CD in about 10 days, and I am developing a continuum strategy around the release later this fall.
  • Prior to this, I really didn’t have a clue about what to do or where to begin. Although I knew the importance of leveraging social media, I felt completely overwhelmed by it.

Now I have a vision and I have tools. Employing the principles of regular and consistent communication with my fan base lets them know that I am serious and committed to this. They know I’m “all in”. And they have been very encouraging to me. I now have a few “true fans”.

But even more importantly than people knowing that I am committed, this process has served to help me over a psychological hurdle: That I have a voice and people are genuinely interested in what I have to offer.

Considering where I started from and where I am now, this sure feels like success to me.

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The Journey Continues: Music Success in Nine Weeks – Week 9

Look how far…

Here I am at the end of this particular leg of my journey: the Blog Challenge. I have come a long way when I consider where I started. Even though I have spent the past eight weeks working through Music Success in Nine Weeks, I consider the starting point to be several months before that. Allow me to backtrack a little.

Almost a year ago I met with a friend who works in movie and video production. He started explaning to me all the different aspects of social media and what I needed to have in place in order be truly visible in the modern marketplace. I took notes, which upon later review, looked like a crazed rodent had run amok with a pen. I was thankful that I had consumed enough coffee to at least smile and nod. Later, I paid a life coach to help me start my new music career. His plan for my life made me absolutely miserable (have you ever heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals?) and I started to doubt if I had what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Instead of mortally wounding myself with sharp objects, I fired him and ventured out on my own, occasionally redrawing the diagrams of my master plan,(with the rodents safely locked away). But due to total lack of traction I realized I was still spinning my wheels.

So that’s where I started and that’s where I stayed for months: overwhelmed, confused, and slightly discouraged. I barely had enough confidence (or perhaps faith?) to sign up for the annual ASCAP Music Expo, but I screwed up the courage to go.

The rest as they say is history. (If you want more, you can go back to my first blog post.) I could best depict the progress of the past year with the following graph:

The curve can represent many things: the growth in fan base, CD/download sales, gigs, the activity on Twitter or blogs, etc. It’s not scientific; it’s just an illustration. I am very, very encouraged with my progress. Now I’m heading into fall. “What does the question mark represent?”, one may ask. And now we get to the gist of this blog post.

Rhythm of the Road

It’s one thing to go to boot camp, which is one way to think about these past two months, but where do I go from here and how do I get there? The “where” part has been established by this crash course. I want to develop a significant fan base and continue to grow my business. The “how” part is now up to me. I no longer have the “fire under me arse” that I had while participating in this blog challenge. And, although I’ve come a long way, growth is not going to happen by itself, so I have to put in place a “continuum” program.

Part of the continuum program is keeping a discipline around daily/weekly activities that will slowly but consistently turn the “flywheel” (a term from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great). Here is a list of those things:

  • Daily social media engagement (Facebook, MySpace, etc.)
  • Twitter posts at least 3x a day, make one about my business, one about my day, and one retweeting or quoting something inspirational. (I’m into positive and inspirational sayings.)
  • Blog reading, writing and commenting, at least 3x a week
  • Mailing list development, once a week. This includes consolidating emails into my FanBridge account as well as sending out invites, inviting people to “like” my FB fan page, etc.
  • Weekly artistic content development. By “content”, I mean bits of music I can use for freebies, video blogs, and songwriting.
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Monthly review of my analytics including visits to FB fan page, my website, my blog sites, etc.
  • Live networking events, at least monthly. There is a monthly “wine walk” at the local winery district, so this is an excellent opportunity to continue to get to know winemakers, gallery owners, and other local businesspeople.
  • Monthly goal-setting and resynchronization

Wow! That seems like a lot. It is, especially for someone with ADD like me. How do I keep myself accountable? I will add one more thing to the list that should be part of my daily discipline:

  • List my 5 successes of the day

The Continuum Funnel

With a regular work rhythm established, it is time to consider what sort of continuum funnel I should develop. Part of that process is coming up with ideas about what sort of premium content to provide. One idea I am toying with is creating a small book that would accompany the CD to form a “special edition”. My music is meant to soothe and I am quite fond of quotes and affirmations which inspire. What if I put out a small booklet with cool art, pictures, and inspirational sayings? There is a wealth of inspirational language from self-help programs and books (like for instance, Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way). Someone could turn on the music and reflect on a saying or two from the book with their morning coffee or tea. It is getting easier these days to publish books, so this could be a cool project.

Here is what a possible continuum funnel could look like:

  1. Free exclusive download in exchange for email address
  2. $2 a month club including two exclusive free songs a month as well as discounts on CDs and other merchandise
  3. Short-run EP’s ($8) and full-blown CD’s ($14) released frequently
  4. T-shirts, sweatshirts, or hats with the logo “Songs for the Silence” (the name of my CD series) $18 and up
  5. Premium edition of CD including accompanying book ($35)
  6. Private house concerts ($200)

I am very encouraged and hopeful! It is fun to dream in a way that isn’t just fantasy. I have the engine in place and the bus is in motion. We’ll see who wants to come for a ride…

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A Wonderful Opportunity! Music Success in Nine Weeks – Week 8

It’s hard to believe that I am almost through this crash course. And… the work is not so daunting when taken one step at a time. Who wudda thunk that I would have a plan, a pitch, a site, a tweet, a blog, a newsletter and a list, all within about a six week period? No wonder I’m out of breath!! So who wudda thunk it, indeed? Definitely not me. Definitely my friends and support system. Yes, they have indeed thunk it mightily and have been cheering me on the whole way.

It’s funny. The spell checker in WordPress has a problem with the word “wudda” but not the word “thunk”. (Is “thunk” a real word?) For that matter, the spell checker also has a problem with the word “WordPress”. What does it know, anyhoo?

But I digress. No, that’s so unlike me. But enough about me. (Well, this whole thing really is about me.) But actually, this week is not totally about me; it’s about others too. Wait, I’m confused. No, not really.

You may (or may not) be wondering about the root cause of all this silly identity confusion. Well, since you asked (or not), this past week’s assignment was all about Real Live Networking! One of the principles therein is that in order to make myself (the me part) memorable to other people (the un-me part), I need to keep my trap shut, listen, and make it all about them. By genuinely being interested in them, I become memorable. Genuine: that’s the word. People can smell a phony a mile away. (Especially if they don’t shower, then it’s two miles.)

Out of the blue, because of a Facebook event invite from someone I barely know, I became aware of a “Wine Walk” taking place in a nearby town. This is an event where local wineries set up tables and you get to sample their wines. The town I live in, Woodinville, has mushroomed the last few years into the wine capital of Washington State right under our noses (no pun intended). Lately, in my man cave, I had been wondering about what it would take to get to know some of these winery people and perhaps scrounge up some gigs. After all, they must have wine parties, don’t they?

So, here was a wonderful and very timely opportunity to practice networking skills and connect with a potential market I was musing about already. So this is how I did it: I did keep my trap shut while listening to these winery people, which I learned (because I kept my trap shut) are called winemakers. I asked them where their winery was located (pretty much all of them said “Woodinville”). I asked them how long they had been there. I asked them what got them into winemaking. The more I learned, the more intelligent questions I asked the other winemakers.

I learned all sorts of things and I had a blast! (Of course, all the 1-ounce shots of wine helped.) I found out that the wineries in Woodinville (there are about 80 of them) have a wine walk in the “warehouse district” every third Thursday of the month. They also have “release parties” where they roll out their latest wine. They also have something called the “crush” in the Fall where people can volunteer to help with the bottling which is accompanied by all sorts of parties. There is also a big block party called “St. Nick’s” in December.

Upon listening and learning and getting their business cards, I would then ask them if they ever had live music at any of these events. Some of them responded by asking me if I was a musician, and of course I told them I was. And then they wanted my card. One even asked how much room I would need if I were to play at an event. Can you believe it??

I came away from this experience very encouraged! Here is a fertile market for gigs and it’s only three miles away! I have collected a stack of business cards. I will follow up with email and direct visits on Saturdays. I also plan to make it to the next wine walk and network some more and volunteer for a crush or two and just ingratiate myself with this community. I am also probably going to have to learn a little more about wine too so I can say something more intelligent than “wow, this is good”. Perhaps something more sophisticated like “this has a nice oakey texture with delicate hints of jasmine and cardamon”. Wudda ya think?

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Making a List: Music Success in Nine Weeks – Week 7

So like wow…I’m really DOING it. I’ve thought about doing all this stuff: Getting an online presence, twittering, bloginating, designing a newsletter, getting out of bed, etc. I’ve thought about this stuff A LOT. But I’m finally doing it. This “build up a music business by the numbers” thing really works!

Now I come to the Week 7 assignment: How to Build Your Mailing List. When I went to the ASCAP Expo last spring, I heard over and over and OVER that the most important thing you can do is build up your email list. It is your most important asset. So, okay, yes I totally get it. I’m a believer. I have drunk the Kool-Aid. Now you may ask, how exactly does one build up an email list? Simple:

One person at a time.

Thanks to the free song giveaway, I am already getting a respectable handful of people signing up for my newsletter. I also went back through my CD Baby sales reports and gleaned the email addresses of my customers. I sent them a personal email and asked if they would be interested in getting on my list. Another respectable handful of people signed up. I have a couple of gigs this week and it finally occurred to me to have a signup sheet at the table where I sell my CDs and to practice real live networking. What a concept!

One person at a time. Instead of this mass-market broadcast mentality, I realize now the importance of building this thing one brick at a time. And I am enjoying it.

Do You Know What Happens When Someone Signs Up?

I happen to be the type of person who has to research and analyze and ponder EVERYTHING before I make a final decision. (It’s why we still haven’t purchased laminate flooring yet.) True to form, I analyzed the various mail list management providers. Besides testing to see how easy it was to manage mail lists, I also tested how easy it is for a person to signup for the email list and get their free song download. So, here is a comparison of the steps a person needs to go through when they are presented with a download widget by the three providers I have used:

ReverbNation BandCamp FanBridge
  1. You get to hear only a 30-second clip of the free song
  2. Click on the Download widget
  3. Enter Email address
  4. You receive an email giving you a link to confirm your email.
  5. You are then taken to a form asking for various information like name, address, which is all optional, but you have to enter your birthdate.
  6. You then get a Download button for the free song
  7. Then you get another Download button.
  8. You get the standard Windows “save or open” popup or, for Mac, the standard download list.
  1. You get to hear the free song in its entirety
  2. Click on the Download widget
  3. You are taken to the BandCamp page where you enter your Email address.
  4. You receive an email giving you a link to get your free download.
  5. The link takes you to the BandCamp page with the Download button.
  6. You get the standard Windows “save or open” popup or, for Mac, the standard download list.
  1. There is no song snippet to listen to, so you don’t know what you’re getting.
  2. Click on the Join List widget.
  3. You receive an email giving you a link to get your free download.
  4. You click the download button.
  5. You get the standard Windows “save or open” popup or, for Mac, the standard download list.

What observations did I make from this? Although I had the ReverbNation free download widget on my site far longer than the BandCamp widget, I got more signups from the BandCamp widget. Why? I think because of two reasons. First, because you can hear the entire song on the Bandcamp widget instead of just 30 seconds. I think people feel a bit ripped off when they’re just getting into the song and it stops. But I think the biggest reason is that it is just too painful to complete the signup process through ReverbNation. It takes eight steps to get a free song, really? In (Reverbnation) step 4 above, the email that was sent out when my wife tried to sign up got sent to her junk mail folder. Not good. Then in step 5 it makes you enter your birthdate. Your birthdate? What’s that all about? If I got something in an email that took me to a form that required my birthdate I probably wouldn’t click on it.

I am managing my email list with FanBridge. I think the tools are the easiest, although not as easy as having a service like Band Letter manage your list for you. Since I am also using ReverbNation and BandCamp (for different reasons), I have to get new signups from their sites and consolidate it with the FanBridge list. If I do all this stuff just once a week, like I’m supposed to, then I don’t think this will be too much of a bother.

Building this business is going to take a lot of hard consistent work. While at times this seems overwhelming, I now have the tools and I can see better how it all fits together.

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Out On the Limb: Music Success in Nine Weeks – Week 6

For some reason, and I am starting to understand why, this particular week’s assignment has been difficult for me. I was on such a roll for awhile, getting excited about chirping away on the twitterator and engaging with the blogosphere. When it came time to develop a newsletter, I thought, “Hey, this will be a piece of cake. I know how to write. I should be able to crank this out in a day.” I believed it would be no big deal to do this and I would be closer to getting caught up on this blog challenge.

My plan was to crank out the newsletter on Wednesday of last week, blog about it that same day or Thursday, and then move on to the Week 7. Wednesday rolled around and instead of diving into authoring my newsletter content, I got lost in a quagmire of checking out the various providers, rolling my own layout with HTML and CSS, and figuring out which service would best deliver that HTML, and generally doing everything but writing my newsletter.

I did get the thing done and sent out and it looks nice and I am happy with it. Sigh of relief! But boy did I get bogged down doing it!

Reflecting on this process reveals what I have been reluctant to admit: I was scared. I got stuck. I had been stalling on completing this task simply because I was scared to complete it. And this is why: This was truly the first task in this crash course where I had to PUT MYSELF OUT THERE and it scared me to death.

It has been quite fun and rewarding to work on my 15-second pitch, revise my website, get active in tweeting and blogging. But these are all low-risk activities. I get to stick my toes in the water and wade in as far as I want to go but no more. But presenting ME in the form of a newsletter? This is ME? Do you care to read about ME? This is high-risk territory.

Putting out my newsletter–my very first–put me on a head-on collision with my biggest gremlin: Self-doubt. Why would anyone be interested in reading about me? Okay, now that I figured out what the hangup was, I could move on. Get over yourself! Tis’ human to have self-doubt. It’s just a newsletter, after all. But an important lesson was learned: Don’t get stuck by self-doubt. Push through it.

Another lesson I learned was that focusing on content is way more important than presentation. Yes, it is important for things to look nice, professional, and artsy. But more than slick production, people want to connect with your STORY. It is through telling and hearing stories that people connect with each other and experience community.

A third lesson I learned is that I’m cheap in ways that don’t serve me well. I wound up using FanBridge as my platform after trying ReverbNation. I spent hours comparing the services and testing whether handcrafted HTML can get mailed out correctly without getting mangled. FanBridge costs $9/month for managing a small to medium mail list. But how much time did I spend working on the presentation of the newsletter?  What is that time worth? If I had it to do over again, I would have seen the wisdom in choosing a service like Band Letter. Yes it’s comparatively expensive–$99 startup fee and $60 per month–but they do everything for you: design the newsletter, manage the list, send the thing out, and analyze the responses. I think the time I save in having someone else do the heavy lifting is well worth the price. This is no time to be cheap.

So three lessons learned:

  1. Don’t get stuck by self-doubt.
  2. Focus on your story, not the presentation.
  3. Don’t be cheap. Your time is more valuable.

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Shiver me Twitters: Music Success in Nine Weeks – More Week Four

Last evening, I had one of those moments. You know, one of those “A-ha!” moments. A little tightening of the chest, the gentle misting of the eyes, the faint sound of angels rejoicing in the heavens. It was truly glorious.

My wife and I have been camping out on the USA Network the past couple of months watching their NCIS marathons. We had never even thought about checking out NCIS prior to this ‘cuz we thought it was just another one of those CSI rip-offs. Boy were we WRONG. With our trusty DVR set up to record every episode we have ourselves a steady supply with which to chill in the late evening before trouncing off to beddie bye land.

It was last evening, during one of these episodes, one that I had already seen but my wife hadn’t, where I was half watching the show while also a-twittering about on my new cool Mac Book Pro, that I had my EPIPHANY. I got SO excited, I almost peed my pants! (Not really; I’m not that old yet–still firmly in control of my bladder, thank you very much.)

I have this cool app called Echofon for my tweeters. I’m sure the other ones work like this too, but when I click on someone’s username, a thingy slides out on the right and it shows that person’s twitter feed. I can then click on any @user they are referring to and it then shows that person’s twitter feed, and so on and so one. I can read anybody’s feed if they are mentioned. I can then take any of these tweets and either reply or retweet.

It’s like I now have access to people that can be several degrees of separation from me. I can retweet and reply to people. I can also follow those that I find interesting. And perhaps these people will look at my feed and determine whether or not I have something interesting to say and perhaps want to follow me.

Wow! I just had to share this. The light bulb has TOTALLY come on for me–like major serious halogen 1300 watt retina-burning light–like meteor showers over Jupiter while 12 million people are singing “Total Eclipse of the Sun” and other events of galactic proportion!! I’m so freaking out.

So, all to say, I GET IT NOW! I get the Twitter thing. I just had to share my joy with EVERYONE!!

Now back to finishing up Week #6: My Newsletter Empire!!

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