March 2017 Update – Background FX, Social Media Marketing, And The Creative Struggle

john lavido progress update background fx

In February, I said I would finish “Your Face” (a new track), write another article on deliberate practice, and finish another track.

How did I do?

I finished Your Face, promoted it, and got it signed to a small Russian record label (via Submithub.com). For about $40, you can submit your tracks to 50+ blogs, labels, and tastemakers (Youtube channels, Soundcloud channels, etc). They have to listen to it to get paid. Most of them provide specific feedback and suggestions. Some of them – like the Russian record label – will accept the track and promote.

Anyway, the official release date for Your Face is March 13 (next week!). Got that done.

However, I did not complete the article on deliberate practice and I did not finish another track. I had to take care of some business stuff, and I also decided to slow down and take an easy week in the middle of the month.

That brings me to one of my main struggles as a person and as a musician…

I don’t know when to stop working (put another way, I don’t know how to relax).

Everyone’s different.

I get a lot of emails from people who ask me how to be motivated and how to be focused with music production. Some people, it seems, find laziness and relaxation easier than doing something. That’s one type of person.

On the other hand, some people hustle until they feel burned out. That’s me.

My problem isn’t working too little, it’s working too much. It’s not knowing when to relax… when to ease off the throttle… when to have “fun”.

How is that a problem?

Because I run myself into the ground, lose interest in whatever I’m doing (ie. music), and my productivity plummets.

Plus, I can lose sight of the goal… and the goal with music, at least for me, is to have fun. But when I get too obsessed with working, I get stressed because I haven’t hit certain objective goals (like X number of fans).

So yeah. That’s one of my struggles.

But I’m working on it, and I think I’m improving. I’m learning to listen to my body more, and taking it easy when I feel I need to. Plus, I’m constantly reminding myself that the point of doing this, or doing anything, is to ultimately have a blast. Sure, it’s cool to get recognition, play big stages, and all that, but you gotta enjoy the journey if it’s going to be worthwhile. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize that I spent most of it wishing I was somewhere other than where I am.

Some things that help me “slow down and smell the roses” are:

  • Meditation
  • The Presence Process
  • Long walks in nature (park, forest, lake)
  • Skateboarding, motorcycle rides, anything adventurous

Now, with all of that said, I had an interesting experience this week.

Last Saturday, I began a new track… except this time, it felt like trying to squeeze water out of a rock. I rarely get “stuck” creatively or feel “writer’s block”, but I had a taste of it that day. I worked on this track for 4-5 hours, and at the end of all that, I had almost nothing I liked. I couldn’t get the chords to work, or the lead, or the arrangement to work…

I wanted to give up and move onto another track, but instead, I went for a long walk. And on my long walk, I reminded myself that the creative process is going to be difficult at times… and that if I was really serious about making great music and honing my craft, I need to be willing to sit with the discomfort of not knowing what the hell to write or how to make a song work.

So I stuck with it.

It’s Wednesday now, and I’ve finally gotten the song to a point where it’s exciting me.

So if you’re struggling with a song at the moment, see if you can stick with it. Turn it into a meditation of sorts. Instead of getting frustrated, just keep trying stuff. Try safe things. Try crazy things that you don’t expect to work. Sometimes it’s the crazy things that make a song shine.

Now, let me share on of the cool things I learned this month about how to make a song sound professional.

How To Use Background FX To Create Interest

Each time I write a song, I show it to producer friends to see what they think.

When I show it to them, I’m always MORE interested in what they DON’T like about it, because that tells me what I need to improve on the next track.

Well, one thing I discovered recently was that my tracks didn’t have much in the way of background FX. I would call background FX any sound that sits in the background and appears somewhat randomly. Little air flutters in the background. Random weird drum hits that you don’t expect. A vocal chop panned hard right.

I’m working on a track right now, and I’ve made a point to really build out the background FX with all sorts of stuff… and the amazing thing is how much more professional the song sounds as a result. I’m sure that the background FX have a way of hooking the subconscious brain and making it pay more attention.

So try it. Layer up background FX throughout your songs. Keep them in the background, but make sure that they’re there.

In terms of marketing, February was an interesting month.

While I didn’t release any new songs (and therefore didn’t get many new plays), I did add 1,000 fans to my social accounts.

Roughly 600 on Instagram and 400 on Twitter.

How?

With Ocusocial.

For a monthly fee, they log into your account and follow hundreds of people. Some of those people follow you back. Eventually, they unfollow all the people who didn’t follow you back so that you “follower to following” ratio isn’t crazy out of whack.

I’ve combined this with Crowdfire, a tool that allows you to auto-message people on Twitter when they follow you. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll get a message back to listen to Hold Me. Thanks to Ocusocial and Crowdire, I’ve had hundreds of people visit this website, listen to Hold Me, and sign up to my email list.

Now, the million dollar question here is “are these real fans?”.

I’m not sure, and I’m not convinced – especially the followers on Twitter and Instagram. It’s too easy to follow someone on social media, so I don’t think it counts for much. A visit to my website is better, and joining the email list is even better.

Despite not being convinced, I want to let it run for a few months, and then test the responsiveness of the “fans”. Will they listen to a song? Will they sign up to an email list?

This brings up another struggle of mine – in terms of marketing, it’s difficult to know what works vs what doesn’t. Would my money be better spent on Facebook ads or Soundcloud reposts? I’m not sure, and I don’t think it’s possible to have a perfect answer.

Finally, the most important thing, of course, is the music. While Crowdfire, Ocusocial, and other services like them, can help with marketing, the quality of the music is what matters most. With great music, it’s easier to get tastemakers, managers and labels to pay attention. So that’s what I’m mostly focused on at the moment.

In March 2017, here’s what I plan on doing:

  1. Produce and promote War (new track)
  2. Complete deliberate practice article
  3. Produce and promote another new track

How about you? What’s happening in March 2017? What are your wins? What are your struggles?

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Carl Juneau, PhD - March 10, 2017

Yeah, I’m like that too. Work until I get burned. For about 3 years, I forced myself to take a week off every month. I work 80 hours a week 3 out of 4 weeks. Then a week off. Worked well. Had some nice vacations. I’m down to a week off every 2 months now and I’m still going great.

Anyhow, I can relate.

Good luck mate,

Carl-Etienne Juneau, PhD

Reply
    John Lavido - March 12, 2017

    Love that model. I’ve used it before. At the moment, I do something like that, without the specific 3 out of 4 weeks. I work for a few weeks, and when I feel like it’s time for a break, I’ll take a few days or a week off.

    Reply
David - March 10, 2017

hey mate, enjoy reading your blogs and following your process – learned about you via EDMProd. just wanted to mention, as a twitter user, nothing shits me more than getting the auto-message when you follow someone. for me, it’s a red flag that the person has the twitter account to promote themselves and won’t be worth following for dialogue and good content (the reasons i use twitter), just promotion. i’m also a bit skeptical of the idea of “fake” following people only in the hope of getting them to follow back, seems a bit of a hollow gesture – especially as it seems you’re using these people to boost your metrics when, as you say, they’re not really your target audience in the first place. just had to speak up on that issue, the rest all sounds good and I wish you success with your new tracks.

Reply
    John Lavido - March 12, 2017

    Hey David, you make a great point. I’m still uncertain as to how helpful it will be, and whether the “fans” are actually real “fans”. But I think it’s worth testing.

    Most people who follow me won’t be real fans. But perhaps a small percentage will actually check me out. Some of those people will listen to a song. And a few of those will sign up to the email list.

    This, if you think about it, is true even for famous artists who don’t use software like this. Take any big name artist. Let’s use Tiesto. He has 4.74M followers. Of his millions of followers, only a small percentage would be interested in him. Even a smaller percentage would listen to his music on a regular basis. And even a smaller amount would pay for a ticket to his show.

    So I think it’s similar to us, except we’re at the beginning of the process, not the end (like Tiesto).

    With that said, perhaps there’s a risk of coming across as too aggressive or too “marketing heavy” due to auto DMs, like you mentioned. So then, the question is, is it worth annoying a few people to get a few people interested? There’s no “one size fits all” answer to this question, but personally, I’d rather veer on the “too aggressive” side of things than “play it safe”.

    In terms of actual data, in February, 51 new people visited my website from Twitter, and 19 from Instagram, for a total of 70 new people who wouldn’t have heard about me otherwise. It’s not going to make me famous anytime soon, but it’s an easy way to build a small initial following that may be instrumental in growing rapidly later.

    Reply
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