March 2017 Update – Background FX, Social Media Marketing, And The Creative Struggle
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).
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:
- 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.
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:
- Produce and promote War (new track)
- Complete deliberate practice article
- Produce and promote another new track