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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2017 Musician Challenge: This Is Your Year

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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You’re putting the horrors of 2016 behind you and you’re looking to the New Year, to start afresh, to be successful and let it be THE YEAR that your music finally gets the recognition it deserves, right?

Well, let’s put that to the test. As a way of starting the New Year off overflowing with motivation and determination to succeed, starting as you mean to go on, i’ve devised a challenge for every single musician that visits this blog.

This post will give a break down of what I believe to be good targets for the next 12 months, whether you’re a solo artist or band, whether you’re just starting out or have been at it for a few years, add this post to your favourites and refer back to it as a source of drive to get further in your music career.

Share this online with your musician peers as a way of encouraging the music community into some healthy, friendly competition. It will bring the best out of you all:

Challenge 1: Release 4 singles (roughly 1 every 3 months)

Yes, singles might not mean as much in the digital age as they did traditionally but when I say singles I mean, one song that you’re pushing for the World to hear.

3 months per single is a good amount of time to prepare the composition and recording of the song, its mixing and mastering before focusing on its promotion (challenges 2,3,4 and 5 below).

I’m not going to tell you what to write about in your songs, that’s up to you, but I would encourage you to write from the heart. Any song that truly means something to the singer will come across in its delivery and performance leading to a greater connection between singer and audience. That connection is vital in building a fanbase through an emotional engagement with the listener.

Of course, sometimes it’s less about the lyrics and more about the overall feeling or the instrumentation.

You’re the artist, the musician, you do what comes naturally to you and enjoy the process.

Challenge 2: Record a Music video for every song

Video content is essential in getting people to listen to your song. On social media, video content generally leads to better engagement meaning keeping the attention of the viewer. If you can create something that catches the attention of the audience visually, it will result in a greater chance that more of your music will be heard and an emotional bond to your music will be made.

I realise in these testing economic times the majority of people in the World cannot afford expensive filming equipment or the hiring of a videographer but it doesn’t need to be so. There is plenty of great budget equipment out there or apps for your iPhone (I use iMovie - it's free) that will help to create a visually pleasing end product. Yes, it might not be quite the same quality as a big budget music video but it doesn’t need to be at this stage.

The main purpose is the video as a promotional tool; another source for potential fans to find and hear your song; something else for bloggers, music websites and media to share (see challenge 3), helping to push the boundaries a little further to a new catchment of potential fans.

As for the video itself, the most important piece of advice I can give is this: make it memorable. Whether it is an emotional narrative that tugs at the heartstrings of the viewer, whether it is a ridiculous, viral-like video that will encourage people to share it due to its outrageous matter, or whether it is a think-piece that makes the audience question their reality – make it memorable.

As a great example, check out the great Dirty Paint Brush Sky's latest video release 'The Re-Cast' above by good friend Charlie Wallis who i've worked with many times in the past having toured Europe with him multiple times.

Constantly ask yourself, is this video something I would watch? Look at the music videos of your favourite artists, try to understand why they might have used the narrative they did and why you connected to it.

Look to align the changing of visual scenes to the song's beat to connect the viewer more deeply to the track. Try to use multiple shots (and multiple locations) so the video is visually stimulating (remember: we get bored easily).

As a musician, you are creative so don’t let that creativity go to waste on your music video. And if you’re struggling, get involved with the wider arts community locally to see if an upcoming videographer or arts student would consider getting involved for a small fee.

Challenge 3: Write & send your own press release

Press releases are simply the telling and explanation of the story behind the band, the song and the video to media outlets (be it blogs, music websites or any other media).

In all reality, many blogs will take large sections of a press release and use them verbatim, adding their own voice around the main points, so make sure the press release is interesting enough to be used, has correct spellings and sets out exactly what it is you are promoting.

Press release for a video? Then talk about the meaning of the song and the video, the narrative, any metaphors that need explaining to help the audience connect more deeply to the content. The lovely teams at Sonicbids have a great piece on how to write good press release so read up on what they have to say and use their template to set it out.

As for finding blogs and websites to send your press release to, it all depends on the type of music genre you play. There is no point sending your press release for a metal song to a pop blog (obviously, duh!).

A simple search online for “(insert genre here) music blog” will draw up potential recipients, as will searching on social media or looking to see what online or print publications have given press to similar bands to your own.

Oh, and finally, I’d recommend putting a spreadsheet together (nerd!) to collate a list of those you contacted, email addresses, web URLs and the publicity you received. No one started a band for the admin (I hope) but in the modern independent Music Industry, it is a very important part of building and maintaining relationships, gaining and building upon press.

Challenge 4: Aim to play 30 shows

This is one of the most obvious points but depending on where you are in the World will determine how easy it is for you to play shows. I often sadly forget that there are thousands of musicians out there desperate to play gigs without the venues to play them in. This video (right) I recorded might help you get gigs and support slots with new video content coming out very soon on my channel.

Booking shows will obviously depend on how well connected you are with the local and National music scene, whether you know promoters, venues or other bands very well. The whole concept of the Music Industry is heavily based on relationships and the better you are at making and maintaining relationships, the more chance you have of getting further in the business.

It’s a reciprocal relationship. Show your support to promoters by attending their shows and ask them politely for opportunities to perform for them. Do the same with bands you know. The better you are at keeping in the loop with the local scene and those engaged within it, the easier it will be for you to get opportunities and gain the support of others. You get out what you put in.

30 shows equates to roughly a gig every fortnight. It might seem like a tall ask when band members may have jobs or other responsibilities but do your best at working towards this number. Even if it serves as motivation to get you playing 20 shows in the year then it will have been worth it.

You can always look to build a string of dates together as a tour to promote a forthcoming single, album, video, merchandise or whatever you have to offer. Just remember the press release to promote it.

Challenge 5: Build a Social Media following (+300 FB likes / +1000 Twitter followers)

I speak to many musicians about social media and how they might go about building an engaged following online; not to mention how they might just find time to put content out (trust me, I struggle with this on a daily basis).

I’ll be doing an in-depth YouTube video about social media for bands and artists soon (so make sure you subscribe for that) but ultimately, to build a social media following, you must engage within the community.

90% of the time, you should be outwardly engaging with what likeminded individuals are posting without trying to sell them your music. Find the bands or brands that you align with, then find those who also enjoy them – that’s your starting point. Equally, you should use the search function for Facebook and Twitter to find people who are talking about the things you’re interested in.

Only 10% of the time should you be sharing your own music videos, or selling gig tickets, or selling merchandise. Reciprocity will eventually lead to new fans without you trying to give them the hard sell. Engage with them, take an interest in what they are doing, what is important to them and they will automatically look to your profile and what you stand for. If you’re a band, they are almost guaranteed to look into whatever link is in your description (so make sure it’s relevant) or perhaps your music video if it is pinned to the top of your profile.

Social Media Likes & Followers Advice
I see too many artists who think that cold-tweeting their music video to anyone who may be remotely interested is a good idea. This is most probably the quickest way for people to instantly dislike you as an artist and not give your music a moments notice. It's spam.

Ask yourself this: what does the subject matter of the content you share say about you and your music? How would a music fan engage with the personality behind the music if all you do is give them the hard sell without letting them see the humanity behind it? How are they supposed to connect with you on a human, emotional level?

Do your best in tweeting daily (or at the very least every other day) about topics that mean something to you. Let the audience see the personality behind the music. It doesn’t have to constantly be about the band or the music, in fact the less the better. Just be you, be authentic, engage with your followers and potential followers, take an interest in what matters to them and make some friends.

I really recommend using Buffer to schedule your content. You can find out when your audience is most active online through each social media platform's analytics and then schedule your content for when they are most likely to be active, maximizing the chance of them seeing it and engaging with it.

I could talk all day about social media (after all, it is what I did my research in) but for now, if you have any questions, tweet me @sunnynorwich or facebook message my page and I’ll do my best to help.


Follow the challenges above and 2017 should be a successful year for you and your music. 

Share this post on social media (tagging me in where you can) and challenge your musician friends online – the more public the better so they have no choice but to take the contest. Activities are WAY more fun when you have friends involved so get them involved and encourage each other to get further in your music careers.

I look forward to hearing how you’re getting on each step of the way. I’m always available via social media or email (just be patient with email replies – I’m doing my best to keep up with them all).

2017 Musician Challenge: This Is Your Year - Sunny Stuart Winter


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