Spoiler Alert: I didn’t become a rock star. Sorry, if you were hoping for tips on how to become famous.
This is more for those folks around here that I suspect are like me – part-time musicians that record at home, not bands with managers that play live – those of us who are wondering what to do with the tunes we are all creating, and what is the next step? With that in mind, here’s what I did:
Back in the spring of 2016, I “released” an album, meaning I paid CDBaby to put it out on iTunes, Spotify, and such. I’d spent a lot of time and a little bit of money working on 11 songs – and, over the course of the project, I pulled in two former RR folks to help: Will in the UK, who does DrumTracks:Direct, and IRD’s own Andrew from ColdRoom Studio from Down Under. Since I’m in the Southern US, it was a truly world-spanning affair!
I’d wanted to use real drums on this record, vs. the midi loops I’d been stuck with in the past. Will took my demo songs and gave them life by playing along and then sending me back the full drum mix. I then re-recorded everything over his grooves, mixed it down, and then had Andrew critique what I’d done, and he gave absolutely “sound” advice. OK, that was bad – sorry.
I could have mucked with these songs for many more weeks/months/years, but had decided to use my birthday in March 2016 as the “put down your pencils, turn in the test” moment. If you don’t have a deadline, arbitrary or not, you’ll never really be able to let it go. So my advice to anyone is to put some goalposts in place when you start something.
To get the word out, I’d done some research into music review blogs that covered my genre of music (powerpop) – not too hard, as these are sites where I check in regularly to see what new music is out there and use their links to purchase tunes. I sent each blog-owner an email with a private link to download my album, and then with public links to Soundcloud that they could use on their blogs, along a link to my website and a link to iTunes and Spotify. The email was short and sweet, pretty much “Hey, I like the stuff you review, so maybe you’ll like this.” Luckily, most places I sent it to were receptive and gave the album positive reviews.
I guess that is the main point I want to make – as splintered as things are in today’s music world, where there’s a sub-Reddit channel for every uber-obscure genre, you have to be precise about how you promote yourself online. Marketing used to be a shotgun approach, then went to a rifle analogy, but now it’s definitely ultra-focused, like killer-drone marketing.
Then end result for me, so far, has been nice but not world-shattering. I’ve made some decent money that rolls up to CDBaby, have gotten some positive reviews, but… if I’d been paid by the hour to create and release this album, I’d have lost so much time and money that it would be nuts to recommend it to anybody! I’m definitely keeping my day job.
But here the thing: I didn’t expect any real results at all; I’m going to keep doing this anyway. I made enough $$$ to keep me in guitar strings and picks for a while… that’s enough for me!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it – Rock on!