I know a lot of creatives and without exception they all struggle with some (or even all) of the following emotional challenges:
– How to set their goals in a useful way
– How to identify their audience / find their ‘niche’
– How to train themselves to be more persistent
– What to do when they feel like things aren’t working
– How to respond to criticism
– How to decide between different strategies, audiences, etc
– Plenty more like this
In trying to solve these problems for myself, I’ve realised that the reason why most of the advice available is flawed is because it’s TELLING people how to solve these challenges, rather than SHOWING them.
I thus wanted to give people a real life case study of a real person (i.e me) trying to succeed in a dream that really matters to him: getting signed by the end of 2020.
Viewers can see how I deal with all these challenges and more… and hopefully learn things that they can apply to their own work, whether or not I succeed or ‘fail’ – and if I do fail they can watch HOW I fail and hopefully draw a lot from that too.
Why have I chosen this particular goal?
It’s one of the biggest decisions any songwriter/artist/musician trying to make a plan will have to make:
Do I want to go it alone, do all the work to build an organic following and keep all the money?
Or do I want to secure the backing of a bigger company (label, management, publisher) to help me reach a wider audience, even if that means giving away a chunk of my freedom and income?
In short, for the purposes of this YouTube series, I’m aiming for the second option.
I’m not necessarily talking about landing a ‘record deal’ or working with a ‘label’ in the traditional meaning of the word – I’m talking more broadly about singing with a partner in the music industry that can open doors, connect me with the right people, help me craft the right strategy for my songwriting career.
(This could be a record label, or a publisher, or a manager etc)
I should also say, I’m neither expecting (nor wanting) to be signed to a big/major record label (or other business) dealing with mainstream artists – I am looking to sign with a smaller yet still powerful independent label that deals with artists who want to build a more loyal following.
How have I come to this decision?
Reach and interaction is more important than making money
I know that there are stories of successful artists who stay independent their whole career and build loyal fan bases – and fair play to them. But I want to focus on getting my music to as many people as possible and then building a meaningful interaction with them. I feel I can preserve that meaningful artist-listener relationship just as well by working with an organisation that takes me to a wider audience.
In fact, I’ll have more time to spend on crafting better content and a great conversation if I don’t have to do 100% of my own management.
On the money side, right now I’m less worried about making music my sole livelihood. If I have a wider audience that really appreciates and connects with my music, I am confident that I’ll find ways to leverage that to create more income through writing, coaching and even songwriting for other people.
Another reason: getting ‘signed’ represents a clear goal for me to pursue
The other main reason I’ve decided to try to get signed in 24 weeks is that it represents a clear marker, something I can aim for that is binary – I either succeed or I don’t.
Another option I considered is ‘getting to 100,000 listeners in 24 weeks’ – but I feel like this over-emphasis on numbers devalues the importance of each individual listener, something I’ll explore in later episodes, forming a key part of my plan to get signed.
Whilst I am going to set myself some internal numbers targets – and I will talk about them in a later episode – they are not my main focus. I want to focus on qualitative goals, tangible achievements that are more based on my process (i.e. setting up a great newsletter, writing great songs, recording on time) rather than factors that are further out of my control.
What about failure vs success?
At the time of writing, I have 94 YouTube Subscribers.
The way I see it, there are 4 options:
- I miss my target (no record deal) AND get very little engagement on the videos
This represents a ‘failure’, but no one will see it. (If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to see it…) I’ll simply move onto a new idea, having learned and practised the art of making videos and done a lot of valuable work anyway.
- I miss my target (no record deal) BUT I get lots more people watching the videos, tens or even hundreds of thousands of views
While I failed in my overall target, I built something arguably more valuable, i.e. my own YouTube audience → there are so many things I can do with this, not to mention the skills I’ll have learned along the way
- I hit my target (record deal, woohoo!) BUT no one really watches the YouTube videos
After celebrating the win, I guess I’d just have to work out how to make better videos…
- I hit my target AND get lots of YouTube engagement
Very happy Ned, lots of drinks on me!
Therefore, complete ‘failure’ is logically impossible – the closest I get to failure is Option A, but even in that outcome there are some positives.
My Main Objectives
‘Putting my best foot forward’, by making each piece of work the best I can possibly make
I would rather focus on fewer elements and just do them in the best way I possibly can. For example, rather than trying to be active across all social media channels, I’d rather just pick e.g. Instagram and create the best content I can think of, posting it consistently.
I want to get to the end of December, knowing that I did the best I possibly could, didn’t cut any corners, created the best music I’ve ever written and was as tenacious as possible in contacting record labels etc. The outcome is far less relevant than the process!
Helping other creatives answer the same questions
I want my project to inspire other creatives, providing examples of different ways to tackle all the practical and emotional challenges along the way to achieving a goal.
I aim to show, not tell, people what I’m trying, what works and doesn’t work, and engage with every single viewer that comments or writes to me.
If you have any questions for the series, or any suggestions for topics I could cover, please get in touch!
What do you find most challenging in your creative project? Leave a comment below…