Connecting to Fans in their Inbox – The Challenge Week 7

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons license by derschlosi

Every week, hours are spent putting together the Songwriters Association of Canada‘s “Songwriters Update,” our weekly email newsletter.  We want to stay connected, and we know that even though we are constantly updating Twitter, Facebook, and our website, landing in someone’s email inbox is still the most powerful call to action.  This is the same thinking behind Chapter 7 of Ariel Hyatt‘s “Music Success in 9 Weeks,” the book that is guiding participants in the Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge.

Let’s recap what we’ve done thus far:

Week 1:  Setting Goals – We defined personal goals, which in turn personalized each person’s experience of this challenge.
Week 2:  The Pitch – We came up with branding statements to define who we are.  These statements were then sprinkled throughout all our online communication tools.
Week 3:  The Website – We built online home fronts for ourselves.
Week 4:  Social Media – We extended our online homes to social media platforms to connect with even more people.
Week 5:  YouTube – We built YouTube channels.
Week 6:  Blogging – We built our own blogs and reached out into the blogosphere to connect with other bloggers.

And now, we’re at week 7.  Whereas all the previous weeks were about reaching out to the masses and hopefully acquiring fans, the newsletter is about engaging and keeping your fans interested.  Building the infrastructure to email newsletters is not necessarily a creative or fun process.  But once you have an established system, you will have an outlet in which to pour your creativity…keeping in mind that ending with a call to action is key.

Some people may struggle to find a call to action, especially if you do not have a product to sell yet.  Herein is the beauty of this challenge and the social media ecosystem that is built in the process.  If you are regularly creating new content, on your blog, YouTube channel, or Facebook fan page, you will also be creating new calls-to-action to place in your email newsletter.  No matter where you are in your creative journey, you will have something to share because you are already regularly sharing!

On that note, we look forward to sharing the progress of our Challenge participants this week. (With only 2 more weeks to go!)

Okay Challengers, please post the following:
1.  Link to this week’s blog post.
2.  Name of Newsletter Provider you have chosen (eg.  FanBridge, Reverbnation, Vertical Response, Mail Chimp, etc.,) and why you chose it.
3.  Link where people can register for your Email newsletter.

Songwriters Showcase 2012 – by the Victoria Regional Writers Group (S.A.C.)

Photos by Peter Brunette (click for more)

Written by:  Tracy Mills

The 3rd Annual Songwriters Showcase took place on Feb 11, 2012:   fifteen of our songwriters from the Victoria Regional Writers Group (VRWG) took to the stage and let fly their original songs.

The crowd was responsive and engaged: they clapped and sang.  And I’m sure they would have done so, even if I hadn’t threatened them with my bow.  Plus we raised some money for Knox Presbyterian  (who graciously allow us use of their space for our monthly workshops).

We came from such humble beginnings three years ago:  4 of us clutching our pencils, sharing an envelope for our melodies; to today, 20 of us spilling our lyrics across four tables and onto the floor.  We have over 75 on our songwriters  mailing list  and growing numbers on our facebook page.   And all levels – from the beginner to those who have “cut deals” with their songs.  Each workshop hones a particular songwriting skill, but the people in the room are the real strength.  We have become a mature community that can deal with any issues that arise – that and we make people who act out sit in the corner and write limericks with moon and June.

The RWG program is spearheaded by the Songwriters Association of Canada, and boasts 15 groups from Victoria to Kippens.  Each with it’s own style, program and volunteer coordinators.  You should start one.

Much love and much more soon,

Click Here to see original posting on the Mombray and Mills website.

Crowdfunding for Canadian Songwriters

Click image to support Chris Ronald's crowdfunding.

Article By:  Chris Ronald

The idea of crowdfunding is not new. In fact, it is common for anyone launching a new venture to “begin at home” when securing initial support and uptake of services. I liken it to mowing lawns when I was a lad; I’d start off by doing it for my dad for a bit of loose change and, before long, I’d be cutting grass for the neighbours.

Since those halcyon days of mowing lawns as a teenager, the Internet has arrived and with it many online services offering artists a fundraising platform for creative projects. Three such web sites that seem to be on the tips of tongues these days are IndieGoGo, RocketHub, and Kickstarter. They all work under the same premise which is to give artists a means to attract donations in exchange for exclusive perks. This all sounds pretty straight forward, but there are a number of factors to consider when setting up your stall.

  • Cost: It’s free to get projects up and running but fees are charged at the end of the campaign. There’s little to choose between the above-mentioned sites as they all charge between 8-10% on the amount raised. However, if you don’t reach your target, the fee could be as much as 12%. I notice IndieGoGo also charges a $25 wire fee for non-US campaigns.
  • All-or-nothing: Kickstarter adopts the “all-or-nothing” funding approach, which means if you don’t hit your target all donations are returned with no fees incurred. IndieGoGo gives you the option of all-or-nothing or keeping whatever you raise (but with increased fees if you don’t hit your target). RocketHub has no all-or-nothing option but offers “LaunchPad Opportunities” if you’re successful.
  • Time limit: each site imposes a campaign time limit. IndieGoGo allows a maximum of 120 days, RocketHub 90 days, and Kickstarter 60 days.
  • Setting the target: It’s important to consider the above information and a few other factors when deciding on a funding goal. First, bear in mind you’ll get dinged by higher fees or raise nothing at all (depending on which site you choose) if you don’t hit target, so be realistic and err on the side of caution. Second, consider the potential level of support you might get from fans to avoid setting a target that’s too ambitious. Last, devise some rewards that might attract support beyond your established following; chances are you’ll need all the help you can get.
  • Devising rewards: RocketHub recommends you offer rewards at low ($5-$10), medium ($150-$500), and high ($1000+) levels. Coming up with tangible, unique rewards is a good brainstorming activity and led to my new “Songift” service.
  • Building credibility: It’s recommended to have some donations already in the bag before telling the world about your campaign. Potential donors are more likely to want to learn more about your project if they can see that others have already contributed.
  • Payment methods: Donors have to pay using a credit card, apart from IndieGoGo which also takes PayPal. Donors don’t get charged for using credit cards. Instead, processing fees are deducted from the final pot of money raised and are included in the percentages outlined above.
  • Consider spin-offs: Benefits may arise because of but outside of your campaign. As a result of my project, supporters have been contacting me to offer help in other ways such as putting me in touch with producers, studios, videographers, etc. Even if the funding goal is not achieved, other good things may come out of trying.

I’ve been singing and songwriting for 25 years, and I’d much rather be channeling my energy creatively than working on “the part that ain’t art.” However, as I’m considering going all-in on my music career in the very near future, I appreciate that the creative and financial elements are going to have to walk hand-in-hand. Also, as an independent artist operating in the difficult and highly-competitive market that is the music industry, I recognize a need to be creative in all areas of the business. I think crowd funding is a great way to ask for help in mowing the lawn, but it is just one more tool in the shed.

To join in crowdfunding Chris Ronald’s next album:  CLICK HERE.
Click Here to visit Chris Ronald’s Songwriters Profile.

Get Your Blog On!…The Challenge – Week 6

Funny that the chapter on blogging for a blogging challenge actually comes in Week 6.  While previous weeks of the S.A.C.’s Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge have been focused on mutterings on the process of goal-setting, setting up social media and personal websites, it’s all been a warm up to getting tools in place to build real connection with potential fans.  And now that time has come.  Even though the sheer volume of new content published online everyday can seem overwhelming, it is also exciting to see so much connection and engagement happening.

You may have heard the phrase, “Content is King.”  A songwriter’s blog is like the heartbeat of your online presence, fueling all your web entities with original content targeted at creating conversation and providing your fans with a backstage look at who you are.   And here’s my favourite sentence in this chapter of “Music Success in 9 Weeks” by Ariel Hyatt, “Just get posting, don’t stress about it, and tweak it to death.”  Blogging, unlike songwriting, does not require hundreds of edits and revisions.  The point is to create a voice and a presence, NOT a literary masterpiece!

Similarly, this blog was launched one and a half years ago with the hope of connecting songwriters across Canada by sharing information and inspiration through individual stories and experiences.  During this time, we’ve been amazed at the incredible submissions we have received.  We are grateful to all our contributors for helping us to create this wonderful dialogue and platform.  Truly, the magic of a blog is in the sharing and commenting that happens!

Speaking of sharing…here are some highlight videos from Week 5:

Karyn Ellis, one of our participants, has challenged herself to make homemade videos for all the songs on her album:

And here’s the response video made by Sue NewBerry, also a Challenge participant.

Okay, Challenge participants, please post the following:

1.  The URL of your blog entry for this week.
2.  5 blogs you are targeting.

Getting Out Of The Gate…Saying Good-Bye to Perfectionism!

Creative Commons License: The Hackers Way

It’s been incredible to witness the frenzy across the blogosphere since the launch of the S.A.C.’s Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge.  It has been a privilege to witness the community that has formed between participants and the power of accountability towards getting things done.  At the same time, some of us (including myself), have fallen behind.  We understand, life gets in the way!  But, there is something else that gets in the way for many artists I know…PERFECTIONISM!  So, here is my blog entry on breaking through…

Getting Out of The Gate

I want to do things perfectly.  I want every song, every performance, every picture, every blog entry, every breath I take, to be awesome.  Unfortunately, I am human.  This gets in the way of my pursuit of perfection.  I get pimples, I forget things, sometimes, when I’m nervous, I strum the wrong chord.  I wish there was some sort of photoshop for life that could edit out all my blunders and imperfections.  Maybe if I lived via a holographic projection that would be possible, but until then…I must wrestle down my desire for perfection and make it a goal for myself to GET OUT OF THE GATE!

Last night I watched Taylor Swift‘s incredible performance at the 2012 Grammy Awards that proved without a doubt that she can sing.  Rewind to the 2010 Grammy Awards and her vocal performance in a duet with Stevie Nicks garnered a backlash of harsh criticism for being pitchy (especially from music industry critic Bob Lefsetz!).   Why has this redemption inspired me so much?  I think it’s because I’m inspired to keep moving forward and not allow myself to be crippled by everything that is less than perfect.  This applies to my music, my performances…and my website!  This does not mean I will not continue tweaking and improving upon what I’ve done.  It only means that I will not allow a lack of perfection to stop me from moving forward.  If Taylor Swift can release Grammy worthy music without having nailed down her ability to sing on pitch under pressure, why can’t I allow the same room for growth in my own journey as an artist?

Diving into Chapter 3 of “Music Success in 9 Weeks,” I had this grandiose vision, I will REDESIGN my website, it will be epic, it will sing, it will dance, there will be fireworks!  And then, life came knocking on my door.  Work deadlines, hosting gigs, and family commitments to name a few of the many distractions that took away from the vision of losing myself in WordPress for a week.  And then I took a look at my existing website.  I already have google analytics set up, and I already have a player embedded to hear a sample of my music.  Why fix what isn’t broken?

So, instead of investing 5 days of programming time I spent 5 hours tweaking.  I added a few snazzier looking social media icons, included my newest personal pitch and rejigged things, along with changing the homepage photo.

Am I completely satisfied?  Of course not.  But I accept that insatiable perfection monster that lives in my artist heart and will allow it to prompt me towards future growth in development.  In fact, I just registered for a class on HTML and CSS from the fantastic non-profit, Ladies Learning Code.  I will keep improving upon where I am at.  One day, my website may be able to brew a cup of coffee for my fans, but until then, I am happy to let myself GET OUT OF THE GATE!

It’s a Youtube Universe! – The Challenge Week 5

Get your YouTube face on! Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons License by Yu-Ta Lee

Once upon a time, people had to travel somewhere to see you play music live.  Although one could argue that YouTube is still distinctly different from watching a show in person, gone are the days when a shroud of mystery enveloped artists until you were able to see them on television or at a show.  These days, having a presence on YouTube is a given and not a bonus part of your social media marketing plan.

Here are some interesting stats (provided by YouTube):

  • 48 hours of video are uploaded every minute, resulting in nearly 8 years of content uploaded every day
  • Over 3 billion videos are viewed a day
  • Users upload the equivalent of 240,000 full-length films every week
  • More video is uploaded to YouTube in one month than the 3 major US networks created in 60 years
  • 70% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
  • YouTube is localized in 25 countries across 43 languages
  • YouTube’s demographic is broad: 18-54 years old
  • YouTube reached over 700 billion playbacks in 2010
  • 800M unique users visit YouTube each month

Clearly, anyone who wants to connect with people through their music wants to be a part of this explosive kinetic activity.  While some may passively view YouTube videos, like any another TV channel, in fact, YouTube is very social.  Much of the traffic on YouTube is driven by sharing.  In addition, rating and commenting have become an integral part of the YouTube experience.

So, this week, participants of the Songwriters Association of Canada’s Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge (based on the book, “Music Success in 9 Weeks,” by Ariel Hyatt), are putting their best YouTube face forward by building or tweaking their YouTube Channels.

We’ll see YOU on YouTube!

Here are some highlight videos from our participants!

Instructions for Challenge Takers living on the edge:

1.  Link to your blog entry for the week. (exact URL)
2.  Link to your YouTube Channel.
3.  Link to a YouTube video created specifically for this week.

Eat, pray, songwriting…keeping it simple.

Sarah Calvert is a mult-talented singer/songwriter, and also a participant in the S.A.C. Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge.  She recently released “Other Side,” an album that features Canadian talents like Suzie Vinnick, Brian MacMillan, Andrew Collins, and Tim Bovaconti.  As many artists can resonate with, Sarah encountered strife and turmoil while touring her album, leading her to strip away everything familiar, including her primary instrument.  She jettisoned to Hawaii and India where she developed a deep appreciation of keeping things simple that has been reflected in her new approach to songwriting.  Not unlike the author of “Eat, Pray, Love,”  Sarah’s journey crystallized things she couldn’t see as clearly while caught up in the busyness of modern day living and touring.   May her story serve as a reminder of the inspiration that comes from leaving our respective comfort zones, as well as the value of keeping things simple in songwriting.

In Her Words…

Music. Glamour. Travel. Frostbite. I didn’t anticipate on the latter aspect of touring a new album. Last winter I toured my latest record, “Other Side” to the other side of Canada: B.C. and Alberta. Many of my friends were perplexed, “Why would you go now, with all of the snow?”  I responded that it was perfect timing because of the record-breaking amounts of snow. As a former professional ski bum, a tour through the mountains was idyllic. And it was, to a certain extent. I sang, I skied, I cried.

What I did not know, was that a vigorous musical/teaching tour (I taught songwriting and yoga to pay for lift tickets and gas) coupled with a rigorous ski regime would leave me both burnt out and freezing.

It was a month and a half into the tour, and minus 35 in Kelowna when I pulled up to the Bike Café for a show. As I fumbled with near-frostbitten hands to unload my piano, my ski poles became entangled in the mic stand. The buckle of my snowshoe had trapped the cord to my amp, and as I gave a yank on the ski pole, nearly everything in the car fell out with a thud onto the icy road. I did what any other tired musician who had slept on a myriad of couches over the past few months would do: I cried my eyes out. Then I wrote about it.

The glamour of being in new places almost everyday had faded as quickly as Jessica Simpson’s singing career and I longed for my own space, my own bed, and warmth. Yes, the name “Sarah” does mean Hebrew Princess, of which I am both, so I blame it on my name. The next day I contacted an old friend in Nelson; she had a house vacant in Hawaii and asked if I wanted to stay there for a week to recharge my batteries. I thought long and hard about it for 3.2 seconds and was on the phone booking my flight.


Fast-forward three days to Vancouver where I boarded a plane to Kauai aboard United Airlines. After the infamous and unfortunate “incident” with Dave Carrol and his broken guitar, I decided to leave my precious Larivee at a friend’s and would buy a cheap ukulele when I got there. As soon as I got off the plane, picked up my rental car and headed north, I stopped into the first music store I saw and bought a uke for 60 bucks from Mike, the charismatic owner of the store. It was a torrential downpour, so he showed me a few chords as we waited for the rain to subside. During that week I sat on various porches, verandas, and beaches, strumming and plunking away. I didn’t know what chords I was playing, with the exception of C F and G7 that I had learned from Mike. I began writing songs that comprised of three or four chords: harmonically uncomplicated, yet lyrically rich. I was keeping it simple.

After my  Hawaii trip,  I remained in Vancouver to do a few shows when I got an email from a fellow yoga teacher in Toronto asking if any Toronto Kundalini Yoga teachers could go to India to teach for a few weeks, beginning next week. Again I agonized over the idea of going for the tried and tested 3.2 seconds and booked a flight to Delhi for the next week. Just one bag, one uke, and me. No ski poles, amps, loop pedals and snowshoes. Simplicity.

Once I arrived in Delhi, I was told my bags did not make it with me, and were held up in Amsterdam; all I had was my purse, a small carry on and my uke. I traveled north to Chandigarh by bus, which was an 8-hour affair, and arrived early morning. For the first few days, I didn’t have classes as the regular instructor was still there, so I sat out on my porch overlooking a quiet street, a plethora of dahlias and marigolds, and strummed my uke and the four chords I now had mastered. As a jazz trained pianist, I found it liberating to ditch the sometimes-intricate chords I integrated into my music: the diminished sevens, the augmented F#. I focused more on the lyrics and images I wanted to create with words and phrases. As it turned out, I was not able to get my bag for five days, and so, day after day, I sat in the same shirt and pants and continued to strum the same 4 chords and write songs. I remembered seeing Emmylou Harris at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival years ago during a songwriting workshop where she agreed that there is power in “three chords and the truth”. Indeed. I was one-upping that with my four.

I had just started reading Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses, and in Hawaii had read Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, whereby the female protagonist finally finds love late in life, only to find it is fleeting and ends up alone. I used the themes and images from both of these books to write a song called, Swept Away, where I imagined myself the female protagonist. Nobody warned me of the power of manifestation in sacred India, and I too found love that was fleeting and resulted in heartache and an arranged marriage: not mine. That however, that is another story.

India is the perfect place for artists to tune into our senses; I have never visited such a sensual country. The vibrant colours of flowers, silk cloths and nature, the smells of incense, the noise in Delhi, the silence of the Himalayas, and the touch of a beloved’s hand upon skin. Sense profoundly influenced my songwriting over the 3 months I was there. I encourage all songwriters, no matter where we are, to tap into the senses whenever we can. To connect to ourselves and each other is why we write, and we all can relate to each other through the simplicity of a sight, a sound, a taste or a touch. Three chords may be all you need to speak your truth. Some of my fave tunes employ three chords: Neil Young’s Helpless, John Prine’s Angel of Montgomery. Just remember that inspiration is abound; in books, art and our lives. It’s simple.

Click Here to visit Sarah’s Songwriters Profile.