State of Affairs

I have so many different things to talk about that will probably be revisited in expanded posts at some point. I’m going to use this time to do a general catch-up on all the happenings

PART ONE

If you’ve been following along, you already know I decided to start running ads on Instagram with the goal of getting more followers on Spotify. Originally, I had purchased a very large pdf booklet with the contact info of thousands of independent Spotify playlist curators. Weekly, I reach out to five or ten different curators, and ask them to include one of my songs on their playlists. This has been going pretty well, and I’ve ended up on two playlists in Argentina, and one in Brazil. The more I dug into researching how to get more plays, I stumbled on an article (which translates into, again, ‘Maureen sent me a link’) that featured a hip-hop artist that went from zilch to 500,000 monthly Spotify listeners over 3 years. He and another (respected) DIY music blogger offer a course on their preferred paid advertising techniques, which I jumped on.

The cool thing about this type of advertising on Instagram (owned by Facebook) is that the daily buy-in is only $5. Our ads have been running for a few weeks with varying degrees of success. In the course, we’ve been told that we should shoot for a CPC (cost per click) of under $0.05. We uploaded seven 15-second music video clips to start, and they’ve been popping up in our target audience’s Instagram Stories. When people ‘swipe up’ to get to my Spotify page, we’re charged for the swipe (a.k.a ‘click’). The issue from the start was that our CPC was very high… in the 12-15 cents region. Because we’re paying more for clicks, it takes fewer to chew up our daily $5 buy-in. I have steadily been getting more followers on Spotify, but not nearly as many as some of the other people that are also taking this course (some have reached 10k followers in a few months).

The general wisdom is that it takes some time to zero in on your target audience. We’ve been tweaking things a little bit every Saturday (it’s good to let everything run for awhile in order to gather reliable data over time), and we’ve gotten our CPC to drop a little bit. 10-11 cent range. We also swapped out some of the under-performing videos, which seems to have helped. All in all, it’s only $5/day, and (most importantly) the process is fun and kind of exciting.

Tonight we learned about ‘play-thru’ video ads that run in users’ Facebook feed, which, unlike our CPC ads, cost a LOT less ($0.0001 – $0.0003) and are only charged when the viewer watches 15 seconds or more of the video. Why are we doing this? To learn how to better hone our target audience. It’s a good bet that somebody sticking around on one of my music videos for 15 seconds (in this quickest-of-swipy-internet-age) are much more likely to respond to our other Instagram Story ads. The ‘buy-in’ for play-thru video ads is only $1/day. We targeted broadly (to anybody worldwide that says they like ‘Alternative Rock’) and with our budget will likely get about 500 views a day. We will then take that demographic info, and use it for re-targeting our main campaign.

PART TWO

In the interest of keeping things fresh, I’ve decided to start releasing a single every month. On January 28th, I’m putting out a song called “Farmboy’s Theme”. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some mysterious estoteric countdown videos over the past few days involving a rather cosmopolitan cow. That in itself was a blast to put together. Maureen was surfing around online and came across a DIY screen-printing kit, and this gave her the idea to create a limited edition t-shirt for every single. We wrapped this up into a promotion where if you pre-save Farmboy’s Theme on Spotify, you’re automatically entered to win a Farmboy’s Theme t-shirt. We’ve been promoting the contest in my newsletter, and on a few different ‘contest & sweepstakes’ oriented subreddits and websites. We’ve had a great response so far! I don’t want to give away too much about the song itself. All I will say is that it’s a big departure from what you’re used to hearing from me (unless you knew me well when I was in my late teens). Again, pre-save the tune using the above link to hear it first!

PART THREE

February is fast approaching, and I like to participate in the “RPM Challenge” this second month of the year. Not so different than Inktober (for visual artists) and Nanowrimo (for novel writers), RPM challenges songwriters to write and record ten songs from scratch within the month of February. The first time I did this (2015?) I ended up with the “Accidents and Melodies” album, as well as the “Astrid and the Killer Penguin” EP. Since 2020 began, I’ve added a 20-minute vocal practice to my daily routine. I’ve also been preparing a little bit mentally for this. You’re not supposed to use ANY material that existed before February 1st, but I’m cheating and jotting down stray lyrics here and there just to ‘prime the pump’. Last week I was introduced to a new (day-job) client that needs some major assistance. It’s a great opportunity for me, but it may require some fancy footwork to do that job well, and still crank out ten killer tunes. There’s another interesting wrinkle you’ll read about further down the page.

PART FOUR

On the personal side, I’ve gotten quite serious about going to the gym regularly (4x a week), as well as meditating for 20 minutes every day. Since I own my own business and work remotely, it’s very helpful to have any kind of a routine installed- even if it’s not tied down to an actual time of day. Working out a ton makes me feel great. Recently, a friend asked if I had gotten taller. Probably not technically, but I can tell my posture is a million times better. And I can’t speak enough about how positive meditation has been for me. I’ve dabbled with ‘sitting for a few minutes and trying not to think’ over the past several years, but never have been committed to a daily practice.

PART FIVE

On the technical side, I had a short lustful relationship with a piece of gear (which is *very* unusual for me- I rarely give a crap about music gear) called the Ableton Push 2. It’s a wonderful little square box with 64 brightly colored buttons on it (What’s not to love?) It’s used as a controller for the Ableton digital audio workstation. There’s been a sound… a musical vibe I have in my head that I’ve been trying to get out, and initially I thought this “Push 2” hardware was the key. I had never used the Ableton software for recording before (I use a different DAW called Cakewalk Sonar), so I downloaded a trial copy of Ableton and began to play around / learn the application.

Ableton can do a lot of things my current software can’t! Among other revolutionary features, Ableton allows you to make a song by building up different pieces in an alinear fashion, rather than the traditional recording of linear track over track over track. Already it’s been a joy to work with. BUT I realized very quickly that this flashy Push 2 controller is not going to help me at all if I don’t learn the software it controls first! There’s nothing that Push 2 allows you to do with Ableton that the software can’t do on its own with a regular keyboard and mouse. I figure I’ll need at least 6 months to get up to speed on this new software before I even think about buying the Push 2. Honestly, the more I learn Ableton, the more I see it can help me to reach that sound I’m looking for just on its own. The free version I have allows only for 8 tracks of audio and midi (combined) which is waaaaay fewer that I normally use. I will probably snatch up the $99 version that has 16 tracks, and then just keep upgrading as I go.

Here’s the rub: What do I use to record my RPM Challenge songs next month? The cool software that will stretch the limits of my creativity (that I barely know how to use), or my old Cakewalk Sonar software, which I could probably use in my sleep and knock out 10 songs with one hand. But seriously, if I’m wanting to finish even 6 or 7 songs next month, trying to learn new software at the same time would really hamper my progress…. or is it an amazing way to learn a new piece of software quickly?

PART SIX

Airport Hookers. We’ve got one song completely done. We’ve got a second song that’s just missing a piano part (I’m waiting on a certain cool cat to finish that up). We’ve got a third song where the music is totally done, but we still need vocals. The good news: Kate’s back in town and ready to record, so we can probably finish that third song by the end of the month. I would LOVE to get these three songs done before the RPM Challenge. Also, for the record, we’re finishing these songs out where they started on the Cakewalk Software. Question is… will said cool cat get me his keyboard parts by the end of the month? Moving forward we’re talking about a music video for one of the songs. Also, Instagram / Spotify promotion is on the table as well. Airport Hookers will be the first non-William-Steffey release on my Aquariphone label. (I don’t count Boolean Knife, because that recording was all me).

Well, that’s that! Thanks if you’ve read this far. Thanks also for inspiring me to get this all out on ‘paper’. More news to come.

-WS