I’ll admit it, I definitely underestimated the toll that an album release can have on one’s creative energies. This was rather unexpected as I was full steam ahead this past June when my new album of original music “Song for Waimea” was released to the public. But as a small independent musician, managing the album release shows, the t-shirt printing, the website updates, the flyer designs, and all the other ins and outs really started to wear on me as July came to an end.
With that said, I am self-aware enough to know that this was also impacted by my job as a full time teacher that recently got underway after a summer break with the coming of August and that this meant re-engaging with lesson design, classroom set up, and everything else that goes with this other passion of mine.
So for the past two four weeks I basically did what I thought made the most sense, I took a break from social media and some much needed time away from everything and anything “Song for Waimea”. Now this didn’t mean I didn’t have gigs to do and music to share. It just meant that instituted a self-imposed social media shutdown, and just played for the sake of playing music. It was fulfilling to not worry about getting the digital poster done in time and posted by Tuesday for a Friday show, or making sure I had a new video posted, or uploaded content to YouTube and applied the appropriate tags.
Or also I stopped worrying about all the other things that come along with being a self-analytical artist, like stress myself out about how many people might show up, or if I should start with my original songs, play some of my go-to covers, and then ease into the original stuff. Or heck, maybe I should just drop this whole schtick and start doing country covers of Linda Ronstadt songs.
And if these insecurities and second guesses come as a surprise to you, you haven’t spent enough time around creatives or you haven’t asked what it’s like to live inside the head as an aspiring artist.
I’m not sharing this with you because I’m gonna make some big announcement that I’m quitting music or I’m moving to Nashville. No I’m sharing because having stepped away from social media for a few weeks, I did a lot of reflecting maybe you can gets some insights into my experiences that might be able to help you on your own journey. Now most of this applies to musicians to even other creatives, but I think if you look between the lines much of this can be applied to ones life no matter what lien of work you are in.
So here are some things I learned from my recent album release:
1. Timing is everything
Basically don’t release an album in June if you’re a teacher. Two weeks before the album was set to drop I was simultaneously grading Algebra finals and staying up till 2 am adjusting HTML code so a YouTube embed would fit how I wanted it to on my website when viewed on a tablet. Between faculty meetings I was rushing to the t-shirt printer to make sure the distance between the “A” and “I” in “Waimea” was to my liking. Instead of having breakfast before going to work to review final exam test prep material I was cropping and adjusting pixel dimensions on pictures for a thumbnail image for some obscure digital music distribution site (seriously you have no idea how many different companies are out there that distribute digital music and how different they want all your images).
All in all, in a rush to get the album out at the beginning of summer I basically drive myself crazy at the end of the school year. I think dropping it in August would have made more sense.
So when you’re about to release an album, or a single that you really want to push for that matter, take a look at your life, take a look at your responsibilities and obligations out side of music. Ask yourself, is this really the best time? Can this wait a few weeks? Or maybe a few months?
2. Don’t over book in such a short window of time
I was so eager to get this music out I basically contacted every single venue I knew and booked a show every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on consecutive weekends. While it was unbelievably rewarding to play music in front a number of different audiences at a number of my favorite venues, and I am extremely grateful for all the support I received, I could have spread things out. I live in a small place with a bunch of small towns around me, I didn’t really need to play at every single one and turn it into an “album release show”.
Every venue required separate flyers with separate facebook invites. And not only that, just mentally I felt like every show had to be throughly planned so it ran like I would like an album release to run. Granted, again I’ll say it, all the shows went off really well and I had a great time, but I think it would have been wiser to spread things out a little better.
3. Have all your merch ready in advance
Now in an ideal world things would go as planned. Shirts would be shipped on time, digital releases would come out the day they were supposed to, stickers, logos, and the like would all be primed and ready to go the day the album drops. But obviously we don’t live in an ideal world.
So in some ways this touches a little on point number 1. When you choose a release day, I’d just automatically add a month to that date just to be safe. You don’t want to be scrambling and stressing about getting things done when you have a show to play. The last thing you want to be doing the morning you’re supposed to be going over your set list is driving back and forth from the printer, or scrambling to change an image on your Facebook banner, or trying to re-edit the intro to your YouTube lyric video.
Honestly, I would set a separate merch due date for myself as a deadline, and then from there, once I have everything up and ready to go, then make an album release date. Again the points is, don’t rush, you’re in no hurry. As an independent artist, give yourself time to breathe and make sure you do yourself and your artistic creation right by not having to feel that everything needs to be pushed through to meet some arbitrary deadline.
4. Be intentional when designing your budget
Releasing an album involves lots of expenses. Make sure you think through each one you make. Ask yourself, how does this contribute to the experience of your intended audience. You’ll find that things will start adding up fast, so you can’t say yes to every bell and whistle that you’d like to include. Logo design, photography, graphics, packaging, linear notes, promotions, flyers, can all be made with varying degrees of complexity. Complexity usually equates to more time that it will take to make. And more time equals more money.
If you have friends that can lend you their skills, great. But if you’re outsourcing things, make sure you are just paying for what you really need. If you can get 5-6 photos in one hour, stick with that. Do you really need a portfolio of 30 images and a 6 hour session in three locations? Well it’s possible you do, if that is going to contribute and add artistic value to your creation. So if it does, by all means do it. I was very happy with the photos I got and I feel it was done within a comfortable proportion of my budget. But within all the decisions I made, some having to be made in the interest of time, I may have overspent on some things that weren’t necessary. So just be mindful of that.
5. Consider your relationship with social media
I wanted to out this after point #4 because it very well may be that either a.) You’ve wisely allotted money in your budget to have someone else take care of this, or b.) This is something that you are comfortable doing so it’s not a big deal.
I also want to add that I personally have gone back and forth on this and think my relationship with the socials is still evolving. So some things to ask yourself, how important is this whole social media game to you as an artist? What is your personal vision about the role that social media will play in your development as an artist?
Also, because it is a game, how willing and able are you to play along. The game comes with consequences and unless you’re really prepared to fully engage with your platform/s of choice, you may want to consider paying someone to do this for you.
Posting, commenting, updating, and posting some more ended up being very taxing for me. In fact in some ways I think it took away from the creative process behind preparing to share the music I spent so long creating. In this sense, especially in light of what I said in point #4, it might have made sense to have someone manage this for me.
All I know is that after managing both an Instagram and Facebook account with regular updates and posts for two months I finally felt I needed to take a break and step away from the socials.
All in all, I am super excited to be back to engaging with this album project and I am very grateful that I was able to see that a short break from the whole project was in my best interest. Over the past four weeks I’ve been reflecting on who I am as an artist, what my goals are, and how I plan on going about achieving them.
So I am excited to announce the launch of a couple new projects.
First I have created a new website, www.Dagan.Me.
This site will serve as a central hub of all things Dagan. Right now you’ll find a simple one-page site with links to my music website, my music blog, and my new blog, which is announcement number two. The idea is to have an easy to remember, simple page where I can link to all my original content.
So number two is I’ve created a new blog called “Dagan Notices”. This can be found at www.iamdagan.home.blog.
This blog consists of a daily pst about something of note that I may have noticed during that day. It started as a 30-day blog challenge during my self-imposed social media sabbatical, and I’ve enjoyed it so much my plan is to continue. This is an opportunity to get inside my head about things going on in my day-to-day life, sometimes music, but oftentimes not.
And of course, I plan on continuing my music blog at www.daganb.wordpress.com. But of course you know that because you’re there right now!
Thank you so much for reading. I enjoy sharing my experiences as an artist and I plan on sharing more about the different things I do and projects I am partaking in. I suggest you stay attuned to both my blogs as well as my new site www.Dagan.Me as those are the places where you can get my content direct from me.
My plan moving forward is to continue using social media much as I have in the past, to simply promote my various live shows and other news about my creative projects. I hope you have enjoyed this honest post about some of my experiences over the past month. I feel that I have grown tremendously through this experience and I appreciate everyone’s love and support as I continue to grow, reflect, and evolve as an artist.
Aloha, and remember, it’s a kākou thing!