Thoughts on Writer’s Block From One Songwriter to Another

As an artist who relies on my songwriting to help earn a living, my worst fear is that when I sit down at the piano to write, I’ll forget how to write a song and won’t come up with anything. The few times I experienced what I thought was “writer’s block” I would think, “Oh my gosh, I will never write again!” Which turned into “Oh well, that was a nice creative run. Too bad it’s over, forever.” And then “Nothing I write was going to be any good anyway.”

I know, very dramatic.

As songwriters, we write and create music because we have to. We may be good at it and feel obligated to run with this “gift,” or we may love it so much that we can’t imagine doing anything else. Either way, the idea that one day we may run out of things to write about, or that we will have written everything there is to write, or that we may just lose that gift is very real and, and very scary – especially if we make our livelihood as music creators.

You may not think it’s possible to write on demand – that is, you may or may not believe in phrases like “writer’s block” or “when the inspiration hits.” You may or may not believe you have a muse that sits in the back of your room when you are feeling the creative flow, and is on a lunch break when you’re not. Trust me, I’ve gone through all the possibilities of why I often feel like a magnet drawn to my piano and writer’s pad, and why at other times, I’d rather crawl into bed, clean my bathroom for the third time, or do my taxes before sitting at that bench with a pencil in hand. What gives? Don’t I have any control of this?

Yup, I do. And so do you.

After years of writing music, touring, and promoting records, I used to claim that my work habits ebb and flow like the ocean being controlled by the moon (I was the ocean in this analogy). Parts of the year, I was writing pages of lyrics and music, other times, I was booking and promoting the records, and sometimes my energy was all about performances. And it usually worked out that I was only doing one at a time.

Recently, however, I’ve been asked to write music for some web series, an indie feature film and a few commercials, and I’ve learned that I control what ebbs and flows. I am, in fact, the moon (sticking with the analogy). It’s when I didn’t have a choice that I chose to write. And thus, the cure for writer’s block: sit down and write, without judgment.

Maya Angelou (who clearly believes in those muses) says this perfectly: “What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”

Some helpful hints to make this actually happen:

1. Don’t procrastinate. Period. Don’t clean, don’t go out, don’t watch TV. Force yourself to sit your butt down and start writing because you said you would.

2. You can generate inspiration at any time. Just get into action and don’t pretend that your inspiration comes from an outside source. It doesn’t.

3. Make your writing area comfortable. Keep it free of clutter, private, and quiet. Making it somewhere you want to go will help you actually go there.

4. Develop a routine you can count on. Knowing that from 5-7pm every day, you’ll be sitting with your guitar, or writing lyrics, can become as habit building as eating breakfast. Like William Faulkner said, “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”

5. Share with someone. Telling a friend, band mate, dentist, whatever, that you will write more often will not only get you out of your head and into the real world, but you will have someone who will check up on you. Ask them to hold you accountable to what you say you want to accomplish.

6. Don’t judge yourself. Fear of failure, or the fear of producing crap, is one of the first things that repels me from sitting down and writing. All I can say, you will never know if you don’t start writing. “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” (Margaret Atwood)

7. Re-write something. Transcribe your favorite Beatles tune, re-write the first song you ever wrote, do anything that gets you in the mindset that you are now writing. “Never stop writing because you have run out of ideas. Fill the lacunae of inspiration by tidily copying out what is already written.” (Walter Benjamin)

8. Don’t listen to your feelings. “I don’t feel like it” and “I don’t have the energy” are great cop-outs. Don’t listen! William Goldman agrees: “The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.”

So just write already.

via Thoughts on Writer’s Block From One Songwriter to Another.

Musicians: Start Your Kickstarter Planning With This Crucial Step to Avoid Epic Failure – Launch & Release

Careful.

Be damn careful… when estimating your Circle of Influence.

Maxwell Hughes is a seriously legit musician.  Watch his Kickstarter video because it’s awesome and funny AND check out a little from his other video posts.  This boy can play!

But unfortunately, his recently ended Kickstarter was unsuccessful.

Using him as an example, let’s talk about how to avoid epic failure by estimating your Circle of Influence and determining your funding goal, BEFORE launching.

Estimating Your Circle of Influence

Before the Video, Before the Project Description, Before the Rewards…

Sit down and think very, very carefully about your true Circle of Influence.

This step should include listing out your friends and family, possibly tightly knit groups of coworkers both present and past.  It may be safe to assume that you can get up to half of them to pledge as long as you have a solid Purpose Worth Backing and are clear about your needs with a good Call To Action.

Also, how many people are on your email list and how many social media fans do you have?

You will get a much smaller proportion of backers from these circles, like maybe 5% (or less) of your email list and even less of your Facebook fans, but you do want to consider as, obviously, they will get some marketing attention.

An Assumption You Should NOT Make

…is that another band’s mailing list can help you out significantly. Yes, it sometimes can help a lot, but don’t hedge your success on it.

Back to Maxwell.

This guy is a KILLER musician.  Especially if you are into badass, fingerpickin’ guitar players.

He was also in The Lumineers for a few years as a touring member and cowriter.  These guys probably have a substantial email list and they have a couple hundred thousand Facebook fans.

But most of their social reach is not interested in Maxwell.

This is absolutely key to understand.

When it comes down to it, when you are on your own, you are on your own, unless you have a strong personal connection with someone else’s fans (your were a founding member or a key member of the band, for example).

So you have to really honestly attempt an accurate estimation of your Circle of Influence.

Regardless of his past experiences, Maxwell’s Circle of Influence is not nearly big enough to support a $20,000 goal.  His Facebook fan page has just over 400 likes.  He mentioned by email that he is just getting organized and does not yet have an email list….

Determining Your Official Funding Goal

Your official goal should be an achievable amount based on your Circle of Influence and your minimum viable project budget (the absolute minimum it would take to make the project a reality) should reflect this.

If you have larger aspirations and are unsure of whether your Circle of Influence matches up, use a flex goal strategy.  Be extremely upfront and clear about what your unofficial (higher) goal is and what that will help you accomplish.

So, back to determining your goal…

You can fairly safely assume between $50 and $70 per backer depending on how your Circle views your project and how you present it.  For example, if you frame it as a pre-order you’ll most likely have a lower average pledge per backer than if you frame your project around a fundraiser, where you’ll be asking a higher-than-real-world price for your staple items ($20 to $35 for a CD, for example).

This number will, of course, be influenced by your project including your Purpose, Call To Action, overall project design/quality, and rewards package design…  But for now, we are just planning and need a number to base on.

A Rough Estimate

Any estimate will naturally be very dependent on you and your specific situation.

But just for shits and giggles, let’s bang out a number of an example scenario that is probably similar to Maxwell’s case.

Let’s use a conservative figure of $50 per backer.

Let’s say you have a personal circle of 200 family and close friends.

And assume that you have an email list of a couple hundred as well as a social media following of a couple hundred.

If you can get up to half of your personal circle to commit and 3% to 5% of your social media fans to commit, you are probably looking at just over 100 backers.  For planning, be conservative and assume 100.

Apply our $/backer and your project goal = 100 backers * $50 / backer = $5,000 Kickstarter goal.

Look at Maxwell’s unsuccessful Kickstarter.  He garnered just over $5000 in support!  If his official goal had been in line with our conservative estimate, he could have used an unofficial, higher flex goal and likely managed to hit $8,000-$10,000.

THE TAKEAWAY

It is critical to make an honest, realistic attempt at assessing your Circle of Influence.  You must develop an official Kickstarter goal that has some relation to the real world!

When doing this, actually make a list of friends and family!

Then, assume that your social media reach isn’t nearly as big as you think it is.

Develop your estimate.

If your estimate isn’t what you want your project to be, think about whether or not you can get a project done that you’d be happy with at that amount and then use a kick-ass flex goal approach to reach for your ultimate goal simultaneous to improving your chances at success with a lower, official goal.

Then, work like a DOG to prove yourself wrong and turn your Circle into fundraising backers left and right!

via Musicians: Start Your Kickstarter Planning With This Crucial Step to Avoid Epic Failure – Launch & Release.

Free eBook: Quick Fix! 12 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Band Website

We have a little holiday gift for everyone! During the last few years we’ve reviewed thousands of musician websites through our member forums, by email, and at music conferences around the world. We know how to optimize a website, depending on what your goals are.

This free eBook is a collection of 12 quick ways that musicians can improve their websites. We hope you find them helpful.

Download the eBook HERE

Want to share the book with your bandmates and friends? Sweet! Just send them this link:

http://bit.ly/quickfixebook

via Blog – Free eBook: Quick Fix! 12 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Band Website.

7 Blogging Tips For Musicians – hypebot

Chris Rockett convened a virtual Musician’s Blogging Summit gathering statements from a number of different bloggers, many who focus on music marketing, about “blogging that gets attention.” The responses varied widely but most counseled creating content on a consistent basis that represents you and the world around you.

The Musician’s Blogging Summit convened in response to the question:

“What are the secrets of entertaining blogging that gets attention?”

Rockett ended up getting a broad range of responses that ranged from simple tips to psychological strategies. Here are some standout quotes on blogging for musicians.

7 Blogging Tips For Musicians

Chris Robley

Keep it short, keep it simple, and keep it visual.

Shaun Letang

Show The Real You!

Carla Lynne Hall

One of the great things about blogs is that they’re written casually. Imagine that you’re writing a letter to a friend, not to a school headmaster. The more down-to-earth your writing is, the better. To make sure your writing is tight, read your blog post out loud.

Clyde Smith

Tell the Stories Behind Your Photos

David Hooper

The biggest tip I have for musicians who are blogging is to be on the lookout for interesting things that happen during the day, even if they’re not music related, and share them.

Bob Baker

Promote new music projects as you create them.

Chris Robley

If you invest MOST of your energy into producing compelling and professional music, videos, artwork, website design, tour posters, and photographs—and if you work to create memorable REAL LIFE experiences—the blogging will take care of itself.

Update: In an odd bit of timing the Musician’s Blogging Summit is now available as a free ebook.

via 7 Blogging Tips For Musicians – hypebot.

Instagram for Bands: 10 Quick Tips to Promoting Your Music w/ Pictures DIY Musician Blog

Instagram is one of the best social tools for bands looking to promote their music. Plus, it’s free and easy to use! If you’re not already using Instagram on your iPhone or Droid, you can download it for free from the Apple or GooglePlay app stores.

(And hopefully they’ll amend their terms of service after this week’s uproar over who can exploit the digital rights to the photos you take using Instagram!)

Got Instagram on your smartphone yet? OK. Now that we’re all the same page…

Instagram for bands ain’t rocket science; simply take a picture on your phone, apply one of those hip filters so the photo will look like it’s straight outta the 70′s, add a caption, and post it to all your social media profiles with a single click.

But there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to get maximum results from your band’s activity on Instagram.

10 ways to make the most of your band presence on Instagram

1. Sync Instagram to ALL your social profiles

This includes your band’s Facebook Page, not just your personal Facebook profile! For more info, check out Instagram’s instructions HERE.

Before posting a picture, make sure you’ve selected the appropriate default Facebook page/profile for that particular image. Otherwise, you might find you’ve accidentally shared a snapshot of your family reunion with your music fans.

2. Share images across all your social networks

Every fan will have their own preferences for engaging with your content. Some like Twitter. Some like Facebook. Some check your blog. Others wait for your weekly email newsletter. So unless you’re running some specific kind of campaign on one particular social platform (for instance, “Come into the recording studio with us on Twitter!” or something like that), then it’s wise to share your Instagram images everywhere — your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, Tumblr, etc.

Note: Facebook now owns Instragram, so to kill some of the fun, they’ve decided to disable Instagram images from populating that nice little photo display on your Twitter profile. However, you can still share links and captions to Instagram images in your Twitter feed.

3. Diversify your portfolio

Your photo portfolio, that is. Fans want to see it all: live shots, soundchecks, broken guitars, in the van, late-night writing sessions, recording, putting up posters, pictures of new merch, shooting a video, eating lobster at a band meeting, the Santa Monica sunset, etc.

4. Post a photo series

It’s fun to post a whole series of related photos over the course of a month or two, and it’ll keep your fans coming back for more. Maybe your drummer writes a different message on his drum sticks each night and snaps a quick shot. Maybe you’re on the hunt for the perfect burrito, and you take a shot of a plate of Mexican food in each new city. Whatever sounds fun.

5. Use hashtags

Tag lots of your images with hashtags. This groups your photo together with related photos by other Instagram users (or with other photos you’ve taken with the same hashtag) under a single category. Instagram users can then find your photos based on their own interests. For instance, I was in a bar a few weeks ago and snapped this shot of the bar’s wall — painted like Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. So I tagged the image with #VanHalen.

6. Elevate the everyday

Not every moment of your musical life is going to be filled with high drama. There are plenty of little magical moments too. The mundane can be interesting if you frame it right. So share the minutia, the ennui, the drudgery. I guarantee it’ll seem exciting to your fans who are sitting all day in a cubicle.

7. Put your Instagram photos on your blog or website

You can use Instagram’s API or a third-party service to put your Instagram photo gallery on your own site. Check out these sites for further details:

* View your photos on the web

* Adding an Instagram feed to a website

* Getting started with the Instagram API

8. Captions can make or break the image

A little context can go a long way — and can turn a bad picture into something hilarious, moving, or otherwise share-worthy. Try to be clear and brief. For example, “Getting ready for our show in Toronto” or “Steve just got the call; his girlfriend is pregnant!” (On second thought, you might not want to put that one on Instagram right away).

9. Don’t overthink it

Instagram is supposed to be fun. Snap a picture, add a filter, and post it! Don’t spend 20 minutes setting up the perfect shot or fretting over the filter options. The more fun you have, the more it’ll show in your images.

10. Ask your fans to help

Get your fans to take Instagram pictures too. But don’t just ask them to take pictures of YOU. Make sure you’re including them. Have them take pictures of themselves at your concerts, holding your CD, or getting a drink with you after the show. Oh, and make sure to ask them to tag your band!

————

Hopefully that helps you have more smart fun with Instagram. Did I forget anything? How’ve you used Instagram to promote your music? Let me know in the comments section below.

via Instagram for Bands: 10 Quick Tips to Promoting Your Music w/ Pictures DIY Musician Blog.

5 Video Ideas That Will Help You Sell More Music « DIY Musician Blog DIY Musician Blog

Brad Bush wrote an article for the HostBaby Blog with some good reminders of the importance of video for advancing your music career.It’s easier than ever to shoot, edit, and post videos — on sites like YouTube and Vimeo — and then embed those videos on your own website.

Many of your fans will be more likely to watch a video than read a blog post with text and pictures.

In Brad’s article, he lists 5 ways you can use video to encourage people, in a non-salesy way, to buy your music, including:

1. Answer fan questions

2. Tell the story behind a song or album

3. Show off your CD/vinyl/merch

4. Vlog!

5. Make a traditional music video

via 5 Video Ideas That Will Help You Sell More Music « DIY Musician Blog DIY Musician Blog.