by Grant Genske
Music is one of the few things that comes quite naturally for me; I don’t know why I love it, but every day I wake up and know that I am excited to keep writing, recording and singing. It’s been that way for a while now. I spent most of my gangly, awkward childhood listening to my father’s old Led Zeppelin CDs, stumbling through piano lessons, and waiting until my family left the house so that I could practice shout-singing My Chemical Romance songs. Though my tastes have changed, music has always been at the center of my life.
Although musical expression is almost instinctual for me, ideas surrounding “brand awareness and development” have, for a long time, felt clunky and awkward. I think that this stems from being genuinely shy as a child and disdaining self-promotion, or maybe from being raised protestant (I learned early on that God doesn’t like a show-off).
When I first began recording myself, I felt uninspired doing cover videos, which, for many artists, seems to be the most viable social vehicle in the YouTube/ Soundcloud era. I hated sitting in front of a camera, with no audience, and presenting myself for all the world to critique. I generally thought, “I am very bored watching myself do this, so why would anyone else want to watch me do this?”
I did not see much potential for advancement of my career until I discovered my ability to write music. At that point, I became highly engrossed in the process of creation - currently, I write anywhere between 1-3 songs per day and record demos almost as frequently. I rediscovered a passion for music and dedicated my life to writing and recording, and that was when I ran into the problem: how do I get people to listen?
I am happy to say that my work as a social media marketer continues to provide answers to that question. It has made me more confident in my self-promotion, and it has made the process of audience development feel a lot more natural. The following lessons are my musings on what has worked well for me - they may or may not work for you, but I think there is some universality in all of them.
1. Everyone has friends, but successful musicians have fans.
Your personal network is important and highly relevant to your success, but at the end of the day your career is reliant on capturing the attention of people who you may never meet. I was very good at getting my friends to pay attention to my work, but once I started collaborating with people around the world, I realized that I needed to be working to get people who had never met me to engage with my music.
2. Getting fans is work, and takes time and energy.
As much as we love to glorify the X-Factor stars and social media sensations who seem to become successful overnight, most musicians have been working for years to gather fans before they hit their big break. It makes sense to assume that you are going to have to build your fan base yourself if you are truly committed to having a sustained career.
There are many ways to organically do this; you can design graphics to give engaged users a shout-out, you can give away signed merchandise at your shows, or plan surprise shows and invite your most active fans as a reward. I would also suggest looking to curators to grow your reach - these include YouTube/ Soundcloud accounts that post new music and bloggers who write about your genre. You cannot do all the legwork yourself.
3. Use tools to increase your following incrementally and organically.
Technology cannot replace originality and authenticity, but damn if it doesn’t help with making the work easier. I am a strong advocate of using tools like Crowdfire to organically grow a Twitter following or utilizing websites like EDM Lead to convert Soundcloud downloads to follows. If you have money to spend on marketing, investigate how you might run a targeted campaign with Facebook.
Nothing good happens overnight, so be wary of “get followers quickly” schemes - they aren’t worth your time and they rarely work. Get comfortable with tools and with doing something small every single day to keep your fan base growing.
Over the past 2 months, I used social growth techniques to to more than double my Twitter following, triple my Soundcloud following, and increase my Facebook likes by 125%. I never spent more than 15 minutes per day doing any work, and I saw strong returns because I learned how to integrate organic interaction and technological innovation. More importantly, though, my followers are engaged and interacting with my posts, and I am actually cultivating a community around my music.
4. Consistency is key.
Instagram is the platform where we see the most brand interaction, and studies on Instagram success point to brand consistency as being a really important factor in conversion to follows. This means both posting with some regularity and posting content that is somehow thematically linked.
Brand fundamentals include color palette, tonal consistency and anything that makes you unique, be it your product, sense of humor or simply an idea. Any choice to change these things is permitted, but it should be a choice, not a result of ignorance or laziness.
If this is to be truncated into one sentence, just try to think about how your friend would describe you to someone else: “Oh, he or she is the _____ girl/guy/person. He/She/they does _______.” If you can’t fill in those blanks, it’s important to think about why and strategize about how you might be able to do it better. It’s definitely my biggest challenge.
Looking at YouTube, Soundcloud, Twitter or Facebook, it is really easy to see that the same logic applies. The most successful producers on Soundcloud are constantly posting their own new material and reposting other content. The most followed YouTube accounts are incredibly active, uploading new content as frequently as every week.
It goes without saying that, as much as you want consistency, you also want people to remain engaged with you and to feel some growth. Look for ways to keep things fresh - identity collaborators and work together on something new, find a partner who can offer a new spin on your same photo arrangement, work current events into your brand content. Never let things get stale - the social world moves incredibly quickly and you will get left behind.
5. Not all tools apply to every artist. Trust your instincts, and if something feels wrong, ask yourself why. If it is because it creating brand/cognitive dissonance, scrap it and find something that works.
It is really easy to lose your identity as you try to grow. When you are attempting to capture and keep someone’s attention, it is natural to think about what they like and how you can conform to that. The stakes are pretty high for music artists; audiences have so many choices, and it can be tempting to try and be all things at all times. But the reality is that, if you are doing something that feels artificial, bland, or trite, it probably is. If you are doing something because someone told you it would make you successful, and it hasn’t made you successful, you might want to stop. It may be time to switch up your strategy.
For me, I realized that I wanted to focus less on covers and more on original music. I spent a lot of time not getting any recognition for it and being really bad, but then I got better at it. I am constantly getting better at it, and I am feeling momentum.
Grant Genske is a marketing associate with BEGIN and a singer and songwriter living in Los Angeles, California.
“I hate my job sometimes…”
“I need to work for myself…”
“I want to be my own boss…”
With the progression of startups being more accepted by society as a sign of success rather than a sign of failure, more and more people want to become “their own boss”... Unfortunately there’s no step-by-step manual on “How To Be Your Own Boss” , “How to Freelance”, “How To Entrepreneur” or “How To Hustle”
I’m going to be brutally honest here… I’m not good at this. I’m not.
I’m not great at being my own boss. My organizational skills are better than most but not exceptional. I spend too much time picking out which coffee to shove into the keurig at the office. I find myself putting a playlist together on Spotify before taking on a big brainstorming session. I often procrastinate writing up content because I fear how others will perceive me. I’m the farthest thing from being perfect, strong, successful, or a HBIC and I can promise you that.
I was very fortunate to be where I was at age 18-22. My eyes sparkled with every idea, and the world seemed to be my oyster. I was very privileged to receive an education in a town with over 60 universities in a 10 mile radius. My education at Berklee College of Music allowed me to participate at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Business School and even Harvard Law School. While the education I received at these various institutions gave me a lot of perspective, it wasn’t until after I graduated that I figured something out...something really simple, in fact:
The difference between who you are now and the person you envision yourself to be in the future is dependent on whether or not you choose to take the first steps into becoming that person.
Easier said than done of course.
I wouldn’t call myself an Entrepreneur by any means, but I’ve always been the type of person who would go insane waiting for things to happen.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the past two years through trial and error:
Rule 1: “Your product or service has to be viable to your market”
If your idea sucks, you won’t go anywhere.
If your idea already exists, you’re too late.
You can’t just start on your own thinking “I’m unique enough” or “I’m talented enough” because I hate to break it to you kid, you’re not. There are 7.4 billion people on the face of this earth and I guarantee you that a couple million are trying to do the exact same thing as you whether you’ve recognized that or not.
If you’re unsure about the viability of your idea or it’s existence, go into a room where you are clearly the smallest person and ask someone for their opinion. I promise you they will be honest and more than likely tell you what you do not want to hear. Scared they might steal your idea? Read on...
Rule 2: “Ideas are shit. Execution is everything”
(Thank you Gary Vaynerchuck)
I had a client in a tech startup once who insisted on getting NDAs signed by every investor he was meeting with. I told him this was not a wise idea. Six months later, 5 potential investors later….no investor, and you want to know why? Because the second you hand them that NDA they will laugh at you and walk away.
Don’t be green. Ideas are shit. They’re nothing until you execute and this goes across the spectrum. Your baby, your million dollar idea is still just an ‘idea’ until you’ve properly executed it and the execution is where you make your bank.
Creativity is limitless. Do not feel like your one idea is your “be all-end all” If you’re going into the next venture timid or scared, you’re going to crash and burn quickly. Be aware that rejection and failure are essentially a guaranteed natural phenomena on your path to success.
Rule 3: “Make your own definition of success and don’t be shy about it”
People think it’s easy, but it’s not.
I wake up every morning knowing that if I screw up, it’s not just on me, it has a domino effect with severe consequences. It’s a job where everything is at stake and it fall back onto you. Due diligence, foreseeing the future, and consistent risk assessment are involved.
My mind is constantly multitasking at 250 MPH and it doesn’t stop.
I love inspiring people to grow as I grow with them. I love learning new things. I love exploring new territories and opportunities. My job here at BEGIN encompasses all these things.
I literally do what I love for a living. I might not be succeeding to your definition of success, but I’m ok with that. I’m not clearing six figures. I’m not going on extravagant trips every month. None of that matters because that’s not my definition of success.
Recognize that what you do day-to-day is a part of your existence. You spend 70% of your waking life working. The hours, the late nights, the travels you spend for work...that’s life.
I define success differently on different levels, but to me the fundamental definition of success is doing what you love and what you’re passionate about. I hope that you wake up every morning excited to go to work. I hope that you leave the office feeling so happy about what you accomplished that day.
If you’re not there yet, that’s ok. Don’t give up. Have faith that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Figure out what it is that you’re passionate about and start from there.
Both of my parents started new careers in their 50s and word can do no justice to the happiness it brought amongst all of us. As humans, it’s inevitable that we will pass on. Our bodies will decay, our earnings will lose purpose and value, the only thing that will continue to succeed us is our imprint and inspirations left on society and the generations to come.
I hope that this next journey in my life will allow me to learn new things with you, grow with you, and ultimately become someone who could inspire others to do the same.
Welcome to BEGIN.
Sarah Virk is the co-founder and Director of Business Development for BEGIN. A lover of learning with a thirst for knowledge, she enjoys sharing personal stories to inspire creatives and entrepreneurs to discover and grow.
Tweet her @sarahvirk
Welcome to The BEGIN Blog, the official blog of brand development & social media consulting firm, BEGIN. I'm Jane, and I'll be your tour guide today!
You probably happened upon this site from social media, meeting one of us, or maybe you just kept stressing about something and ended up typing howdoibegin.com in hopes of finding the inspiration you needed.
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You can navigate our site to find out more about our story or about our services. This post, though, is meant to give you a quick overview of our blog.
Our team loves to dig into brand psychology, current events, social media tactics, new market research, and lots of other interesting topics. Our company culture revolves around heated discussions about these issues and real conversations about our journeys as young professionals.
Because of this, our blog will contain all types of posts. We're far from your traditional brand-blog. We are real people will real opinions, so you'll not only get real, well-researched advice on branding, social media, and other important topics, but also you'll get a glimpse into what it's like to navigate running a business, reactions to big news stories, and everything in between.
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Jane Davidson is the co-founder and Director of Brand Development for BEGIN. She is passionate about using these blog posts to share her knowledge and unique perspectives on a variety of topics with a community of creative entrepreneurs.
Tweet her @janebegins
The BEGIN Blog features posts about branding, social media, entrepreneurship, and other topics relevant to young professionals.