Little Buttons

I have never forayed into the world of merch, apart from the obvious CDs I have always have with me at gigs and sell online.

I have seen the t shirts, cup holders, water bottles and other such fun items to take home as a reminder of your favorite band.

As I spend most of my time recording for the purposes of licensing I don’t do a lot of touring so have never seen the need for anything extra. However, this summer I spent a lot of time at festivals and conferences and I suddenly felt like I needed something more than just my CDs. Of course, I didn’t figure this out until my last festival of the season.

So I started thinking… Stickers? Key rings? But it was my teen who came up with buttons. She just loves buttons and has them all over her school bag.

But what should go on them? I didn’t want to just have my website on there, although the purpose was to advertise. I didn’t want my face and I don’t really have a logo.

Again it was my daughter that came up with the idea of the names of some of my songs. I can be a little quirky in my songwriting and some have fun names. After careful thought (about 15 minutes or so) we came up with the following…

Little Strange
Perfect Girl
When We Were Young
Ordinary Girl
Three’s Company
Love Is
Let The Sun Shine
La De Dah
Take Me Away
5 Little Things
… and the most popular – High Maintenance
My son, who the song was written about, wears his button with pride everyday.

I found a wonderful button making place call Crucial Pins and they had my buttons made and to me within 3 days…. just in time for to play and MC at the Sunshine Musicfest this last weekend, which, by the way, was the most awesome little festival ever.

I decided to make the buttons free giveaways… after all, people would be advertising me (my website is on the button too!)

When I took the buttons to the festival I thought that the odd person would take one, but they were a hit and a saw a very large percentage of festival goers wearing them. And my daughter was correct… the teens loved them!

I need to order more now and after going through the few that were left I have narrowed the song names down to the ones below. It seems that people want buttons that represent who they are… which is mostly a little strange, high maintenance and perfect! 🙂

These little buttons seem to have hit on something fun that makes people remember my music and are now available at my website on their own or you get a free one when you purchase a CD.

2010 – an interesting year!

2010 started with a flurry of placements, which continued throughout the year and I was still in full swing writing my Song of the Week. While still reeling from the death of a close friend, a lot of the later Song of the Week songs touched on mortality from different angles, but I ended the project with a song for my amazingly supportive husband!

Song of the week ended in early April and I rewarded myself and family with a trip to Disneyland. While there I got my first network TV placement on Ghost Whisperer.

May 20th I released 13 of the Song of the Week songs on an album and simply called it Song of the Week. I then started the whole marketing thing all over again but it was fun having a whole load of new, beautifully mastered songs to give to my wonderful publishers.

June was a sad month. I lost my Mum while, ironically, while playing the Relay for Life song at our local relay.It was her favourite song of mine and she had been battling cancer for many years.

July is one of my fave months because I get to be mainstage MC with Todd Butler at Vancouver Island Musicfest. We also got to play songs together too, which lead to us doing gig together in November just for the fun of it! July also saw me attempt the 50 songs in 90 days challenge which I failed miserably, but I got a new album out of it (see Dec).

August was New York month. Getting to see a movie my songs were in, playing a gig and lots of shopping and eating with a good friend… what more could a girl want? I was also mid blog challenge for the book Music Success In Nine Weeks, which challenged some of my thoughts on music marketing.

September got me 2 ads and an album release in South Korea. My husband wants me to get a tour there… he loves the food! October I headed south of the border again, this time to Delaware for the DBMC where I made lots of new friends and got to sing lots too! We also started rehearsal for Voices Three, a big concert with Sue Pyper and Judy Wing to raise money for hospice.

November started with the Taxi Road Rally where I learned a ton and finally got to meet both of my lovely publishers who just as wonderful as I had suspected they would be. I also wrote my first serious article about music licensing after being asked so many times about how I got my music onto TV etc. It was a cathartic thing to write, reflecting on the madness of the intense single mindedness that is my life (until kids need feeding and taxiing).

So we’re at the end of December. I have a new album, Treehouse, that I am releasing on Jan 1st 2011 (tomorrow) along with a wonderful video that my talented 13 year old created for the title track. The songs will be on itunes and the vid on YouTube.

After an interesting year I have an interesting story for the end of the year that has nothing to do with music (although may affect my playing anything short term) …

Yesterday while skiing (my fave thing to do with my family) I was taken out by another skier getting some big air on a black run. After being taken down the mountain on a stretcher, had my clothes cut off me and sent to the hospital for xrays, I now have a fractured collar bone and lots of nice drugs to see me into 2011 (so please excuse any typos!).

There are some people I want thank for 2010 – pigFactory and Crucial, my wonderful publishers. Thanks for all the placements. Hans Dekline, the masterful masterer and Brian Hazard for asking me to write the licensing article. I love both of your fb comments and musings… always entertaining! To Jon Ostrow of Mic Control for his support of indie musicians and me! And to everyone who reads anything I write, listens to my songs, comments on my postings and generally makes me feel like I am on the right track. Every little word helps!

Here’s to a fantastic 2011. I hope it brings you great things!

Blog Challenge Week 9 – continuing on…

Well, here I am at the last chapter of Ariel’s Music Success In Nine Weeks and the book has certainly challenged my marketing thinking!

I am one of those musicians that hates asking people to listen to my music, become my fan, join my list etc etc (which is why I like the Facebook ‘like’ page… people join freely!), but I realize that I can’t just wait for people to discover me. I have to be more proactive.

I am not doing this musician thing the usual way. I don’t gig much outside my local area (I spent 20 years touring as a comedian!) and my main goal is licensing, which I am having some success with. So I thought a lot of the marketing stuff didn’t apply to me. I was wrong. If I want to make a long term living as a musician and writer I still have to do all the usual marketing things… and maybe even start touring bit, something I swore I would never do again, but here I am in the UK doing my first non-comedy gig tomorrow!

So back to the last chapter… Creating a Continuum Program. There are a list of ideas for doing this and I am a big believer in keeping momentum going and not resting on your laurels (I didn’t even know I had laurels!). Here’s is where I am at..

I offer the free mp3 to join my email list, which is working especially well after one of my songs has been on an MTV show.

I am selling my albums and singles on itunes as shown by my Tunecore and CD Baby statements!

I have lovely business cards with my pitch, which match my website, press release and all my social networking sites.

I am very much affiliated with The Relay For Life Cancer walk. I wrote a song for them a few years ago, which is played at Relay’s all over the world now. I lost my Mum to cancer in June so this is a cause very close to me. I have also put songs on various fundraising albums the latest of which is ‘Up, Up, Up‘ for autism.

I regularly email my list with news, competitions and new albums/singles I am releasing.

I am attending conferences this year and getting to showcase at some so will be collecting lots of business cards and have my own at the ready… always!

Here is what I need to work on…

Fan club… I hate the word fan, but will have to get over it and set something up! 😉

More live gigs… I have been approached about doing house concerts so need to follow up on that and I have applied to the BC Touring Showcase. I keep getting asked about touring in the UK (where I am originally from) so I am going to look into that.

I have already spent a year writing, recording and uploading a new song every week for a year, which got a lot of people on my email list. So now I really like the idea of offering a custom written song. I love to write and I think that would be a fun thing to do for anyone that wants one. The suggestion of charging $1000 is appealing and not appealing all at the same time. It’s not that I don’t think one of my songs wouldn’t be worth $1000… I just have to get over myself! If anyone wanted to one, I would be happy to do it! (see, there’s my first step… I just put it out there!).

This has been a great exercise in both blogging and challenging one’s thought’s on marketing. I will be reading this book several times and maybe each time i will get more comfortable with some of the aspects I currently find uncomfortable with.

I have met some great people on the forums on the msi9w website, some of whom I shall hopefully meet at the Taxi Road Rally and where I will hopefully get to meet and chat with Ariel herself.

Onwards and upwards!

Msi9w Week 8 – Networking Tips!

I am writing this from my iPad while I wait for one of the many flights I am taking today (and tomorrow) to get me and the kids to the UK. This is a great way to pass the time (although the kids are bugging me for the iPad!)

I loved this chapter in msi9w for pointing out one of the simplest techniques, but one which many people (including myself) neglect to do.


And Ariel is right, the more you listen to someone the more they find you interesting.

Having attended music business conferences I can tell you this is absolutely the case. It is those times that I merely got into an interesting conversation with someone, without thinking about trying to sell myself, that I have gotten asked for my card. As soon as I approach someone I think can do something for me, with the selfish goal of getting them to notice me, I go unnoticed.

I have never had a problem talking and I enjoy the banter at social and business gatherings but there is one thing that I have learned and this book confirms that…

If you want or need something, then give it. It’s amazing what comes back to you when you do this genuinely.

And I love the simple, non-business follow-up email idea and it is something that I am going to do more of. If nothing else, it’s always great to forge new relationships!

The section on the business cards was great! I had some great pics by Mckinnon Photography , so I put a big pic of myself (the one that is on my website, myspace, YouTube, this blog) and my pitch on the card, along with the obvious contact details. I have had SO many compliments on the card and I am so glad that Msi9w encouraged me to go bold!

Only 1 week to go…

Blog Challenge Week 7 – How to build you email list.

It took me a while to catch onto the building an email list thing until last year when I started my Song of the Week project. I figured I needed to send the links to someone somewhere.

So I started with the people I knew, both where I live and around the world (I used to live in the UK). I sent out an email asking people if it was ok to have them on a list to send out my new song each week and that if they didn’t want to be on it to let me know. One person asked not to be on the list, which was cool, as I had sent it to around 100 people. Good start.

I spent my year mailing out my new songs and news, all the time adding new names and always including a funny ‘get-out’ clause. I wanted the emails to be personal and wanted the recipients to know that I was grateful to be allowed into their inboxes. I also happened to pick the year where I started to get placements and won some competitions, so it was nice to have a group to share it all with.

Then I read Music Success In Nine Weeks. There are so many other ways to get new people on your list. Not sure about the list swaps though. I am always so cautious about looking like I am taking advantage of someone when it is not my intention. Maybe I am over cautious but I like to go on my instincts.

But I loved the free give away thing. So I added a paragraph to my home page telling people that if they let me add them to my list I will email a free download. This really worked when I had a song on MTV recently. I got new email address and I mailed out the mp3 of the song. Everybody’s happy!

I like the tip on asking mySpace fans to be added. I have done that with Jango fans with success. There is always more to do and I am grateful to all the people that continue to stay on my email list. I will try never to bore you! 🙂

Connecting with Fans – Blog Challenge Week 6

This was a scary chapter as the Music Success In Nine Weeks asks us to take off our artist’s hats and put on business ones. We’re not in Kansas anymore!

I totally get the 1000 true fans thing… I really do (it’s an interesting concept). But I don’t want to bother the people who allow me into their inboxes with surveys so I can find out what they want, which sounds silly even as I write this. Surely I want to find out what they want, then I can give it to them.

Also, I don’t do a newsletter ( I know, I am a very bad student). I don’t like getting newsletters, usually as they have lots of images that don’t automatically appear in my email and I find them a little impersonal. Just my opinion. I find adding colour and images hides the message of what you want to say.

I prefer to send personal style emails to my email list and only when I have some news or a new project. There is usually something going on with my music as I obsessively try to get it licensed, so I send out an email around once or twice a month. If I need to ask them to vote on a competition, or leave an itunes review I always try to ask in a way that let’s them know that I still appreciate them if they can’t/don’t want to.

As I write a LOT… it’s easy for me to give away free downloads and I think my list appreciates that I do.

So call me a bad student and I will keep an open mind about the survey thing. I think we all have to do as our gut tells us.

About a Blog… Challenge Week 5

Blogging about blogging while doing a blog challenge feels a little like overkill but here goes.

Week 5 of Music Success In Nine Weeks talks about the importance of blogging (I shall be using that word a lot in this blog!).

I have to admit that I was an anti-blogger. Who wants to read others rambling thoughts? Well, it seem like a lot of people do, so I dipped my toe in the water a while a go and gave it a go. I like that the book says not to over-think blogging. It kind of gave me the permission for the blog not to be perfect and I am NOT a perfectionist (which is great for writing lots of songs but not so great when try to anchor a boat… long story).

So the blogging is going great I now have to concentrate on finding blogs that I want to read, which is time consuming. Can someone please make a list of the blogs that I would like to read and contribute to? No? oh ok… I guess I will get to it. I have found a few that I really like to read that are on my blog roll over on the right there. But 50! There is work to be done!

Another part of that chapter tells you never to self-promote on other people’s blog… hooray!!!

So I have contributed to some blogs, stuff that i find interesting and really think that I have something to say about or experience of (like writing LOTS of songs!). This lead to doing a feature on me for which I was very grateful.

So there we have it …a blog about a blog. I have to admit I kind of enjoy blogging now… as long as there are people who want to read what I have to say.

Blog on!

Blog Challenge week 3 : Optimize Your Website

Optimize my website? After reading this chapter of Music Success in Nine Weeks I not only optimized… I changed the whole thing!

The part on having a consistent feel all over the net coupled with having a consistent feel with business cards etc, and the fact that I’d just had some lovely photos done for my new CD, I decided that a makeover was needed. I may have had the same hairstyle for more years than I care to mention, but that doesn’t mean I can’t change my image.

The ‘must load in 3.5 seconds’ is something that has been hammered home to me many times by my iPad software developing, attention to detail, husband. So I do have an advantage having in-house help. However, I do my own website and my husband believes in tough love… ie you’re on your own unless…

So after using the great photos in a large format with half my face cut off (looks better than it sounds!) as a theme, I went about putting into practice the notes in chapter 3. I have added my pitch, have no flash intros (which I hate anyway!) and have added a ‘free mp3 for joining the email list’ to my home page.

I also decided to make the home page my ‘Latest News’ page so people don’t have to scroll through a whole load of writing to find out what I am currently working on. And of course there is the usual easy navigation question which I spent a lot of time thinking about before deciding on my menu items and what takes you where. I hope I have been clear…

The thing that makes me giddy about my website is a little feature that I did get the husband to do for me. I wanted the large pics to re-size with the size of the window which he did and I am very grateful!

So then I set about changing all my other sites – myspace, twitter, reverbnation etc to match my website.

I love a change and I LOVE this one. I am so glad that the book gave me the impetus to really look at my site because I now have one that I proud to point people towards!

Any comments are welcome 🙂

Blog Challenge week 2. Perfect Pitch

I don’t have it but my kids do, which is very irritating when they tell me I’m singing my own song in the wrong key!

But this is a different sort of pitch… the one that tells everybody what you sound like.

But what do I sound like? Everyone would like to think that their sound was so unique you couldn’t possibly compare it to others. But the book Music Success in Nine Weeks MAKES you think about it and really gets you to flesh out where your influences are coming from.

I always hate the part in music submission where they get you to list who you sound like, so I had to grit my teeth and push my ego aside and really think.

Now I LOVE Iron & Wine and his music has really influenced my own on the production side with the ‘close quiet vocal’ thing. But I’m a girl so I don’t really sound like him.

Radio people have said that I have a bit of Simon and Garfunkel, CSN&Y or Elliot Smith about me… but there’s that boy thing again. Which girl do I sound like?

I’m not as pop-y as Regina Spektor, as alternative as Joanna Newsom, or as direct as Kate Nash. The closest I could get was Feist (the close quiet vocal thing!) but I am folkier that her.

It was my husband that came up with the analogy that strung it all together.

As my influences and sound are from both an earlier generation (one that that I was very much alive for!) and today’s sounds, we came up with this.

“A singer songwriter with the DNA of Simon & Garfunkel and CSN&Y clothed in Iron & Wine and a folkier Feist”

I don’t like comparing myself to writers such as these as I don’t feel worthy but people who have heard my music and have looked at the pitch seem to nod their heads and say “Yup, that’s what you sound like”.

So I have trusted in the listeners and now have that quote on my business cards etc.

Blog challenge… and other challenges.

So it seems that I really should read about the challenge before I start it! Story of my life.

The Music Success in Nine Weeks challenge is blogging about the 9 weeks of the book… duh!

This first week is getting mentally prepared.

This one was easy. Nearly 2 years ago when my youngest went to school full time and thought  ‘what am I going be when I grow up?’. I had finished a 20 year comedy career in the UK and knew that straight, unadulterated music is what I really wanted to do.

So I set out a plan (with the blessing of my lovely husband with a real job).

I wanted to make and record music, didn’t want to tour too much (I did that in my previous life) and my main goal was to get my music on TV, Film etc. I decided to treat this like a job because it is. I got up every day and worked hard from the moment the kids left until I had to pick them up… and then worked some more. The word ‘obsessed’ has been bandied around our house more than a few times!

So 2 years later, I have 2 great publishers and I have some music on TV (Ghost Whisperer and 90210 are my biggest so far) a couple of indie movies, a couple of ads and a documentary.

So reading the first chapter of the book was really satisfying. There’s nothing better than having your own actions confirmed by someone who has been through this many, many times with artists!

Week 2 – The Perfect Pitch. See you next week…