independent artist journey

Checking In

Alright. So, on my journey to become an independent artist, I vowed to check in on myself every couple of months , to see where my efforts have brought me and to assess my methods. Well, here I am, checking in.

The first thing to check, of course, is to ask myself: What have I achieved in the past three months?

There has been a lot of groundwork going on, a lot of planning, a load of excel sheets being filled, people being called and brains (mine) steaming. But I don’t have a lot to show for the effort I put in so far. It has been incredibly discouraging, but I am keeping the ball rolling, or trying at the very least.

So, to put this into some context, I have been trying to establish a business in the past couple of months. I have been approaching companies with my business idea, creating business proposals and pitching myself and my idea to a lot of people. The idea itself seems to be meeting with great enthusiasm. However, I have had it happen (on multiple occasions) in the past months, where companies will take my idea and go look for another person who will ask for less money.

The pure frustration this has released in me is quite unfathomable. I understand that negotiating prices is part of the process of gaining business, as is being at a competitive price point. However, simply being excluded from negotiations on my very own idea, having put severe effort and time into talking with a particular company, seems to me to be unfair play. I should be allowed the chance to partake in negotiations.

The problem is, that I cannot patent my idea in any way shape or form, so it is, in essence, open game. So this is an issue that I will have to face again and again as a freelancer. I will talk about how I deal with that in an upcoming post.

So what else have I been up to?

I had my very first proper solo gig! And by that I mean the very first gig, where I found myself to be responsible for every single little thing.

I created a setlist that I thought was appropriate for the environment, accumulated my playlists, decided which songs to play on piano, invited all the friends and acquaintances I had, lugged all my gear down eight flights of stairs (I’m on the fourth floor with no elevator), loaded it all into my car, went to set up, did a soundcheck (quite a feat when doing this without a wireless mic), and then waited for the delegated time to start.

Then, after the gig, I packed up everything, loaded it all back into my car and then had to proceed to carry it all back up those eight flights of stairs… fun times!

Now the singing part itself went fine. Some songs were not amazing for the location (a small sit down restaurant setting), but people enjoyed watching me bop away like a madwoman and we made it all work.

The most intriguing part of it all was the feedback I received after the gig. Seeing as it was a small setting in a village next to the one I grew up in, it had a very ‘local’ atmosphere and people were not shy to approach me after having finished up my sets. And, although I made a point of going around and asking my friends for feedback, theirs was the less helpful of the evening. There was a local DJ who talked to me about the settings of my PA system and how I could improve them over time, or even a low budget version. But, most interestingly, all of the people I talked to, told me that they liked my original songs the best.

Now, after going home and thinking about this for a while, I was surprised at how I was both pleased, and upset at that. So I talked to my vocal coach about it and we came to a funny conclusion: I was upset, because I put a lot of effort and sometimes struggle into learning the songs that weren’t my own, while my original songs were effortless to me.

How dare people not appreciate the struggle I put into learning those songs! 😀

The realisation, that I was making songs that fit my voice perfectly, that did not require me to be someone else or imitate a different tone or technique, hit home. Hard. And the fact that those songs were actually being appreciated by my audience was the best piece of feedback I could have gotten from that gig.

I learnt later on that week something that should have been obvious. That, although we imitate others to learn, the essence of being a musician and an artist is to be your own person, have your own identity and to be creative in your own, singular way. And it seems like I have finally hit that point in my journey of becoming an independent artist.

Progress!

Nevertheless, organising that gig was, if not one of the most stressful things I have done recently, definitely one of the most panic-inducing. I was responsible for everything. It was crazy, but it worked and I proved to myself that, not only can I do it, I can do it well. I am starting to appreciate how much I can do on my own, even though I might not understand the fine tuning of EQ (if you have any better tips than ‘you just need to listen‘ then I’m all ears, excuse the pun). The feedback from the gig also made me clear out my cobwebs and finally start songwriting again, because apparently I am good at it and, let’s be honest, it’s pretty cathartic.

So how far have I gotten?

When seen on paper, I have achieved one gig, one song and a load of emails. Not necessarily that impressive. When thinking about the mental and emotional growth I have gone through in the last three months, however, I think we can count them as a stunning success. While I won’t go into depth about all the occurrences of the last few months, I have been through the wringer a couple of times and I’m still here, still positive, because I am simply too young to be cynical, so I refuse to be it.

If you decide to take anything away from this blog post, let it be this: You are amazing just the way you are and you have worth, even if you don’t see it. Believe in yourself and keep going!

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