Every year I sit back, take stock and set a general roadmap for the days ahead.
Then I get a little lost on the way. Which is fine. I consider these goals the hope I need to keep moving forward. Occasionally, I get where I'm going. Often I get somewhere different, but better. I'm hoping to be surprised.
Above all, I want to grow.
As I've written these goals out, there's one word that comes back over and again – intentional. This is a year of focus more than a year of expansion. I've learned where I wish to spend my time and where I don't. Now it's time to double down.
Here's how I plan to be intentional in 2023.
Goal 1 – Build Out a New Community of Supporters
I started to feel the need to leave Patreon and build something better early last year. Or maybe the year before. Or the year before that. You can read all about why here.
Finally, Backstage is launched and you're here. Welcome!
I may have chosen a strange time to make a full-time go of it as a singer-songwriter. Streaming has become the most convenient and cheapest way to listen to recorded music ever. The economics of live touring have become increasingly difficult, with high-profile artists cancelling tours due to rising travel costs (thanks, inflation.)
But, I've still found incredible support from my community and I believe this sort of local, direct support may just be the way forward for us music makers and music lovers.
There is absolutely nothing inherent in the streaming system that stops us from supporting artists. We just have to be more intentional about it now. I have more thoughts on this, and how you might want to shift that money you used to spend on CDs to supporting artists directly, here.
So what does it mean to be intentional?
It means find a handful of artists you want to support and find ways to do that. If there isn't an obvious way to support their work, let them know!
On my end, intentionality means rewarding your support with consistent content, connections, and community. I want this to not only be a space where you can access my work, but also for conversations around that work. I want my work going forward to be different – better – because you are a part of it.
One month in and goal one gets a big fat checkmark. Now to grow this lil' hub of broken beauty.
Goal 2 – Release My Second Album
Late last year my community (that's you) raised $6000 to make my second album, Dumb Hope. It was a pretty great cap to 2022.
Now I'm in the thick of recording tracks, both with my producer Paul Zacharias and here at home. In a few weeks I return to High River, Alberta for a final round of tracking. Then a special session or two elsewhere to capture horns and perhaps some other sounds.
Then mixing. Then mastering. Then …
I want this release to be (here's that word again) intentional.
I want to plan out the release, since it's still months away, with a great marketing campaign. Videos. Ads. Radio promotion.
All of that takes time, and for once, I have that time because I'm not rushing.
I'm planning to start releasing songs from the album in the summer with yet another yard show tour, leading up to a full release in the fall of 2023.
Goal 3 – Participate in 4 Cowriting Sessions
These past couple of years, I've dipped my toes in collaboration, but not in cowriting. My time with the CMI Artist Entrepreneur program in Calgary this past November opened my eyes to how helpful and how common cowriting really is.
I'm writing more songs than I can as Von Bieker, and some don't match what Von Bieker is about. There’s an opportunity here to make extra income through writing and publishing that's not directly tied to my Von Bieker persona.
I have my first cowrite lined up for later this month with Edmonton artist Josh Sahunta, and I can't wait to tell you how that goes.
I want to book cowrites with some artists I met in Calgary, too.
These may result in something – they may not. I'm focussing on what I can control, and that's actually getting in the room with other songwriters. At least four of them.
Goal 4 – Fully Transition My Freelance Work to the Music Industry
I'm very close to relaunching my freelance design and marketing business as an artist and music industry services company called SMALL ENOUGH. I'm passionate about helping other artists discover what it means to them to succeed in the music business, and then help them get there. I'll be working with artists on strategy, recording, design, video, web and more.
I've done some of this already, but I hope to grow this to replace all the income I made doing these things in a less focussed way in the past. Again – intentional.
Specifically, I'd like to record music for four artists this year in my new studio space. I'm looking to fill the gap between home recording (because not everyone can do or wants to do it) and studio recording (because not everyone is ready for that, can afford it or is a good fit for it.) I've already got two clients lined up, so I think I can get there.
Goal 5 – Make Grantwriting a Core Part of My Business
Who loves writing grants?
One major takeaway from my program in Calgary is that – in Canada at least – Grant writing is part of my job. At least until I can hire someone else whose job it is.
I discovered so many funding opportunities I'd never heard of and how many of my peers rely on that funding to make their work.
This year, I'll set aside time regularly to research and apply for as many grants as I can.
Good news on this front. I recently found out my Grant application to fund my time in Calgary was successful and the Alberta Foundation For The Arts has sent me a cheque for over $2200 to reimburse my accommodations, food and travel while there!
Off to a good start :)
Goal 6 – Develop 2 Music Supervisor Relationships
Our cohort in Calgary got to meet a music supervisor, and I was taken aback how approachable they were.
A music supervisor is someone who works with TV, films, games and more to find music to use in productions. When a song is used it's called a placement and even one placement can lead to big money. So, I want some placements.
I've been learning what it takes to enter this world, and I think I'm ready this year. By year-end, I want to have connected with and shared my work with at least 2 music supervisors.
Hopefully, those relationships lead to placements, but once again I'll focus only on what I can control – sending some scary emails and maybe even some scarier calls.
Goal 7 – Play Less in Edmonton and More Elsewhere
I've been learning my value as a performer, and this is empowering me to say no to many opportunities.
I've put in plenty of hours playing small bars and cafés for a hundred bucks or so multiple times each month in my city. I'm ready to level up.
The shows I've booked so far this year are bigger and better. They pay more. They offer a better experience for me and my fans. I can afford to pay my band for some of them. These are the types of tentpole shows I want to offer locally.
I'm also ready to tour my solo show outside the province. I'm hoping to return to the East Coast to play a small tour and build on some relationships there later this year. I'd like to play some shows in BC and Saskatchewan as well.
Goal 8 – Develop My Core Skills
I'm a constant learning, and I want to continue that process this year, with special focus on my voice, my guitar and keyboard playing, and my production and mixing.
I've been taking online piano lessons for nearly a year, and I've learned a lot. For the first time in my life, I'm understanding some basic theory concepts. I can play more than one scale. I know how to build chords and to improvise in a specific key. I'm gaining some momentum and looking forward to more.
My guitar playing has stagnated a bit once again, so I want to continue a regular practice routine.
Voice is a new area of focus for me. I've never given it much thought but after an intensive workshop last month with Vocal Coach Carol-Lyne Quinn I've been challenged to take care of and develop my main instrument – my voice.
I'm currently in a 30-Day Vocal Challenge that has me singing into water, blowing notes through straws and generally looking and sounding crazy. It's great. I'm excited to push past some barriers in my range and strengthen my tone in the coming months.
Finally, my recording and production will naturally strengthen the more I work at them, so I intend to make a bunch of music for others and myself in the studio this year.
Goal 9 – Invest in Online Community (With Intention)
This year, I'm not setting any goals for numbers of followers or numbers of Spotify streams or any of that. I've done that in the past, and I think it's the wrong focus.
I'm going to judge my success online not by metrics, but by richness of community.
Here's how that might look.
As I continue to wrestle with my faith and upbringing, I'm discovering large pockets of people sharing that struggle on TikTok and Instagram. I want to spend more time with them and contribute to that conversation somehow. I think my music may help, and those conversations may help my music.
There are communities on TikTok and Instagram and YouTube cantered around making music in a home studio and living life as an indie artist. I hope to connect more deeply with those communities and make content that services them.
I look forward to a second season of my Song Stories podcast and hope to meet a handful of new artists as we share the joy of songwriting together.
"Refreshing the feed never refreshes me" – but I know building community does.
Now The Easy Part 😏
There are so many little steps that flow from these big goals so I'll start by taking just one. And then another.
For everything I'm planning to do there are two or three things I'm NOT focussing on this year. Intentionality means developing a good "no" and that gives me both peace and focus.
Here's to the right "yesses" in 2023 for me and for you on your own journey.
How will you be intentional this year?