Why 2017 Was My Biggest Year in Music So Far

2017 leaves me a bit tired, but full of gratitude and even awe. So much happened for my music this year, even though I feel like I’m still lacing up my runners to head to the starting line. On days when it feels the race may never begin, it helps to take stock. 

Von Bieker, Live

Two years ago I decided to take music seriously. I practiced and wrote and worked. I set a goal of playing once a month around town. 2017 was the year I surpassed that goal, surprised by the amount of opportunities that reveal themselves to the willing. I played 24 shows in 2017, up from just 11 the year before (and that’s not counting the many Big Dreamer Jams I attended this year). 7 of my shows were in November and December. I’ve hit momentum. 

As the year was closing in I landed a ‘residency’ of sorts with the new Friday night music series at The Art of Cake. Very soon I’ll be a monthly feature for Sweet Sounds there. Stability is nice.

Now Streaming

Not only did I perform a lot, but my recorded music was played more this year. My second EP was released in March to a full house at Arcadia Bar. I landed my first radio plays on CKUA in 2017, thanks to Baba and Monica Miller! I got my first EP, Where the Air is Thin, into EPL’s Capital City Records. I uploaded that same EP to NoiseTrade. Both sites offer collections of free music, each with different advantages to participating artists. 

With more of my music available on streaming platforms, I started watching my stats on those platforms rise. I reached for 100 Spotify followers and as I write this I’m almost there with 94. It’s inching forward at a snail’s pace, but the direction is right. 

The Year of Video

2017 could be called ‘the year of video’ for me. Back in the spring, I began my series of Facebook Live concerts, now taking place every Monday at 12:30. Those have been a great opportunity to practice new songs and sets and covers. They’ve been watched hundreds – likely even thousands of times.

I’ve drawn on my Facebook live experience to find a rhythm releasing a new video to YouTube most Tuesdays. Since May of last year I added 21 new videos to the platform. It’s amazing what we can achieve when we take one step after another. 

I grew my Youtube subscriber base past 100 in 2017, with a lot of help from you and a little begging from me. That magic 100 number has unlocked features that make the platform much more valuable going forward. Trickles of cash have begun to accumulate in my Youtube account thanks to ad revenue on my videos. I’ll take every trickle I can get! 

For the Very First Time

There were so many firsts this year. First episode of Make It Small, my podcast documenting this whole journey by talking to people who know much more than I do (it’s coming back in 2018). First Von Bieker T-shirt and artist collaboration. First real-deal music video. First house concert. First bow ties ordered by mail in bulk. First music-blog coverage. First full-band gig. First co-write with another artist. With all these steps forward, let’s not forget the biggest first this year – my first patrons.

Patrons For a Sustainable Future

I made a decision near the end of 2017 to create a sustainable future for my music by launching a Patreon campaign. Patreon is a membership site for creators ‘patrons’ pledge a dollar amount each month, often in exchange for exclusive content. My first 9 patrons signed up as 2017 wrapped, totalling $77 each month to support my music. With that money I’ve already enrolled in my first online music-marketing course, and bought some Facebook advertising to meet new fans. More than the money, I felt the support of my patrons immediately. We are building a very special community on Patreon and I hope you’ll join us in 2018

A Year of Research and Development

If it sounds like 2017 threw a lot of spaghetti at the wall to see what stuck, that’s about right. So much of this new music business feels like trial and error. Let’s call it R & D.

2017 taught me to expect surprises. My last show of the year, at The Art of Cake, was successful beyond all my expectations. To be honest, those were very low expectations. It was just before Christmas, at a new venue, with no commitment from my fans to be there (so close to Christmas, I didn’t push this show). The venue was beautiful and packed with new faces. New fans, too. I made decent money. I sold CD’s. I got email sign-ups. So go figure. 

Sometimes the trials work. Sometimes there are three people at your gig and you know them all. Sometimes you get all gussied up for a live video and n 2 people tune in. Sometimes people mistake your song for Bon Jovi tune and watch your video 27,000 times. All of this can leave an artist frustrated and confused – fumbling for a compass. That’s one reason I’ve signed on for a course called Middle Class Musician. I’m establishing more of a plan forward. Doubling down on what works and skipping out of time-wasters. 

So what works and what wastes my time? What is my plan? 

I’ll be laying that out in my first post of 2018. For now, I sit back in wonder at what I’ve been able to accomplish in one year with the support of my community. Thank you for being part of this. I think the race is about to start.