What a year can bring | DIY Musician Conference 2019!
Almost one whole year ago, Michael and I were flying into Nashville, TN for CD Baby’s 2018 DIY Musician Conference, a three day event focused on showcasing, teaching, mentoring, and connecting independent musicians. We didn’t know what to expect, but we knew we needed to be propelled forward by something. You see, we had recently made a Very Big Decision. We were done daydreaming about playing music full time. We had decided to do it. On July 8th, 2018 we had written it down as a Very Big Goal: “Quit jobs - March 2019”. We touched down at the Nashville International Airport with less than seven months to achieve this lofty goal. We needed real knowledge, real strategies, and a real kick in the pants.
And ohh, did we get a kick in the pants. The 2018 conference was incredible - we left with so much knowledge, lots of bullet points on our to-do lists, many new like-minded indie musician connections, and a whole bunch of motivation. We arrived back in our home state of Delaware and got to work. We worked our booties off for the next six months - finished recording a full length album, booked a tour, refined our sound, kept up with all the necessary non-music stuff, and slept a tiny bit.
In March 2019, we quit our jobs, released an album, and went on tour.
In an industry that is constantly shifting and changing, sometimes it seems like a losing battle to stay on top of it all. CD Baby has proved to be an invaluable resource for us, both as we were preparing to transition to working as full time musicians, and now that we’re doing the damn thing.
So obviously, we jumped at the chance to return to the DIY Musician Conference in 2019 (in Austin, TX this time!). We made the slightly insane choice to drive our converted camper van all the way from Newark, DE to Austin, TX, playing a bunch of shows along the way. The “Hot August” tour, as we dubbed it, has been one of the most fun tours we have had yet. There’s just something about the south, y’all. We’re so grateful and amazed every day that this is the life we are currently living, but it’s not always the easiest. Specifically, for the independent artist to succeed, he or she must be a jack of all trades, a master of moving parts, and a genius at spinning plates. We can’t thank CD Baby enough for putting together a conference that gives us real strategies and support to manage the above insanity.
If you have made it through all of these words, here is our “brief” recap of the 2019 DIY Musician Conference:
What I wanted to learn from the conference: How to connect with new fans and engage with current fans.
Session I was most looking forward to: “Inside the mind of Bob Boilen” (Attended, enjoyed it, found my new favorite song: “La Criox” by EB)
Session(s) I most enjoyed:
“Digital Marketing Deep Dive” with Circa and Corrin of Indepreneur, an intricate but easily digestible dive into the world of Facebook and Instagram marketing - but also, a bold call to focus more on human relationships with fans in a world where Spotify streams are seen as the ultimate measure of success.
Music Supervisor Shark Tank: Music Supers are HUMAN BEINGS and would like you to make music so that they can use it. *mindblown*
Session(s) I didn’t know I needed:
“Finding the Time: Decrease Overwhelm, Identify Your Priorities, and Balance Your Workload” with Suzanne Paulinski aka the Rock/Star Advocate. Holy hell. I begrudgingly went to this session after Michael texted me that I would probably benefit from it. I tried not to be offended. I get a lot done, but I stress like crazy and constantly feel behind. Suz dropped the most creative F bombs, laid down the law of prioritizing, and soothed my soul. I fell in love and also bought her planner.
Mentor session with Sheryl Woodhouse, COO Rock Paper Scissors: I signed up for a 15 minute mentoring session on a whim, and in return got a 20 minute comprehensive breakdown on how the heck to start tackling PR. Sheryl somehow squashed her decades of experience into an easy to follow plan for a complete PR newbie. Incredible.
Favorite part(s) of the conference:
How accessible everyone is. You want to mingle with fellow artists? You want to jam with fellow artists? You want to meet industry insiders and talk directly to them? You want to dance at a bar with the hosts of the CD Baby Podcast? You can do all of these and more at the conference.
New musical BFFs. I can’t name all the names but I’m gonna name our new favorite folks, Girlboy. We met them beside the conference photo backdrop and they offered to take our picture for us. Afterwards we got to talking and they said, “we’re girl boy,” and I said, “me too,” because I thought they were referring to the gender breakdown of their duo. I’m so glad y’all still hung out with me after that lol.
You get out what you put in. What you want from the conference, you will most likely get from the conference.
The CD Baby staff is the BEST. They are high energy, friendly, helpful, really cool, and excited to be there. <3
Number of tacos consumed in a weekend: 5
What I wanted to learn from the conference: How to get started with making contacts for placements in independent film; how to approach PR as a small indie act.
Session(s) I most enjoyed:
“New Era in Music Licensing: The Music Modernization Act” presented by Brooks Pierce. Royalties and splits and publishing and mechanicals have always interested me. Lots of artists don’t understand how they work. This was a great overview of the upcoming music licensing reform, using plainly worded language explaining how mechanical licensing royalties work currently and how they’ll work with the MMA in the future. Much of this is covered in the speaker Coe W. Ramsey’s blog post, “Music Law 101: What Musicians Should Know About The MMA.”
“How to Monetize Your Instagram” by Rick Barker. I first encountered Rick at last year’s CD Baby conference, and I have been following his content and his social media closely since then. The presentation did not really focus on how to monetize Instagram, but was a great high energy presentation showing many hands-on examples of how to use Instagram to better engage with an audience, build a stronger following, and methods to better interact with the platform.
“How To Write for TV & Film Sync Placement” by Gary Earl. This is another one that didn’t follow the published overview/itinerary. He offered up a lot of great advice for getting placements. Everything is about establishing and maintaining relationships.
Session(s) I didn’t know I needed:
“Level up your live show with a loop pedal" by SaulPaul. I wrote a bunch of notes on this talk, so it’s tough to condense down into a paragraph. SaulPaul is a rapper currently based out of Austin. His tagline is "Musician with a message”. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I've been interested in adding loops to some of our songs and I have experimented with loopers in the past, so I figured I would go and see what he had to say. His talk was really inspiring. The first half didn't even focus on looping at all. He spent 20 minutes talking about his history and music and creating and how having choices frees you to do what you want. Here are some quick bullet points:
The loop pedal should be the seasoning, not the main dish. It's not what makes you special.
We are entirely responsible for our own careers. It's your choices that determine your success.
Make up your own title so you can't be put in a [genre] box.
You have to be willing to do the work.
Take what you already have and use it.
You don't make money from Twitter followers.
Accentuate what people like about your music.
Least favorite part(s) of the conference:
The heat did not drop below 100° F ever. The sweating was prodigious.
There were two songwriting talks that I was planning on attending that were canceled because the speaker’s flight was canceled/delayed :(
Number of tacos consumed in a weekend: Not enough
We can’t wait to put everything we learned into practice. We’re almost home from tour and you better believe that we’ll be getting right down to business! :D
If you are a musician and are interested in attending next year’s conference, it is scheduled for August 28-30, 2020, once again in Austin, TX!
Bless you if you read this whole blog post.