I want to be honest with you guys. One of the big tenants of everything I do with music is transparency; I’m not interested in keeping secrets from you. I’m happy to be open about the things I do in the hopes that you’ll then be open with me.
So in the name of transparency, I’d like to tell you my story and tell you why I’m doing this blog.
I recently quit a very well paying, stable job that I know many people would consider a dream job.
I have a degree in computer science and was working at a very large company here in Albuquerque doing computer security programming. The truth is that I was very unhappy there. I couldn’t shake my desire to pursue music as a full-time endeavor, and the work I was doing was not fulfilling me.
So right now I’m in one of the scariest and most exciting times of my life.
But let me back up a bit and tell the full story.
I started playing guitar in 5th grade. I took lessons for many years, but it wasn’t until high school that I really dove in deep. It was then that I decided that I wanted to do something with music as a career.
I was still on the safe route though. I entered college and started pursuing my degree in computer science. Even though I wanted it,
I didn’t really believe that I could do anything with music that would support me.
Despite that, I found comfort in telling myself and friends that “I want to get this degree and then never use it.”
During college my thoughts about music shifted. I’d been playing guitar for years, and I wanted more. I wanted to be a musician, not just a guitarist. I wanted to take the ideas and feelings inside me and pour them into song.
I just wanted to write songs. So I tried.
I got to a point where I knew what kind of music I wanted to make, but I couldn’t do it.
I got stuck. I couldn’t finish anything.
My computer was filled with half-finished ideas that I didn’t know how to fit together. I felt like I was playing the same things over and over and couldn’t get out of my ruts.
It was really one of the most frustrating times of my life. I felt so strongly about the music that I wanted to make, but I was just lost in all the possibilities. Multi-track recording allowed me to layer parts upon parts, and virtual instruments allowed me to add nearly any instrument I could think of to a song. I felt like there were so many possibilities flying around that I couldn’t grab onto any of them.
I decided to put some limits on myself and see what I could do.
I had the idea to make YouTube videos. The goal was to see what I could do live in one take, in YouTube’s 10 minute time limit (at the time), with just my guitar and pedals. As it turns out this is just what I needed. Instead of endless possibilities flying around in my head, I just had to focus on my guitar, my pedals, and coming up with something as interesting as possible.
From the YouTube videos, I was able to extract ideas I came up with and start applying them in my songwriting. The songs started to come together, and eventually I was able to finish a 9-song album called Seafront.
I did it. It felt great to have reached the goal of finishing a complete set of songs. But then something else came up that I didn’t really expect. Once I finished that first album, I wanted people to hear it.
And not just my family and friends. I wanted everyone to hear it.
So I started experimenting.
I used the meager following I’d developed on YouTube to start promoting the album. I looked around to see what other services could offer to help me promote it. I saw some people using a new thing called “Bandcamp”. So I tried that. I really enjoyed the fact that I was able to manage so much promotion by myself, and I especially enjoyed discovering what were the most effective ways to do it.
It was really fulfilling to have people I didn’t even know from across the world listen to my music. I loved hearing how it was affecting them and what they thought about it.
I learned lots of things over a few years of experimenting. A few albums later, my hobby of making music became financially self-sufficient. With the money I earned I was able to purchase some sweet pieces of guitar and recording gear.
At this point I started to get a lot of questions.
People noticed the exposure that my music was getting and wanted to know how I had managed to do that on my own. At first I didn’t really know how to answer them. I didn’t really think I was doing anything special or out of the ordinary.
But because of the questions I got and because of some of the failed techniques I saw in other artists, I realized that I was doing things that many other musicians were not. And these things seemed to be working. Not only did my songwriting improve, but I was growing and maintaining a solid fan base as well. People, every day, began to email trying to tap into this knowledge that I didn’t even realize was that unique.
Here are the questions I continue to get consistently from other artists:
- How do I get my music “out there”?
- How do I get more people to find my music?
- What do I need to make good recordings of my own songs?
- I recorded an album I’m really happy with. Now what?
- How do I create and maintain a killer website for my band?
To begin answering these questions I started my own personal blog at andyothling.com. It also became a platform for me to post case studies of the different music experiments I tried.
Now of course, the inevitable question is why?
Why spend the time and energy to share this information?
Because I know the pain of being stuck with songwriting. And I know the pain of not getting the audience you desire for your music. But I also know that there has never been more opportunities for independent artists like you and I. I hate the idea of your music going unheard, or even going uncreated when we are surrounded by vast amounts of opportunities and tools to help us.
I look forward to what is to come.
In November 2012, I got to the point where I had to choose between my full-time job as a computer programmer and my passion for music. I chose the music. But my passion does not just include my own music, it includes yours too! I want to help you be as excited as I am about the fact that we can write, record, and promote music all on our own.
Here’s what I want you to do now.
If you have a moment, I’d love for you scroll down to the comments and give me a glimpse of your story as well. Don’t feel pressured to produce a novel, I just want to get to know you a bit. Also, I would love to know what ideal outcome you’d like me to help bring into your life with regards to creating and promoting your music?
I’m glad that you’re here, and I look forward to our time together.
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