How Music Became Our Job: Part 2

Last week Tyler wrote a lovely post entitled, “How Music Became Our Job: Part 1.”  Here’s the link to that: This week I thought I’d share the second part of our story. Once again, if you’re a bullet point person you may want to scroll to the bottom for a summary.

We left off with our move to Nashville and with Starbucks paying for us to have our wisdom teeth removed. I hope you enjoyed the video of my loopy self shortly after surgery. Anyway, a little while after we moved to Nashville we began running Facebook ads. I know what you’re thinking: no one actually clicks on those! Actually, they do. We began offering free music in exchange for email addresses via our website. A click on the ad would take the individual directly to our site (where we had music streaming) and invite them to join the mailing list. When we moved to Nashville we had 300 email addresses on our list, and the majority of those folks lived in DE. Within 5 or so months we had 3000 emails and we decided to try and book our very first tour.

Tyler quit his job at Starbucks in January of 2009 and focused on booking a tour. We didn’t really know what we were doing, so we reached out to our mailing list for help. We asked folks to suggest venues or put something together at their church, college, or even host a show in their living room. We played for free most of the time. We also recorded our second album, “This Isn’t a Dream” in our living room. Once again we relied heavily on our musical friends and family members. We left our home in Nashville at the end of March. Our Ford Taurus was packed to the brim with CDs, t-shirts, guitars, and sound equipment. I honestly don’t know how we fit it all. We cut costs by staying with friends and family members (and even strangers) along the way, and we tried to pack sandwiches, fruits, and veggies to eat. My mom gave me a bunch of Starbucks gift cards before we left and let me tell you, it helps to have something familiar when you’re driving through the middle of nowhere after playing a show to 5 people. And that happened a lot.

We came home from that first tour exhausted, but somehow we hadn’t lost money. In fact, we made a little. I went back to work at my job for about a month and Tyler started planning another tour in the fall. We decided to go back to the cities where we’d had the most success that Spring. We made rules for ourselves when it came to touring: play no more than 5 shows in a row, travel 3 weeks and take the 4th off, travel no more than 6 hours on a show day, etc. We continued to run facebook ads and started giving away music on Noisetrade as well as through our website. Our mailing list continued to grow. We traded in our Taurus for a Honda Element and we left that fall a bit more confident and much more comfortable.

so very tired.

That Fall we saw more folks at our shows and we started selling more CDs. Churches and colleges started inviting us to play instead of the other way around. We began to value our time more and stopped taking any gig we could get. We’ve found it’s better to play a few shows to good crowds (and that pay) instead of a ton of shows that don’t pay to empty rooms. We came home feeling encouraged. We moved into our friend’s attic to save money and toured again in the Spring. We came home and put together Faint Not, released it the following Fall, and toured again for the Fall and the next Spring.

One of the best parts about touring on such a small scale is the people. We get to meet so many amazing folks and really spend time getting to know them. We have friends all over the country who have come to feel like family. After this particular show we spent some time just passing the guitar around and sharing songs with each other. The host and her good friend are now missionaries in Africa. We keep in touch pretty regularly and hope to visit them.

this evening turned into a big slumber party. most of these folks camped out on the hardwood floor. the host gave us her bed. such sweet people.

It’s important to note that no independent musician or group is truly independent. We’ve sought advice from folks who are further along than we are in the business and have found support in our friends and family. Music City Unsigned here in Nashville has been good to us and helped us play around Nashville and connect us to other artists in the city. Our friend Levi Weaver lent us equipment when we set out on the road for the first time and offered us great advice when we left for our tour with Sara Groves this past fall. Noisetrade has been incredibly supportive. Our fans helped us release our third record, Faint Not, in November of 2010 by contributing to our Kickstarter campaign. Mac Powell, whom we had the opportunity to open for in Delaware, agreed to sing on a track for free.

tears of joy as Jenny listens to Carry Me with Mac's vocals for the first time.

friends in nashville providing backing vocals to song for you

Facebook and Twitter have been so important for us. Sara Groves actually heard about us through a tweet and when Derek Webb first tweeted about our music being on Noisetrade we picked up a bunch of fans. Under the Radar has played our music on their podcast for the past year, helping us reach a group of people we couldn’t otherwise. Our photographer friends (Joey Cardella, Emily Troutman, Q Avenue Photo) have photographed us for either next to nothing or free. Our friend Nathaniel helped us shoot the music videos for This Is Just So Beautiful and Faint Not at an incredible price.

Every musician needs support. We’ve been blessed to have so much.

So here we are. We finally live in our own apartment again. We recorded a new record with Mitch Dane (a real producer) in his professional studio this Fall and we plan to release it this Spring. We even traveled on a bus with a group of wonderful people back in October. God is so good.

In summary:

–       Giving away music for free is really important. We continue to give music away in exchange for email addresses via our website and Noisetrade.

–       We utilized our mailing list in order to book our first tour. Fans like to be involved in what you’re doing.

–       We travel back to the cities where we see growth and value our time when it comes to playing shows.

–       We set rules about touring: play no more than 5 shows in a row, travel no more than 6 hours on a show day (this doesn’t apply when you’re driving through the night on a bus), tour for 3 weeks and take off the 4th.

–       No independent musician is truly independent: We rely heavily on friends, family, the artist community in Nashville, musicians who are further along in their career, and social media.


10 responses

  1. I always love to hear the stories about how musicians, artists, speakers, and whoever find their way to the places where they shine! So it was really cool to read your story! Thanks for sharing!! Hope all is well with you.

    In Christ,

  2. Can’t believe you guys know Levi!!!! He traveled with an organization called, Book of Hope (now, OneHope). ANyway, he lived with my best friend, Leah, and all work with them now. All our friends are friends. And you guys know my friend Jeremiah Dowling. I basically consider us friends 🙂
    anyway…. oh! and fun fact, Sara’s husband, Troy, filmed my team in West Africa for the Nomad DVD with OneHope 8 years ago…. anyway.
    love you guys. Love hearing this behind the scenes stuff. Have loved you all since you played at LBC in Lancaster years ago. Just so proud of the ststory and music you create!

  3. I love “Faint Not” . It gave me hope in a time of disparity. God is blessing you two in such magnificent ways. Someday you will travel to Idaho and I will go see you in person. Call me when you get here. Mi casa es su casa.

  4. The next time I read a blog, Hopefully it doesn’t fail me as much as this particular one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read, but I actually thought you’d have something useful to say. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something that you could possibly fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.

    • Hey- I’m a little confused by your comment. Not sure what you think we’re complaining about? In both posts about how music became our job we’re just trying to outline a few things we found helpful along the way. I’m not really sure what the problem we could fix is? Sorry this wasn’t helpful for you.

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