Has there ever been such a fine invention as the humble elevator? You enter a tiny 5 by 4 foot room on one floor. Press a button indicating where you want to go and watch as the door closes. For a moment or two you are inside your own private space. Then – like seeming magic and without ever appearing to move – the doors open again and you step out onto an entirely new floor.
I am in the second week of my blogging challenge: Music Success in Nine Weeks, and this week’s task is to write two or three sentences that sum me up as an artist. This “elevator pitch” (also called a 15-second pitch) is a short blurb meant to be delivered quickly to a potential fan, industry supporter, media tastemaker, etc, in the time that it might take to share an elevator ride together. Just enough description to entice them to check me out if they haven’t heard of me before and to raise awareness of my music to a new level.
Talk To Me, Otis!
This should be easy, right? I am songwriter, and I am used to using words. But… [pause] I’m not an engineer. Trying to condense my work into a couple of lines feels like trying to draft the blueprint of an amazing “elevating machine.” I know there are some hoists and some cables, and there’s a cabin nestled inside an elevator shaft. Or… maybe there are ropes or pulleys or…
I, like many artists, often create from a place of impulse. I write songs and I perform them in front of hundreds of people, but I don’t often stop to think about the impact I am making. I mean, I like it when people respond to my work. I love hearing comments and applause, yes. But I don’t really know how people, you know, see me. In my mind, I’m just doing my thing without too much thought to whether or not my slip is showing. So what could have been a ten-minute exercise – two or three sentences that sum up my sound – turned into a week-long journey into another philosophical question: what impact do I make in the world?
The Mechanics Of Un-Invisibility
I decided to ask people. I drafted up a four-question survey I called “How Would You Describe Me To Your Friends”. (I used SurveyMonkey.com, a decent platform for making free surveys.) I asked people to tell me who I sound like (similar artists), what genre I play, and what words they might use to describe my music to someone who doesn’t know me (tying this back in to what one might say to a stranger in an elevator.) I included a long list of adjectives scoured from reviews and stuff written about me. This in itself was pretty trippy: sometimes I am stuck in my own little elevator cabin and I lose perspective on where I am in my career. I found a lot of really nice write ups in the press using words like “playful”, “whimsical”, “melodic”, “bittersweet”, “expressive”, “warm” and so forth. Felt good to put the list together.
However, the moment I hit send to my newsletter pointing them to the survey, I had an incredible plunging feeling. You know… you’re standing in the elevator and you hear the moaning of cables, and the sudden lurch of the cabin and you think… “oh my god this baby is going down!” Thoughts of “self-indulgent” and “who I am to ask… who really cares about little ol’ me?” started running around inside my head.
The Rush Of Falling
Imagine then how utterly blown away I was to discover forty people were willing to take time out of their busy days to fill in my ever so clunky survey (did I mention I’m not an engineer?) People left comments that were amazing. I am reminded that just as I feel goodwill for other artists so too do people sometimes feel goodwill towards me.
The Root Verb Of The Word Elevator Is Elevate:
1. To move (something) to a higher place or position from a lower one; lift.
2. To increase the amplitude, intensity, or volume of.
3. To promote to a higher rank.
4. To raise to a higher moral, cultural, or intellectual level.
5. To lift the spirits of; elate.
While all of the above are relavent in the context of this week’s task, definition number five, in particular, catches my eye.
Here’s a short sample of the comments people wrote:
“I really enjoy having your music as part of the soundtrack to my life. When I am up it can take me just a little higher and when I am down it’s like having a friend to ride it out with. But whatever and whenever, your voice and music always feel like home.” SB
“There is something very personal in your shows. I have been to three or four, and I have always felt “close” to you, even though we never spoke. It truly feels like you are sharing your most personal feelings with the crowd… the feeling of “I know how she feels, I felt it too”.” YF
“Your music lifts my heart.” DH
So much of what I am discovering these past couple weeks doing this blogging challenge is that to be better “business-minded” and reach new levels as an artist, my relationships with people are at the core. I was reminded again this week that my art connects me to others and others to me. And at the end of this week, I humbly submit, I feel elevated.
The pitch I wrote at the end of this process is somewhat anti-climactic after all the emotional adventures I went through. But I’ll put it down here for the curious. (A shout out to Ross Douglas and Guido Ocker whose wonderful comments were woven into directly the pitch.)
“Karyn Ellis is a gentle powerhouse of a songwriter. Playful, bittersweet and made with the finest ingredients of Folk, Country, Pop and even a trace of Jazz. Listen and be fortified.”
Please do let me know if you think it sounds like me! Suggestions for edits are welcome. I have an inkling that it does, but can I really know for sure? :)
Next week: “Your Website”.
Look for my next blog update Monday January 30th.
Related Posts: The Difference Between Small Towns And Cities… Stickers!, and a prose poem: “Some Days It Surprises Me”