Tag Archives: blogging challenge

Ten Things I Learned from the Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge.

My first published article! It appears (in much shorter form) in SONGWRITERS Magazine (Volume 16 – Reference Edition 2012/2013).

I was invited to submit it based on my experiences of winning the first ever Canadian Social Media Challenge this past winter, which was hosted by the Songwriter’s Association of Canada.

Here is the full-length version:


Last December I arrived home from the bubbling energy burst of my first European tour, when I heard SAC was hosting the first ever Canadian Social Media Blogging Challenge. The challenge, based on the book “Music Success in Nine Weeks” by Arial Hyatt, offers a structured way to explore social media and other online activities (in particular, blogging) to engage audiences and grow careers as independent artists. The challenge sounded like the perfect antidote to my post-tour blahs and something to keep me busy over the winter months, so I signed up and cracked open the book to Chapter One: Setting Goals.

An amazing thing happened: as I worked through the weekly assignments I discovered I became more active and interested in clarifying the direction of my career. Instead of grumbly waiting for someone to swoop in and discover me, I knuckled down and got to it myself. Nine weeks later – after delving into a variety of topics such as how to better use Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and the trusty homepage – I concluded that marketing with social media was… fun! And also effective as a series of tools to help build a solid, professional foundation for my music.

For this issue of Songwriter’s Magazine, Lily Cheng (who was also one of my fellow blogging buddies) asked me to jot down a few things I learned by doing the challenge. Here are ten of them for your enjoyment, in no particular order.

(1) People love a good story. Talking about what moves you to curiosity about the world is much more engaging than hearing that you just released a new album. Everybody has just released a new album. You, on the other hand, are the only one with cool insights on how to make homemade soap using the flowers you picked by the side of the road. The fact that you made the soap in your tour van while driving to a festival in Kamloops is what makes the story gold. [Woah, that would be neat.]

(2) People also love a good picture. Simple tip: add visuals to your posts wherever possible. But not clip art. That’s just lazy. Check out wikipedia for interesting archival photos. Do word searches on google and see what comes up. Having said that, it is REALLY important that you make sure not to steal someone’s work. You hate it when someone downloads your songs from fileshare, right? Same goes for visual artists. Make it a habit to ensure the image is available for use under a Creative Commons license. [For more info: check out creativecommons.org] Better yet, create your own images, photographs, videos and add those instead.

[Ed. note: Er… um… yeah. I’m breaking my own rule here by not posting any photos in this blog entry. But I’m trying to evoke the feel of print media here.]

(3) When posting an update on your blog or website, remember that some of your readers will be new to you and your music. Every entry you post will be the first thing that someone somewhere somehow stumbled upon while cruising about the web. You don’t have to rehash the minutiae of your birth place and musical upbringing, but it can be a good idea to provide some context for your post. I’m fond of including a one or two sentence summary along with links to previous posts at the bottom of each entry. This helps to familiarize your reader, and discourages them from bouncing away because they are confused.

(4) On the other hand, sometimes brevity is best.

(5) There will be technical difficulties. This will usually happen on the day of an important deadline, ie: your internet will cack out at the exact moment you need to upload one final image before sending out a newsletter to your mailing list about tonight’s last minute show you just got invited to play. Moments like this, I have learned, can provide the perfect opportunity to dig your teeth into larger existential questions of human frailty and frustration. They are also good times to refill your coffee mug and have a quick stretch on the porch.

(6) Your website is your home. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are your local cafes. They are excellent and necessary platforms, and great places to run into fans and friends. But cafes come and go, whereas at the end of the day with any luck your house is still standing. So don’t forget to spend time making your website awesome. Remember, too, to invite people to visit by creating posts on your website, then linking back to them from your status updates and tweets.

(7) Similarly, don’t be shy to ask people who take pictures and videos of you at your shows if you can have digital copies of the files to post on your youtube channel, eg, separate from their posts. As long as you give a person proper credit, they will likely be delighted to be included by name on your team!

(8) Speaking of feeling part of the team, take a moment to remember what it felt like when you fell in love with a favourite artist. You wanted to be connected; you wanted to be involved. Now that you are the artist that people are falling for, enjoy the interactive nature of online media! Let people connect. That’s the social in Social Media.

(9) Oh boy, this is a long list. Did I mention that it can be good to be succinct? For example, there is nothing cheesy about the 15-second pitch. (“Hi, I play [genre of music]. I sound like a cross between [well-known artist] and [well-known artist.]”) Some people feel boxed in by the “sounds like…” stuff, but it goes back to the idea of providing context. Please be more creative than my example, but keep it short and evocative. If you’re not sure what you sound like or what your strengths are as an artist, ask your friends and fans to help you out.

(10) Finally, and perhaps my favourite discovery while doing this blogging challenge: social media can give you an amazing sense of empowerment as an artist. You don’t have to wait for Billboard to write an article about you. If you have something to share, you can put it out there yourself. Create your own narrative as an artist, and maybe one day Billboard will pick up on the buzz. Maybe not. But regardless, you will still be actively engaged in doing your work. This is especially a good lesson for me because I admit that I am an approval junkie. I want people to like me… nay, love me and my music. Who doesn’t? But this desire for approval sometimes causes me to be passive: the hope that a “musical authority” will lift me up and validate my work. The brilliance of social media, and in particular blogging is that it gives you the ability to define your legitimacy as an artist on your own terms.

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If you’d like to read more about the challenge, including my forays into the philosophical, check out my weekly entries from the challenge right here on my blog.

Pop by my website for a visit too: www.karynellis.com.


Karyn Ellis moved from Parkdale (Toronto, Ontario) to the foothills of Cariboo Mountains of British Columbia in the winter of 2011. Now she lives by a river and two creeks writing playful, bittersweet indie-folk songs about every day wonders, beauty and hope.

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Here’s A Pretty Ribbon On That Blogging Challenge Wrap!

I logged in to Facebook early last week to discover the little earth icon in the navigation bar all lit up and a roll of “congratulations” in my newsfeed from fellow bloggers. And that, my friends, is how I found out I won the Canadian Social Media Blogging Challenge that I took part in this winter. Woo hoo! Social media in action.

I Never Was a Prom Queen, But…

Image of Two Bathing Beauties With Prize Cup

Imagine the trophy is a dozen roses and the hat is a tiara.

Given my love of all things shiny and my diva-esque nature, I immediately pictured myself among Pageant Queens accepting a bouquet of nailpolish-red roses in my arms, grinning cheek-to-cheek. Less Courtney Love, but still mascara running down my face** as I tearfully accept my sparkling tiara and sash ~ blowing kisses to the countless readers who have made my blog what it is today!! **This from the fact that the challenge was based on the book: Music Success In Nine Weeks!

Hahaha! But seriously, I am super glad I took part in the challenge, and I am honoured to be selected as its winner… thanks Songwriter’s Association of Canada (SAC) and thanks Ariel Hyatt for putting on this first ever Canadian version of the Music Success In Nine Weeks Blogging Challenge. A most excellent way to spend the start of 2012. And as it turns out I didn’t even have to wear a bathing suit to win the fabulous prizes.

Queen For a Day, But This is No “Royal We” Here

I’d like to send warm fuzzies out to my fellow participants for doing the challenge with me (with a special shout out going to Lily Cheng, who not only blogged with us but also facilitated the challenge. Thanks Lily!) We spent a concentrated nine weeks tackling topics and tasks related to social media. Collectively we set up a pretty substantial Canadian corner of new Facebook & twitter music accounts. We got comfy with Youtube and rss feeds – and then we blogged about it so that our fans could join us on the journey too.

PS Speaking of Youtube, you should totally subscribe to my channel! I started a “Homemade Music Video Project” during the challenge: my goal is to make homemade, no budget videos for all of my songs. Me editing them and everything! (There are three so far and more on the way.) Other fun stuff you can do: sign up for my mailing list, follow me on Twitter and like me on Facebook. Hurray! Phew… is that… it?

Sixty of us started back in January. Out of that emerged a core group of about twenty singer-songwriters who stayed in to the end, supporting each other through the weekly to-do list. We had (and in fact still have) an active Facebook group where people shared their successes and their challenges of the business and posted information and support for each other. Several genuine friendships started through this challenge that have extended beyond the end date. I still pop into the group quite regularly to see what everyone’s up to and to soak up some extra love when I’m feeling out of sorts with my workload. The DIY model says we are autonomous in exercising creative and administrative control over our work, yes. It is also clear that the “social” in social media truly drives us humans. We need connection and community to thrive.

Vintage Photo of Three Bathing Beauties With Ukelele

Maybe that is one of the reasons blogging is so perfect in this day and age of friends & fans spread out across the globe. An artist’s blog is personal and self-directed and, yet it can be highly interactive too. Online connections are sometimes maligned as shallow, and for sure there can be a Pollyanna-ish-ness that can drive me nuts sometimes. However it seems to me that online relationships when properly nurtured can be pretty darn real too.

The Take Away

As songwriters, we are all-the-time creating narratives for ourselves and others to sing. But when it comes time to write ourselves into the world… that same creative glean can get muddied. (Okay, this might be a “royal we”.) One of the biggest take-aways for me from doing this blogging challenge was the shifting away from an emotional space of passive want: hoping someone will “discover” me [my music] and moving to that of an active space. Blogging is active. It is constructive. It is also relatively inexpensive to do. As a bonus, blogging is creative. You don’t need a record label or Billboard approval to share your thoughts and your work. You just need to trust in the strength of your creativity and your ability to connect. That, and a bit of time to jot it all down.

The Other Take-Aways

… are pretty awesome too! I look forward to talking with Ariel about the ten-week Cyber PR campaign. Can’t wait to find out what’s in store once my music goes out directly to her network of bloggers and podcasters. Will my work connect on that scale too? Thanks, Reverbnation, for their contribution to the amazing prize list, too. And I’ve already had a skype meeting with Dave Cool of Bandzoogle to discuss building a second website for my little indie record label, since I’ve already got www.karynellis.com (come visit!) I’ll let you folks know when the new one is up and running too.

Okay. Now… THAT’S a wrap of the blogging challenge. But, folks, you can be sure my musings will continue on. If you’re reading this somewhere other than on my blog — Letters To My Editor — do pop by for more posts. You can also subscribe while you’re there to get my upcoming posts directly in your inbox.

Till next time!
Karyn

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Missed the original postings? Here is the complete set of links to all nine weeks plus a pre-challenge warm-up:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage
Week 4: Social Media and the Theory of Everything
Week 5: Music Videos Are Not Dead! They’ve Just Gone North For The Winter.
Week 6: I’ve Looked At Blogs From Both Sides Now
Week 7: Poor, Poor Baby
Week 8: How much IS that doggy in the window?
Week 9: And That, Folks, Is A Wrap!

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Filed under MSi9W3, Music, Writing