Sunna Gunnlaugs

Planting A Thousand Seeds

February 24, 2011 11:47 pm | Filed under: Music | Comments (3)
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I read somewhere that you need to plant a 1,000 seeds to grow 10 trees. I feel that it describes exactly what I am doing these days and it's a lot of work, hence the lack of blogposts lately.

What kind of trees am I hoping to grow? Well, I am trying to fill in dates of a tour of Europe for fall while also trying to get more airplay and reviews of "The Dream" in Europe,  and reaching out to potential new listeners. In February alone I sent 70 emails to critics, radio hosts, magazines, jazz clubs. I got 20 replies so far, that is almost 30%, so those are pretty good results. Generally those who reply are interested and those who aren't don't bother writing back. The fun part is hearing back from old contacts who seem delighted to hear from me again. One critic for example wrote "It sounds unbelievable and a little bit "telepathic", but two days before I got your Email I rummaged in my CD-Collection and picked up your album from 2002! I liked the music as already ten years ago."

Some of the clubs that I used to play now have new people doing the booking so I need to start all over with those clubs. I know they get a lot of CDs in the mail so I was trying to think of ways to bring attention to my envelope. Last week when I mail packages to a few clubs that I haven't played at before I opted to put stamps on them instead of a print out and picked the most colorful eye-catching stamps available featuring the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland. What do you think? Would they catch your attention?

When I was living in New York I would get up at 4 in the morning to call clubs in Europe. I sat in our tiny bathroom, so I wouldn't wake my husband up, literally on the toilet with a candle light because the fan which was very noisy was connected to the light switch. Sometimes the person I was trying to reach was on the other line and I would call back in 5 minutes. Then he'd still be on the other line and I would call again in 5 minutes. I remember one time when this went on for about an hour and eventually the guy was gone. Back to sleep. Fortunately now that I am in Iceland I am closer in time zones to my "targets" and the 4 am phone sessions are a part of the past.

A twitter buddy @mattstevensloop asked on twitter the other day what advice people would give to a musician wanting to grow his/her audience. Of course the best way is to perform a lot, I think. But how do you reach people in mainland Europe when you live on an island in the North Atlantic? One thing I do is search for people on Last.fm that look like they have similar taste in music as I do and then I contact them. I'll admit, I was a little apprehensive about contacting strangers on Last.fm out of the blue, but when I thought about it, it made a lot of sense.

First of all, they can see what music I listen to, which probably influences their decision to give my music a chance more than anything. In essence what I'm doing is extremely targeted advertising, but in a much more personal way than advertising is normally executed.

It is surely wonderful to hear back from people with feedback like the following:

"…I'm so glad you made contact. It's super stuff – and very much my sort of thing." -John

"Thank you for getting in touch. I had never heard your music but I saw/heard the video you sent. Really liked it…. Just like getting an unexpected present!" -Alex

"A few minutes ago I heared your music for the first time and my impression was: Yes, my kind of style, more!" -Peter

These are my trees! The amount of listeners I have on Last.fm has nearly doubled since I decided to give it a shot almost a year ago. Traditional advertising could never bring me the wonderful connection I have with these listeners. And although it does take time, I only do it every once in a while, and the nature of Last.fm minimizes the effort for me… so instead of planting 1000 seeds it's more like 100.

3 Responses to “Planting A Thousand Seeds”

  1. Dear Sunna:
    After each new post I think in a good book with all your experiences, that would be great.
    Your thoughts and writings are little gems to know the good times, and the many hard times, for the independent musician.
    As I told you some time ago, "good music must survive", yours, of course, it's included…
    Best wishes, as always,

    Federico (aka euskir)

  2. I love this post. I think your fans who aren't musicians themselves would find it interesting: a little picture of the life of a working musician, the part they don't normally see.

    Your story of the 4 a.m. phone calls reminds me of this: you call the booker and he asks you to call back in 5 minutes. You call back, and he says call on Tuesday. You call Tuesday and he's not in. You call Wednesday and he says call next week. You call next week and he says he's going to book you, so please call back on Monday. You call Monday and find out the guy doesn't work there anymore! Sound familiar?!

    The Last.fm idea, by the way, is great; I'd never have thought of it myself.

  3. wayne says:

    hope those 10 trees grow strong and tall. reminds me of a book called "I'd Rather Be In The Studio." It is all about the things artists have to do outside of creating art. Peace and Hope

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