One year ago this month I released my first album which is available on CDBaby https://store.cdbaby.com/albumDetails.aspx?AlbumID=johnellis7 . It's been interesting to watch the statistics and see places around the world where the songs have been played (plus or minus the geographic accuracy of the tracking data). Despite being available worldwide, it doesn't mean that songs will be listened to by a lot of people. I've learned how important promotion is in the effort to get a song heard. Word of mouth is some of the greatest promotion that you can hope for especially from the people who share their favorite music with many other people. Since the listens I have had did not build up a lot of new listeners, I can only assume that people are either not enjoying the songs, or are not sharing their experiences very much - in other words, there seems to be no viral element to the listens that I have had.
If songs are not particularly popular or don't find their audience, that is not the worst thing in the world - it's just not helpful. As we all know, much of life depends on cash flow, so without the songs contributing to the cost of their own creation (including food, real estate, etc.), the work day and the savings account have to make up for the slack, which eats into the time to create. Such is the situation of any small enterprise.
In terms of popularity, I wasn't expecting a huge onslaught of online listeners and many deposits flowing to my bank account, but I was hoping for a trickle of each to the extent that it would help in the effort to make more music. The ironic thing is that my local work as a guitar instructor and performer is still covering much of the costs despite the extended potential of an album release.
But as has often been said, if you're in a creative venture for the money, you're probably in the wrong business. I agree. You need to love it, or the only thing you'll experience is frustration unless you hit the jackpot. And despite the personal and financial costs, I want to create more so that I get the satisfaction of breathing life into my ideas, to hear what the ideas sound like as I shape the recordings, and to accomplish what I set out to do - write and record.
So as I wrap up the first year of actually being out in the world with an album release, I'm knee deep, soon to be neck deep, in recording my second album. I hope to make it a double album to get as much material finished as I can and to be somewhat up to date in the recording of songs. You can never be entirely finished with your collection of ideas. New ideas pop into your head with some regularity whether you're trying or not. For some ideas it is their time to connect with your mind and your music abilities to finish coming alive. For other ideas it's just not their time. They come in a flash, but are only a starter of something that has to ferment, or come back to you when the time is right - when the feelings and momentum needed for the song are there with you. I recently went through an old stack of phrases and verses to see if there were bits and pieces to fill out songs I'm currently trying to finish. Some of what I found were snippets from prior attempts to finish these songs in addition to phrases that were not attached to any other idea, but may work for the songs I'm completing.
During the final days of working on my first release, and my current attempt to finish a new album, I've learned that you do have to make yourself work at it. The "idea" for a song often comes in an instant, but the completion of a song often takes a concerted effort. For me, you still can't force it - now matter how much focused effort you put into finishing a song, you still won't come up with the right wording or musical element without a few or a few hundred tries. And unless your goal is only to finish a song, rather than get the song to its best form, then you just aren't going to get most of what you're looking for at the time you're looking for it. It's a combination of focused work, with sudden inspiration that's based on that focused work. That's been my experience. And, as with many things in life, you have to know when to say when. Sometimes changing a word or a musical element is just an exercise in changing something that is already working, instead of improving something that needs to change.
After all of the effort, I'm still about 10 years behind, but that's better than the 20 year lag I was experiencing until I decided to focus on the creative work a year ago. And 10 years is about the right amount of lag for me.