By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist Model: Turn your passion for music into a rewarding career.
On His Own — And Loving It
Canadian Singer songwriter Matt Powell isn’t a big believer in conventional wisdom. Especially the old saying that there is safety in numbers. After spending most of his musical career as a member of two different bands, Matt recently stepped out on his own as a solo artist — and is loving it.
The Ottawa-based musician will drop his newest album “Year One” this fall — the title chosen to celebrate his first anniversary as a solo artist. The songs on the CD represent a journey back to his musical roots inspired by the likes of John Mayer, The Strokes and The Black Keys.
Matt is using a strategy that combines a strong social media presence and lots of gigs to generate buzz for his upcoming release. He put together his plan with help from the New Artist Model, an online business school for indie musicians.
Currently, Matt has 10,000 followers. He communicates with them using email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and other social media channels. His videos on Youtube have captured more than 20,000 views and 80,000 on Facebook.
“If you want to be successful online, it is important to respond to every person who contacts you,” Matt says. “It is also good to “turn the tables” on your fans and give them star treatment.”
“What you want to do is treat everyone as if your favorite artist just responded to you on social media,” Matt says, adding that enthusiasm helps create superfans. “When I consistently started responding to every single fan, I went from 200 followers to 1000 followers in three weeks. My fan base grew from 300 to 5700 in 6 months.”
“If they (fans) feel you are their friend and treat them with kindness consistently, they will stick with you and be really, really loyal. So I am going to continue to be engaging and follow them back even as the numbers go up, up, up.”
Matt communicates often with the people who follow him often. He also reaches out to the super fans of other artists in his genre. Matt posts weekly clips and asks his audience what they want to hear. If enough followers urge him to cover a certain song, he will. Once the cover is up, Matt engages with the original artist’s following. He never asks them directly to follow him — rather he simply engages. It is a strategy that works, he says.
Matt says his success on social media has taught him never to underestimate how significant your reach will be. You never know you will connect with. One thing Matt is passionate about — in addition to music — is fashion. Recently, he had the chance to connect with Anthony Bogdan, a style blogger he’s admired for years “My jaw hit the floor when I got the request,” he says.
“I have people who are happy and eager to share my content,” Matt says. “The networking and the decency I have been inspired to use have taken my first year as an independent artist and propelled me forward. I wouldn’t have believed myself at this time last year if I knew where I would be today.”
When Matt is not sharing his music on the internet, he can be found playing at local clubs and bars. In addition, he hosts a popular open mic event held once a month in the city that is broadcast on Rogers TV Network. Matt also performs as part of this showcase.
“Doing the open mic is great for networking,” he says, adding that many of the artists he meets during the show ask him to join them at upcoming gigs.
When he plays out, Matt regularly distributes up to 2000 business cards emblazoned with personal email and social media information and asks people to send him a personal message to start a dialogue.
Matt says being an independent artist in Canada requires balancing a unique set of challenges and opportunities. For instance, radio airplay can be hard to come by. Most stations are owned by major labels like Warner Brothers, Sony and Universal and play only their signed artists.
At the same time, Matt says, significant support for indie artists exists in the form of grants offered by the Canadian government. This is particularly important to Matt who is committed to touring but will keep his home in Ottawa.
“There are lots of government grants available for musicians who stay in the country,” Matt says. “They can range from $5000 or $10,000 to even as much as $20,000. Artists can use this money to help record their albums. This is something I am looking into.”
A typical day for Matt includes communicating with with fans and working on music. He also takes time, when he can, to review the latest offerings at New Artist Model.
When he wakes up, Matt immediately checks his Twitter Instagram, Youtube and other social media feeds. He then spends about an hour communicating with fans from around the world including the States, Europe and Brazil.
“I call it upkeep. I poke and market. I talk to them in the moment,” Matt says. After working on his music and spending time with family, Matt finishes his day by checking in with fans again. “I love interacting with people.”
Matt says that also making time on a regular basis to review material on the NAM site helps keep him inspired and effective.
“I’ve gone back and watched some of the same workshops 4 or 5 different times. I do that especially when I’ve hit a funk or need some guidance,” Matt says, adding that he has watched some of the video from NAM’s 2015 Nashville gathering 10 times. The Indie Artist Summit was a live mini conference that attracted hundreds of attendees. Top industry pros like Benji Rogers, Patrick Clifford, Barry Coffing, Jay Frank, and more covered topics like building a community of superfans, licensing your music for film and TV, making Spotify work for indie artists, getting your music in front of publishers, and much more. The entire recorded event now lives in the Music Business Guide to Success course.
Matt’s is hoping to reach 25,000 followers soon. His other goals include playing more big venues, creating merchandise, touring and doing house concerts. He also wants to open for other artists he admires.
Through it all he plans to continue to stay close to the people who support him — in person and online.
“I will never stop communicating with his original true fans that have helped me from the start. I have an appreciation and love for them that will never expire,” Matt says. “The time invested in being personable, kind, and humble, and being appreciative. It comes back to you. ‘The love you take is equal to the love you make.’”
New Artist Model is an online music business school developed by Dave Kusek, founder of Berklee Online. The online school is a platform for learning practical strategies and techniques for making a living in music. Learn how to carve a unique path for your own career with strategies that are working for indie artists around the world. Learn to think like an entrepreneur, create your own plan and live the life in music you want to live. New Artist Model provides practical college-level music business training at a mere fraction of the cost of a college degree. Programs start at just $29/mo.
For more info on the New Artist Model visit https://newartistmodel.com