For the past several years I’ve been making and breaking goals each year around this time. I don’t mean ‘breaking’ like you would break a world record or even break a sweat. I mean failing.
Why bother setting goals at all?
I view resolutions as a “shoot for the moon, land among the stars” thing. I may not reach the place I set out for, but I’ll be far better off for going outside. I’m setting some big, stupid goals again this year, but first, let’s look back at where I succeeded – and failed – in 2019.
Here are my goals from last year and how close I got.
Become a Better Musician
I wanted to learn the piano. I didn’t. I still want to this year. I might. I did learn more chords and a tiny bit more theory. I majored in 7th chords this past Christmas season. By the sheer force of playing an awful lot, I’m a better musician now than I was a year ago. But yes, I still want to tackle theory and those elusive keys.
Release More Music
I released five singles and one exclusive song for my Patrons last year. That’s six separate releases as opposed to three the year before, so yes I put out more music. Did I release a song every month? Not even close. I learned a lot though.
I learned that it’s not just making the music that saps time and energy, it’s releasing and promoting it. Designing artwork. Sharing on social. Submitting in hopes that someone will put the track on a playlist.
When I was releasing every month I had to do all of that for the last track while recording the next track. All while holding down a part-time job and taking care of life.
I decided to break over the summer, and couldn’t quite get my mojo back until my year-end Christmas release, I Just Want Christmas to End.
I did start work on a few new musical projects that should see daylight this year, but I’ll get to those later.
Play Fewer Shows with More Focus
Did I play fewer shows in 2019 than in 2018? It certainly didn’t feel that way, but I did play better shows. I mostly stopped trying for gigs that wouldn’t feed me in some meaningful way.
I played new venues this year like Cartago, The Aviary, Anvil Cafe, The Nook, On The Rocks and Cask & Barrel made it out to Red Deer. Twice.
There were some misses but more hits.
I did try my hand at busking this Christmas and didn’t quite make minimum wage. I had a good time and learned a ton of new cover songs so I don’t regret that.
Send in The Band
I formed a three-piece band – the Small-Tones – in 2019.
It’s been wonderful to bring new life to old songs and the group has opened doors at new venues, like the Aviary. We have shows booked into 2021 (!) and I cannot wait to land our first festival gig together.
This was the best choice I made for my music this year and all of the investment of time and energy is starting to pay off. I mean, I’d never throw up a giant neon bow tie on stage by myself, but with a band, it just felt right.
The Return of Facebook Live
What an experiment Facebook has been. Working part-time made weekly live shows difficult in 2019 so I did try monthly, larger shows with guest artists. They mostly worked, though there were technical glitches every. Single. Time. I’ve finally got all of the kinks worked out so I plan to return to these this year. It was great to play with Lora Jol, Joel and Paul from Soft March, and Hail Taxi. It was great to have my song at the computer making sure we were coming through loud and clear. It’s work, but worth doing again.
Meanwhile, I’ve left my job to pursue music and freelance design and returned to weekly (mostly) lunchtime performances. I’ve seen decent crowds and had some great feedback. That and the amount of practice these shows require are great reasons to keep going. Watch for new shows starting next week!
Travelling Road Shows
I did hit the road more than ever this year. Still not as much as I’d like but I’ve got a little fan base in Red Deer now and I return to them this month. Then Calgary in March where I rejoin I Am The Mountain – a band I met through Alberta Showcase this past year.
Speaking of Showcase, their events in spring and fall were incredibly good to me and I’ve already landed some touring gigs thanks to the showcase opportunities they gave me.
I’m pretty happy with my progress on this goal.
The Patreon Butterfly Effect
I wanted to build up my list of monthly music supporters in 2019 by 25. I did add one, but that falls a little short.
The truth is, I didn’t have the time or energy to invest in this last year. Patreon has been so good for me. I love all 13 of my supporters there. They believe in what I’m doing enough to give me financial support each and every month. So many months that money has been just what I needed to cover some musical bills. I know more support would help me reach some of *this year’s* goals more quickly, so I’m hoping I can grow this community in 2020.
I’m Starting to Believe Maybe This Year Will Be Better Than the Last
Enough looking backward. Taking all I’ve learned last year, I’ve set out some new goals for 2020 and once again I’m risking failure by declaring them publicly.
I have good reason to believe I’ll get much closer this year. I’ve made life choices that give more time and focus on achieving these goals. I have a sense of momentum. Finally, every one of these goals is measurable and I can see clearly how to make them happen so long as I keep on track.
License Music for Film and TV With TAXI
I signed up for TAXI near the end of 2019. They help artists connect with music supervisors on TV, film and advertising teams looking for songs to license for their projects. I’m really excited about creating different music just for this purpose.
I’m not in control of how many songs actually get picked up for a show or an ad, but I can make submitting a priority. I plan to submit 4 tracks in 2020. This is all new to me, so I’m excited to see what happens.
Cowrite a Song
Near the end of 2019, Lora Jol put out a fantastic Christmas song that I produced. I love the process of working with other artists and I’m making it my goal to write and release one co-written song this year. I can’t tell you much more about this, except to say that I already have a collaboration lined up, so this one should be in the bag.
Play Two Festivals
Last year I was able to play the Kaleido Festival here in Edmonton, which was great. I’ve been applying for festivals all fall so I’m crossing my fingers that I get another festival gig in 2020 and return to Kaleido.
I’d love to play several festivals over the summer but for whatever reason, that door hasn’t flung open for me yet. Patience.
Release Two (or Three?) Multi-Song Music Projects
I have at least one single in the hopper already and you should hear it in February. But this year I’m making an album. Grant money or no.
In 2019 I sold my last copy of my 2017 EP, Where the Love Comes Easy. I don’t want to reprint it, but I don’t want to be without music to sell, either. I needed a project I could sell at live shows and online that I could get excited about, and that I could create with little to no budget. Enter Places We Can’t Live.
I’ve decided to collect travel-related songs from my released EPs alongside some unreleased tracks into a collection called Places We Can’t Live. Every song will be a new recording. Previously released tracks are being stripped down to a guitar, a voice and a few other elements for colour here and there. This will be the most sparse project I’ve put out and I think it’s going to be beautiful. I have all that I need to record this project on my own, so that’s what I’m doing. Watch for Places We Can’t Live in 2020 – and that’s not all.
I’ve already got five songs mostly recorded with a great producer here in Edmonton. These are songs I am dying for you to hear because they already sound so good. They’ve been sitting on a hard drive for over a year because of money. I simply haven’t had the funds to return to the studio and finish the tracks. But I’m going to find a way to make it happen this year and I hope to release this second collection of tunes before the end of 2020.
If all that wasn’t enough, I have a third collection of songs in the works!
I was approached by an award-winning Vancouver producer in the summer about working together. He’s made me a very generous offer and the time we spent working together in November makes me want to return. I plan to head back to the West Coast in May to track an EP that includes the two songs we’ve begun and others. This producer takes my music in yet another direction so I can’t wait to share these songs with you either in 2020 or more likely early 2021.
Tour Your Living Room
Rather than just one release concert, I want to bring Places We Can’t Live into the world with a series of house concerts in the places you live in. I’m hoping for a tour of at least five living room shows to get this album out into the world in homes, just like I recorded it in my own home.
If you’d like to host a Von Bieker show this spring or summer, get in touch.
I’ve set some other life goals and freelance goals for 2020, but I’ll leave this post at my musical ambitions.
Thanks for making it to the end and for being on this journey with me. I’d love to hear about your 2020 goals, too.
Here’s to a year of reaching, missing and landing in surprising places.