Ever wonder how I went from geeky kid to glorified YouTube a capella dad? Well, it wasn’t always an easy road. But it always helped me grow as an artist and as an entrepreneur. Here’s a behind-the-scenes account of how I started, how I found beauty within the struggles, and how the launch of my Patreon account transformed my career.
I first started singing in eighth grade when my mom allowed me to drop French class in exchange for choir. Fast forward, and I was studying vocal performance and music education at the University of Oregon. While I was there, I founded the university’s first a cappella group, On the Rocks.
In the midst of producing albums for both my group and the women’s a cappella group Divisi, I discovered a huge passion for it. My a cappella group went on to compete in NBC’s The Sing Off in 2010. After the show’s conclusion, a few hundred people asked me to start making my own music, so I decided to go for it… without a backup plan.
When I first started, I used YouTube to share my music with as many people as possible. I never dreamed it would become all that it is today, much less serve as the basis for my entire career. It wasn’t until my videos started becoming popular that I realized I could really make this whole ‘creator’ thing work.
I finally decided to turn my creativity and passion into a business.
I refer to fans as supporters and if I’ve learned anything during the past decade working as a creator, it's that community management is paramount.
Here are my top three pieces of advice:
1. Communicate with your supporters. Respond to every single comment and message with love.
2. Content is key. Create quality videos you’re proud of, but don’t get strung out on perfectionism. Move on to the next video and keep creating content.
3. Maintain a presence everywhere. Take advantage of social media! Promote your music on social media then distribute it through iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, Spotify, Pandora, etc…
The most difficult experience of my artistic career was when I signed a record deal. It was undoubtedly the worst possible decision for me. Despite the setbacks that cost me, I now have the perspective and experience necessary to educate you on how to avoid my mistakes.
The most difficult part of being a creator is balancing work and family. I usually work 70-80 hours a week in order to continue releasing music videos every other week and stay connected with my supporters.
Whenever I have a rainy day, I take a look around and remember how blessed I am to have an incredible HollensFamily who supports and inspires me, and a family who loves me unconditionally.
I need to discuss Patreon as well, because none of this would be possible without it. Patreon is my number one source of income. For that, I really want to thank the HollensFamily. Not only do they support my music in monetary terms, they inspire me with their feedback and are constantly providing love and support.
I decided to create a Patreon account the second I found out about it. I immediately thought, “OMG. This is exactly what the world needed!”
I am not exaggerating when I say that Patreon changed my life. It gave me the ability to create higher quality videos. It gave me the resources to hire a team to help me with the workload so I can focus on the music. It allows me to spend more time with my family.
Immediately after creating my Patreon page, I announced it everywhere. YouTube. Facebook. Twitter. You name it. The feedback was incredible! People were super excited to support my music. A lot even admitted that they wanted to support me before, but didn’t know another way to other than purchasing my songs.
For artists and creators, Patreon is one of the only ways to make a living off of our art without relinquishing our creative independence to an outside business. Instead, we are able to directly engage with our community and build real personal relationships with them.
Last but not least, I challenge you to stop referring to your supporters as fans. I really dislike the word because it devalues the people who share your content and enable you to live your dream. Stay genuine, stay humble, and refer to them as what they are: supporters and family.
I hope this was helpful to you, and good luck creating! If you have any input or advice, let me know in the comments below!! :D
This post is adapted from my interview for Creator of the Week with Taryn Arnold on Patreon! You can read the full article here.
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