I share my music plans for 2022 – Obey Robots, She Makes War *and* Penfriend, oh my! – raise the question of live gigs plus discuss why on earth this 40-year old musician is spending so much time making YouTube videos……and how you can help!
This month, I’m making an album with Rat from Ned’s Atomic Dustbin under the name OBEY ROBOTS and sharing the process in my Captain’s Vlog ⚓
I have 19 days to record all my parts in The Launchpad before we go into the studio to finish the album. The clock is ticking!
In this episode: I share never-before heard song snippets, plus my essential equipment for recording bass at home. See how I write, record and edit parts and try to overcome the mental roadblocks that are an inevitable part of the creative process.
This is the first time I’ve ever shown behind the scenes of how I write!
In my twenties, I spent a few years running a covers band called Co-Star. Great name, right? Good work, Gareth the guitarist.
I booked the shows, played bass and sang. It was an education in many things – how far away Aberdeen actually is in a van from London, how to file a CCJ when the agent doesn’t pay, how to dodge drunk wedding guests – but mostly in how songs are put together.
When Richard approached me to make my version of his band’s track I was delighted at the idea. It’s rare that a musician actively asks someone else to have a go at redoing their work – in my experience, we’re not the most humble bunch! – not to mention the invitation came via my Bespoke Sponsorships page, and a generous contribution to the Penfriend project.
I think a good song should still be immersive and affecting when you strip everything away apart from the main vocal line and a simple instrumental accompaniment. But when you add in the other building blocks – drums, bass, melody lines on guitar or synths or something else – you’re creating a world within the song, an alternate reality the listener can step inside for a few minutes. An escape.
I love “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” by Kylie Minogue, and I bet I’d still enjoy it if she sang it along to an acoustic guitar. It’s a good song. But when you add the hypnotic beats and subtle synth lines, you reside in a different universe for 3 minutes and 50 seconds.
Go back and listen to just how many bursts of different sounds support the vocals in that song…it’s a complex, but deceptively simple arrangement – and for once, I’ll accept the choice to fade out at the end (I’m not usually a fan).
[I’ve just realised my pop references are 21 years old – oh my. ANYWAY -]
I’ve only recorded a handful of covers over the years, so re-arranging “This Is The Sound” was a fun but slightly daunting challenge. When I listened to the original song, it sounded just right. I listened, I really enjoyed it, and I couldn’t think why there would need to be a cover of this song in the world. That *was* the sound.
However, I needed to honour Richard’s request, and so I set to work on picking out the key parts that I felt were integral to the world of the song, without seeking to recreate what was already there. You might have noticed that covers are often faster or slower than the original, perhaps a sad version of a happy song or vice versa. Creating contrast in speed or tone is the most straightforward way of creating space between the original and the cover, and I decided to go for “slow and weird”.
As I wrote to Richard in a status update email: “Your song is so great as it is that the only option was to GO WEIRD.”
I started with the drum machine parts, then added sounds from my OP-1 synth played through the Strymon Nightsky reverb pedal (which I was just starting to get the hang of…still am, if I’m honest…), vocals and synth bass.
As I was making a slower and therefore longer version, I was keen to make sure stuff kept happening throughout – and the shift in energy and tone at the end via the energetic bassline just came to me in a flash as I was sitting at my computer, wondering how to make the song sound more weird. Mission accomplished, I think!
“Battery Thinkers is a duo that emerged from Hull University in the late 90’s. I met Chris at regular music gatherings of students on the last year of my maths course, calling ourselves The Mobius Band. The two of us kept meeting up after University when we discovered we had each started writing our own songs and Chris was keen to try out some recording software he had recently acquired. Our influences were Teenage Fanclub, R.E.M. and Blur, our band name coming from a Blur lyric and we are both massive fans of Underworld. Battery Thinkers is something we do as a hobby just for fun, it’s never been something we have seriously pursued.
Our first ‘album’, ‘Dreaming in a Northern Town’, 2005, was recorded using a knackered kick drum found in the loft of Chris’ house when he moved in(!), improvised bass guitar for some songs as we didn’t have one & when I did buy one second hand it wouldn’t tune properly – and a mic stand that regularly had a leg fall off of it. We discovered at the end of that process that we had recorded most tracks incorrectly and the overall sound is a bit muffled on those songs as a result. So the song I chose for Laura to cover, ‘This is the Sound’ was from this album, as a surprise for Chris – he was really emotional about it when it arrived.
We have improved very slowly over the years in terms of standard of equipment and knowledge of recording, Chris has been the one making advances in the production knowledge whilst I generally sit on the other side of the room and make helpful comments. We recorded another 2 albums, ‘Three Thousand Thoughts’ in 2007 and ‘To the Rescue’ in 2011, after which progress stalled with the distance between the two of us greater due to my move to London and Chris being regularly busy in York with two kids.
Getting anything finished nowadays is a massive task and our imminent (maybe) next album has been years in the making. We stripped some songs intended for the album to form an EP ‘Square Pictures’ in 2015 just to get some songs finished. The new album, provisionally titled ‘All Things After Sunrise’ will have between 10 and 12 songs, depending on our sanity. We also have songs written for the next one after this, which we intend to be a road trip album.
In December 2019 we fulfilled a long time ambition to play a Battery Thinkers gig, at my friends 40th birthday party at Band On The Wall in Manchester, bringing in 4 friends to help us. After only 2 or 3 full band rehearsals we managed to get together 9 songs from our history, including This is the Sound and we went down well on the night. We did have plans to continue rehearsing in 2020 until of course they decided to hold a global pandemic event, so we are still waiting to meet up again.”
The 17th January is “Forget New Year’s Resolutions Day”. Did you know that? I believe everyone has the power to tweak and improve their lives, but there’s a far better way than proclaiming “New Year, new me!” on 1st January and then giving up 16 days later.
In this video, I discuss setting measurable goals and working backwards to figure out what activities you need to do to achieve them. And how about breaking the year up into more manageable, 12-week chunks as well?
What would you like to change in the next 12 weeks?
Resolutions don’t work. Change your life with GOALS TRANSCRIPT
The 17th January is “Forget New Year’s Resolutions Day”. Did you know that?
I believe everyone has the power to tweak and improve their lives, but there’s a far better way than proclaiming “New Year, new me!” on the 1st January and then giving up just 16 days later.
“Get fit, read more, stay in touch with friends, get organised, do better at work” – do these sound familiar? I’ve made these enthusiastic lists myself, fantasizing about revamping my life to become a better person in the New Year.
New Year. The magical New Year, glowing fresh like a hopeful Monday, but 52 times better!
At their worst, New Year’s Resolutions are a smorgasbord of random hopes and wishes that we almost immediately forget about. The idea is great – humans want to improve and progress, so why not get started in January?
The problem is we’re being way too vague. We’re listing too many things. And then, we let it all go far too easily – on the 17th January, apparently.
Repeat this a few times, and we’re even less likely to succeed with our resolutions next year: we’ve proved to ourselves that we can’t or won’t get very far with them, so why bother?
Let’s stop this right now.
How about this year we ditch the idea of New Year’s Resolutions, and set measurable goals instead? And let’s give ourselves a fighting chance of success by focusing just on the next 12 weeks.
I read “The 12 Week Year” by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington last year and it was a game-changer.
Thinking about a whole year is really overwhelming. Three months – 12 weeks – that seems like a manageable length of time to me, and the idea of making big changes in that shorter period of time is more exciting to me, too. It feels closer, and more possible somehow.
So, what would you like to change in the next 12 weeks?
First, we need to change the way we think about this stuff. “Get fit” is a nice idea, but you would never know if you got there. Run 3 times a week is something I can actually tick off my list – but why am I running three times a week in the first place? What’s going to keep me ticking off those runs?
Well, goal setting. But not setting so many goals at once that we get overwhelmed and quit on the 17th January! And the key is setting goals that we really care about, that connect to our vision of our future – a future where I’m healthier, more well-read and doing well at the job I love, for example.
There has to be a reason that you want to achieve the goal.
I want to run regularly because I know that it makes me happier and nicer to be around, and way, way better at getting on with my creative work. When I wake up and I don’t want to go running because it’s cold outside, I stand a much better chance of going for that run if it’s part of a plan leading me towards a specific, measurable goal that I really care about. I don’t have to question the plan every chilly morning when it feels like I’ve got sand in my eyes, I just have to put my running gear on and leave the house, and then do it again next time.
Try this: set a measurable goal in each of the following categories: health, leisure time and work, and then list the activities that will help you achieve that goal.
For example, I would like to run 10K in under 60 minutes by the end of March 2022. The way I’ll get there is not by crossing my fingers and hoping, but by following a training plan which includes three runs per week of different styles – easy jogs, speed training and long runs – I only know this because I looked it up on the internet.
In my leisure category, I’d like to read 12 books in 12 weeks, which means one book a week on average. To stand a chance of managing that, I have to set aside time each day to read at least two chapters.
As for work, I have many goals and many activities going on all the time – and I’m sure you do too – but I know that picking out one thing to focus on over and above everything else is the very best way to make progress. I’m still figuring out what that one work thing is, but I will let you know in a future video.
Write your goals and your activities down – yes, write them down! Your brain is not a filing cabinet. You stand a far, far greater chance of achieving your goals if they’re written down. It really helps you to keep going when you can look back at your goals and remember why you decided to do these activities in the first place.
Achieving your goals is about making a plan and executing it. There’s really no use making the most perfect plan there ever was and not doing anything about it, or even worse – never making a plan at all.
Just make a plan, and execute it. And then do it again next time.
I’m genuinely excited about kicking off my New Year with this approach. I try to do a lot of things, and I get overwhelmed sometimes, no matter what forward-planning and time-blocking I do – and oh, I do!
Time spent taking a step back and thinking about what are the most important things to you in all of these categories is never wasted, and I’m convinced it will be way more effective if it happens more than once a year, with a hastily scribbled list of New Year’s Resolutions.
I hope this video helps you kick off a brilliant year.
If you want to read more on this, I’ve put affiliate links below to my top 3 productivity books: Eat That Frog, The 12 Week Year and Deep Work – but make sure you’re not just reading them to put off working towards your goals.
I went into more detail on goal-setting and the power of consistency in this video, so watch that next, and Happy mindfully productive New Year to you.
I started making videos again this year after discovering Casey Neistat’s vlogs 6 years late! Here are the three big things I’ve learned from his videos, why I think filmmaking is so similar to making music, and why I’ve signed up for Casey’s new online course. Plus dogs! And British winter chips! And a very cold, windy beach!
Audio was recorded on the new Rode Lavalier 2 – impressive!
It’s true: I’m only standing out here on a very chilly December day – right before Christmas! – because of Casey Neistat.
(It’s so cold…I’m wearing so many layers…)
I’m a firm believer in JOMO – the joy of missing out – so I really don’t mind when I’m late to the party on things. I only discovered Casey’s very famous vlogs this summer. 2021! – and he started uploading them in 2015…so that is pretty late to the party.
Benji’s eating sand.
[Tim, off camera – “Come on, Sandman!”]
[“Come on, mate…”]
For the first time ever, Casey is sharing his filmmaking and storytelling secrets in an online course through Monthly, and I signed up immediately.
I actually started vlogging in 2007 – 8 years before Casey did! – and I uploaded a couple of hundred videos to my old channel. But it was a lot harder to make videos for YouTube then – I was using camcorders with tapes. Tapes! Added to that, I’d sort of missed the memo about storytelling – it’s just something I’ve been learning about much more recently. So I’m not surprised my channel didn’t blow up, and that’s absolutely fine.
Watching Casey’s vlogs has taught me three big things:
1. It is possible to film yourself in really interesting ways, so you don’t have to rely on other people.
2. There are lots of different and fun ways to structure edits to tell a story, even when you think there might not be anything that interesting going on.
3. Just get on with it!
I’m aware there’s a backlash against this course, I get the sense that people are concerned this kind of course will just spawn thousands of copycat vloggers that will up YouTube with all of their stuff that looks the same as Casey Neistat’s.
The thing is, it’s very normal to copy people when you start out in any creative field. That’s just how we learn. Over time, hopefully you develop your own style and your own voice, through getting to know yourself better and gaining confidence in your skills. All that deliberate practice is what gets you there.
I’ve made music for a lot of years, and it’s a good way of learning how to take inspiration from a lot of places without ending up sounding like you’ve copied one band’s sound. The reason I’m so rubbish at answering the question “who are your musical influences?” is because I genuinely don’t think of it that way any more.
I’m more inspired by someone’s story, or the way that their song made me feel, than what the music actually sounds like. Keeping your influences varied and refreshing them from time to time is a really good way to help with all of this. You start filtering everything through the prism of your own experience, your own taste, your own values, and you keep the things that resonate with you and just sort of leave the things that don’t.
Most of the time I don’t listen to much music at all, because I find that ignoring what’s going on in the world helps me focus on trying to make stuff that I like.
So, why have I signed up to Casey Neistat’s filmmaking course?
I only started this channel properly a few months ago, and that was in large part down to watching Casey Neistat’s vlogs. There’s something about how he shares his life and his experience and his thoughts that really appeals to me. Basically, he’s already made me get over myself, get off my sofa and start making videos, so I want to see where the course will push me next.
I also want to be making videos all throughout 2022 and beyond, and I think this will really help.
I’ve got a lot of footage that I’ve shot over the years and never shared, and I’m really interested in trying to find out if there’s a way of pulling that stuff together into some kind of story that would be interesting to other humans, and I think this course will help with that too.
I want to film outdoors more – like this! – and I know that’s to do with overcoming laziness slash discomfort, but it’s also about overcoming fear. What will people think of me? Standing here like this isn’t an easy thing for me to do, I feel really weird. When I was walking over from the car with all the stuff, I just felt like I couldn’t be bothered, but I know that’s to do with procrastination and fear, so I’m doing it. Look, I’m doing it! Look, I’ve done it!
I’m also fascinated to learn more about Casey’s thought process, and the technical details of what he does, how he sets up his shots, and just the decisions he’s making on the fly, because I think that’s how you learn from other people, by watching them do stuff.
I think making videos is so similar to making music. It’s all about getting to know yourself more and more deeply, gaining experience at the thing you want to do to the point where you feel confident, to the point where no-one can take that away from you and you can communicate the things you want to communicate. They’re both about experimentation and finding your voice.
I don’t want to make videos that look like Casey Neistat’s videos. I want to make videos that look like my videos. I’m interested in his creative process and his structure, not his style. That’s his style, not mine.
These are so I can see!
So, I’m excited to start the course.
It’s time for fish and chips now, but before I go: online learning has become a big part of my life in the past few years. This video isn’t sponsored – I don’t have any sponsors yet – but there is an affiliate link down below for Skillshare.
I choose to pay full price for Skillshare membership every year because it’s become so valuable to me.
Don’t read the comments…I’ve heard this so many times! So is it good advice or just a pile of rubbish? Let’s discuss…
I think people who say “don’t read the comments” are missing the point of the internet.
Would you turn up to a party, give a big speech telling everyone what you think, and then ignore every person in the room?
It’s human nature to want to feel like our time is well spent, that we’ve been seen, we’ve been acknowledged, our message has been heard. You’d probably like it if your boss said you did a good job today. It’s human nature to make things and to want to feel like there was a point to making those things.
So if people posting work on digital platforms don’t read the comments, how are they going to feel seen and heard?
I want to feel like my time has been well spent, and audience feedback is a big part of that. As a musician playing live in-person shows for about 25 years, I got used to pretty immediate, pretty honest feedback.
Did you applaud or not? Did you come and say hello and buy a CD after the show or not? Did you shout in my face, talk all over my performance and spill beer over my merch table on purpose or not?
You know who you are!
Likes and comments are digital applause. Especially on this platform, they’re a helpful barometer for whether my videos are useful or entertaining for other humans.
Why am I even bringing this up? I was listening to Cal Newport’s very excellent podcast Deep Questions the other day, and he was talking to his producer about their forthcoming move into publishing YouTube videos. Cal Newport is the author of books including “Deep Work”, “Digital Minimalism” and “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” – books that had a big impact on my life, helping push me to create my podcast and to start making videos for this channel.
Cal is well known for not using any social media, and he uses himself as a case study to show others that you can have a really successful career without spending a lot of time posting about yourself on the internet. What a dream!
I was pleased to hear that Cal doesn’t lump YouTube in with the other social media platforms, because neither do I, and he did highlight its major role in the democratisation of video, and talked about how podcasting is the democratisation of audio.
So far so great, and I am looking forward to watching his videos but what he said next really puzzled me.
When talking about their strategy for YouTube, “Don’t read the comments”, he and his producer agreed.
Don’t read the comments.
Now, if you already have a solid career as an author, a computer scientist, a professor and a well-known podcaster, maybe you’re getting all the validation that you need from that success. But if you’re not – like most people – then how would you ever have an idea of the impact you’re having without engaging with the people who are reading, watching or listening to your work?
I just think starting your YouTube journey with the mantra “don’t read the comments” is disrespecting the YouTube community. It’s saying that these peoples’ comments aren’t worth reading, that they don’t deserve to be seen and heard. I’m not into that.
Of course, I know where he’s coming from. The problem isn’t with the comments function, it’s with the balance of positive or constructive comments from polite, nice people versus vicious, nasty, driveby comments from people who just enjoy being hateful on the internet.
You know who you are!
I spent four years working as a comment moderator for The Guardian website. I have read so many thousands of horrible comments that I classed myself as fairly unshockable, but then…Facebook ad comments. They’re the worst! People who don’t know you or your work, feeling annoyed that they’re seeing you in their feed and either forgetting – or not caring – that there’s a human being at the other end of their comment.
You know who you are!
I’m not helping things though, because when I absolutely love a product or service, I’m rarely moved to track down the company on the internet and tell them so. I do it sometimes, but rarely. I suppose the assumption is that a product or service should be great, because that’s what we paid for, but this approach is what makes the nasty comments seem a lot louder.
There’s a pretty simple solution to this. Comment when you like things. Click like, when you like things. If you don’t like something, of course you can still comment if you want – but why not be polite? There is a real person at the other end of that comment, whether they’re well known or not, whether they seem bulletproof or not.
I know it does sometimes feel like people ask for likes and comments on YouTube just to impress the sneaky algorithm as part of their fame-hungry quest for social validation. But most people probably just want to know what you thought of the thing they spent hours making, because they want to feel like they’re being useful in the world. Same as you do. Same as I do.
Maybe you feel shy. Maybe you think your point of view isn’t worth much. I disagree. We all have value, and I would always love to hear from you.
I’m just a woman in a room with a camera, a love of funny B-roll and sound effects, and an urge to share, and it helps me hugely to know I’m not alone. I’m here to connect with people and have conversations, not to broadcast stuff to people I think are beneath me.
No-one is above anyone else. We’re all connected, we all have our personal challenges, but we also have the chance to encourage each other. I know I need your encouragement to keep making things, and the whole point of my videos is to encourage you.
“Don’t read the comments” is not the way forward. Instead, why don’t we all try to make the comments section a better place?
It’s easy. Use the like button as digital applause, comment when you like things more often than when you don’t like them, and be more kind.
“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” – Kurt Vonnegut
Likes and comments can be very helpful in knowing whether what you’ve made is worth something to someone else, but I think the best barometer can be found inside.
We all start somewhere! Bridgerton superstar Regé-Jean Page played a Bowie-inspired zombie clown in my first music video in 2010 BRILLIANTLY, but even he couldn’t save my YouTube channel…
Musicians can be particularly guilty of showing up to every social media platform and expecting the red carpet treatment – in this video I explain how to avoid my mistakes by asking yourself three simple questions.
How to not suck at YouTube (like I did for 14 years) TRANSCRIPT
Even Regé-Jean Page – the man people are saying could be the next James Bond! – even Regé-Jean Page, the Duke of freaking Hastings! couldn’t save my video.
This is a celebration video. I’ve reached a YouTube milestone, and I am shouting about it.
I wonder if you’ll switch this video off when I tell you the number…
It’s so easy to get obsessed by numbers, isn’t it, and easy to think that only really big numbers mean we’re doing well.
So, am I celebrating 100,000 subscribers today?
Today I’m celebrating 1490 subscribers to my channel – and I am genuinely delighted and excited about this because it proves that the changes I’ve made in my approach to YouTube in the past 18 months are working.
Let me explain.
I made music under the name She Makes War from 2004-ish to 2019, and alongside running a freelance video production business using old cameras like these, I started uploading videos to YouTube in 2007.
They’re not all public now, but I uploaded 276 videos to that channel. That’s a lot of videos.
The most subscribers my old channel ever had was 1490 – now down to 1489! – and that took 14 years. So you see why I’m celebrating earning the same number of subscribers in 18 months on the Penfriend channel.
I really do value every single person who finds me on the internet and registers their interest in what I’m doing, and I think those 1489 people are absolutely great. But after a while, I had to stop ignoring the evidence. I had to ask myself: how could I have got YouTube so very wrong?
I’ll tell you how, and I’ll tell you how I think you can avoid some of my mistakes in the form of three simple, fundamental questions you can ask yourself right here, right now, today.
Question 1: Is this helpful?
Videos that do well on YouTube are instructional, or entertaining, or both. Videos that are neither of these things aren’t worth spending your time on making, if you want people to watch them – and I include the majority of my 276 old videos in this category.
This is relevant to anyone making videos, but I think musicians can be particularly guilty of showing up to every social media platform and expecting the red carpet treatment. We’ve all grown up seeing successful artists treated like celebrities, so there’s a kind of inbuilt assumption that because we make music too, we’re automatically fascinating, and should be treated as such by hordes of people who would be so lucky to follow us online.
Even if this isn’t actually how you think – and I’ve never thought this way – it might be how you’re acting on the internet.
None of us are automatically better or more interesting than any member of our potential audience, so we need to think about what we can give through our videos, rather than what we are trying to get.
How are you helping people? How is your video helping people?
Entertainment is helpful, showing people how to do something is helpful, hopefully me telling you off for doing YouTube wrong like I did for 14 years is helpful.
Question 2: What’s the story?
Story is everything. It’s how your mind processes information, it’s how you can learn to hold someone’s attention and how you can shape your experiences into something useful and entertaining on YouTube and elsewhere.
You know how boring it is when someone can’t tell a story well. They ramble on, fixating on what day of the week it was when the thing happened – Tuesday, no, Wednesday, but at what time?! What did I have for lunch that day?
It’s tedious, and nothing really happens, or the punchline comes way too early and then you’re just waiting for the whole thing to end. It’s a mess. It makes your brain ache.
Now, that’s annoying enough when it’s a conversation with someone you care about, but if that’s the gist of the video you just pressed play on, you’re not going to sit through to the end. And someone spent hours making that.
“Look! This happened!” is not a story, and when I look at my old vlogs and music video behind the scenes films I see this mistake in almost every single one of them. It’s not clear what’s happening or why, who I am, who the people on camera are or why on earth this video has been put online with the expectation that someone else – let alone many someones – would like to watch it.
I used to look at YouTube as one part of a many-faceted puzzle. I figured that if someone followed me on Twitter and was perhaps also on my mailing list, then watching one of my videos would make sense because they already knew me a little bit, and that would put the whole thing into context.
But the problem with that approach is that instead of offering a coherent piece of work that says something in and of itself, I was asking people to do extra work to tie things together from across multiple platforms. And, looking at the numbers, that just wasn’t enticing for even my most loyal supporters, let alone people already on YouTube looking for new channels to subscribe to.
Here’s an example: I have a music video and accompanying BTS video starring a younger Regé-Jean Page, one of the hottest actors of our time, and surely one of the most Googled. His name has been fully searchable on both of those videos since they were published in early 2010. That’s nearly 12 years ago.
The music video has now had 9.7K views, which is okay but not great for a video that’s been available for so long. I have a theory about the usefulness or lack thereof of music videos for indie artists – but that’s for another video!
Back to the story: this behind the scenes video, where you get to see even more of the lovely Regé-Jean acting, getting made up to look like a Bowie-inspired zombie clown and being silly on set has had…696 views.
That’s an average of 58 views per year. I’m surprised, but I’m also not.
It’s a classic example of “look! this happened!” and I’m a musician so I assume other people will find what I’m up to interesting, even if I forget to give any context about what’s going on, who I am, who these other people are, or even what the story of the music video is.
“When did I become angry clown?” – RJP
I use this as an example because even Regé-Jean Page – the man people are saying could be the next James Bond! – even Regé-Jean Page, the Duke of freaking Hastings! couldn’t save my video. I don’t blame him, he was brilliant in my video, and has always been a thoroughly lovely chap. It’s wonderful to see him doing so well. Well done, Regé-Jean!
The lesson here is: learn about story. In its simplest structure it’s a beginning, a middle and an end. Jack and Jill go up the hill to fetch a pail of water – beginning. Jack fell down and broke his crown – middle – and Jill came tumbling after – end. You can do that. I can hopefully learn to do that. It’s built into all of us.
Question 3: Why should someone subscribe to you?
We all want people to follow us online, but where are we taking them? Why should someone want to follow you? Where are you going? What are you about? What are your values, your hopes, dreams, and aspirations? And are these obvious in the work you’re sharing online?
My personal lightbulb moment with this happened when I started listening to the Creative Pep Talk podcast a few years ago. The host, Andy J. Pizza, is so good at getting you to think deeply about your intentions, what sort of artist you are and how to communicate that, so I always highly recommend his show.
I’ve never liked the idea that making music was considered to be for special people only, I’ve never felt entitled to success or money or the adulation of a crowd for what I do, so when I realised I could turn all of that on its head and put time and effort into encouraging other people to be creative via the things that I make, that was life-changing for me.
When I set up this new channel I laid it all out from the very start. I have three content pillars: creativity, mindful productivity and digital minimalism. If I come up with an idea for a video that doesn’t fall into one of those categories, it’s fairly easy to say no to spending time on it.
It’s actually very helpful to have those parameters to help focus my energy on the message I want to keep putting out into the world again and again, and hopefully that makes for consistency in my videos, which hopefully leads to people subscribing because they like what they’ve just watched, it was useful and told a story, and they can see from the other videos on my channel that there’s a thread running through the whole thing that fits with what they’re looking for.
Why do you follow other people online? Think about that for a minute.
People follow people who add something to their lives, and we all have something to offer…so, what are you offering?
When you know what you’re about, it becomes a lot easier to figure out where to spend your energy, and importantly – where not to. And if you’re not sure what you’re about, it’s really time to figure that out!
Reading, thinking, writing, reflection, getting to know yourself more – all of these things will help. And a helpful exercise to get you closer to that is to work out what you’re not about.
I’m least interested in sports, jazz, housework and beauty hauls, for instance, and that’s a really easy list for me to make right here on the spot – so why not write your own “least interested in” list? It might help you get closer to where you want to go, and help you to successfully invite your future followers to go on that journey with you.
I hope this video helped you today. I’m still learning, always, and I’m just going to keep experimenting with these ideas and see how I get on with my next YouTube target of 2000 subscribers.
Numbers schmumbers, I love creating videos and being in touch with you on this platform, so please do say hi in the comments and let me know how you’re getting on.
I’ve got lots of videos on the way, so if you’d like to travel on this adventure with me please subscribe if you aren’t already, and click like to help get this video in front of more people who might find it useful.
And thank you for helping me smash my first YouTube goal! At the time of filming there are 1508 subscribers to this channel, so thank you so much every single one of you for being here.
What is a podcast? Where to find them and how to listen for FREE TRANSCRIPT
Podcast. Podcast. Pod-cast. Podcast. I can’t even say it.
You say podcarst, I say podcast. Except normally I don’t, I probably say “podcass”, because I drop my t’s a lot. A lo’. A lo’!
Anyway – I’m making this video to explain what podcasts are and – I can’t say it anymore! – and how you can enjoy them. Specifically, if I’m being honest, how you can enjoy *my* podcast.
OK, what is a podcast?
Apart from being a word that sounds utterly meaningless when you say it too many times in a row – podcast! – very simply a podcast is an audio broadcast.
They’re generally free to listen to, some of them have ads and some don’t, some podcasters get paid and some don’t, they’re very easy to find and enjoy and I think you might really like them.
Fun fact: the “pod” bit comes from iPod. Remember those? A little piece of history…iPod. This does nothing. This is so old that this was never a touchscreen.
And then “cast” comes from broadcast. Podcast. I didn’t even know that before I made this video, so thank you as always for giving me the opportunity and the excuse to learn something new today.
So, a podcast was originally an audio broadcast you could listen to on your iPod via iTunes, but these days you can listen to them on your phone, various places around the internet, and even here on YouTube. Do they even make iPods any more? I wish they hadn’t put a phone in them.
iPod. iPod. OK, that word sounds meaningless now too.
Podcasts come in all shapes, sizes and genres. They can be independently produced – like my one is – or made by big companies, they can be long or short, sweary or not, and in a world stuffed with shiny images I think there’s something really lovely about focusing in just on audio. Some podcasts are monologues – just one person talking – some have multiple voices, there are interview podcasts, news podcasts, drama podcasts, sport podcasts. Podcasts!
There’s a whole world to explore, and it’s so creative – the great thing about a format where anyone couldcontribute is that ideally you get people from all sorts of backgrounds talking about super niche topics and being able to connect with like-minded people through doing so.
Podcasts are kind of like radio shows, if anyone could make their own radio show, and if the radio show could be as long or as short as you wanted, and you could publish it yourself.
So, how do you listen to these magical audio broadcasts?
Good question! Allow me to demonstrate, using my podcast as an example.
Considering you’re already here on YouTube, the very easiest way to listen is to visit my channel and go to the Attention Engineer playlist. My podcast is audio-only, so you can easily have it playing in the background, and if you subscribe to my channel it’s easier for you to find new episodes as they’re published.
I listen to podcasts when I’m running, washing up, tidying up or driving somewhere, so for me it works best to access my favourite shows through a podcast app on my phone.
I recommend Pocket Casts, which is free for Android and iPhone users. You can find a show and just press play to stream it right then and there, or you can download it on your home wifi to listen to when you’re out and about later on and save data. Always remember to subscribe to your favourite shows though, because then the new episodes will show up in the app for you.
Other podcasts apps are available, of course, and if you have a different favourite from mine, please write a comment and let me know why you like yours.
I always recommend Pocket Casts because it just works, and it’s available for iPhone and Android. Having it installed on my phone means I can browse all the other shows out there as well, or easily find one that’s been recommended to me by a friend.
If you want to listen at your desk, I think Apple Podcasts is brilliant. I’ve heard bad things about the iPhone app, but the desktop version works fine for me. So if I’m here in the studio and I want to listen to a podcast through my speakers, usually while tidying up, that’s how I listen.
You can also listen to many podcasts – mine included – on Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music and even Audible, if you have a subscription.
One final way you can listen to my podcast is to visit my website penfriend.rocks and go to the podcast page. Every time I publish a new episode of Attention Engineer I make a deluxe show notes page, with embedded videos and links to the artist’s music, and there’s an audio player right there on the page that you can just click “play” on, or if you want to download the episode to listen to offline, or put on your phone, or burn to a CD, or whatever you want, that’s also possible – but if you’re new to this and are getting overwhelmed by the options then just keep it really simple. Pick whichever one is easiest for you.
Now before you go and practise your new skills, let me tell you a little bit about my show and why I chose to make a podcast in the first place.
“Attention Engineer: Artists on creativity, grit and determination” is made in an interview format, where I speak one on one with fellow musicians and artists about the creative process, mental health, touring life, the pros and cons of social media and whatever else comes up around those topics.
Making music as a solo artist is a very solitary thing, and I don’t have a big group of friends full stop, let alone a big group of friends who are musicians. So, I decided to create a framework of questions that would enable me to have the kinds of conversations I’d always hoped to have when I was supporting bands on tour, but never got to have because there’s always a lot of equipment to carry in and out of the building.
I had a hunch that the kinds of questions that I would ask as a musician would be quite different to those that would be asked by a journalist, and as someone who is always striving to make their work deeper, more meaningful, more impactful – podcasting just seemed like the right format for this project.
I started working on the podcast in November 2019 and launched it in June 2020 so, honestly, it’s been a real lifeline during a very disconnected time.
If you have any questions about my podcast or podcasting in general, please leave a comment below, because I’m making a one-off video episode of Attention Engineer to finish off the year, and I would love your help with shaping that.