Good things happen to your music when you do good things! | The Grounds
7/7/22 by Jonah McLean
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Hello! I am Jonah, aka DUX, and a year and half ago I did my first Grounds episode. Now I am back to tell you what the heck has been going on.
The Grounds is back!
But it's been a minute, yeah? So yes, 18 months ago I spilled the beans. I am still very much me and things are still very much happening.
There is a lot of backstory on me and my music in that first episode, so if you haven't seen it and want to get up to speed, check it out here!
But here is a quick recap: I’ve been making funky electronic music as Dux since about 2016, and at the end of 2020, I had fallen into some bad habits of not posting, not releasing music, not really doing anything to build my music career…just kind of stagnant and making beats in my room alone.
I came on The Grounds back then to share where I was at, what I was afraid of, what my challenges were - and to share with all of you what was going on! Burnout was really affecting me and I just couldn’t seem to manage to keep releases and new projects consistent and so I kept having these long gaps of doing nothing. I really felt like striving to be perfect in everything I released was holding me back!
I knew I needed to break some of these habits and develop new systems to support the consistent creation and output of my art and so I leaned into my friends, collaborators and the Indepreneur community to get there.
So, it’s been about 18 months now. I'm so excited to be back on the Grounds, because this last year or so has honestly been some of the best and most productive time I’ve spent working on the Dux project and I’ve accomplished a lot!
I can’t wait to tell you all about it! Let’s get into it!
How did the start of 2021 go?
So here I was all set to get to work, so you might be asking, "How did the start of 2021 go?"
It was awesome!
I hit the ground running--I released four new singles in the first 6 months of the year, each with it’s own video. Deep Fake, Better Weather, Spacedust, and Strawberry. I was posting regularly, making art I dug, and even though the doubts I had were still present, I didn’t let it hold them back. I definitely had setbacks and it wasn’t perfect, but I really leaned into my systems:
- Asana - a task organizer
- Deadlines - to stay motivated and goal oriented
- Meeting with an accountability partner - to help keep me on track
I kept up releasing new music and videos, and just posting about everyday life.
I got engaged and talked about it, then I got married and talked about it. I took fun trips and shared photos. Again, just focusing less on this idea that ‘everything i post has to be this perfectly crafted piece of content.’
I also had a stroke or two of good luck! I’d like to think it was also just momentum, but a pretty prominent Twitch streamer featured one of my songs in a video and that actually brought in a ton of new fans. What was cool is that the win didn’t have to be this isolated, one-off incident; I like to think it was just a positive affirmation of sorts that: ‘hey - you’re doing good stuff, good stuff is going to happen!”
What was my plan for last year and a half?
(2021 and into 2022)
So if we start right from my last Grounds episode, I was pretty much at this point of acknowledging that things need to change in how I work or I’m never going to get anything done.
How do I avoid burnout?
How do I stop holding myself back because I want to be perfect?
To start to combat that first issue, burnout, I decided to start being more intentional and focused in my music making process. I have a pretty heavy project management background from different jobs I've had, and I wanted to really lean on that to build a system I knew I could rely on to ship new projects. I decided to start using Asana to track all of my music work and meeting with my good friend and Indepreneur teammate, Circa, once per week for demos.
We’d talk about the work we accomplished over the previous week. Challenges we ran into and wins that we had. Then, we’d plan out work for the next week. We followed an adapted version of a workflow known as Scrum! If you’re interested to learn more about that, tap into the Indepreneur community because we have resources on it and it’s a little bit long-winded to cover here.
These 3 things alone--managing my work in Asana, following a loose framework for getting stuff done, and having a friend and peer who I was accountable to. These things made huge differences for me almost immediately! It took some of my focus away from tasks and projects that didn’t matter, and allowed me to hone in on what did! Which for me was building that system for generating content consistently.
One of the things my accountability partner and I would look at was:
What are the most meaningful steps we can take this week?
What value can we deliver?
Now for the other biggest challenge I was up against, combating this need to be perfect. This was a little bit more challenging. It’s not an easy thing to just ignore my fears and doubts, but it’s simply what I had to do. Just putting one foot in front of the other.
To help myself out, I made commitments to myself to care less about how ‘perfect’ my stuff was and to follow a saying that we love around here at Indepreneur when it comes to releasing music:
Done is better than perfect.
I also forced myself to set deadlines! I have a tendency to work on songs until I am literally sick of them and I know a lot of other artists and musicians can relate. By setting deadlines I ensured that I’d have to hit ‘send’ by a certain date and just trust in the work I had done on the tune up to that point.
I think that was probably the biggest challenge for me; I've always been so scared of what people would think about me and my music, and I know it has held me back from releasing the stuff I wanted. It was even more challenging recently because I kind of started to move away from featuring singers, which I’ve done a lot in the past, and was instead putting out more instrumental stuff in my own funky, dancey, weird style of electronic music!
Late 2021 and into 2022
Towards the end of 2021, I really felt like my systems for putting stuff out consistently had developed nicely and I had built up some armor to protect me from perfectionism, doubt, etc.
I knew the next step was to start marketing my music, because at this point everything I had done on my own in the last year was just organic posting.
One of the things I talked about in that first episode, is how I’ve been around Indepreneur for years because I’m good friends with Circa (Indepreneur's founder and CEO). In the early days of the company, Circa would run all of the ads for Dux! I got to see the rewards and benefits from that, without really ever having to learn it for myself. I think it’s something I had just struggled to pick up, but now felt ready to really gain some more knowledge for myself.
So, last winter I really started to dig in on Indepreneur trainings and I started asking my teammates for help. Bit by bit, I was running new campaigns on my own and getting comfortable in ads manager. I kind of took a bunch of time over the winter and early in 2022 to build some of those skills.
So now it’s June 2022 - and where am I now ?
I’ve been running ads successfully and testing out a variety of both new and old content since about late March. Something that’s worked great for me is repurposing a lot of the old fan finders I’ve had that did well. I’ve seen those ads generate lots of love on Spotify and a huge uptick in my listenership! From running Reels ads, I’ve also seen a big jump in my Instagrams followers over the last few months.
Because I’ve been so active releasing new stuff, I’ve also had plenty of new material to send to my sync company to keep them pitching my stuff. This has led to several new placements I’ve had this year. All of which paid out pretty well!
Another thing I’m really excited about is that I have finally started to warm up my email list which hadn’t heard from me in 4+ years. And believe it or not the results have been really positive!
People who signed up for my album launch back in 2018 were thrilled to hear from me again! So, if you’re ever wondering what kind of brand loyalty comes with the work we do here in the Indepreneur community, there ya go. Cmon, 4 years? No emails??
I am also finishing a build for my Shopify store with eyes on starting to make sales in the next couple of months--which has been another goal and big milestone for me!
I’m working on new tunes and videos, and there is just so much good stuff going on!
What have I learned?
So, 18 months from the last time I did an episode of The Grounds, what have I learned?
Momentum is important. I’ve had a lot of good things happen as a result of just doing good work. I obviously can’t draw a straight line from one to the other, and I can’t guarantee those good things wouldn’t have happened were I just doing nothing, but the energy you feel when you get things moving is undeniable. I truly believe that by just doing the work, awesome things will continue to come my way!
I need to take breaks to avoid burnout and so I can come back to my work renewed. This one has been huge for me. I think that by meeting every week with Circa to plan my work, it’s allowed me to look at what’s going on in my life and adjust my workload accordingly. I can’t expect to do everything at 100% all the time, and by scaling back when I need to, I’ve been able to really stay consistent. This means that some weeks, I did no music work at all--and I made sure I was ok with it! Take a break! You deserve it!
Another thing I’m still learning (and kind of a common thread for me) is nothing will ever be perfect! I always want to ship the best stuff I can, but that becomes a problem when it’s something I’m always chasing. And the cost is, nothing gets shipped. I’ve slowly grown more comfortable with that feeling and while I don’t know if it will ever go away, it’s at least at a manageable level now. I’ve built up that scar tissue that comes from repetition and I imagine it will continue to get easier!
What happens next?
What challenges am I facing now?
So guys it’s a happy story up till here. I’ve accomplished a lot in the last 18 months, but what’s next for me and the Dux project?
I’m continuing to stick to my systems. Life seasons are changing for me, just a lot going on in general, but I'm trying to stay focused on the things that got me here!
I also want to keep finding new ways to adapt and grow my systems so they continue to get better over time.
And I think just being patient.
Trusting the process.
Trusting that slow incremental progress.
And finally, I’d say a big goal for me now is to use the systems I’ve built and the strategies I’ve learned to finish a new record and do an album launch in the next year or so! I’ve had a new Dux album on my mind for a while and I finally feel like I’m at a great spot to make it happen.
Guys, I hope you’ve enjoyed catching up on all things Dux! I’m really excited where things are heading and I can’t wait to do another Grounds episode to share more news.
I hope you’re there to check it out and if you do, I’ll see you next time right here on The Grounds…
About the author:
As one of Indepreneur's first case studies and Testing Grounds artists, Jonah has experienced the power of Indepreneur strategies first-hand for several years. As a key member of our team, Jonah brings a facilitator's skill set to every project, team member, and long-term initiative at Indepreneur.
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