My 2019 challenge: ambitious—and hopefully inspiring

written by Mark Grundhoefer, Metro Music Makers instructor

Last December, I was looking for creative ways to market my original music. I needed an angle to get my fans interested and engaged.  I came up with a plan to release new music every month for a whole year. We are five months into 2019 as I write this, and by the end of May, I’ll have released three EPs and two singles with seven months’ worth of new releases on the horizon. My hope is that this challenge, while ambitious, might influence or inspire YOU to write, record and possibly release some of your own music! 

Writing With a Deadline

Since going solo in 2014, I had released two albums, and a few EPs and singles to the major streaming and download services (Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Deezer, GooglePlay, YouTube and Amazon Music). All of that music was written, or at least partially conceived, while playing in different bands and projects over the years. When January of 2019 began, I had literally zero new songs written. This was the most exciting and nerve-wracking part of the challenge. It would force me to buckle down and write. I spent the first week working on a tune with a friend of mine in Norway. We sent music files back and forth with ideas and eventually wrote a song together, recorded our parts separately, mixed/mastered it, and released it immediately. Then the music began to flow. Songs were much easier to write once the floodgate of inspiration was opened. 

Perfection vs. Emotion

My first solo album took two years to write and record. Mostly because I wanted perfection. I would agonize over a solo, or tweak the mix of a song for months. Now, with a release goal in mind, my music is out there whether it’s perfect or not. Spoiler alert: it’s not perfect. My most popular song of 2019 is a simple slide guitar ballad called “Washed Away.” There is fret noise, wrong notes, hastily mic’d instruments, and it was only mixed for an afternoon. And yet it’s struck a chord with listeners and was even used as the intro/outro music for a podcast. The moral of the story is, most listeners want to hear raw emotion. They don’t care if the song is played on a 1959 Les Paul or a 2019 Fender Squier. If it is real and genuine, the listener will be moved. 

Home Sweet Home

Since the 90s, I’ve been in dozens of bands and played thousands of shows all over the country. Now, I only play live about once a month. Between wanting to spend time with my family, and having a full teaching schedule, the desire to play in a band full-time is gone (for now). My musical outlet is the time I spend writing music. Whether it’s sitting on the back porch playing acoustic guitar, cranking up the amp in my music room, or working on new tracks in the studio, I can scratch that musical itch without leaving the house five very late nights a week. 

You might be jonesing to perform but are too young to play in different concert venues. Writing music at home and recording it can be so rewarding. Not to mention, as you get older, you’ll have already written some great songs your band can use to perform. 

Collaboration in the Cloud . . . or at Home

Since file sharing over the Internet is really easy to do. I’ve managed to collaborate on three of my five releases so far this year with people all over the world. In addition to the release with my friend in Norway, I’ve also released two other songs this year with musicians in Florida and Missouri. You might have a classmate or friend who can come over to your house and work on songs. I could not complete this challenge on my own, and sometimes it’s best to write with a friend. 

I hope this inspires you. Recording and releasing music today is super simple. You have a gift, and the world would love to hear it!

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