Marketing Your Art the Right Way

Selling Art, Not Selling Out

Charlotte Eriksson (The Glass Child) on Facing Obstacles, Knowing Yourself and Your Fans, and The Importance of Your Why – Cracking Creativity Episode 66

Charlotte Eriksson grew up in a house where athletics were emphasized. The arts weren’t celebrated and you weren’t supposed to express your feelings. Her family didn’t grow up listening to music, so she didn’t really discover it until she was 16 years old. That’s when a friend introduced her music that touched her life.

From that moment on, she knew she wanted to be a musician. She knew she wanted to spend her life creating that same magical feeling for other people. And at the age of 18 Charlotte moved to London to pursue her dream. Since that moment, she has released several albums, toured all over Europe, and has published three books.

In this episode, Charlotte talks about facing obstacles, knowing yourself and your fans, and the importance of knowing your why.

Here are three things you can learn from Charlotte:

Everyone Faces Obstacles

Many of us have this false assumption about people who are successful. We think they don’t encounter obstacles just because they’re successful. But that’s far from the truth. The reality is everyone faces obstacles and challenges along the way, no matter how successful they are.

That’s why Charlotte recommends finding heroes who face obstacles and overcomes them. “A hero is not someone who sets out to achieve his dreams and achieves them with no obstacles. A hero is someone who has a dream and everything is working against him. He is running up hill, and it’s tough and hard, and no one might believe in him but he makes it to the top anyways. And I’m saying that the hero stands on the top and people only see the glory of him standing up and praise him, but they don’t see he had tears in his eyes and he’s out of breath and clearly worn out, but he made it.”

Charlotte believes these obstacles make us stronger. “It’s not about achieving everything you want without any obstacles. It’s about having so many obstacles, but pushing through them and learning something in a way that matters.”

Know Yourself and Your Fans

A lot of artists and creatives try to build their businesses by selling their work to everyone. They believe the more people they appeal to, the easier it will be to sell their work. But that is the exact opposite of what you want to do.

If you want to build a successful business as an artist, you need to know exactly who you are appealing to. Charlotte believes that begins by knowing who you are as an artist first. Once you know that your audience will become apparent. “Just knowing what you’re actually about. Knowing your story, knowing what you’re about, knowing your statements, what you want people think about when they hear your name. If you know these things, it will be quite clear who these people are too.”

But your work doesn’t end there. In order to build and maintain a passionate fanbase, you must build deep connections with your audience. “That’s also one thing why I like having really deep connections with fans, because if there are these wide but shallow audiences, they will rarely go and tell their friends that they have found the next amazing thing… but if you build something really really deep, that person will feel such a personal connection and they will go out and tell the rest of their friends too.”

This is exactly how Charlotte built her audience. She started with a small and passionate fanbase and grew from there. “I think that’s… the best way to start, is to just build something small but really passionate and then let it grow from there.”

Know Your Why

Similar to knowing yourself is knowing your why. Knowing your why might be the most important thing you learn in your journey towards building a thriving and successful business. It is the reason you do what you do. Without your why, you lose direction, you lose focus, you stop working on the right things.

Charlotte believes it is absolutely crucial to know your why. They are the reason she does what she does. “For me, everything I’m doing is always about my why, just creating these moments for people, creating belonging, creating community of inspirations. And personally, everything I do I base on the decision of how I want to spend my day to day life. And so everything I do has to match with my values and… I think it all just goes back to knowing why you are doing what you are doing and knowing how you want to spend your life.”

She credits knowing her why for keeping her on track. Without her why, she wouldn’t be where she is today. “I would never have been able to get to where I am if I didn’t know why I did what I did. Embarking on a mission, no matter what you are doing, creating your own business, it’s tough, and it’s hard, and it’s a lot of work, and you will have to go places you didn’t want to go, and you will not have time to be with people you might want to be with, and there’s a lot of sacrifice. So if you don’t have such a deep why, you know exactly why you want this, I don’t think you’re going to work as hard as you need to work to be able to make it.”

Shownotes

  • about Charlotte
    • moved from Sweden to London at 18 years old to pursue her dream
    • spends every second of every day building the life she wants to lead
    • released several albums, toured all over Europe, has published three books
  • her childhood
    • discovered music late, didn’t grow up in musical family
    • discovered music at 16, and didn’t really listen to it before then
    • got a guitar, learned some chords and wrote her first songs
    • built her fan base from scratch

5:07 “I discovered it (music) from a friend and it just really hit me. There were a few certain songs that I heard that got me really deeply and since then I knew, I just knew that I wanted to spend my life creating that feeling for other people.”

5:29 “Soon after that I really made the decision that this is what I was going to do so I threw myself into it. I learned everything I could learn about song writing, production, the music business, how to start a company, and how to do everything. And then I moved to London and just… started to learn everything I could about the industry and everything that comes around actually just playing music.”

5:56 “I guess I realized really fast that I was a person who was very driven and I knew exactly what I wanted to create with my music. So it didn’t suit me to spend a lot of time chasing the industry or someone else to try to convince them to like me. Instead I realized that I can actually start finding my fans by myself and start doing my own thing without anyone’s permission or a label or anything like that. So that’s what I did.”

  • Songs that inspired her:
    • Round Here by Counting Crows
      • simplicity of four chords but also deep
    • Walk Away by Ben Harper
      • taken aback by the feelings of the melodies
      • came from a family of athletes where you weren’t supposed to have many feelings
    • Copeland
    • she goes back to certain bands as her roots

7:28 “I grew up in a kind of athlete culture where you’re just supposed to make a decision and just go for it, and not have too many feelings. And suddenly I discovered these songs where people were so open about how they felt and they used these feelings to create something of impact and that just really talked to me.”

  • learning music
    • feels a natural talent for some parts of music
    • writing lyrics came easily because she wrote a lot in journals
    • was not a natural singer but she practiced a lot
    • learned piano and guitar after
    • learned enough to make her vision come alive
    • self-taught, went through a lot to learn vocals
    • music production school introduced her to the medium
    • if she could do it again, she would get an instructor, but it made her independent
    • had friends that inspired her

1:30 “I think the worst thing I know is when I feel like I am dependent on someone else to create what I want to create.”

  • writing her songs
    • now she writes songs in a different way every time
    • in the beginning, she only knew four chords
      • wrote 50 songs using those chords
      • had a lot of writing that she turned into songs
  • first song
    • got her artist name from her first song – The Glass Child
    • wanted to protect herself from people but also be in the middle
    • after she wrote it, she felt really proud of it
    • was inspired to write more songs
    • it’s important to get started
    • the people you look up to were beginners once too

5:15 “I think that’s the coolest thing, when you learn something for the first time and you get this kind of high from just being proud of yourself and seeing opportunities, and you just want to learn more.”

5:54 “I think it’s so important to just dare to try new things, because, everyone’s a beginner at some point and if you never dare to be a beginner, you will never learn new skills.”

  • choosing London as her destination
    • wanted a place where she could play music and be part of the industry
    • London was the capital of music in Europe
    • was from a small town in Sweden where there weren’t as many opportunities
    • she was nervous for her first performance at a tiny pub
      • pushed through it and got used to it after a few times
  • crowdfunding campaign for her album
    • nervous because she has to share her songs with people

8:41 “It’s the scariest thing because obviously whatever you’re creating, whether it’s music or books. or a play, or whatever, it’s something that you have created with your own thoughts and your own mind, and that’s the most precious thing you have. It’s super scary to show new stuff, but there’s nothing better than songs or new books or writings and then actually realizing that people really like it, and it will have meant something to someone, and so, it’s really worth it in the end.”

  • how she got over being nervous
    • almost wanted to throw up the first time she played live
    • you have to act like you are confident before you can be confident
    • publishing her first book
      • become like a person who would have published a book
      • talked about her year traveling around England playing music
    • a moment that stands out to her from her first year
      • first part set tone for the rest of the book
      • definition of a hero

12:56 “A hero is not someone who sets out to achieve his dreams and achieves them with no obstacles. A hero is someone who has a dream and everything is working against him. He is running up hill, and it’s tough and hard, and no one might believe in him but he makes it to the top anyways. And I’m saying that the hero stands on the top and people only see the glory of him standing up and praise him, but they don’t see he had tears in his eyes and he’s out of breath and clearly worn out, but he made it.”

13:40 “It’s not about achieving everything you want without any obstacles. It’s about having so many obstacles, but pushing through them and learning something in a way that matters.”

  • greatest obstacle she faced
    • had to learn how to deal with rejection
    • wanted to give up when people told her she couldn’t make it, but pushed on anyways

14:11 “No matter how good you are at what you’re doing, if you’re the most talented person on Earth or there are millions of people that like you, there will always be people who don’t like you and who don’t get what you’re doing, and who just don’t understand you. And you just gotta learn how to take those rejections and those no’s and be able to say ‘Okay, they didn’t get it but I will stop talking to them. So I need to find my people, the people who do get me and just push on.'”

15:04 “I think that the most important thing you can learn, to take rejections and just keep going anyways.”

  • giving up
    • always knew she wouldn’t give up, but there were times she wanted to
    • times where she had no where to live
    • had a deep connection/mission
  • advice for people in the middle of their creative journeys

0:28 “I always used to tell myself, when you forget about the how, go back to the why. So every time you doubt… sit down and stop thinking about what you’re trying to achieve, like the actual goal you are trying to achieve, and instead remember why are you doing this in the first place. Because everyone starts out their business adventure or their creative careers from the point of just being passionate about something. So I’d say, just sit down and remember why you’re doing this and when you know the why, try to keep that with you in everything you’re doing because I know that it’s so easy, when you turn your passion into your career, it’s really hard to remember the passion in all this business stuff that goes around it. But, if you have that why with you everywhere, you will always feel motivated.”

  • Charlotte’s Why
    • goes back to the moment she discovered music
    • felt emotions from a stranger’s song
    • she wants to create those moments for other people
  • moment she knew she was going to continue creating
    • you can doubt but still go on

2:30 “I think everyone doubts what they’re doing from time to time, no matter how much you love what you’re doing. So obviously I love what I’m doing but there are rough days and there are hurdles, and there are moments when I wonder why I’m doing this. Obviously everyone gets tired and sometimes I get so tired that I lie on my floor and just think ‘Oh I just want to go home and feel safe, but again I think it’s just something about when you find something that you just believe in so much, and… it gives you so much hope, you love it so much then there is no alternative… and you just have this weird strong feeling that this is what I am going to do no matter how hard it gets, this is what I’m doing now… there is no alternative.”

  • building up her fan base
    • went directly to her fan base
    • knew exactly who would like her journey/story/music and knew where to find them because they were like her

4:03 “I think the best thing I did when I started out, what that I knew exactly who would like my story and my journey and my music… and I was quite sure where to find these people because I was fortunate enough to know these people are like me.  So I just thought, where do I find new music? Where do I find people to look up to and where do I find my inspiration? And I just went straight to these platforms and tried to build a following there and make real connections and interact with people. And it grew really slowly, but it’s like you said, really organically.”

4:56 “I think that’s… the best way to start, is to just build something small but really passionate and then let it grow from there.”

  • types of people in her fan base
    • it has grown a lot because she does so many things
    • when she started, it was younger people like her
    • publishing her books grew a literary audience
    • there are fans of books and music
    • no longer a specific persona
  • how she knows who likes her art
    • you have to be able to see yourself from a perspective
    • people will hate what you do no matter how good/bad you are
    • people have different cultures/interests
    • her audience is filled with creatives
    • struggle to find home
    • sometimes it’s better to have fewer dedicated fans than more less dedicated fans
    • Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans
      • if you find them, they will help spread your work

8:03 “Just knowing what you’re actually about. Knowing your story, knowing what you’re about, knowing your statements, what you want people think about when they hear your name. If you know these things, it will be quite clear who these people are too.”

10:16 “That’s also one thing why I like having really deep connections with fans, because if there are these wide but shallow audiences, they will rarely go and tell their friends that they have found the next amazing thing… but if you build something really really deep, that person will feel such a personal connection and they will go out and tell the rest of their friends too.”

  • other two books
    • Another Vagabond Lost in Love
      • wrote during year she lived in Berlin
      • travel essays and living in a new city
      • album journals – essays on creativity and thoughts she dealt with while recording her second album
    • You’re Doing Just Fine
      • collection of poetry/prose dealing with hope and recovery
  • capturing her ideas
    • keeps notebook with her at all times
    • small recordings on her phone
    • don’t go through life thinking you’ll remember something, you won’t
  • when she realized she could make money from her music
    • recalling creating her EP
    • playing live shows and people coming up to her wanting to buy CDs and give her tips
    • realized people valued what she did enough to give her money
    • these moments gave her hope
    • value from creating your art
    • releases her music because she believes it has value for people
    • Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk on Asking
      • giving credibility to independent artists
      • being an influence in pursuing her dream
    • reciprocating value and giving back
    • the business around art – she only makes money when people pay for her work, so people support her

14:43 “I remember sitting there super happy because i created something that didn’t exist before and someone was willing to pay for it, and I just thought that was the coolest thing in the world.”

16:08 “When you ask someone to take the time to listen to it, or look at your photograph, or your painting, or whatever it is, you’re asking someone to actually spend a little bit of their lives on something that you have done. Which means that, if they’re going to do that, you have to kinda be sure that you’re not wasting their time.”

16:49 “I think it’s really important to remember that if you’re going to ask a favor of someone else, you have to have some kind of value to give them.”

17:30 “Now it feels like being an independent artist is the most respectable thing you can be because that means you are willing paving your own way.”

18:05 “I spent a lot of years giving away my music away free to people. I always put it up for free. Even my books from time to time… I believe that the most important thing is to just give people something, and if they find value in it, they will come back and give something back to you. So I learned that if I give away my albums for free, if someone finds so much value in it… they usually come back and buy a t-shirt or they decide to pay for the album anyway, or something like that/ So, I believe in giving away things for free. I believe that the people who do find value, they have the good heart to come and pay you back for it.”

  • balancing time between all the things she does
    • her work goes in seasons
    • usually works on one project at a time
    • 6-8 month cycle for albums
    • so drained from song writing that she turns to reading/writing
    • when she feels rejuvenated, she moves on to the next project
    • feels she would burn out if she tried to work on albums back to back
    • having seasons keeps her inspired
  • her third book
    • first two books were about her story/journey as artist/song writer
    • not about her personally
    • has universal themes for a younger audience
  • artist coaching
    • helps younger people start out what they’re doing

6:03 “When I started out, when I first moved to London, I started to kinda figure out how to do this, I had no idea. And if I had had someone who could guide me in the right direction or that I could have asked questions that would have helped me so much. So I’m just basically trying to be that kind of mentor I wish I had when I started out.”

  • importance of having a mentor
    • you don’t need to have someone you can meet every week

6:57 “I never had a physical person that i met with and discussed my career with, but I had a lot of role models that I looked up to and I studied how they got to where they are and how they built their careers and as long as you kinda know where you want to end up, you can always figure out the way. So I think the important thing is to just know where you want to go.”

  • figuring out the path towards where you want to go
    • goes back to knowing why you are doing what you are doing and knowing what kind of life you want to build
    • it has to come from within

7:57 “For me, everything I’m doing is always about my why, just creating these moments for people, creating belonging, creating community of inspirations. And personally, everything I do I base on the decision of how I want to spend my day to day life. And so everything I do has to match with my values and… I think it all just goes back to knowing why you are doing what you are doing and knowing how you want to spend your life.”

8:52 “I would never have been able to get to where I am if I didn’t know why I did what I did. Embarking on a mission, no matter what you are doing, creating your own business, it’s tough, and it’s hard, and it’s a lot of work, and you will have to go places you didn’t want to go, and you will not have time to be with people you might want to be with, and there’s a lot of sacrifice. So if you don’t have such a deep why, you know exactly why you want this, I don’t think you’re going to work as hard as you need to work to be able to make it.”

  • promoting her upcoming album
    • crowdfunding campaign – Looking Back with the Glass Child
      • everyone who contributes gets a pass to 20 live sessions and other content
      • get people excited and give them as much as she can
    • also does standard PR campaigns and touring
    • likes what a few authors and filmmakers do to promote their work
    • finding things around their project to get people excited

1:49 “I think the biggest mistake people do, both when it comes to authors, and definitely musicians, is that they go and try to get press, and then they sit and just talk about their own album for an hour. And I think that it’s so important to see the bigger picture. Your art should just be the final product… I really like when people have a bigger theme around what they do so they can talk about something else than just the actual product.”

  • things she wants to do in the future
    • has dreams of creating her own coffee brand and have a coffee shop in her favorite city
    • tries to find a cozy coffee shop when she travels to new cities
    • got gift of different coffees from a fan
  • advice she has for people starting out on their creative journeys
    • believes she released her music too early in the beginning
      • didn’t know yet what she wanted people to know her as
      • had to tweak and develop herself along the way
    • evolving as an artist

5:38 “I would say that, before you show your art to the world, make sure you know who you want to represent yourself as. I think there’s something to be said about just going for it and learning along the way, but I also think it’s so important that before you try to publish your book or give out your single or have an art show, or whatever, make sure that you know that that is who you want to be, and that your art is representing you like that.”

7:07 “Don’t ever be afraid to change and develop and tweak yourself along the way because if you want to build a long lasting career that will hopefully last your whole life, you have to learn, and grow, and change.”

7:29 :When it comes to being a public person like you’re trying to, especially as artists, it’s really hard to stand on the stage and be comfortable if you feel like ‘I’m not sure if I want people to see me like this.’ And it’s the same with the music. Your music will be there forever. So make sure that that is something to be proud of.”

  • social media platforms she uses
    • Tumblr – very specific crowd
      • the kind of audience she is trying to reach
    • Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Goodreads
    • publishes the same types of posts on each of the platforms
    • very active on Twitter
  • favorite quote
    • changes every day
    • “What a wonderful life I have had. I only wish I had realized it sooner.” – Collette

10:07 “You never see how beautiful a moment is when you are in it… I like back at my journey and I realize that, wow, I had an incredible adventure, but while I was there, I never appreciated it because I was always scared or worried or nervous. So I’m just trying to appreciate the moment more now.”

  • morning routine
    • depends on the season she’s in
    • always gets up early and meditates/runs
    • makes coffee and then gets to work
  • books, podcasts, documentaries
  • creative people
    • surrounds herself with like minded creative people
    • guitar player she’s been playing with since London
    • Miranda July – has done all sorts of things
      • doesn’t label herself
  • definition of creativity

16:20 “My definition of creativity is just creating something that wasn’t there before. So that can be building a business or creating a workout plan… anything that is just about creating something that wasn’t there before.”

  • being more creative

16:50 “I think just dare to have a little bit of imagination because sometimes I think I do that myself when I get caught up in these dry business stuff. It takes a lot to sit down and say ‘Oh let’s just forget about the world and create something.’ It can feel a bit unserious sometimes. When it comes to it, you’re creating something from nothing. That’s the most amazing thing you can do. So I’d say, to be more creative, dare to make mistakes. Dare to do things that might never be used. Just build something for the sake of building it. Then trash it.”

  • challenge
    • try to see yourself from a bigger perspective
    • take a step back and see what you’re doing from above
    • be more at easy and more passionate about what you’re doing

The Glass Child

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