Cheers, friends! Raise your collective glasses and join me in a toast celebrating the official release of Ian Ridenhour’s new CD, “Quietly Making Noise.” For those of you who are new to the blog, Ian is my 14-year old son, who has been a career musician since the ripe old age of two. “Quietly Making Noise” is his first album, it’s full-length, and it’s totally his vision. He worked as writer, performer, producer, and fundraiser to make this thing come to life. It can be considered a rock/pop album, though you’ll hear many genre influences; there’s even a 9-piece vocal jazz number. Creating this work is a huge accomplishment, and we couldn’t be more proud or excited.
Like all things in life that we care about, Ian pursued this project and we supported it simply because he loves it. And that is enough. But since this is a blog about education and building our lives through creative learning, I will talk about the process and product in those terms. Because for me – for us – it’s all of a piece. Education and learning is life, it is what we love. It reflects us as it informs us. So it’s really not much of a stretch.
How Do You Prepare? A Lesson in Music
The long, slow work of getting ready to make the CD took an entire year. Ian began writing songs for the album during the spring of 2013, recorded his first single that summer, and filmed a music video for it in December of the same year. During that time, he also recorded his second single, and wrote and wrote and wrote more songs. Sad and happy songs, full-out loud and in your face rock tunes, soft, sweet ballads. He performed the pieces as he created them, testing out various instrumentations as he sometimes played them solo on a keyboard, and sometimes rocked them out with bass, guitar, and drums. He was a chef in his kitchen, and the music was his evolving stew.
How Do You Promote? A Lesson in Social Media
If you want to make it as an artist in today’s world, you have to become adept at social media, even as you refine your musical skills. This process is a little trickier for Ian, as he works in so many genres, and with so many groups. One weekend he’s the hired-hand drummer for a local country-pop band called Tigirlily. Another, he’s performing with his high school jazz choir. That performance might follow the Friday night pep band gig at the school’s football game, and then on a Sunday afternoon, he’s downstairs practicing his marimba. He also loves theater, so he performs on that stage as well. Classical, country, pop, rock, jazz, latin, drums, keys, marimba, vocals, acting… how do you promote all of that in today’s media world that wants above all for you to have a one- to two-word genre tagline?
This challenge is an oft-discussed topic in our household, and last year, we decided to help him launch a series of YouTube videos we called “Studio Sessions,” where he could share a variety of music from his basement studio. We also cleaned up his various platform names (his Twitter “drummerboy_17” became “IanRidenhour,” etc.), and tried our hand at a virtual concert using Concert Window, where he performed using his computer to connect to audience members all over the country.
We studied other young entrepreneurs and how they used social media; Tigirlily in particular does this very well, as does his fashion designer friend Isabella Taylor, and we took (and still take) careful notes, learning from their strategies. Most days after dinner, either husband-Jamie or myself will sit down with Ian and discuss his various social media tasks. Have you responded to John’s comment about your video on YouTube? Did you see that Brynn shared your link on Twitter? Did you see my Facebook thread where Mary said she liked your song? Did you create an event for your upcoming concert? The Land of Social Media is a huge world, and we’re still learning it. Of course Jamie and I help out a lot too, but we feel that learning to manage social media is an essential piece to becoming a successful entrepreneur, and let’s face it: a successful musician is a successful entrepreneur.
How Do You Afford? A Lesson in Entrepreneurship
As Americans living in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home with a reasonable mortgage and a retirement plan, we are better off than the vast majority of the world. I do not take that for granted for even a minute. But though we are well fed and well cared for, paying for an album with all of the required studio time, post-production expertise, musician fees, registration fees, and the actual purchase of CDs and related merchandise was out of our price range. This limitation actually has its own educational benefits, however, as we expect that most people at some point in their lives have to be creative with their finances in order to accomplish their goals.
As a family, we became aware of Kickstarter, an online fundraising website, sometime in the last year or two. We explored various campaigns – both successes and failures – that supported arts and inventions, books and new businesses. We began making plans with Ian to launch a campaign of his own.
Creating a fundraising campaign is a huge lesson in and of itself. We had to know how much we were asking for, so we gathered information about costs and set up a budget. Ian was swamped with school, so we helped him out with this process. But he was involved. We then created a list of incentive gifts to give back to funders at various sponsorship levels. These gifts included things like completed CDs, posters, t-shirts, and even a private concert for the highest level sponsor.
Up next: the appeal. Ian had to shoot a video of himself presenting his project and requesting support. He also had to provide a written appeal and create all the copy for the leveled incentives. What followed in the 30 days of the campaign was close monitoring of the Kickstarter website, social media outreach, and a extensive interviews to local radio, newspapers, and television in which he discussed his plans for the album and shared the previously recorded singles to offer a taste of what was to come. The campaign was successful, we whooped and hollared and celebrated, and then we launched the next stage.
By the way – are you seeing all the education packed into this project? Music theory, business management, composition, budgeting and math, public speaking, project development and management…. And we haven’t even started the album itself!
How Do You Make the Album? A Lesson in Recording, Project Management, and Promotion
Funds in hand and band at the ready, Ian immediately jumped into rehearsals and then the studio. He selected his musicians, and directed every guitar lick, trumpet line, and gong strike. It took several weeks, three studios (including our basement) and two different states to get it all done. There was lots of Starbucks involved, especially as we took the red-eye shifts at the studio for their cheaper rates. And after all the tracks were laid down, the boys went back into the studio for the tedious but essential process of mixing.
Ok. So one would think that’s finally it, right? All that preparation and work…. But no. Once the CD was sent off for mastering, the pace picked up even more, as I jumped in to design his CD liner notes and t-shirts, Ian reworked his website and created digital ads, and Jamie started plans for making another music video (which you can watch below) to promote one of the singles on the album. While we waited for the CDs to arrive, we released a new press release announcing the album, coordinated the Kickstarter incentive mailings, and worked on finalizing the details for Ian’s big release concert. That show required its own rehearsals and publicity.
An album is never just an album. It’s a huge project, involving many players and a committed support team. There is so much hard work, but so much goodness. Ian learned tons of resume-worthy lessons through this process, but more importantly, he is following his dream, expressing his creativity, and growing as a musician. Now that’s a project-based learning plan I can really get behind.
Want more? Click here to listen to samples of the music, and to buy if if you like it!
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