I was on a major label for many years, and I only knew one way to make music: follow the template that has been in place for years, and work within the system the music industry was built upon. But after years of not having any records released, my label and I decided to part ways, which left me in an incredibly unique position. Due to numerous stipulations and overrides, I couldn't just go out and sign another major record deal. I was at a place where the standard music-industry template that the large majority of the music industry had always followed was no longer an option for me. Realizing I couldn't navigate the old system without a traditional label, I was forced to step out of my comfort zone to continue my career. I had to find a way to continue doing what I love without the luxury of a "system" to follow. It was both an exciting and scary place to be.
Over the years I had built up an amazing fan base on my label, but I was not sure how to reach them outside the conventional methods. Slowly I started to realize the power of the Internet. I began posting on social platforms and writing for blogs, and I began to see that the "brand" of Jo Dee Messina was still alive and well online. People recognized the name and found it relatable and real. And then it hit me: I didn't want to just make a record -- I wanted to make a record with the people.
Through posting songs on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social tools, I was able to get direct input from fans, and they would give me a thumbs up or thumbs down on whether or not they thought a song should be on my new album. Putting the album together was a lengthy process, and when I finally compiled enough songs to make an album, I then had to find a way to fund it. Luckily, my 19-year-old cousin Alex Preston was living at my house during this time and suggested doing a Kickstarter campaign. After researching, I was intrigued by the idea of again going directly to my fans and audience to make the record.
Over the first two weeks of the 30-day Kickstarter campaign, my audience was confused, and we weren't raising much money at all. It was new for me, and it was new for them. After a lot of back and forth explaining why and how we were doing this campaign, it finally clicked. Not only did I surpass my goal, but by raising $121,000, I ended up with the largest Kickstarter music project to come out of Nashville.
Things didn't end with the Kickstarter campaign, though: I also used the Internet to allow the public to pick the name of my album, my label logo was created by a girl on Twitter, and through a Facebook poll my fans picked the first single. There was no army of record executives or public-relations managers standing in my way of reaching the public. I simply had to go online, and the people showed up.
I now use the Internet in every aspect of my career. When I am reaching out to specific markets, we run campaigns to sell tickets. When booking shows, we use analytics from YouTube to see where people are watching our videos, and we go to them. We use social media to rally people to thank their radio stations for playing my music. We engage the public and let their voice be heard.
People who were once out of reach are now reachable. I can talk with my fans, learn from them, and create with them, and in return they share with their friends and communities what we are creating. A complete artistic existence is possible by reaching a worldwide audience through social platforms. It's been a fascinating experience. Sometimes people don't understand when I tell them my vision. I think it's because they have the luxury of functioning within the old paradigm that I and many artists like me are no longer a part of.
The Internet allows artists and fans alike to remove intermediaries, who have often hidden or obscured great music, keeping artists from reaching their potential fans. It's a blessing that I can reach out to those who support my music and let them be a part of this wonderful journey.