I know typically when you see me discussing another Artist it pertains to a new release, or just general interviewing. However, today I have the special opportunity to bend the ear of someone I greatly admire and respect for a wholly different reason. We’re here today to reinforce the importance of sticktoitiveness, but more importantly the indispensable resource that is the support of your collective peers.
Even a solo act needs some love from the community every so often. Fans are one thing and marvelous, but accolades from those doing the same as you are, in my book, the fastest and easiest way to bolster one’s confidence into making that oh so needed final push to wrapping everything up.
Tobias AKA OneOne3Eight, hails from Germany and his wry sense of humor does not leave you questioning that for a moment. He happens to be who I have so mysteriously alluded to above. The good part is that 1138’s been around the block. A lack of your approval is not going to break his heart, or cause a stylistic shift that could make Prince blush. Thick skins are required in this corner of artistry, so based on length of playing it means the proper thickness has been achieved. You can be open and honest with him and there’s no fear of hurting his feelings.
He’s actually extraordinarily humble, meaning you never quite 100% know what exactly he is working on and, personally I think he enjoys creating this sense of mystery. I didn’t even necessarily notice that Tobias was having a rough go wrapping some tracks. Below, I’ll ask him about this period of time where I was somehow blissfully ignorant, and the awesomeness which succeeded.
Thanks so much for fielding some questions today, Tobias. I know you’re always doing six things at once, so you taking the time means a lot! That said, I’m not going to BS and waste any of this time. Let’s do it to it!
Would you call the trouble you experienced in wrapping the aforementioned tracks ‘writer’s block’? Was it something else affecting your ability to place a lid on things?
I strongly agree, most definitely. it was a “writer’s block,” for several reasons. When you make music for so long and you are constantly trying to improve yourself. You are usually getting to the point of constant improvement that you simply want a little success and some acknowledgment.
I had no idea about marketing and kept on providing my music through the common free online sources to build a fanbase and more or less hoping to be “found”. It spread enough attention to gain some stage gigs (for one free drink per gig and 60 minutes of solid live performance) and independent label contracts, but in the end the result was not what I was looking for. I reached the point after 20 years of feeling “stuck”. I started to ask myself, “Did I really have to invest all the hard earned money for equipment, half of my life to learn how to make the music I want to make, all to end up with 7 streams throughout 2 years? I quickly learned that independent labels follow a certain pattern and don’t go beyond that point.
What was it that you uncovered was the wrench in ye olde gears, what was holding it up?
I think, the lack of understanding and researching how to market myself!
I was too focused working on new stuff, when old projects weren’t even finished. The pressure was near too much to bear; to be present at any time and provide something entertaining and of worth. The confusion to think, “I might not be good enough and need to improve looking at those statistics,” to a point where I felt lost. It really felt like screaming under water. It seemed like I wouldn’t fit in anywhere.
Of course you yourself are, in the end, the only one to thank for this music’s completion but at what point did you realize peer support was what drove you over the hump to a place where you found you were all of a sudden done?
Basically, I went from creating and arranging tracks to “jamming” and kept on posting little videos from what I liked. I thought this would be my destiny, just posting 1 minute jams and feeling a little happy for every like I get. Then, Shelfblack came out of nowhere, sent me a private message saying to keep going. I have to say he did that for almost every jam I posted! He introduced me to the idea of the Electronic Curiosity Collective. He opened a door already filled with like minded people from all over the world! I was welcomed! Instant friendships!!!
Since that day, the pressure was taken off my chest and I feel as though nothing is impossible anymore. The “ECC” went from sharing our jams to becoming an independent label!!! I can’t count how much I learned about new music making methods, strategies for marketing-, analyzing-, advertising etc.
The meaning of making music was back!
So, I’m just going off what we quickly discussed in our Discord chat, so pardon any inaccuracies here but you stated you were at seven listens before this track's release?
Exactly! As already mentioned, I had tracks distributed through indie labels before, they slapped some tracks on all known online media, handed them to some unknown playlists and considered their work done. The result was a total of maybe seven streams over the course of two! years. I believe the seven streams already happened right after the release.
The entire situation of being motivated to arrange full tracks again and have it in me to distribute them (with the help and morale boosting of the ECC family), made me push myself further and invest a lot of time in marketing myself. To boot, I was able to do so with more success than I have ever encountered! It went from 7 streams to currently 2K within 4 days!!!! (Spotify Stats).
How long did you sit at this status before the release of the new track?
Over 2 years
So overnight you went from 7 listen for 2 years to how many streams? I also believe you mentioned over fifty followers were gained in this short timeframe? That’s definitely nothing to sneeze at!
Roundabout 2K on Spotify!!! In less than a week, I currently see about 300-400 listeners per day!
I have to correct the numbers, when we first talked about the follower numbers it was about 50 within 1 day and the past 24hrs. However, it ended up being over 100 additional. So, since the release and some leg work, I doubled my follower numbers as well.
Did you do anything special while announcing this track’s impending arrival that you think could have led to such an increase in attention to your material?
Certainly, there was more effort here than times previous - and there is still a load of hard work with a long way to go, but every positive result keeps me going. I made this track and I’m proud of it and I want people to listen to it. I am the annoying fly that is around everybody asking for the simplest thing that needs to be done - “click this link, it is free and doesn’t hurt.” Or, I was knocking at a few “playlist” doors and if they didn’t answer, I still slid the link under their door, noticing later that some even listened to it AND published it! I keep an eye on stats to know who the people are that are listening to my music, to see what group of people to keep on engaging, especially for genre, age and interests.
No matter if this is just a burst of fire and maybe won’t sustain forever, I made something possible that I never thought of being able to. All this wouldn’t be possible without the support of the ECC and my followers.
Was the song playlisted or promoted in any manner to attribute some of these numbers to, or you pulled, in a completely grassroots manner no less than TWO THOUSAND people that quickly?
Besides the huge support from the ECC family, the biggest investment outside I did for it, was about $30 for facebook ads. I just wanted to set a base I could keep building on and I think it was an important push to have something sustainable. I also use the stats generated from the ad to see what type of people were engaging and interacting.
I’m also looking out for indie musicians that are just starting to build their roots in the online world - to engage and motivate them, to spread the same love the ECC does! I lend a hand without expectations of anything in return, but I see greener artists start kicking the ball around for me as well. Taking the time to listen to people, to analyze their thoughts, ideas and give them feedback to a point until they understand WILL help to get the same back.
What do you attribute the sudden popularity to?
Asking questions, carefully listening, educating myself from other sources, asking more questions, opening new doors and being ready to assume more risk...THEN asking even more questions and keep on carefully listening. Taking critiques seriously and not as offense. Instead I learned to work with them!
Also, I can now always refer back to, “What’s the worst that can happen? Only 7 listeners in over 2 years?!”
Do you believe the ‘Algorithm Gods’ blessed you in some manner and you caught a hot time for your niche, or was peer support so crucial that in the end it made your song so badass, it was frankly unstoppable?
It was both! I think no matter of COVID-19, people are looking forward to the summer season. They like some loungy, background music for their backyard parties/bbq’s and I think I just hit the right genre at the right time, while investing the right amount of time and patience to get it out to the proper world.
I wish I had done it a little differently by setting an actual release date to give myself more time to evaluate before boosting it, but I seriously thought, “This is going nowhere anyway, so why not just throw it out there?!” I learned a lot in the meantime’ From how to set release dates, get the community hot, get them feeling included and making them feel emotionally attached to the product. End goal being that they are nearly panting in anticipation for release day.
This was an older track, correct?
That is correct. It was an unfinished project from years ago, but as earlier mentioned, I was confused and lost the sight of what people might want to listen to.
Did you necessarily even have intentions of wrapping up this song in particular, or what drew your interest to it in particular?
When the ECC bandcamp and label page came out, I was asked to contribute a track. It was the spark to light the fire I needed to engage old projects and finally finish them. I wanted all those people who only knew me for those 1 minute IG jams to be able to listen to the full products!!!
How do you plan on maintaining these numbers?
I learned so much the past couple of weeks about the community. People I don’t know and I’d never met. I don’t see what they are going through in their lives on a daily basis, but they took the time to listen to my work and most of them even came back to listen to it again. No matter what was going on, apparently my music was part of their soundtrack at that moment.
It is hard to compete as the “little” guy, but I will try to stay on top and keep the balance between producing and finding my way through the massive music machinery and hold up my “business card” for all upcoming releases.
Aside from, obviously, delivering you a confidence boost that was rather strong - Did you find others also derived excitement from your progress, just pressing you further along?
Oh yeah, absolutely. The previous existing fanbase (no matter how small) never let me hang! I have a solid small group of people that are with me since day one of my online presence who keep sending their love! I really appreciate that and it means the world to me. Of course my family and close friends that saw me starting with cubase on windows 95 and a bontempi midi keyboard are motivating me above and beyond!
What can we next expect from 1138? What are you currently working on and when can we expect it???
There are two albums in the works. One will be straight up pushing Techno. Hopefully by the end of June I can release that one. The second one will be the polar opposite. A Lot more chill tracks and slower BPMs, very melodic and emotional. That release is slated for July or August. I started some down beat tracks that will be released either as singles (depending on how they work together), maybe as an EP. I want to show more of what I do. With my previous releases I only showed a little of it, though, and it is important to me that my fans, followers and such that want to become diehard fans understand that I don’t stick to a specific genre.
Besides that, I started to collaborate with some artists and hope that we can get that material release ready in the very near future.
Well, that appears to be all the time Tobias has to answer questions today and I thank him for being so open and genuine in providing them. His story touches me in a certain way. How could someone so talented really ever want to remove themselves from this game? But, I guess that’s just it - As time crawls on and we get older, some of us really start despising games of all types. Tobias prevailed, though, and in doing so showed ALL of us a reason to stick to the principal rule of ‘Never Give Up!’