2016 Year's End Blog Part 2: Challenges
NO GREAT SUCCESS COMES WITHOUT IT'S CHALLENGES...
2016 has been a great year, but definitely hasn't been without it's challenges. As we've progressed through the beginning of TOTF's life figuring out exactly what it is that we're doing, we've come across more bumps in our path than we could have ever imagined, though it's to be expected. The last thing we want is to feel disconnected from our community, after all it is you guys who have made this all possible; so in hopes of making more of a relationship between us and you, we'd like to discuss with all of you some of these pitfalls that we've had, and how we have reflected upon them. Nobody is perfect, definitely not us. But we want our community to be aware of what goes on behind the scenes and why we make the decisions that we make.
HERE ARE JUST A FEW THINGS we learned...
1. iT'S OKAY TO DREAM BIG AND FAIL
When we first started our Kickstarter, we had a huge dream. It was very ambitious, but maybe too ambitious. We weren’t being too considerate and reasonable about it. There were just too many factors that we didn’t consider calculating ((simply just because we never even attempted to do anything like this). While the first couple days of our Kickstarter amazed us, the rest ended up rather underwhelming. We were only 20% funded. While that 20% is a considerable amount of money, it’s quite a significant failure in our eyes.
The real twist of this lies in what follows after the campaign. Many of you guys emailed us with something along the lines of “Oh my god! I’ve just discovered you guys. So sorry the campaign is not funded but please please keep the project going!”
Well guess what, it’s those kinds of emails that made us think “Alright, there are clearly people who love what we’re doing. How are we going to make this work?” Shortly after is the success of our first episode and the episodic approach that really seems to work with our project. Without that failure that resulted in these great responses from you guys, we wouldn’t have thought of the other way to make it work and develop it to what you see today!
2. a great idea is the most important thing, but not the only important thing
Kickstarter might not get us funded. And yes, maybe our dream was too ambitious. But in the end, it all really comes down to just one thing: ideas. We realized that the initial idea of ours is a great one and that it also “sounded big enough” to catch the attention of an audience. So, Kickstarter was just the perfect venue for us to spread it around the globe. Now that we think back about it, it felt like we went to a very huge conference where people come to sell things. Some have very well thought out ideas and some have an already developed idea along with a prototype or product to distribute. Ours probably lies in the "great but underdeveloped ideas" category. And guess what? We didn’t know that.
It’s not that the idea wasn’t good enough. It’s a great idea, but simply underdeveloped. The success wehad from the release of the first episode really comes from the development we put into our idea. We have you guys to thank for that. Without your feedback, we wouldn’t have known other wise!
3. consistency is the key to survival
It hasn’t been too long since we started TOTF (about a year or so). When we look back at the whole year of 2016, we noticed that our audience’s growth rate is based on how often we release our content. Makes sense, right? Unfortunately this one has been a bit of a struggle for us and still is to this day. But more about that later...
4. quality is still and will always be very important
It’s not that some of our music is bad, or that we intentionally make it worse. But truthfully, there’s a period of time that artists like us struggle to come up with something new and fresh, or simply just “good.” As sad as that sounds, people really respond to it. We started to see responses that aren’t as overwhelmingly positive. We started seeing less listeners, less views, and less comments. Those things keep reminding us to keep up the good work, to keep our high standard and always come up with something for our fans to look forward to.
some challenges we've faced and still are...
1. CREATING CONTENT THAT WILL APPEAL TO EVERYONE
When it comes down to it, TOTF is just straight up a weird project. We have a scifi story that we write music to and have artwork done for. If we had oodles of cash, we would consider developing a movie, web series, or video game, considering these three things are big components to all of those things. But we don't have oodles of cash. And to deliver this idea without it, we have to do it in a somewhat shambled and clunky way, that is embedding music into the chapters on our site, and offering the chapter and music sold as one episodic package for the consumer to put together himself. We know it's not the funnest or most convenient way to digest the content, but it's what we can do with the resources we have.
What you, our audience, might not realize is that because we have such a diverse project, it makes producing consistent content that our audience will enjoy very difficult. Some of you love music, some writing, some art, some all three, and some another combination of the three. So while some might say producing consistent content is easy, producing content that our everyone in our community will love is one of the hardest things we've been trying to overcome.
2. strengthening our community connection and creating different types of content
YouTube seems to be the place where we get the most community interaction. So we attempted to try something new and create some more "fun" videos prior to Episode II. Those being the featurette or the "What is TOTF music?" video. Much to our dismay, it seems that most of our audience really only attracts to the music of TOTF. And while that is great, that is not our goal. The story is the central part of TOTF, everything revolves around it, and we want more of our community to care about it. It's the reason the music that many of you love is created in the first place. So we attempted to produce content that wasn't just music videos.
Unfortunately, most of our non-music content has not done nearly as well as we'd have hoped. Some of these videos we aim to make somewhat more personal as well to strengthen our bond with our community and make you guys feel like more than just listeners. To us you are family. We are here to listen to you and find out what you guys want to see. So if you have ANY ideas, please feel free to reach out and share them with us. We do become stumped after awhile of creating content that isn't as successful as we'd like it to be, and any help we can get is appreciated. In the mean time, we will of course be trying to think of new types of content to produce to make TOTF less about the music and more about TOTF.
3. making the elements of totf into one experience, while not sacrificing the quality of any of them
As we said above, TOTF is not just about the music. It's about the story, and about how the art and music can enhance the storytelling. With Episode I, we saw a big burst of success. It got us really excited, but after it has died down, we had come to realize that the initial success might have come from the song "Believe" that was on the episode's EP. Everyone loves it, as evident by the lot of YouTube channels that have shared it, and that's fantastic, but we wanted people to care about everything as one unit, and not the separate units on their own.
Looking back at Episode I's music, we don't think we did a very good job capturing the style of the chapter. We feel that we "scored" the chapter's actions fairly well while still maintaining a good amount of quality, but ultimately we are not entirely happy with how things played out. When we began work on Episode II, we really wanted to zone in on the style, since we knew we needed to improve from Episode I. We wanted to make sure we captured the environment of Rebourne Forest, and the mindset of Aapo and his emotions. And we definitely think we did. It was much improved over Episode I, BUT...it seems that we focused so hard on capturing that style and what exactly was happening in the chapter, that we sacrificed too much "listenability." We played too much to the episode's text. We had ended up following the episode along and scoring it very precisely with the seven track EP. And while this is cool, writing the music ENTIRELY based on what's going on in the story means that the music might sometimes not be that fun to listen to. And that's not what we want.
In our Kickstarter days, we said that the music would be there to enhance the reader's experience of the content. It would help put him in the world of TOTF. The music would be more about the ideas and atmospheres and less about the actions and events. And this is what we still want. We want the music to have good "listenability." We want readers to listen to it while they read our chapters and get captivated in the world we are creating.
While the elements of Episode II all work well together, we ended up sacrificing some of the "fun" quality of the music to make that happen. Going forward, we will be doing our best to make sure that the music is fun and has strong replay value, while still making sure that it adheres to the chapter's ideas and atmospheres, providing elements that work well together, but not too well, like Episode II.
4. building our patreon
If you're new to the scene, our Patreon is where the majority of our community funding comes from. Since we started in September, we have struggled a lot with defining rewards and creating a clear and straightforward Patreon model for patrons to follow.
Due to the complexity of our project, it's difficult to say that charging monthly or per creation are valid methods for our model. Like we said, it's weird. We release an episode every 3 months, but in addition to that, we also want to release extra content like monthly tracks, random YouTube videos, etc. "Per creation" works well for creators making only one type of content, like one YouTube video every week for their subscribers. But with our episodes so far apart, it's difficult to justify using that method, along with the fact that we are producing the other types of content we already mentioned. So we decided to go with the monthly subscription model.
Using the monthly model has definitely put pressure on us to make sure our Patrons feel rewarded for how much they are contributing to TOTF, especially because there are multiple months between episodes. Other than the monthly tracks, we're struggling to think of new Patreon-exclusive content that will entertain our patrons. We will be trying out some new things come 2017, but if you guys have any ideas of what you want to see, PLEASE reach out to us and let us know. We are here, we are listening.
Flat out growth of our Patreon has become a struggle as well. While we do get a new patron every now and then, we also lose one now and then. We have seemingly come to a halt, and have been hovering around $140-170/month for a few months now. While obviously this isn't a terrible thing, if we don't see constant growth, we begin worrying. Sure we have people who are willing to help fund TOTF, but we aren't seeing any newcomers. We aim to be in a consistent state of growth, and have been troubleshooting a few things to come up with solutions for our stagnation in the recent months.
part 3: announcements - coming soon...
As we said before, it's been quite a bumpy road. But no great success is without it's obstacles. We know that we just started, and we know that we have a long way to go, but with our community by our side, we know we will make it through and create something amazing for the masses to enjoy. If you have any suggestions or feedback on any of the things we've talked about, or would just like to get in touch with us, please feel free to reach out to us. We are always here and we are always listening. You can hit us up via our contact page or email us at email@example.com and we will get back to you ASAP. Thank you again for your continued support, and stick around for part three of the Year's End Blog, where we will be discussing some upcoming changes to how we do things in 2017.