During the last few weeks, I’ve spoken with a number of musicians and songwriters who are seeking to promote their music; many of them believe that the only way to do this is through radio airplay. I have had some success with radio play having had number one singles across UK and Europe and other singles in the top 10, however I’ve found that there are other ways to promote my work. Diversity in your promotion is important if you want to create longevity in your career. So how do you build a lasting platform? 

Longevity comes from having a vision for your work and the opportunity to promote your artistry through a variety of different avenues. Longevity also comes from having a committed, loyal fan base who support new, exciting ventures and want to see you grow and develop as an artist. Before you venture into a plan, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:  

  • What does success look for me? 
  • What do I want to get out of my music?  
  • How long do I want to work in music? 
  • Am I looking for something more long term than a string of number one hits? 
  • Do I want my fan base and listeners to interact with my music and with me?  

In 2016 the way I released music completely changed; a change in circumstances meant that I had to review my work and promotion pattern. This meant that I stopped producing albums and EPs and went back to releasing one single at a time. I had less capital to invest in the music than before and therefore needed to simplify the whole process. I had found that radio airplay didn’t always bring in a committed fan base who were interested in the work. 

The biggest promotional tool for an artist is the story behind the song. When planning the promotion of a song I ask myself:   

  • What do I want my listeners to gain from my song?  
  • Do I want to challenge people’s thinking?  
  • Do I want people to ask me questions? 

Music can be more than making a commercial track. If we think about the music we return to again and again, it is usually music that has great value to us, that holds memories and helps us process or understand a situation. For me, that is the type of music I want to create. 

Here are some ways I have found that I can promote your music for free and gain interest from a potential fan base: 
 

  1. Write a blog to feature the song. I usually write a blog about the story behind the song; I publish this on my newsletter and across social media. If you want to gain loyal fans, this is a great route because they can immediately understand why you’ve written the song, comment on the blog and they can share it with their friends. It also gives them some insight into who you are as an artist.  
  1. Create a mailing list and email your fan base on a regular basis. Update them with news, interviews, your thoughts on issues that are happening in the industry and further afield. Your fans want to get to know you! Make sure you are consistent in your communication with your fans. 
  1. Join as many music groups on Facebook as you can. This is a great place to post your music and blogs and to gain your followers. It’s a good idea to post in the group using your band or artist Facebook page rather than your personal account. Interact with other musicians and get yourself known.
     
  1. Community radio stations love to work with local artists; this is a fantastic way of getting airplay. It’s not the same as commercial radio so you’re not going to get any royalties from it, but you will get some airplay and they like to interview artists as well. I’ve gained new followers by appearing on community radio shows.  
  1. Partner with a local organisation with the view to producing music for them.  In 2018 I worked with the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies to create some songs that commemorated the centenary of World War I. I then wrote a blog to go with this song and sent it to our local BBC radio station. The radio station then asked to interview me and played my track live on a lunchtime show. 
     
  1. Collaborating with other artists is an excellent way to grow a larger fan base; this is also opportunity to try different genres. When you release a joint project, you get the benefits of two sets of promotion. You can learn from the benefit of each other’s experience. 
  1. Do you have other artistic skills? Many musicians also write books or create artwork that goes alongside their music.  You can establish a whole new audience by trying a new artistic pursuit.  
  1. Patreon is a great way of gaining new fans and supporters. It also gives the patrons an opportunity to be personally involved and to own a piece of the work too. You can pull all your artistic work from different avenues under one umbrella. 

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking. The current musical climate means we can be as creative as we like with our promotion. There is a real opportunity to make your mark and do something different for catches people’s attention. I’d love to hear if you have had success with an unusual approach to music promotion.  

If you have enjoyed this blog, join the mailing list here.

Listen to A Homely Blessing here.

At the end of 2021, Ruth Carlyle asked me to arrange one of her poems, A Homely Blessing, as a song for her new album. Excited by the challenge, I began work on creating a setting that was jazzy and inspired by popular music, knowing that this would be a departure from Ruth’s usual style. From an artistic perspective, this was a challenge in that the poem only has 3 stanzas, each with only 4 lines, however this gave room for greater scope with the harmonic progression and interpretation. This was an exciting composition project as it’s always a pleasure to collaborate with other artists. The recording features David Barton on the piano.

A Homely Blessing has been released today and the profits from this project will go towards the Faith in Action Homeless Project.

Ruth’s husband, Nic Carlyle, had the following to say about the project:

A Homely Blessing has been a special commission for Ruth and myself, for we have seen how important a sense of home is. We were very happy that Helen Sanderson White agreed to set Ruth’s words to music. Between 2011 and 2016, Ruth and I were both volunteers with a south London charity formed by local faith groups, Faith In Action Homelessness Project, who provided support to homeless and vulnerably housed people in the Merton Borough area. While Ruth acted as a trustee, I helped with the running of the showers and the laundry. Twice a week, in a local social hall, the group cooked a hot meal, with supplementary breakfasts and hot drinks, a warm social space, washing facilities and showers, a laundry service, as well as advice and referral services. For a few hours a week, something like basic home comforts were available to sixty to eighty people. For these people, home was something that had been lost along the way, ripped out of their lives, and now a struggle to regain. The second verse was something the group aimed for, the basics of food, shared together, extending a warm welcome, and finding friendship in a cruel, uncaring and unforgiving city. Ruth and I earnestly hope that home in all senses of the lyrics are found again within the lives of the people we met. It is to them we dedicate and sing this blessing, and any profits or donations go to Faith In Action Homelessness Project.

You can listen to the song here or make a donation to the Faith In Action Homeless Project here.

Listen and download the track here.

I didn’t expect to be releasing this song; I wrote it seven years ago for a project that has been long abandoned. This song comes from a collection that I wrote in 2014 about the ins and outs relationships. Despite not releasing it, earlier this year I felt the compulsion to do so as it seemed to be important and that it might be useful to people. The song examines the dissatisfaction that comes from wanting everything you see in the hope that it will be fulfilling and mend an already broken relationship. It was a response to a situation I was seeing unfold in a friend’s life at the time of writing. 

I’ve never performed this song, and it’s been sat on my Laptop hard drive for awhile. When I went looking for it, I had one of those moments that every artist dreads, I couldn’t find it! I’m meticulous about making sure everything is backed up so I was quite surprised that I couldn’t locate the Logic file. I did find an mp3 of the demo though, and when I listened to the recording, it sounded dated and it didn’t express the vibe of the song well. I’ve created a more contemporary arrangement for the track, and all I can say is that not being able to find the original file has been a happy accident! The new arrangement is a much better interpretation of the lyrics, and represents the topic matter more clearly. 

Sometimes when we create something, and we must lay it down for a season until it is the right time to be released to the world. Prophesying always takes place long before the prophecy comes to fruition. Wait for the right time to release your work; this way it will be the most effective physically and spiritually. So however this is for, this is for you… 

You can find the track on Apple Music and Spotify

Listen and download the track here.

If you have enjoyed this song, join the mailing list here.

Do you start something and never finish it? Do create something beautiful and then never release it to the world? Do you have notebooks full of endless ideas, but they never come to life?

No one wants to talk about the discipline. It’s a word that has had a negative public image; it’s not on trend, it invokes ideas of mundane and laborious tasks. However, it is essential for artistry, and I do believe that it also goes hand in hand with confidence. When we discipline ourselves to do something, we are committing to the act, the project, the creation but also to our own personal growth.

There are different areas of artistry that need discipline (and many more besides this list):

  • Practise and learning
  • Work pattern
  • Public image
  • Releasing and publishing work
  • Discipline our skills and learning

Netflix, social media, housework all these things seem suddenly more important than practising our instrument or learning a new skill. Anything to distract us from what we’re supposed to be doing. Sometimes we get caught up in running a business and forget to hone the expertise that makes the money. The development of an artist is dependent on the frisson of the new; boredom can so easily set in and we lose our focus. Equally we need to discipline ourselves not to continually chase excitement but also finish off what we have started. Satisfaction comes from seeing a project through to completion and knowing that we did our best. With each project, there is a danger that we can reach a point where it seems ridiculous or banal; it’s not turning out how we expected and it seems futile. This where the discipline of pushing through the difficult stages and remembering our original vision and can help us produce the final product.

Discipline our commitment

Most problems come from having too many ideas and not enough time. We shoot off in different directions without finishing what we’re doing. It’s in the continual plugging away at a project, where we see the fruit of our labours; the commitment to see the project through to completion. I list all my ideas and then think about them for a while before actioning them. Usually 50% of the ideas I’ve jotted down, turn out to be notions that seem to be brilliant at 1am but in the cold light of the morning aren’t actually very good. Time and space help to whittle down the ideas into something viable and workable, and in the long run I’m doing myself a favour by not over-committing to projects I can’t fulfil or starting tasks that are ridiculous!

Discipline our confidence

Our issues with discipline often start with a lack of self-belief, we sell ourselves short even before we start the task. The eternal problem of “will this piece of work be well received?” knocks our confidence and that with a combination of a poor audience reception or lack of interaction put us off achieving our goals. I have found that if I put aside the questions and concerns in my mind before I start working, then I can create on the basis that it is either something that makes me happy or that my message is something that needs to be said.

For some, the lack of confidence appears when it is time to release a project. The fear of lack of support and failure looms, and the project sits on a shelf never to be used. There are also occasions when we create something but can’t figure out how to market it. The strategy to create a buzz evades us and the project doesn’t reach its potential. This is where we need to put our feelings to one side and take the plunge. Build an audience, learn how to market and then go for it. We need to plan further than completing the work; a point of publication is equally as important as the germination of the original idea. I have a small group of cheerleaders and who encourage me to keep going to release my work. They give vital feedback and share ideas that keep me on track. It is worth building an inner circle who can speak the truth when you most need it.

Is discipline essential for artistry?

Yes, if we want to be the best version of our creative selves and to produce the best work that we can. It’s not that discipline is onerous but rather that it is habit forming in a positive way. Our greatest achievements come from continually plugging away and seeing the project through to fulfilment. All the creative masters had to learn to dedicate themselves to their craft and its development; they have a wealth of work to prove this.

We often assume that our creativity is all about us, however there are people around the world who need what you have to say, paint, sing, play. It may be as small as cheering up their day, or as great as being a life changing experience. The actor, Bill Murray, once stated that a painting stopped him from committing suicide. We never know what some will take from our art, but we do need to hold it lightly and allow it to be receive by those who need it.

So if there is an area in your work that is lacking, it may need some direction and drive to bring forth the gold you are waiting for. Discipline may seem daunting but it leads to a greater depth and understanding of why we are creating.

If you have enjoyed this song, join the mailing list here

One of the questions that I most commonly get asked is “when will I be a proper musician/artist/writer?”. In the artistic arena there is no defining moment when this happens. Unlike a lot of other professions, artistry isn’t just a job, it’s tied in with our identity. It’s part of who we are as well as what we do. Our reasons to create go beyond salary and career prospects; we feel compelled to create, make and perform: to shine a light on the issues that we are passionate about. This desire bubbles up inside of us until we satisfy our need to create.  The artistic spark within connects with the divine in order to channel the power of spiritual creativity.  

Sometimes you have to see yourself as an artist so that you believe that you are one. If we believe that we are made in the image of God, and he is the master artist, then we must reflect the artistry back to him. David had to see himself as king long before he ever was king, and Abraham had to believe that he was the Father of Nations long before he was a father.  Sometimes we have a sense of greatness within, but we don’t how or when that will be achieved in our lives. This calls us to trust that our sense of who we are will be filled during our life time. 

We must set aside other people’s views on who we are and what we do. To not be defined by the atmosphere and clamour around us. Someone else’s opinion can leave an imprint of a false belief on our identity, which can become a barrier to our artistic output. How many times have we believed that we’re not good enough to create? When imposter syndrome sets in, it steals our vision and denies our personhood. We can fall into the trap of needing to be ratified, commended and accepted by the creative community, rather than being able to do those things for ourselves. The best artists are those who have a sense of self coupled with independence; they are more likely to take risks and try new ideas whilst maintaining their integrity. 

Creative insecurity is driven by fear, in particular fear of opinion and failure. Mistakes and failures although painful can lead to being a better artist, they develop our character and help build a stronger resolve in us through wisdom and experience. Public and peer critique can also have benefits if we learn to filter out what isn’t necessary, and act on what is good.  

We can be under the illusion that money determines whether we are an artist or not. Yet some of the of greatest musicians died in poverty, case in point Handel who died penniless and largely unknown for his work. The Messiah was only a success after his death, and it written during a time when his friends supported him financially. Money is good for helping us create and access resources, but it can pollute our work if we are driven by financial gain. 

Creativity is a calling. There is a responsibility in everything we do that we represent and share the truth in an honourable way. Lots of people can create but those who accept the calling to “disturb the peace” and highlight different issues to the world through art have an undeniable vocation and position in society. The world needs those artists who undertake a journey of discovery and exploration for the sake of educating and helping others. They are the risk-takers, the pioneers, and mothers and fathers of new movements.  

It doesn’t matter whether you started being creative from the time you were small or if you find your stride during retirement. The artist DNA is part of you from the beginning; it comes to life at the right time to offer you healing, fulfilment and also bring hope to others. The truth is, you’re an artist from the moment you are born, from the moment you create, from the moment that idea germinates in your mind. You’re an artist from the moment you take that first breath… 

If you have enjoyed this blog, join the mailing list here

Many moons ago I started writing a series of blogs about being a resilient artist but the time never seemed right to publish them. I even wrote out an idea for a business called Resilient Creative but life took over and the idea stayed in a notebook. Then the pandemic hit, the world turned upside down and changed the arts arena as we knew it. One evening I was chatting to my long time colleague and friend Rachael Forsyth about the state of the arts and we pondered on how we might recover as an industry. She mentioned some thoughts she was writing about, I mentioned the previous blogs and voilà, we had a book idea. 

If you’re struggling to get back into the rhythm of creating, then How To Be A Resilient Artist is for you. You may be looking to boost your creativity in some way, to find a new way of working or regain some areas of your art that have fallen apart. You’re not alone, many people go through a “wilderness” period with their creativity. It’s all part of the artistic journey. Life is full of difficult twists and turns; recession, divorce, death, illness, failed businesses and of course, the unforeseen pandemic. All of these situations are tough for anyone working in business, however the unpredictable nature of the creative industries can make this a lot tougher. For others it could be that boredom and lack of direction has brought you to a halt and you’re now not sure how to kick start your enjoyment of playing your instrument or picking up your paintbrushes. These “wilderness” periods can be confusing, disorientating and draining. They also give us the opportunity to assess where we’re going and what we want out of life and ultimately, our music. The trick is not to let the “wilderness” journey overwhelm you but redirect you. 

This book is designed to give you some hope that your setback is only a season and not a life sentence! Better times will come and eventually you will feel stronger from what you have learnt through this experience. There are plenty of ideas to get the creative juices going, and stories of how we overcame obstacles and found a new way to make things work. It’s always possible to recover from the pressure and regain a rhythm of working and performing. 

Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, this book has insights and tips on how to reinvigorate your creativity and regain your focus. Whatever season you are in, you can make a fresh start and discover the creativity within you. 

It was early in 1994 when I was listening to an album in my room and received the strangest and yet beautiful experience. I was seventeen years old and had been navigating the rollercoaster of life and had got burned; I was venturing into the early beginnings of adulthood. As the music flowed over me, I began to feel something I’d never felt before. My ears homed in on the sound of the bass line: the rhythm, the frequency, the depth of the sub bass pulsating through me. But something else was happening, deeper and more ethereal than the usual listening experience. It was life changing healing on a profound, unexplainable level. There were no words spoken, just a spiritual, fulfilling moment emanating from the timbre of the music. 

Largely in our western society, we negate the idea that something non-medical could bring healing and our culture is bemused by the idea of the spiritual being able to heal us. Unless it’s a medicine or treatment we can see, it’s not considered to be genuine. The general feeling is that if the medics can’t help us then there is no solution to our problem. We’ve lost our awe, wonder and respect for the divine as it removed the power from our hands. Unless we have the knowledge of how this works, we don’t see it as viable. Modern life dictates that we must understand in order to receive, whereas God wants us to receive without the borders of understanding. However, in receiving from him our knowledge of his power and omnipotence increases. 

It was a unique experience for me, one that has not been replicated since in my life. The metred pulse of the bass line allowed me to receive the frequency of the Lord’s healing as it poured over me. This unusual healing touched me in a way that no counselling, therapy or medical cure could have done. The Lord’s power was able to reach places, emotions and scars that were deep within me, pulling out the root of the problem so that the divine answer to my situation had finality and no possibility of reoccurrence. I am not for a minute suggesting that we shouldn’t put our faith in medical science and psychological therapies, however, that we should start our healing process by asking the Lord which route he wanted to take.  

I find it interesting that the healing only took place between myself and the Lord; no one else was in the room. There is an intimacy to this moment that was just between me and him. I do know other people that have encountered similar healing moments during worship services. Yet this isn’t something that we see in church life on a regular basis. Why? In 1 Samuel 16:14-23, we’re told that David literally drove Saul’s sickness away with music. The very act of playing the lyre soothed Saul into peace. The spiritual frequency prophetically moving through the music made him complicit and disarmed in the presence of the Lord. Only the Lord could offer Saul healing in his circumstances and music was the channel he chose to administer this.  

I suspect that musicians who played on the piece of music I was listening to, had no idea how the Lord use their gifts in that recording. This begs the question for all musicians: how might God use you in your gifting? Have you asked God to use you in a greater way than you could ever imagine? And for those listening, are there preconceptions or limiting beliefs that you need to abandon in order to experience healing? To encounter the fullness that both the divine and music can offer, we must put aside our knowledge and natural understanding, so that we encounter the supernatural. Many years ago, I was improvising over an instrumental during worship, not singing words but using my voice as an instrument. Afterwards, I was approached by a woman who told me that she heard the Lord speak clearly through the sounds I was vocalising. Perhaps by not singing words, God had space to speak clearly through a different medium.  

We’re all waiting for healing of some kind, perhaps we shouldn’t be asking “when will you heal me Lord?” but “by what means do you want to heal me?”. The time has come for us to be more creative in our approach to worship, intimacy with the Lord and more open to the way the Lord wants to work in our lives. It’s time to raise our expectation in what can and will do for us. If we are open to what the Lord may have for us, we may gain more in our relationship with him. He is a creative God and loves to do more for us than we can imagine.  

If you have enjoyed this blog, join the mailing list here

Here’s another instrumental I composed for Jazz Community Church for the reading Mark 15:21-29 for the online Good Friday service on 1 April 2021 (that’s me reading the passage too). Thanks to Gunter Hauser for mixing the track to Adam Sanders for creating a video.

Instrumental written & performed by Helen Sanderson-White. Copyright 2021 music by Helen Sanderson-White.

Recently I have been working with Jazz Community Church and have been asked to create instrumental music for their services. Here’s an instrumental that I composed to accompany a reading of Isaiah 55 (that’s me reading the passage too).

Music written & performed by Helen Sanderson-White. Copyright 2014 music by Helen Sanderson-White adapted for this reading in 2021.