Indie Spotlight: Amanda Duncan
Indie Spotlight is a content series by Indepreneur dedicated to highlighting the successes and stories of our Indie community members.
Each month, our staff selects students and clients from our community to interview and gain insight into their journey - the challenges, the setbacks, and the major wins!
This month, we'd like to introduce you to Amanda Duncan
April 29th, 2021 by Graci Phillips
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Amanda! Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today! For those who aren’t familiar with you, how would you introduce Amanda Duncan to a new friend?
I almost feel like actually asking a friend how they would answer this! Haha! I’ll give it a whirl…”This is my friend, Amanda. She’s creative, goofy, and watches an episode of Parks and Rec every single day.”
You’ve got quite a musical history! Opening for the likes of Dierks Bentley, Lindsey Stirling, Eric Hutchinson, and being nominated for (and winning!) quite a few Independent Music Awards! How did you get into music and what has that journey been like for you?
I was always singing as a little kid. My love affair with creative tech started with my audio cassette double-decker karaoke machine. I would spend make up songs with nonsense words and then spend hours layering harmonies to them. I also created a show called “The Cookie Hotline” where “people” (meaning me) would call into the show to order various types of cookies. The pitch slider on the karaoke machine definitely got a lot of use on that show.
My journey as a singer-songwriter really began my junior year in high school. I didn’t want to sing to karaoke tracks anymore. I asked my uncle if I could borrow his guitar that was collecting dust. I would come home from school every single day and practice with a book and tape. Yes, I was still using audio cassette tapes.
From there I started writing terrible songs and eventually started writing halfway decent ones by the time I was out of college. Back when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I had posted a demo of my song “Love I Have for You” on MySpace. People really seemed to dig it. Shortly after releasing that, I promoted a show I had at a local coffee shop. I ended up packing the joint and when I sang that song the whole room sang along. I wasn’t expecting that...and in that moment I knew that I wanted more of THAT.
From that point on, I started taking my music career very seriously. I focused on honing my songwriting and marketing skills. I dove into the world of web/graphic design and audio engineering. It was important to me to have those things in my arsenal because I wanted to be as self-reliant as I could be.
You have SO many things going on as a creative and I want to talk about them all! But let’s start with some of the creative things you’re doing outside of your own music. For those who don’t know, you actually have a production company where you do videography, animation, and graphic design work! I think my favorite is the animation you did for “Where Do The Seasons Get Their Names.” How did you get into this kind of work and how does it affect or inspire your own creative output?
I have an addiction to making things. Hahaha! Any time I start learning something new I ask myself, “How can I tie this into my music career?”
After being an audio engineer for so long, the software-loving geek in me was ready for another journey. Stepping into the video world was pretty natural for me. I had dabbled in animation for years, designing a bunch of websites using Flash (now Adobe Animate). The actual videography part of what I do came along when I got hired to edit videos for a real estate company. We would hire other people to go out and film and the footage they would send back was teeeeerrrible. I knew if I had the equipment I could do a much better job. So that’s just what I did. I went all out...lenses, glidecam, monopod...even a drone. I knew I eventually wanted to make music videos for myself and this was the perfect excuse to splurge. Again, everything always connects to my music career.
For the past 6 years, I’ve made music videos for fellow local musicians. Getting the work would be as simple as chatting with a friend about their music video idea and me saying, “Let’s make it!” I was pretty hungry to develop my video and animation abilities. I’ve been able to cut my teeth on these projects and some of them have even gone on to win awards at film festivals. Pretty exciting stuff for me!
Now, for the first time, I’m FINALLY making a music video for my music and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I’ve been working on it for 2 months straight. My original video idea had to change because of the world shutting down, but this concept ended up being even better. I turned my teeny living room into a green screen studio and filmed myself singing the tune. I then asked my band to film themselves vertically and horizontally playing to the song. I put all of their footage inside of 3D phones that I animated to move around me. It’s been a real journey! But it’s satisfying knowing all of these hours I’m putting in are for ME and my music career.
As if your own music and running a production company wasn’t enough, you ALSO have a livestream show called, Soft Pants Nation: A Motivational Variety Show! You’ve nearly crested 70 episodes, the show production is amazing, you spotlight tons of other creatives and inspirational people, and it seems like you have an incredibly good time doing it! Tell us where the idea for this show came from (and please tell me how you landed on the name 😂) and what your experience has been running this show for two years now?
I grew up watching variety shows like The Muppet Show and Carol Burnett. I love how there were special guests, musical numbers, and comedic skits. In 2014, I aired 2 episodes of a live streaming variety show concept that I had, but it was short lived because I didn’t really have a fleshed out plan of attack.
Fast forward to April 2019, I was feeling pretty sad about the state of my music career. I had a full album that was mixed and mastered, but I didn’t have the funding to print my CDs or get my merch made. (More on this later). I wanted to launch my weekly live streaming show when I released my album, but I had no idea when that was going to be. I already had the name because I would always joke on social media about living in Soft Pants Nation. People always got a kick out of it.
One night I was fed up with feeling sorry for myself. So, I grabbed my guitar and my phone and hit “go live”...and that was the beginning of Soft Pants Nation. I didn’t have an exact plan other than wanting to bring joy into people’s lives. I knew that if I made other people feel happier, that it would make me feel happier.
After the first episode, the ideas started flowing and I quickly began to realize that I could use my music as a vehicle to inspire others to live happier, more creative lives. The show has grown so much. I have a co-producer now and we just celebrated the show’s 2 year anniversary.
Now, I of course want to talk about your upcoming album, Big Time Superhero. But there’s no way to start talking about it, without first talking about your experience fundraising through, and ultimately being robbed by, Pledge Music. For those that aren’t familiar with the Pledge Music fiasco, give us a snapshot of what happened and how it affected you and your album Big Time Superhero.
Man, just thinking about PledgeMusic still hits a nerve. Oof! I would write 10 full pages about this whole experience, but I’ll try my best to keep it concise by using bullet points to tell the story.
- In 2018, I used the PledgeMusic crowdfunding platform to raise money for my upcoming album.
- Pledge paid artists in 3 installments. 1st Installment - When you reach 100% of your goal. 2nd Installment - When you send your supporters a digital copy of the album. 3rd Installment - When you fulfill all orders.
- I sent out the digital copy of my album on January 1st, 2019.
- I never received my 2nd installment which was needed to purchase CDs and merch.
- Late January, no one at Pledge was giving me an answer as to when I would receive my payment and then communication stopped altogether.
- By February 2019, I learned that had Pledge burned through over $3 MILLION DOLLARS of the funds their artists had raised.
- July 2019, PledgeMusic officially files for bankruptcy
Obviously, I’m leaving out a ton of detail. When things first went down, I was one of the first artists to be very vocal about it. I made videos explaining what was happening and spoke about it on a few podcasts. Billboard magazine interviewed me about it. Once I found out the amount of money they stole...I knew it was a losing battle.
I was owed $5,000. I know that seems like a small sum of money, but at the time I, personally, didn’t have any money to finish this project. That’s why I did a crowdfunding campaign in the first place!!! I was heartbroken and so were my fans. I knew I had to pivot, but I had to find a practical solution that wouldn’t be a complete logistical nightmare.
There are many many artists who would have given up after such an immense setback, but you used it to propel yourself into a higher level of Indie-awesomeness! You’re a self proclaimed tech-geek and proud DIYer. Tell us about the decision to re-fundraise all the money stolen by Pledge Music--on your own website with essentially your own fundraising platform!
Giving up wasn’t an option. Plus, I had a ton of people asking if they could send me money to cover the rest of my album costs.
While doing my research of crowdfunding options, one thing I knew for sure was that NOTHING was going to stand between me and my creative funds ever again. I purchased a crowdfunding plugin for WordPress that wasn’t perfect, but was going to get me through this mess.
I made a new marketing plan, filmed a new video explaining what had happened, and then I was off to the races again.
*I'd like to note here that after creating her own crowd funding portal on her website Amanda was able to raise every penny that Pledge Music stole from her! Indie for the win!
You know at Indepreneur we love Indies taking control of their careers and doing things for themselves, and you’ve certainly taken that to a new level. You mentioned that you’ve always been into marketing. What’s your history with marketing and how did you come into Indepreneur?
I’ve always loved the marketing aspect of music. The creativity of designing posters, coming up with campaign ideas with throughlines, and putting together fun promo videos has been my kink for a long time. Haha! Again, it always goes back to my addiction of making things!
Indepreneur found me via :::drumroll please::: Facebook ads! The targeting was spot on. Discovering that there were other cool music marketing nerds like me was really exciting! I started to listen to the podcast religiously. I immediately fell in love with their overall philosophy and approach to marketing.
You’ve been in the Indepreneur community since 2018! How has that impacted your music marketing efforts and what has kept you in Indepreneur over the last three years?
The Buddy System is...well...everything. Having the knowledge to “meet people where they’re at” is THE foundation of a good marketer. For me, the most important lesson that Indepreneur has taught me is that it’s all about the connection with your fans. This has helped transform my mindset and business decisions. I spend my time focused on how I can give back to the people who support my art instead of stressing about how to get more plays on Spotify. Approaching my career in this way is so much more fulfilling and impactful.
I am so excited for everything you’ve got going on and everything that’s ahead of you! What can people expect from you in 2021 and what’s the best way to keep up with all you’re doing?
In March, I started a “single a month” release campaign that will finish at the end of the summer with dropping the full Big Time Superhero album. I’m making a music video for each single, which has been a serious, but fun challenge.
In June, I’m planning on getting a Fan Finder up and running.
You can tune into Soft Pants Nation on Monday nights at 8pm (EST) via Facebook and YouTube. Even if you’re not my target audience, you might get some ideas for your live stream.
AND if you want someone to cheer you on in your art/music career be friends with me on Instagram. Really, I mean it, I will cheer the poop out of you!
Thank you so much for interviewing me. I feel so honored and love being part of this amazing community.
About the author:
Graci Phillips is Indepreneur's Community Manager & Indie Success Specialist. Graci is part of our Nashville team and specializes in providing resources and solutions to our members, community building, and highlighting success stories within this incredible community.
If you are a member of our Indie Community and have a story to tell about your journey as an independent musician, reach out to Graci at email@example.com! We're always looking for new stories to share. If you aren't yet part of our Indie Community, you can get access to our entire library of music business trainings, our entire suite of exclusive discounts on partner products and services for musicians, our 4000+ private community of Indies, and weekly live stream Q&A's and coaching calls by signing up for INDIEPRO!
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