CATSS brew house full band

In early March I received an interesting LinkedIn message from an old grade school peer. Her name is Logan Sander, and the last thing I had heard about her was that she had gone off to Princeton, and was back in Toledo to lead a media Thinkhub called Midstory. I was surprised by the entire situation; Logan’s message was to inquire about meeting for coffee, but I couldn’t help wondering why she moved back to Toledo from the East Coast, and why she would want to meet with me, the manager of a Toledo-based band.

However, all my questions were soon answered when Logan and I sat down at Brew Coffee near the University of Toledo campus. I realized that Midstory and Chloe & the Steel Strings are quite similar, and that Logan and I have similar goals, creative aspirations, and struggles when it comes to managing these creative businesses.

Reaching an Audience

The first similarity I noted between Midstory and Chloe & the Steel String’s missions are our continued pursuit to reach a broader audience in the Toledo area and beyond. I did some research on Midstory, and their mission statement says it all:

“Midstory dedicates its operations to curating a voice out of the Midwest through research, publication, public engagement, and broadcasting. In the midst of a noisy national canopy, our Midstory is a space of connection and intersection in the American experience.”

Though most people would not consider an Americana band to have a similar mission, you would be surprised. Our goal as Chloe & the Steel Strings is to use our music as a voice to inspire listeners, create community, and enlighten our audience on local and national issues. Midstory recognizes that the Midwestern city has been overlooked, and that productivity and cultural renewal through authentic social infrastructure are ways to make a change. In similar ways, Chloe & the Steel Strings as a group understands that the Midwest’s music scene is an important aspect of what makes this region prosperous.

Going Against What’s “Normal” 

Let’s face it: starting a nonprofit and fronting an Americana band are not your typical life paths. In fact, Logan and I both shared stories of experiencing nonacceptance from “society” as a result of our career choices. Whether it was Chloe’s decision to decline a medical school spot, or Logan choosing to move back to Toledo (when she could have worked anywhere), it can be difficult as young college graduates to go against the grain, especially when we don’t have a family business or financial backing to turn to. However, we also recognize that our talents and passions in our respective fields give us the responsibility of sharing them with the world, and that if the current system doesn’t work for us, we need to build our own.

Making an Impact

Chloe & the Steel Strings has given my life an incredible amount of purpose, and I owe much of it to the opportunities we have to perform for worthy causes. In April alone, we will be playing three charity events to support local causes, including: the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, Sleep in Heavenly Peace (an organization that builds beds for impoverished families, who often sleep on the floor), and the Lucas County Canine Care & Control center.

Midstory is also making an impact. Between their High School ThinkLab and College internship opportunities, they are working to inspire Toledo’s youth to think outside-the-box, and use their creative talents to highlight the region’s art and culture. Logan and I agreed that there are many dedicated business and nonprofit owners in the Toledo area, but that there is little collaboration happening within those organizations to improve the greater good of the city.

That’s why we are especially excited to have Chloe & the Steel Strings perform music at Midstory’s A City in Transit Gala on August 3, 2019 at the Downtown Toledo train station. The gala will be a celebration of everything Toledo has to offer: local businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions, and Toledoans from all walks of life will come together to support each other and our community.

If you would like to learn more about Midstory and get involved in the Midwest’s economic and cultural revival, I invite you to visit their website and consider attending their Gala in August.

On behalf of everyone in Chloe & the Steel Strings, we thank you for your continued support of our music.
View our tour schedule here, and listen to our newest single on Spotify.

Last week I traveled to Chicago for a sales meeting with my Pearson internship. On the last day, there was a presentation about the importance of high school and college students developing soft skills to be competitive in the workforce. Soft skills are the non-technical skills like creativity, problem solving, and communication that are part of being a well-rounded person. As I was thinking about my own life and how I’ve developed soft skills over the past few years, I realized how much Chloe & the Steel Strings has impacted my ability to think creatively, communicate, and be a team player. Here are the soft skills I’ve developed most by being in a band, and ways you can improve these soft skills in your own life.

Creativity

Music is obviously a creative endeavor, but the management and marketing sides take an equal amount of creative energy. One way that Chloe and I think outside the box is finding new ways to build our audience and network through social media, as well as fundraising for a touring vehicle. In the past 3 months we have raised $5,000 through donations to our Go Fund Me, as well as tip money from shows – and it all started with a creative marketing idea.

Chloe and I began by brainstorming ways to make our marketing campaign stick: we include free merch for donations of $25 or more, and the merch is personalized with a special “van” logo to commemorate our fundraising efforts. We also mail out the merch with hand-written thank you cards and individually wrap the items in tissue paper: yes, presentation matters.

I love this article from Medium on activities to spark creativity. Chloe and I like to go on walks and discuss our current music and marketing initiatives, and we write down new ideas as they come to mind. By keeping a constantly updated record of our creative ideas and goals, we’re more likely to achieve and ultimately surpass those goals.

Innovation

Last year I decided that we needed a band website. I like my independence, so when it came to choosing a website builder, I chose WordPress over Squarespace because of its vast customization options. But I didn’t realize how much goes into building a website, and having no previous experience in web design, I looked to the internet for tutorials on how to start.

Let me tell you: our first website was a disaster. I recall slaving away at my white 2011 Macbook (that I still use today), trying to figure out some rudimentary coding I found in an online article. However, with time and continued learning I have been able to build our website to its current state, and while it’s not perfect, I’m happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish.

In fact, my months of trial and error came full circle in November when my Pearson colleagues needed help with a WordPress project. I was able to build a few websites for them and they were thrilled. *Pats myself on the back.*

If you’re building your band’s website, check out this article about helpful plugins from SitePoint. I use the GigPress plugin for our tour dates, and it’s been very easy to use.

Teamwork

Playing live music with 4 other people has been my most challenging and rewarding teamwork experience. Whether we’re writing original music or playing covers, there’s a high level of trust that goes into being on stage and playing cohesively. We’ve become pros at nonverbal communication – at our live shows you’ll see us making weird eye contact with each other, like Chloe staring at our electric guitarist, Pete, to signal the start of a guitar solo.

Being a member of the band has also helped me learn that sometimes other people on the team know more than I do. As a person who is usually the leader of groups, it has been challenging for me at times to let others in the band take charge in situations where they have more experience. Allocating tasks is an important part of being a team player, and I’m improving in that area every day.


In a recent study by Google, the most successful employees were those that exhibited soft skills like teamwork, communication, listening ability, and empathy, and not STEM skills (as one might think). This information inspires me, showing that following your natural creative talents and personality traits is the unspoken key to self-actualization, happiness, and contentment in and outside of the workplace.

We use soft skills every day to chase and fund our dreams- how do you use soft skills in your personal, work, or creative endeavors?

We appreciate your support of our music, and would love to connect with you: follow Chloe & the Steel Strings on social media, sign up for our mailing list for show and travel updates, and check out our new single “Wouldn’t Wish on Anyone” on Spotify!

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November 28, 2018

We have been working hard to create goals for 2019, and our keyboardist and manager, Anna, wrote a blog about our plans, along with some helpful marketing and strategy tips! 

I’m passionate about music strategy, from recording and releasing new music to planning shows and making budgets. Before managing Chloe & the Steel Strings, I had little idea as to how much planning goes into creating a sustainable music career, and I’m still learning every day. I wanted to take some time to highlight our goals as a band for 2019, and provide a few helpful music resources for fellow musicians and managers.

Releasing More Original Music

When Chloe started recording her first acoustic album we had no plan for when to release the album, or how to market it. Over the course of this year, however, we have done what seems like constant research to find the best information on how to release and market a new song.

I found an amazing resource for release strategy, thanks to Amber Horsburgh and her ‘Bases Get Aces’ music marketing checklist. Her spreadsheet is broken up by time-frame, from 3 months out all the way up to the release day, and highlights key sales and marketing tasks to follow along the way. Though this checklist is a bit more detailed than what your small band manager might need, it’s interesting to see how a label would utilize their teams to create a large-scale marketing campaign.

For Chloe & the Steel Strings, we are planning on releasing a new single in early January 2019, and another in March 2019, before we release our second album next summer. We’re excited to continue using these resources to help our music reach as many people as possible!

Check out Amber’s LinkedIn to read her articles, and subscribe to her mailing list for insightful marketing strategy in your inbox twice a month.

Purchasing a Touring Vehicle

We’re in the process of booking shows and festivals out of state for Summer 2019… and you know what that means: packing up all of our gear and 5 people into my Volvo station wagon! Just kidding.

We recognize that within the next 6 months we’ll need a more efficient and safe way to travel to shows. Because of this, we’ve been raising money for a touring vehicle, and are excited to have reached the $1,000 mark! We have been using tip money from shows, proceeds from all merch sales, income from busking, and donations to our Go Fund Me campaign to work toward our ultimate goal of $10,000.

If you would like to donate, please check out the link above to learn how you can earn free merch with your donation!

Booking Smarter Shows

When we first started playing live, we would sometimes play 7 shows a week, and some shows were more rewarding than others.

It wasn’t until I read musician and music strategist Ari Herstand’s book How to Make It in The New Music Business, that I learned how to book smarter shows. In his book, Ari discusses how there are 3 motivations for booking a show: Payment, Career Building, and Enjoyment. He asks his readers to rate a potential show on a scale of 30 points, 10 for each motivation type, to judge how beneficial a show will be, in what he calls the “Perfect 30 Test.” According to Ari, a show shouldn’t be booked unless it meets at least 15 points on the scale.

For example, playing a small original music venue may be 4 points on a Payment scale, 6 points on a Career Building scale, and 9 points on an Enjoyment scale. Combined, that show earns 19 points, and therefore is worthwhile to book.

In the past few months I have been applying this knowledge to Chloe & the Steel Strings, and we are now playing an average of 3 shows per week, and ones that are much more rewarding monetarily, personally, and professionally.

Check out our website for a list of upcoming shows, and purchase Ari’s book and subscribe to his mailing list here.

Enjoying the Process 

The transition from playing music for fun to playing for money can be tough. What was once an emotional outlet and hobby turns into a job; it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by stress and the pressures of wanting to see quick success.

When we feel overwhelmed, Chloe and I remind ourselves that we started Chloe & the Steel Strings for fun, and that we play our best when we’re on stage smiling and enjoying ourselves. When we stop worrying about things we can’t change, and start focusing on the “why” behind our music (thanks Simon Sinek), we are the happiest and most successful versions of ourselves.

We feel blessed to be doing what we love, and honored that our musical passion can bring joy to others. If you’d like to keep up with Chloe & the Steel Strings on our journey this upcoming year, we’d love for you to join our mailing list, follow us on social media, and check out our Spotify to listen to our new song, Wouldn’t Wish on Anyone, out now through all major distributors.

Chloe in room

Our keyboardist and manager, Anna, took some time to reflect on how much Chloe & the Steel Strings has helped her grow personally and professionally.

Growing up, my parents told me “do what you love, and the money will follow.” I think they were surprised, however, when my identical twin, Chloe, and I decided to take their advice and pursue music careers. In June 2017, we formed the soft-rock band Chloe & the Steel Strings, and our lives have never been the same.

In less than a year, we have added 3 more members to the band, recorded and released our self-titled debut album (as well as a new single out October 1, 2018), and have performed a few hundred shows. Reflecting on the past year, I am still amazed at how far we’ve come both personally and professionally because of this band.

There are still people who doubt Chloe and me regarding our ability to be successful with our music, and I understand why. The industry is rocky, there’s a lot of competition, and there are no guarantees of success. However, these hurdles are ones that everyone faces, no matter the career. I’ve found that many of the skills and lessons I’ve learned from the band also apply to my other goals.

Here are 3 small pieces of advice that I’ve learned during this process for anyone who is pursuing a dream:
Have a plan

This is something we learned early on – you can’t record music and then drop a link online the next day, hoping that people will listen. Releasing music is all about strategy and planning – most of these plans are 3-4 months in length, when you must start planting the seed to ensure that people are anticipating your release.

The same planning strategy goes for everything we do. When booking shows for 2018 in January, we realized that many venues had already booked out their weekend openings a few months before – in October and November of the previous year. While this information was a surprise to us, it solidified the fact that if we want to reach our long-term goals, we must have a long-term plan. Since then, we have created a 5-year plan for both the band and for our own personal goals.
Work to pursue your goals everyday

The difference between reaching a goal and failing to reach a goal often comes down to the simple, yet painful truth that your success is based on the amount of time you commit. I’ve heard many young people talk about their dreams and plans for 10 years down the road, but on a day-to-day basis, those people aren’t doing anything to reach their long-term goal.

With our music, Chloe and I try to spend at least 30 minutes per day on making progress for the band. Whether that be emailing venues, planning social media posts, or practicing for shows, there are many small ways that we work every day to reach long-term success.
Don’t compare yourself to others

There is unavoidable competition in almost any life path, and with that comes self-doubt and comparison. Comparison can go both directions – you can compare yourself to someone who is doing better than you, or you can compare yourself to someone who is doing worse. Both modes of comparison are harmful because they move your focus from the path that you’re on, to one that someone else is on.

We’ve realized that every artist and musician is on his or her own path, and that we’re the only people we can be. While we have learned a lot from the companionship and leadership of older, more established bands, we try to avoid comparing our success to theirs, since we’re not on the same path.

I hope our story inspires you to continue pursuing your own goals in an intentional way! For more information about Chloe & the Steel Strings, visit our website, and Facebook. And listen to our new single, ‘Like Mad,’ on Spotify.

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Content writer Mark Moss of Free Spirit Music Management had the opportunity to sit down with Chloe for an in-depth perspective on the release of our new single Like Mad, out Monday October 1st!

FSMM: Chloe, it’s nice to see you again, tell me-what’s new with the band since we last spoke?

Chloe: Gosh where to begin…lots to say the least! We had a very busy summer performing at various festivals and shows across northern Ohio and southern Michigan, and we had our first show in Chicago at the historic Elbo Room. It’s been hard work but we’ve had tons of fun every step of the way.

FSMM: What’s the update on the tour bus?

Chloe: We have some work to do but are grateful for the donations that have poured in from friends, family, and listeners. We honestly cannot do it without any of them and they all push us to continue to spread our music to more locations around the area and beyond! To help us achieve our dream, find us on GoFundMe-we’re giving away free merchandise for donations!

FSMM: Well, I certainly hope to join you all for a ride on the bus soon! So, first off, thank you for allowing me to be one of the first to listen to the single. It truly is a great song, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up on the radio. Could you tell everyone where the idea for Like Mad originated from?

Chloe: Well, to start, I actually wrote the lyrics to the song over a year ago. It was before Chloe and the Steel Strings came about. It was a cool late-October night and Conner and I were not on the same page relationship wise. I was over at his house watching Wayne’s World and he asked if I could hang out another time because friends were coming over. Internally I was really upset by this. Were we together, were we not? I didn’t know. He was so confusing! But what I did know then is that I wanted to be with Conner Like Mad. So, that night, I went home and wrote the lyrics you hear today. We later worked it out that night and have been together since! To me the song was about doing whatever it takes to be with him.

FSMM: Wow, I had no idea! Amazing to hear that was written before the band was even in existence. I’m sure everyone can appreciate and even relate to this song on some level at one time or another. How was the recording process?

Chloe: The recording process was pretty smooth. It helped having already recorded an album a year ago. That album was a huge learning process for us. I would say this time we were much more prepared in terms of our vision for the song. We were also fortunate to have an excellent producer, Jordan Disorbo, from Glass Arrow Audio in Toledo, OH. He worked with us to really understand the vibe we were going for, and we couldn’t be happier with how the song turned out.

FSMM: So what’s next for Chloe and the Steel Strings?

Chloe: I think the sky’s the limit. We continue to grow as a band and as individuals. We’ve learned so much about what it takes and it’s not easy, but we’re taking time to enjoy the process. After all, you can’t expect anything worthwhile to happen overnight. We have several upcoming shows this fall including a performance at Swig on October 5th, Ye Olde Durty Bird on October 12th and the Apple Butter Festival in Grand Rapids, OH on October 14th. This has been our first full year as a band, and our biggest year yet – we’re excited for 2019 to see all that we can accomplish!

Be sure to check out and follow Chloe & the Steel Strings on Spotify and add their new single Like Mad to your playlist on October 1st!

Blog by Mark Moss of Freespirit Music Management