I'm building tools for part-time musicians. This page covers my weekly progress and insights. Go here to learn more about the problem.
Let's start with the good news, then dive into the existential crises:
- Launching V2 of the platform
I finished building a super simple, freely accessible version of the platform at https://makemoremusic.club/. Although I'm having a hard time motivating people to keep up their streak, I'm going to share this on Reddit to see if someone else wants to set up a squad and keep each other motivated.
It's kind of the 'set it and forget it' type of experiment, just to make sure I didn't end up empty-handed with this part, and it's nicely open ended for others to play with if they like it.
- Life-changing or facilitating?
So obviously my experiments up until now haven't been very successful (apart from for myself), so I've been doing some thinking about who I'm solving problems for and what I'm actually trying to do. Steve, who's helping me, has helped me uncover some problems in my approach as well. and it feels a bit like this:
The essence of the problem is people's priorities. Because they have other things to do that are more important for them, they don't spend time on music. Changing people's priorities is a pretty big task.
My audience is a bit of a paradox; I'm trying to get people excited about something that they're just not excited enough about to make it a priority. I'm starting to question whether that is a good strategy in general. This comment struck me the most and serves as a great reminder for anyone building a product:
If you take other things like no-code or hardcore music production, you see there's a cult-like feeling to it because people are into it 24/7. Tools in this space are just facilitating the hype that's already there, instead of trying to change people's lives. Changing people's lives would be possible, but you need to do more. Setting someone up with a mentor, a specific learning path, a more focused approach, etc. Which starts to be more like a school than a tool. Which brings me to..
- The scope of your ambition vs. the time you have
I probably shouldn't try to solve a problem with such a big scope as a side project. By limiting myself to doing it on the side, I'm already excluding some bigger solutions, which could actually be the only right ones.
This is always a bit of a tightrope to walk on when building something new, but it's a helpful way to think for this situation; I have 6 weeks left and I'm spending roughly a day a week in total. Will I focus on solving something that's super big, or build something that fits the time I have for it? The odds of something working well are probably a bit bigger if these two are matched.
- The next experiment
As if brought to me, this tweet also popped up on my timeline:
Which motivated me some more to start solving something more urgent. I'm currently working on producing my first EP with one of my best friends, so I'm not experiencing writers' block at all at the moment. There are a few ideas in my head of what would be more exciting/useful to work on in these remaining weeks, so I'm taking time this week to think of a new, more powerful experiment. Keep messing around!
Two interesting things from this last week:
Spend most of my time setting up the web version this week. Just launched the (web-only) version for everyone who was already signed up:
feed.makemoremusic.club Will pick up the build later this week and add features for people to build their own squad + more onboarding, then share again on Reddit etc.
- Accountability, 1 on 1?
I've been emailing back and forth with Steve, who joined the platform but is also a PM, he's been great at poking holes in my strategy. He reminded me that the product is pretty all over the place & I haven't truly solved the consistency part yet. I'm very blessed as he caught me on my bullshit right away :')
We've been thinking through the accountability aspect some more and considering going towards a mentor/mentee relationship that's more personal instead of being part of a squad.
Took a while for me to find my groove back, but spend some time refining and launching new iterations last week:
- First onboarding call
Had my first onboarding call with a new member, that was really cool - I hope people will plan more of these because they're a ton of fun.
- 30 day beatmaking challenge
I made a 30-day, 15 minutes/day challenge specifically for one member, in a very low-key Softr site. My idea here is to figure out whether specific subjects and timeboxed challenges are more effective in driving people to do something. It's a combination of youtube vids, personal practice and active listening. Check it out: https://ideas.makemoremusic.club/30daybeatmaking
- Simpler concept, flexible setup = more serendipity
I've been wanting to do a web version just to make things more accessible, and people are really not keeping up their streaks, so I'm designing a version of this that allows people to set up their own squad and makes the concept clear on the outset.
Going to share that to see if people find other use cases, or if another segment of users finds it interesting (for example people making a ton of music wanting to share with a little group). Then I'm going to broaden the experiments again.
Here's a recap with week 10's most important insights:
- Improved onboarding
I designed and built a new onboarding flow live on stream last week - that was a lot of fun. The biggest goal is to have people write out their commitment & schedule a call before I send them to the app, so I can understand their goals in a better way.
I hope this hand-holding will give me some more ideas on where to go.
- Everybody fell off the wagon... Except me:
Looks like I've mostly built a solution for myself, as the only person who didn't lose their streak this week was Dan, who paused for 2 weeks:
This is a serious sign that I need to tweak the formula. Which brings me to..
- 30 day, 5 minute a day songwriting challenge
I think I'm going to change the entry point and the formula some more. I'm thinking of marketing and sharing specific challenge that people can do by themselves, where the app is sending you a daily reminder with a super short prompt that you can do in 5 minutes. If people are already committed daily, it'll be easier to loop them in to be committed on a weekly basis as well. Basically - make things even smaller :) If this works, I'm planning to roll this out in other subjects as well like production & composition. What I'll need to figure out is how to position the groups. If the main focus of the app is the daily prompts, how do I communicate the weekly group cycle without overcomplicating things?
Here's a recap with week 9's most important insights:
- Sharing & Feedback pages
Built a way for people to share their creations publicly & ask the group for feedback - happy with where this ended up, especially as this can be used outside of the community!
Yodanparry's session - Mar 7, 2021
Make more music with your friends, people that inspire you and random folks on the internet 💎
Of all last week's users, exactly 0 are active. I've done a pretty shitty job onboarding them, which just goes to show that that's hard. I've got some great feedback from Amaraj on onboarding, mostly focused on doing more hand-holding in the first weeks, really trying to personally onboard people. Two awesome ideas came up in our conversation:
Writing out your musical commitment
Having people write out their commitment when the challenge starts to remind them why they want to find a place for music in their lives, to solidify the commitment.
Design optional specific challenges like a "5 minutes a day, 30-day songwriting challenge" for people to start with personally. So you have a specific subject you want to work on vs. uploading anything. I think having challenges + groups will probably lead to people picking their favorite way.
Going to work on onboarding next, doing a scheduled call with everyone that comes in.
- "Simple" prompts
I created ideas.makemoremusic.club to help people be less overwhelmed, but now that I look at it, the prompts are huge 😂 'write a song in a genre you're not familiar with' is about the most intimidating prompt i've ever seen.
Going to remix into 5-minute exercises, then might create challenges out of the categories.
- New schedule
Trying to do this every day was really burning me out a bit. Doing 30min a day is great for tweaks & talking about the product, but I end up either spending too much time or feeling very unproductive about it. I'm now spending a day a week which feels quite good.
Day 46 - Mobile
Shared the hype with Knyck today & slowly looking into BDK native for building mobile Bubble apps, so I can add some crazier ideas like audio recording..
Day 45 - Dashboards & welcoming new people
14 signups through outreach! That's a good sign - people already reported noting down their intentions is helping so that's great. Built a little dashboard for me to automate resetting streaks weekly:
Day 44 - Onboarding
Happy to see my super advanced notification system is working:
Going to reach out to these ppl individually and see if I can help.
Day 43 - Outreach
Back to Reddit again, this time with a proper proposition :) excited to see how it goes!
Day 42 - Presenting progress
Had a great time presenting the progress so far at the #100DaysOfNoCode community.
Day 41 - Ready to re-research
Finally time to start reaching out to potential users again tomorrow. Love the transition from Webflow to Softr & Adalo in here, so happy with how this will look on the users' end:
Day 40 - Landing on a page..
Working on the beginning of a design system in Webflow to re-use in the future. Lots of philosophical questions about how to structure..
Day 39 - Finding middle ground
Having a hard time keeping up the daily cadence as I'm moving into a new apartment, but managed to do a few things today:
- My favorite thing about visual development is being able to respond super quickly. This happened in the chat today:
- I dove into the Telegram API to automatically send people's submissions to the chat 😃
This does confirm that the 'feedback loop' is more important than just the streak. Getting notified that someone else is making probably also reminds you and inspires you to keep making.
- I'm starting to build up a UI kit in Webflow, which I'll use for the landing pages:
Day 38 - Feedback & features
Discussed the progress so far with a few members of the group: all of their testimonials are really, really positive and they're all making more music.
Good sign. Some new things that we've discussed:
- Adding comments back into the app - We do all miss the social aspect of 'dropping' something and getting the hype of the group to back you up, so I'm going to
- Setting a specific timeslot to make music - I spoke with users about the moments they make music and what their most obvious 'competitor' is - the thing they do after a day's work instead of making music. Turns out, the time is there, but it often goes to other hobbies or commitments. I'm going to try and add a specific time to the intention to make things more tangible.
- "I want feedback on this" button - along with comments, a way to show the group you want feedback on a specific aspect of your upload; chords, melody, structure, etc. The cool thing about this? We'll build up a database of feedback :)
Day 37 - UI Kitting
Researched getting our UI kit in Webflow today - will definitely help building the necessary pages for this & future projects 🏗
Day 36 - Consistency
Finished the Softr prototype today:
Looks like it'll be consistent with what I'll be doing on Webflow & Adalo 😃
Day 35 - Taking shape
Softr is just insane. Built a prototype for Exercises in 2 minutes based on yesterday's Airtable base. Will touch up a bit and it's ready to go.
That means there's some more time to think about how to share these ideas. Working on a simple landing page for both concepts, so I can add on mini products in the future:
Day 34 - The actual work
List of exercises is starting to build up nicely:
I'll probably build a simple Softr version just to get some early feedback from the people I reach out to, then build up the exercises as I go.
Day 33 - Ready for launch
Weekly update is over here:
Spend the past few days tweaking & fixing some bugs here and there. It'll be exciting to see people's experiences next week.
Day 30 - Let's go!
I've managed to get a rough first version out today, to test with the current group:
There are some features I had to postpone because I'm using these beta features (like notifications), but I figured it's about time to get something out. Always be a little bit ashamed of your V1s 😅
Thoughts on Bubble + Adalo so far:
- Having Bubble's advanced features makes a massive difference in what you can build - in my case, I wouldn't have been able to build a scheduling feature, or reset everyone's streaks every week.
- It's great for Adalo's performance to just keep these things on the backend.
- The connection to the Bubble data is a lot faster and less clunky than I'd expect.
- Assuming the Adalo app is on the App Store, Bubble can be a great "bridge" for generating sharelinks and making content public, then having people sign up on web and continue on mobile.
- Doing it this way definitely slows down the initial build: for example, every change in the data model has to be changed in the API setup, which introduces a few more steps. Not an issue if the app won't change a lot.
- You can't access nested data, which is a major point - for example, if I want to show a persons' profile picture with every post they make, I need to add that picture to the post to access it.
- You can set up an API call to grab a list of things, but to filter that list, you need to change the API call, instead of just filtering the list in Adalo. That's definitely an issue if you're displaying the same data in multiple ways. It's also a bit of a technical story to get it right.
- I have to wait for the external users beta to implement a few features, but that's just a matter of time.
Day 28 - Deeper into this stack..
My laptop's back!!! So had some great progress today on the app - found out a lot more specific ways to deal with Adalo + Bubble, writing a little guide for later on how this is all set up. It's fast enough, so that's a really good sign. Also set up a little roadmap to build features in a nice overview on the Notion page.
I ended up with implementing push notifications, but as always, I think I found an edge case
- I’m using Bubble for authentication & as a backend for my Adalo app
- I’m implementing an API call from Bubble to Adalo to schedule push messages
- To do so, I have to send an email address along to let Adalo identify which device to send to.
- However, I’m using Bubble as Auth, so it can’t find the user.
I played myself. The feature is still in beta, so pretty sure this will be fixed on the Adalo side soon.
Day 27 - Build mode on
Getting a feel for the onboarding on Adalo:
Day 26 - Building & tweaking..
Working through the Adalo + Bubble combination today and getting some feedback on the accountability part. Decided to remix this into ‘Groups’ as we had some awesome submissions today and I just get so excited from sharing these demo’s.
Excited to test the idea of having people create a new group from scratch using the app, instead of me inviting them into a mega-group.
Day 25 - Multi-playerish?
Something didn’t feel 100% right about the proto I’m building, so I decided to test two additions: having specific accountability partners & setting a goal. The current version just felt a little too isolated. This also opens up doors to sharing and creating more mini-communities; which i think would really help with promoting vulnerability.
I also think this will create a simple story people can tell each other: I’m challenging myself to do X weeks of music making, you can check my progress here.
Day 23 - Ready to build
Designed a simple prototype for V1 of the habit tracker today: Tomorrow the build starts ⚒
Prototype is over here
Day 22 - Content, Community & skill levels
Had some good inspiration today from other makers & one user who didn’t end up being very active. Turns out, lots of successful communities have a boatload of content - this makes a ton of sense, so I need to think about showing more value upfront. Spoke with a pro musician on the app & exercises I’m prepping, and looks like that’s headed in the right direction. As I thought, skill level / being able to collaborate with each other is quite important for the community part, so that needs a bigger audience to really be effective - thinking about starting to match people up at a certain point.
On a tech note, I saw someone use Softr and that’s a crazy fast way to build something on top of Airtable. I spy an Adalo - Airtable - Bubble - Softr hybrid before going into Webflow 👀
My biggest inspiration for the exercise side is https://coolors.co/ - I am in love with this. Press spacebar to generate & shuffle, keep something you like. So simple.
Day 21 - But first, the thing that actually has users.
Today I decided to work on the mobile app for the existing community members first. I will learn more from building out the exercise part and email list, but! This takes less time and has a higher success rate. So I’d rather get this rolling first. Working out all the exercises will take time, so that’s something I can nicely do after the app is there.
This also gives me the opportunity to talk about the exercises as a separate mini product with some potential members.
My biggest question here is whether the effect will stay the same when I ‘de-humanize’ the experience. Ironically, the focus of the app is less personal and community-focused than something like the chat we have currently.
So worked on the onboarding sequence today, focusing on just having people’s streaks visible & nothing else for now.
Day 19 - Splitting things up
Weekly update is over here:
Spent some time designing the upcoming two experiments today: Different audience, different platform, different ‘asks’, different levels of commitment, same core problem.
→ email list with weekly exercises Existing community → habit tracker app + integrated chat
Day 17 - Feedback tool or habit tracker?
Part of the fun in the group right now is listening to each others contributions - this is awesome, but also something that other tools solve as well, and i’m afraid it’s quite dependent on established personal connections between people. One inactive member reached out to give similar feedback, because he already has a support network / people to get feedback from. This made me curious about the habit tracker vs. community tradeoff, which I want to explore a bit further. I’m drawing out a way to merge them, by having the chat as an ‘optional’ addition above a really simple tracker. So basically, single-player habit tracker → challenge a friend/group with the platform if you want → integrate with a chat tool if you want. A single player habit tracker could already be a github-style activity tracker, or! I could rephrase it as a musical journal - something to look back on and enjoy the random progress. So possibly: musical journal → accountability partners → feedback and collabs. Start just solo, then share your stuff, then go deeper and actually work together.
Even smaller steps would be: exercises (to get over writers block) → musical journal → accountability partners → feedback and collabs
Exercises could be a cool tool to share as well 🤫
The chat is interesting in itself → i think i’ll focus on musical journal for people who the chat is a bit too committed & focus on exercises as a ‘launch’
Day 16 - Have I tried turning it on and off again?
My laptop broke down, so I’m juggling everything on my iPad at the moment - not ideal but hopefully I can design some things for the community tomorrow..
Day 15 - Linking up
Got the database to sync on people's weekly 'experiments' :)
Day 14 - A little big experiment
Did some cool things today - I know I'd love to send push notifications at some point, or make the community 'feel' mobile - that's why I just wanted to figure out early on whether I could use Adalo for mobile and Bubble for web and backend, keeping styles consistent.
It's also a good excuse for me to geek out on this - Adalo is beta testing their External users feature and just rolled out custom fonts, so... It looks like this works pretty well:
Day 12 - Barriers to entry + weekly update
Here's the rundown for the full week:
Over the weekend, I've worked on wireframing the easiest way to get going and see the value. Will build this out to see if this feels different than pitching a community to people - curious if more people would 'just try'.
I also almost finished a song this week, thanks to the exercise getting me back into the flow - that's a good sign 🙂
Day 10 - Contradicting myself
When designing, I love trying to design two completely opposite approaches just to explore the right balance. Here's how I feel about the possible 'entry points' into the community:
The cool thing is - 1 is something I can build quickly, the other one is a slow-burn that I've set in motion, so there's an opportunity to learn about both & find the right balance while playing around.
Will fill in these gaps with some ideas tomorrow ✌️
Day 9 - Where is everyone hanging out?
Within the current chat, we already notice the benefits of having an established project at the beginning of the week - I made some nice progress in just 30 minutes of music making yesterday because I had a clear project.
I dove into communities a little more and found a nice list of Discord communities where people are collaborating & sharing their music. Will lurk a bit and see if I can contribute. I'm starting to wonder whether I should position this as a community first, or simply as a tool to stay accountable. I like tools like wip.chat that are pretty low-key in their messaging, but if you want you can go a lot deeper.
In the ideal situation, people won't be forced to 'switch' communities but MMM would be a layer on top just to stay accountable. Like almost single-player at first. So if I share this with people, it doesn't feel like a big step to try it out for a while.
And it's important to try it out for a while before seeing the results - which will be a tough sell. But joining a community and getting to know people is a bit of a commitment.
Maybe I should simplify the concept a LOT and just go with a simple field → what do you want to do this week? Then open up the feed. It'd be a nice design challenge as well to keep everything very low-investment at first. Maybe contrast it with a super high commitment.
Another thing to think about is where this thing will 'live' - What i like about the telegram chat is that it's very visible for people & easy to remember. Maybe go mobile-first to have push notifications right away..
Day 8 - Who needs a landing page when you have text?
Built a simple landing page in Super + Notion today to share when talking about the concept with people. I'm hoping / guessing the problem is strong enough to resonate with people using just copy:
Started with asking the people who replied to my post:
Let's see what happens -
Day 7 - If people had the problem, they would've been talking about it.
January 19, 2021
My reddit post yesterday had quite some good reactions which made me realize: there's solutions to the problem I'm solving ALL over the web. It's a good sign, as people are actually actively doing exercises to remove their writers' block (which is a solution I've been playing with):
I started gathering all people's tips, practices & tools in the Airtable base:
I can re-use a ton of these when designing exercises, but it also gives me a list of people who have been working on this problem before who I can reach out to. I brainstormed a bit about what I can add on top of these to make the community valuable, and it feels a bit like this:
And I couldn't help but wireframe a liiiittle bit to play with how to present solutions:
But! I'll still force myself to go fully text-based for a while. I think the strongest products are things you can just read out loud and get excited by because the problem they're solving is so well formulated. Tomorrow I will write up a Notion page and reach out to people from the Reddit threads, to see if I can get them to give me some feedback.
Day 6 - Keep it simple
January 18, 2021
I started the day by asking my little testing group what they wanted to focus on - I'm already super excited about what everyone is going to try:
I started logging people's experiments in an Airtable doc so I can use them for later inspiration.
To explore the problem a bit more, I complained on Reddit:
I hope I can get some inspiration here on the alternatives people currently use to solve this problem, and potentially find people who experience this problem.. I wasn't allowed to promote anything so I guess I'll follow up with the solution in private and slide into their DMs 🙃
Luckily there's more people who ask these questions, so I'll explore these answers as well:
Day 5 - I wish every MVP was this simple.
Jan 17, 2021
Day 4 - The smallest version.
Jan 16, 2021
While I research the issue, tomorrow I'll build the smallest version of the community I can possibly imagine:
- Purely text-based.
- Based in an existing messaging app (my eye's on Telegram)
- Me & a handful of friends.
- No automation (yet).
Beautiful UIs are awesome, but it's even more awesome to know why the UI is necessary in the first place. Of course this won't pass the mom test, but will definitely help me learn something for myself.
Day 3 - Frameworking vs. Working
Jan 15, 2021
I don’t like picking a side between ‘you should validate everything and interview yourself to death’ and ‘you should just start and see what happens’. So I’ll run two approaches in parallel:
#1 - Working - Just start something super minimal and see what happens naturally . (Shoutout Pieter Levels)
#2 - Frameworking - Spend some time thinking about the audience, problems & solutions and research them systematically. (Shoutout Ash Maurya, Clay Christensen)
I am too excited to start building, so this is a good time to force myself to think the problems through with a few frameworks 🙇♂️I love using the Lean Canvas & Jobs to be done theory.
For now, I landed on a main job to be done: Be proud of the music I made in my spare time.
With a bit more of a short-term job nested under that: Find a place for creating music in my life.
Mapped it out in the Figma file:
Day 2 - Where to begin?
Jan 14, 2021
Sometimes I feel like there’s two camps among people starting new ideas; the "just build, launch and see what happens" camp, and the "let’s fit everything into a startup validation framework" camp. I think there’s value to both approaches, and being able to build faster with low-code makes it possible to do a bit of both.
So I alternate a bit and find myself on a winding road between the camps:
I did start playing around with design a tiny bit. I feel like lots of ideas need a few nights’ sleep and need to crystallize a bit before they become better, so the sooner they are visual the sooner something feels real and you start to see the problems it will have.
Yesterday I defined the factors that I think drive the problem - I hope these will help me split up the solutions and test them separately, reducing the scope of my experiments.
By the end of this week, I hope to build an extremely simple prototype (pretotype?) that I can use by myself or share with a couple of people, just to test one solution. It’ll take time for me to build a habit as well, so the sooner I can get the single-player process running, the better.
Tomorrow I’ll use the Lean Canvas & the Jobs to be done framework to make more sense of the problems and guide me with some research. They won’t be a leading process in this case, but will serve as inspiration for questions to start figuring out.
Day 1 - What's the problem?
Jan 13, 2021
I spent some time today on writing out the problem I'm trying to solve. Splitting it up in this way will make it easier for me to scope an MVP.
Here's what I think my lack of music creation boils down to:
- Lack of habit & routine
- Getting into a creative state is difficult
- It's hard to be inspired at the right time
- Unrealistic expectations
I tend to focus on one subset of a problem at a time, just to see what happens to the idea when you cut out less important parts. The coming days I'll design a single-player MVP that I can use alone to start testing something tangible as I research the problem more thoroughly.
I also set up these page to start sharing my progress publicly ✌️