The Startup Musicians: Wolf Saga
Musicians are some of the original entrepreneurs, building their brands from the ground up by crafting a unique product that they hope will resonate with a market — whether they’re an experimental group tailored towards a niche audience or a pop sensation produced for the masses.
You may face many similar challenges trying to build a sustainable company as as a musician does trying to carve out a successful career, and we can often learn from the broad strategies employed by musicians and their management teams. In this series, we look at musicians who are finding creative solutions to their startup problems.
Wolf Saga is an up-and-coming synth-pop artist, born in London, Ontario and now based in Toronto. He recently played Camp Wavelength, has opened for Nate Reuss and performed at Chris Douridas’s School Night in Los Angeles. We sat down to Wolf Saga to find out how he went from wannabe to living off music.
How did you first start making music?
When I was 17 or 18, I answered a Kijiji ad of all things, and that was my first time having to compose and structure whole songs with other people involved. That’s really how it started. Then I went to college for music industry arts, and I picked up other skills like composing with computer software. So 18 was really when I decided I wanted to have a go at this. I’m 26 now, so it takes a while to really get your foot in the door.
How have you gotten your foot in the door?
I think sometimes people overlook contests, but I’ve entered a lot of them to get my name out there. I won a Samsung contest where I went to Vancouver to work with guys who I still talk to today. I entered another one and in January and got to go to Australia with Air Canada to shoot a commercial. Camp Wavelength has an application process for artists, so I sent my stuff in and that’s the reason I played there.
I also met my current manager [Jeff Rogers] through a contest. I owe him a lot, he gets me a lot of work, both performing and licensing my music. TV shows often use my music, which shows me how important it can be to have some songs with catchy hooks.
Are you able to live off the money you make from music?
Yeah, I get by. It’s about finding different avenues. Whether it’s licensing, playing shows, whatever. Applying for and getting funding grants also helps build momentum. I got a MuchFact grant that helped make the “Walls” video. I also recently just received one from Factor which will help me record a bunch of songs for an extended release.
How does your music stand out in the saturated market that is Soundcloud?
Because I create electronic music, I can write my own stuff, but also do a lot of remixes. My original stuff is very personal, the covers I do are mixed. I choose songs partly because they mean something to me, and partly because I think they’re something I can make unique and someone will click on. My most popular cover is “You Only Live Once” by The Strokes. I flipped it from a rock n roll song to synthwave electronic stuff, and instead of having a male vocal I had my female friend LYON sing on it.
I’ve also always been a keen believer in constantly having content out there for people to see. If you’re not constantly in someone’s newsfeed, it’s too easy to be forgotten. It’s tough, but you need to try to be at the forefront. Showing up on feeds is important. I try to get new photos and graphics done every quarter.
You need to plan though. I’m sitting on a song right now that I think is super good, and everyone I show it to agrees, but I’ve got to release it strategically. I don’t know how I’m going to do it yet — whether I do it as a single now, or wait until I have an extended release ready. I want to have at least this song released in the fall, if not more.