One of my favorite parts about running a blog is getting to talk with people who live all over the world. Today's Music and Money column is brought to you by Dutch musician and entrepreneur Tom de Wit. Enjoy!
Tell our readers all about your band! Where are you from and when did you get started? What is your music like?
My name is Tom de Wit and I am a songwriter, producer, singer and content creator. I have been making music under the name of TDW for 19 years now. I am also the lead singer and writer in Dreamwalkers Inc.
I was born and raised in Amersfoort, The Netherlands, where I still live to this day. My music is often described as Progressive Metal with symphonic and alternative influences due to my singing style, the way I write my songs and how I like to just throw all sorts of things into my music. What are your goals for your band?
My main goal for my music with TDW has always been to create a big body of work that stands on it’s own and that doesn’t sound like other bands. Sure, I have my musical influences which can be heard, but my goal always has been to create a musical world of sorts that has its own identity. Writing for me is a very strong mental process as it is my way to process my emotions as I am a highly sensitive person. So basically, my music is like my therapy in a way. My second goal always is to reach and connect with people through my music and lyrics. So there is no greater compliment for me then to hear that a song or album I made touched someone’s heart. In the end, music is about sharing energy and emotions with one another. If I can then also sell those albums to others, it is of course a great honor and privilege to do so, and I can always use that money to make new things. In my other band, Dreamwalkers Inc, we have a mutual goal in that we want to make music that excites us first and foremost and that brings in something challenging and melodic. We are now in the process of finding out what the new band setup with new members and ideas will bring us, so that is very exciting.
What do you do for a living?
I am a content producer in audio, video and web design for all sorts of clients in my own studio The Imagineering Suite. This is a fully equipped production studio inside my house where I work both for companies (Promofilms, websites, etc.) as well as individuals (producing music, thinking of concepts etc). It is great fun to be my own boss and be free to make projects in a way that suits me and my work ethic best.
How do you balance your work and personal life with the band?
I am lucky that I am able to do music-related stuff in the same place where I do my work for clients, so the balance in that sense is solid. I can literally spend two hours on music, then turn off that software and get back to coding a website for a small company for example. I tend to be pretty disciplined on this and like making to-do lists that I keep myself to.
Next to this, my personal life involves my friends (often musicians as well though) and my family and girlfriend of course. I am lucky that I am able to work from multiple spaces with my laptop as well. So even on “free days” outside of my studio I can still just pop in on a distance for an hour and get work done.
What do you consider to be the best investment you've made, music-wise?
I think the best investment for me was the time I invested in learning production and building my studio.
I did go to an audio/visual school -- but that was a complete mess, so I mostly learned how NOT to do it there, haha. But in the years that followed I dedicated myself to reading a lot of magazines, watched a lot of tutorials, and basically invested money that others invested in going to bars to get wasted in new equipment for my studio.
Sure, it might have seemed odd to many to chase such a far fetched dream, but I knew that my inner drive to make things was so strong, that time and money would not be keeping me from achieving it. So I worked many sh*t-jobs to get gear and spent many free hours learning about compression, recording etc. But the result is now that I am able to create freely whatever I really want. That freedom and those possibilities are my most valuable possession.
What's the worst or least helpful thing you've ever spent money on as a musician/band?
I have unfortunately worked with many promoters in my life who charged me money to get me into things which then turned out to not reach ANYONE at all… Very frustrating. This is also the reason why I started my own label at a certain point, because I felt that the “work” these people claimed to be doing was something I could do myself as well… I guess that frustration of people asking for money and not getting anything in return, did bring me the founding of my own label Layered Reality Productions and the reach I now have as both a musician and label boss, so I was able to turn that frustration around and use it constructively. What kind of merch sells the best for your band? And what do you purchase most often as a music listener?
The best sellers for both TDW & Dreamwalkers are always the albums, but I do notice that when we do shirts, they tend to sell well with the hardcore in-crowd. That is because I want to make the shirts match with the vibe of the album's artwork and make it something unique to wear that stands out. One common thread in my merch for TDW is that it stands out on many levels. I released albums in different formats like a CD in a 10” sleeve or CD’s in digibook format for example, so that people know they are not just buying another CD, but getting an actual package with content that is thought out and has more value. And regarding t-shirts, we simply did a few shirt runs that were NOT black and those sold the best. Imagine that, a metal act NOT doing a black shirt! OH NO THE HORROR, Haha. But we actually got responses from people saying they liked it and the best part was that our fans stood out among the metal crowds because of their green and sand colored t-shirts. It’s simple things like that that can really help. Also with Dreamwalkers Inc we once made a joke t-shirt that had my cat BERT on it and called it “Bertwalkers Inc – Symphonic Purrog Meowtal” and that one sold like hot cakes because it had the cute cat but was also metal as f*ck. It’s good to take your brand seriously, but playing around sometimes can also help to stand out. As a personal enjoyer of music I still buy CD’s, but also DVD’s and vinyl. I love my collection of physical media and I like supporting bands directly. Shirts only happen if they have really cool designs or colors that stand out, as I think owning about 70 black shirts is enough at this point.
If you've been on tour, can you share some tour budgeting tips?
I have not been on tour yet for a bigger production, but I can say from a live performance perspective it is always good to look at the smallest size possible in terms of gear. With Dreamwalkers Inc, we perform with click tracks and backing tracks and we have in-ears as well. We really tried to make that setup as compact as possible as we wanted to be able to bring our whole show in the smallest car we could find. This is both a matter of not having to carry too much weight, but also just for the dead simple reason that we can play everywhere and not be dependent on others to get our show going.
Finding the balance between self-dependency and efficiency is key to making a good live show work I think.
Which online music or social media platforms are most helpful to your band?
I would say my two main places are Facebook and Instagram where I get the most followers and response, but it is getting harder and harder to be seen on both with ever changing algorithms. I think one should not understate the power of having a solid website besides those places as well and to make sure there is email reach through either the labels and/or the promoters you work with. All things combined together bring in your audience in the end.
So in short, try to make sure you have a presence on most prominent media so that you can be found well. Numbers are important, but the most important thing is genuine interaction with your fanbase and getting stuff out there and seen.
What does "making it" mean to you, and what do you think a band needs to make it in today's musical landscape?
To me, making it means that you write and create the music that you truly want to make from the heart in your specific way and that there is an audience that really GETS it. I think reaching people legitimately is what it should be about in the end. I would rather have a 1000 dedicated fans worldwide that REALLY love and understand my music, then having 100.000 that just want to hear “the hit song” if you know what I mean.
I also think this is the difference between being a writer or a performer. I know many performers who just want to reach the biggest crowds and I say, more power to them. But for me the performance always is an extension of the writing. The creation and the writing always comes first for me, so if someone legitimately gets and feels that, that is making it for me.
Also, this might sound odd, but I chose early on that I did not want to live from my music and that I am okay with being a producer on the side. I think the danger of making a living on your own music is that you will find that massive audience, but that you will become a slave to what they want to hear… And that is something that is legit terrifying to me. If I reach a big audience with an album, it’s of course welcomed, but I would not write another album just like it after to please them… That would go against my artistic sensibilities.
Featured photo of TDW by Elly Hak Photography.
TDW's latest album The Days the Clock Stopped is available here: https://www.tdwmusic.com/shop
Also, check out Tom's interview on the Dumb and Dumbest Podcast, where he talks about how health issues have influenced his music, and how your body is healthy and working properly... Until one day, it's not.
To learn more about budgeting, band finances, and more, order Money Hacks for Metalheads and Old Millennials in paperback and ebook formats: https://amzn.to/3lCsFdq
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