Whew. That is the only way to describe 2012. This has been an incredibly productive year. Some of you follow the site so closely that you could write this for me, but most of you probably don't have enough time to follow everything that happens here, so this will summarize the entire year in one post.
I Found Help
My customer support has been mostly handled by a friend of mine named Kevin Thomas. He's been reissuing downloads, helping to solve video problems, and doing many other support related tasks for over a year now. He's a drummer, a hard worker, and the kind of person you can trust with something as valuable as your reputation.
This year Kevin took over much of the video editing for my premium lessons. This was a huge relief, and has allowed me to focus on what I do best: planning new lessons. With his assistance, I published 9 DVDs this year. My average before this year was 6.
I had the pleasure of authoring a course for TrueFire.com this year. The entire experience has been positive, and the entire TrueFire crew has been great to work with. The course is called 50 Slow Blues Licks You Must Know, and I'm happy to report that it has been extremely well received.
When the course was released on Dec. 1st, it was kind of surreal to see it right on the TrueFire homepage. After 5 years, things like that still surprise me, but I'm very thankful for the opportunity.
The SRV Solo Matrix
As 2011 came to a close I was approaching burnout. So I took a break in January knowing that I would be tackling a huge project in 2012. That project was the SRV Style Solo Matrix. The idea had been gradually taking form for over a year, and I knew it was time.
By outsourcing my video editing to Kevin, I was able to teach 18 solos in less than 9 months. These lessons are the best I've ever done.
Site, Store, And Download System Overhaul
People who watch my lessons are usually oblivious to the amount of work involved in building the infrastructure behind the site, store, and download system. And that's the way it should be. You shouldn't have to think about it, that's my job.
In 2012, I decided to rebuild all my infrastructure. I had outgrown every service I was using. Rebuilding a website the size of StevieSnacks is a huge task. Overhauling the store and download system at the same time turns it into a massive project.
From August until October I worked incredibly hard to finish this project, and loved every second of it. I was a computer programmer for 10 years before StevieSnacks became my job, and sometimes I miss coding. This project allowed me to use the knowledge I gained as a programmer to architect a site like no other, adding features like gear lists for every video, proper testimonials, and responsive design.
At the same time I moved my store into the Shopify eCommerce system, and redesigned the store to match the new site, integrating them in a way that would feel seamless to you.
On October 21st, a day that marked the 5 year anniversary of StevieSnacks, I launched the new site, flipped the switch on the new store, and activated the new download system. There was a brief period of low activity as DNS changes propagated, but within a day everything was running like nothing happened, and has been that way ever since.
That is the best result I could have hoped for.
This holiday season was way busier than I expected, and the amount of customers stressed the download system, but my other infrastructure didn't even groan.
In 2011 I put out 38 free lessons but I almost burned out in the process. During my 3 weeks of doing nothing in January, I determined that my priorities were out of line. In my efforts to produce regular free lessons, the quality became hit-or-miss.
Free lessons are great and they serve a purpose, but free lessons don't pay the bills. I knew that if I wanted to make a dent in the Solo Matrix, my priorities had to change. Free lessons became something I did only when I had spare time and lots of motivation.
The result? I put out fewer lessons, but they were higher quality, backed by pure motivation and clearer thinking. The videos got more views and I got less negative feedback.
That's a win, and it's an approach I will continue to use.
Now it's time for break. I've been sprinting since August without time to rest between, or celebrate the completion of these projects. Now, I'm taking a break. I'll be traveling to Winter NAMM in Anaheim later in January, but mostly I'll just be organizing all the stuff that gets ignored when I'm in the middle of building something.
Finally, a heartfelt, and sincere thanks to everyone who spent their time learning from my lessons. Even if you never buy anything, when you watch my lessons and talk about them to your friends, it helps. StevieSnacks exists because you keep coming back.
Pretty much everything in my professional life has changed in the last 5 years. Some of you have watched the growth of this site and you've watched me go through alternating phases of joy and frustration as I learned how to deal with a flood of attention, compliments, and occasional harsh criticism.
I need you to know that I am the same person today as I was in 2007. The scenery around me has changed, the equipment comes with higher price tags, and my inbox is constantly full of messages, some from people that wouldn't have given me the time of day before StevieSnacks grew this big.
In spite of all that, I remain dedicated to the same thing that inspired the first video. My goal is to help you experience what I feel when I play guitar. The fruits of success are nice, but my driving passion has not changed.
That's not to say that I never got confused about what this all means. Several times over the past 5 years I began to believe that my success was more about me than the lessons, but today, after my most successful year ever, my feet are planted firmly where they began.
There may be great opportunities that come my way in 2012, some that I'll accept, some that I'll decline. What I need you to know is that the success of this site is not changing me. My ego is firmly in check. Regardless of where you see me appear in 2013, you should know that success is just decoration. The core motivation behind this site, and what keeps me grounded has not changed.
I have the awesome privilege of getting paid to do what I love by people who appreciate it. I will never take that for granted. Have a happy, safe new year.