Long story short, I released an album in November. I have only a very small (but much appreciated) following, so I knew that I wouldn't be selling the thing like hotcakes. I knew I would never make much money off the release, in fact, I knew that I would LOSE money on it, I knew it wasn't going to be the next big thing, and yet I worked though it, spent months arranging and mixing, figured out what needed to be done with distribution, how to get it on iTunes and everywhere else it needed to be so that people could find me, learned all the different ways I needed to be signed up with PRO X and Aggregate Z... and I did it. I finished it, I distributed it, real people out in the world bought it, a few nice people reviewed it, and I was proud of myself.
And then, 17 weeks after my album's release, I hit the first major snag in my plan.
I wanted to be on Pandora. I wanted to be on Pandora so very badly. Understand that I am a heavy Pandora user who has discovered oh-so-many new things using the service, and I'm a big fan of the way they categorize musical elements to create personalized stations. Honestly, I think the whole "Musical Genome Project" thing works very well. I like that about Pandora.
So, I (of course) thought that being on Pandora would offer me exposure to people who would otherwise never hear of me-- because the sad truth is that I spend my days and nights at home with my children, and not out playing the clubs, shilling merch and my music. I make music while my kids are at school, and ONLY while my kids are a school, since my living room is also my studio, and, bottom line, 8 and 12 year olds can make a hell of a racket (also, I don't like them hearing me sing lyrics that may be taken the wrong way, given artistic liberties and any truth bending I may or may not be doing with any particular song.... not to give away any major musical secrets or anything).
I knew my LP was strong enough to be on Pandora... I produced it well, I sent it to an Actual Engineering Legend for mastering, and I got a few very nice reviews from people whose opinions I trust implicitly... but... it turns out that I was wrong about thinking I was good enough for Pandora.
After 17 loooong weeks of waiting, when it was only supposed to be 6-8 weeks, I might add, Pandora denied me entrance to the club.
Now... Just to get this bit out of the way... as an independent artist I have a true love-hate relationship with Pandora and Spotify (I *am* on Spotify as an artist, though, and as a listener, I do pay for the Premium Service. I'd also be super-happy to pay even more for Premium if it meant that artists would be compensated better than they are now, just so you know. Truth). See, Thom Yorke of Radiohead is one of my absolute idols, and I know what he thinks about Spotify and Pandora. And, in my opinion, he's right about it all, generally speaking.
However, I am not Thom Yorke. I am a 41 year-old suburban mother of two that Thom Yorke will never even lay ears on. And, as much as I would love to sing just one song with him, (me, the slightly overweight, middle-aged backing singer, hunched over a mic in some dark corner of the stage), I know that this will never happen. Thom Yorke is right about Pandora and Spotify, but I can't afford to be right. If anyone is ever going to hear me - and I am driven by the need to be heard, not by money, obviously - I need exposure.
But Pandora said, no. And, I'm sort of really, really bummed about it all and sort of giving them the finger and also sort of rejoicing because I didn't have to make Thom Yorke think any less of me... you know... just in case he DOES ever lay ears on me...
Still, it was a painful experience to say the least.
The day after the great Pandora-made-me-cry debacle, my husband was fiddling with one of our Sonos players (I heart my Sonos Players, btw), looking for something new. Neither of us had ever clicked on "Shuffler.fm" before, and we didn't really know what it was. However, when I saw a category called "LoFi", I was like, SO THERE, dude. Clicked it. Put it on. Haven't turned it off, since.
A quick flurry of hands-a-googling and I find out that Shuffler actually digs through music blogs for music that no one has ever heard of.
Wait... What? Because that's pretty much ex-ACT-ly what I need. Eureka! Watson come here, I need you!
I immediately signed up for Shuffler and started researching how it works. I found out that I needed to have my music actually embedded in a blog (not just on my Bandcamp site, or on Soundcloud), and the blog validated by their little botty-bots for my music to appear on the site. I also needed to have it nicely catalogued and tagged on Last.fm (hey! I already have that!).
Ok. I've blogged before, I can very easily do it again (seriously, look how long this post is, already). Let's just see if we can get on Shuffler, then, hmmm?
And so here we are. A music blog. MY music blog. Full of MY music, because ain't nobody else going to put it up there.
And yet.... and yet... OMG, I have so many musician friends in the very same boat.
As I was creating and designing this site, I kept going back to the idea that *I* could be my own damn music blogger, and I could even do the same for my friends. Maybe even let it grow into something bigger, who knows?
I certainly have the experience. Tom Yorke may not know who I am, but my whole life has revolved around music... from singing in community theater as a little kid, to being that weird girl in black who didn't listen to what every one else was listening to in high school, to performing Puccini at the state level of Ohio's Jr. Miss Scholarship program (and WINNING the talent portion of the program, thankyouverrrrymuch), to AAA Baseball games and singing the National Anthem, to hosting my own New Music and Techno radio shows in college, to working at the record store in the mall for a hundred and fifty thousand years or so, to singing my own lullabies to my kids, to learning how in the HELL to use all this crazy digital audio software, learning how to mix, how to create, how to write, how to record, how to produce... and eventually even navigating the exceedingly treacherous waters of music distribution.
And, yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm having a little trouble with the validation code from Shuffler, but the ball is rolling, and as soon as someone from Shuffler answers my emails, I'm on my way.
Hells yes, I can do this. The question is: WHO ELSE wants in? We can review music, we can talk about products, software and sound design, we can make videos, network, DO STUFF...
Honest to Pete, I am sick and tired of waiting for someone else to help me.
*Side note: I do have a rather lengthy email written to Mr. Yorke about all of this somewhere on my cloud... but, I've never sent it. Maybe some day I will. Maybe someday I'll post THAT, because, why not? It's my damn blog.
"Queen of Somewhere... A beautifully produced, lushly detailed sound banquet built around Julianna McDuffie’s nuanced lyrics, which explore themes of discovery, loss and longing... McDuffie delivers her songs in a rich and compelling, closely miked voice, at a measured pace that largely tracks the rhythm of the heartbeat. She is not shy to explore sound in the service of her voice, and listeners who appreciate attention to aural detail will find a lot to like here—vocal treatments spiral and eddy, trailing their way though a sonic landscape that is recorded with a fine sense of spatial possibility..."
-iTunes Review, by edgemitchell
March 7, 2015
It's all Thom Yorke's fault.
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First of all, I am so SORRY you didn't get on Pandora! That is a bummer. I'm sad!
Second of all, I disagree with Mr. Yorke. Yeah, a lot of elitist old school musicians who are used to being one of the few privileged don't like the new reality. They're bitter, and it's understandable.
And I know a lot of indie artists also think they are getting a bum deal from streaming radio. It's variations on the same story from the indies: they are getting "all these spins" and not very much money.
But let’s talk about how many people it takes to get “all these spins.” I get about 200,000 spins a quarter on Pandora. Wow! Sounds like a lot! Not really…
According to Pandora, the average Pandora listener listens about 20 hours a month, which is about 60 hours a quarter. I know that when I listen to the Charley Langer station, my songs come up about twice in an hour. So, one scenario could be: 200,000 spins / (60 hours x 2 spins) = 1,667 people. Internet marketers who are into email list building know that’s not a lot of people.
Now, let’s look at how much that pays. Pandora pays out about $0.0013 per spin. I own all my songwriting and publishing. I’m also the featured artist and copyright holder for the performance. So, I get almost all of that $0.0013 (a small percentage is taken by BMI and SoundExchange for administration). So, if I get about $225 a quarter from roughly 1,700 people, how does that suck? That's about what it has worked out to for me. My next goal is to get 17,000 people listening. :-)
And if I market my Pandora station to my list subscribers after they have either bought or refused my CD — how does that suck? I'm not going to get any more from them in CD or download sales anyway. Now, at least I get something.
Here's another look at the issue: http://theunderstatement.com/post/53867665082/pandora-pays-far-more-than-16-dollars
Finally, I'm at a lost as to how you and I connected! Was it the Cakewalk forums? John Oszajca's forums? We don't have any common FB friends. Just curious! I've listened to your music and know who you are — I just don't know why!! LOL!
Best wishes to you!
$225/quarter from my perspective of Very Little Audience does not suck. Agreed, and wholeheartedly - In fact, that's one reason why I chose to offer my album on Spotify. As far as I can see, any exposure helps, be it streaming or offering Pay What You Wish on Bandcamp (which I am also doing). It also wouldn’t suck if that number was a little larger.Delete
However, in the case of Thom Yorke, I don't agree that he is elitist or bitter. Others, maybe so. But Mr. Yorke... I think... comes from a different place. I interpret what he is quoted as saying in the linked article (above) as anti old guard, and more of a looking forward than a looking backward. In the below quote from the same article, he points to Spotify as one of the gatekeepers, and seems to question if they are still necessary to conduct business:
"When we did the In Rainbows thing [where they sold directly from their website on a Pay What You Wish model] what was most exciting was the idea you could have a direct connection between you as a musician and your audience. You cut all of it out, it's just that and that. And then all these fuckers get in a way, like Spotify suddenly trying to become the gatekeepers to the whole process," said Yorke.
"We don't need you to do it. No artists needs you to do it. We can build the shit ourselves, so fuck off. But because they're using old music, because they're using the majors… the majors are all over it because they see a way of re-selling all their old stuff for free, make a fortune, and not die."
And therein lies MY problem... because without the audience, I can't possibly "build it myself", given my current stay at home situation. I can build my website, build my blog, release my music on every possible outlet, keep plugging away... but I'm still spinning my wheels.
So, I feel that I am unable to create these connections for myself, and I DO need someone to help me find that audience. I agree that the model for the future of music needs to change, as the old rules don’t feel like they fit in a modern era. The PROs are hopelessly archaic in nature, with generations of old processes and red tape that just can't possibly band-aid the whole thing together much longer. It’s all so tenuous and flexible… but the rules don’t bend.
Do I belong to a PRO? Yeah, I do. But I only first sought it out when I released this album. Since I don't play live, and I don't expect that I will ever be popular enough for someone else to play my songs live, I really don't see the point of it - Not for me. But, I felt like, in the current structure of the industry, it was an imperative, and I also felt as if it somehow legitimized me as an artist. That very idea makes me sad, though. I'm certainly an artist without my PRO, and I was for years before I joined, but I felt the pressure to join. However, I don't agree with strong-arm tactics that go so far as to outlaw a rendition of "Happy Birthday" without full clearance. It's that sort of thing that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
So, here I am. Torn between idealist and a realist. Looking to build something real with an audience that has infinite listening options, from a million indie musicians and almost as many outlets.
Thanks for the great comment, Charley. And, it was Cakewalk. I spent most of my time in the Coffee House. :)