2019 in Review

Sometimes, I try and fixate on a moment that I am sure will be a memory. I am so aware that I am a part of something special that I try to capture it in a mental freeze frame all while reminding myself “it might not be this good again… but then again, it might”.  2019 was filled with those moments for me. This year, my annual review is really more a catalogue of my gratitude than a simple listing of my accomplishments and aspirations. Please indulge my gushing.

There was a moment in Tiny Telephone Studios while I was wrapping up my new album, Where the Heart Is. I was standing in the middle of the floor of studio A – a glowing room with shingled walls and vibrant rugs and I was waiting for the tape to rewind before we laid down the last take of the entire project. In the silence of the acoustically neutral room, it dawned on me- after 6 years I was finally finishing recording my 2nd full length album. I had done it with the help of a handful of some of the Bay Area’s most talented musicians- dare I say, friends – in a studio that had produced amazing work from other artists. I was loving the work, even after countless hours of listening for edits and additions (and I still love listening to it 3 months after it was released). At that moment, I was the only person in the studio, but I definitely did not feel alone.

There were many instances in which I took pause while performing to soak in the moment.  But, stages can be funny places. You are often elevated above the audience, sometimes with a barrier that separates you from the people who are the very reason you get to be on that stage.  I love the stages at the Kate Wolf Music festival – the barriers are small or non-existent, which creates an instant intimacy. The stage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass was bigger, with a much bigger barrier, and with an enormous audience. I looked out and saw friends, new and old, who found a way to bring that same intimacy. There were smaller stages too. House concerts lended a chance to share my songs, tell stories and connect with new fans across the West Coast. Then, there was the Fillmore. I thought I knew what made that room special; it’s place in music history, the acoustics, the legends who had performed there. But upon taking the stage, I discovered that the room is more than just about what is happening on-stage. It is a room in which the audience is projected at the artist. As I danced and sang on a stage which I had only dreamed of playing, suddenly I discovered it was the entire room playing with me and again, I was not alone. Not just because I was surrounded by my friends and band mates on stage, but because the spirit of the room was upon us and we were all elevated by it.

In every step I took musically this year, I was surrounded by friends and loved ones. To my compatriots in Poor Man’s Whiskey, thank you for the last 2 years of adventures and realizing dreams. Thank you to the venues and house concert hosts who made space and time for my music. But mostly, thank you for the friends and colleagues in my music world. Collaborators, confidants and conspirators all – none of this works without you.

In the last week, my wife and I welcomed our son, Oliver, into the world. I am already excited about how he will change my music (as well as the rest of my life). You might not hear much from me in the next few weeks, but never fear; I’m coming back strong in 2020. There will be solo sets. There will be string bands. There will be rock shows. There will be lots of new music. And there will be you – the key to all of this.

Thanks again for everything. May the new year bring peace to all of us.

Some Thoughts on my Spotify Wrapped

So- I have some things to say about this. But first of all:

Thank you to everyone who listened to me on Spotify. I am glad you have enjoyed my music and it means a lot to me that my songs are getting played so often, in so many places, at so many times (seriously- some of you need to get some sleep).

But there are some important details missing from these reports- I meet a lot of people who see that I have a song with more than 300K plays on Spotify and they assume this means I am rolling in royalties and that I have “made it”. This, put simply, is not the truth.

Spotify pays between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream. So what does that net me at the end of this year? That is at best $280 for 35 THOUSAND plays. And that is before my digital distributor gets a piece of it.

Compare that to radio, which, on average, offers $0.09 per play. If I had the same plays on radio I would have netted roughly $3,150.

Spotify has identified 10.7K individual  listeners who have listened to me this year.  Again, those people have helped me net $280. If each of those people went to an online retailer and bought 1 of my songs, I would get roughly $0.88 for each purchase which in turn would net $9416 (That is accounting for the percentage my distributor and the retailer take for the service).

I should mention too, this is all pre-tax.  I live in California, so you can bet my walk away pay after all of that is even less than the numbers I am reporting above.

Why does this matter?  First of all, writing, recording and performing music is my job.  I love my job, which is why I keep doing it despite the miserable and inconsistent pay, but I would love to live off the job I love.  The most lucrative portion of my job comes from time spent on stage. That time is a lot of fun, but it also involves a lot of travel, logistics, coordination and time.  I also need to keep producing recorded music so that my fans keep having new and interesting music to enjoy. The more time I am doing those things is less time I spend with my family and friends.  If I could count on an additional $3K – $9K per year, it would make a big difference in how I live my life and the quality of music I can deliver to you. I imagine the same can be said for pretty much any other independent artist I know.

So what do I want you to do?  This is going to sound crazy but, keep enjoying Spotify.  It is a fun platform where you can find new music and share that music with your friends.  However, if you find someone on Spotify and you love their music, go find it where you can pay for it and buy it.  Again, downloading and paying for 1 song can amount to playing it on Spotify roughly 110 times, so you can feel proud whenever you put that song on repeat and drive your neighbors nuts, because you paid for it in advance.  

Also – tell your friends about the facts of streaming and royalties.  I know full well that my fans love the arts and artists – I feel it every time I’m on stage. But many of the people I speak with are unaware of the lack of compensation from streaming and, when informed, would like to find a way to do the right thing.  I have fans who buy hard-copies of my CD’s in earnest (I LOVE YOU FOLKS) but there it is becoming harder and harder to find CD players as they become phased out of our cars, computers and sound systems.  Buying hard-copies is not the only way to purchase music. If you are not sure how to buy someone’s music, get in touch with them and ask them. I am easy to connect with through social media and my email is readily available on my website.  I promise you, all of the independent artists I know would LOVE to talk to you directly about this and would probably be happy to answer other questions you might have about their art.

The truth is, it is easier now to make a living as a musician than it ever has been, in the sense that there are more people consuming a greater variety of music than ever before.  The pieces are all in place. We cannot count on the streaming services to suddenly decide to be responsible and start paying artists fairly – their business models are not designed to do that, so they never will.  It is on all of us as consumers to be more responsible about it. I can be better about this and I think you can too.

Thank you for all of your support and I am glad that I get to share what I love with all of you.

If you have made it this far through my rant, I would be foolish not to include some shameless self-promotion.  You can go to this link to find places to stream and PAY for my music: https://song.link/album/g/Bgktscztxxt7vmz6m7vm7txy6ny

*Thanks to my friend Grover Anderson for his helpful insight on this.

New Video from Go Westy and 4 Peaks Music Festival – Baby Don’t Let Me

A big thank you to my friends at Go Westy Camper Products and the 4 Peaks Music Festival for putting together this video.  It was a blast to play the festival with Poor Man’s Whiskey, so when I was offered to play one of my tunes I jumped.  The video features PMW members including Ben Andrews (Fiddle), Jason Beard (Guitar), George Smelts (Suitcase) and our friend Maddie Carpenter with some backing vocals.

You’ll see Ben join me in some upcoming shows.  More on that to come soon…

The New Album, Where the Heart Is, is Finally Available Everywhere!

First of all, CLICK THIS LINK TO STREAM/PURCHASE WHERE THE HEART IS from your preferred sources.  I am so excited to share this new album with all you and I hope I will see you all a the Ivy Room. There are a lot of people who helped make this album a reality and I want to recognize them here. My wonderful engineer Samantha Perez and Tiny Telephone Recording helped guide me through the process of analogue recording and gave me creative space unlike anything I have had before – John Vanderslice, I hope we can have lunch together again soon. Jacob Winik did a brilliant job mastering the album. Anton PatznerErik YatesCharley Paul, Trent Boeschen and Tony Robinson all played on the album with me and provided transcendent performances. Lauren Swanson helped me make beautiful album artwork. My friends Grover AndersonAaron MadsenJosh BroughJason BeardBen AndrewsKC TurnerJasmine PritchardJoshua Zucker, and so many others provided guidance on so many things. And of course, without the support from my family, my partner in all things Marisa and my supportive fans, this would not be happening. If I failed to specifically name drop you in this post, please know I love you and am grateful for your contributions. I hope you all can take as much pride in this as I do. Let’s play it loud and party hard.