Category Archives: WORK

“Hey, Can You Spotify Me Some Cash?” – An Indie Artist’s Perspective

I feel the need as an artist who’s songs are on Spotify to clear some things up to the general music listening public. With technology advancing so rapidly I don’t think consumers have had the opportunity to educate themselves on how the whole “free music” thing is putting artist’s careers in danger. While free music is great for the consumer who is so over the whole “buying music” concept and the web traffic is great for the sites providing the content (who generally make their money off advertising) it’s not great for the livelihood of your favorite bands and songwriters. The truth is a Spotify royalty pays out about .004 cents per play to the average indie artist who releases and album through a site like Tunecore. There’s been a lot of debate over whether or not that royalty rate percentage is true so I thought I would share a screenshot of my Five Times August  Spotify royalties from December 2011…

You’ll see that for 4,498 streams I earned $20.76. Type that in your calculator and you’ll get 0.0046153846…

Perspective: What that means is if I relied solely on Spotify royalties to make a minimum wage income ($1,160 a month at $7.25/hr) it would take 251,333 plays a month! Obviously if December accurately depicts an average of monthly listens I am nowhere close to that, most artists aren’t.

So you might be wondering… if I’m not happy about it why even put my music up on Spotify in the first place? Well, as an independent artist I’ve often found myself caught between a rock and a hard place amongst all these technological advances. You see, the basic goal for most of us self funded lil’ bands and songwriters is to make the best music we can and make a living doing just that. At the same time we also want as many people to hear our music as possible but normally don’t have any kind of big budget to promote it to the masses. That puts us in a situation where we really have no other choice than to distribute our music through as many outlets as possible, even if it sometimes results in little to zero financial income. The gleam of hope in giving a song away is that if somebody hears it and likes it they will buy it and eventually become a dedicated fan. It’s a mutual appreciation for one another, that’s how it’s supposed to work. If you appreciate a song or an album buy it so the artist can appreciate your support. Otherwise, and I hate to say it, don’t consider yourself a real fan.

You might also be thinking “Well, I just don’t buy music anymore, and you’re not REALLY relying on just Spotify for income.. so someone else can buy your album on iTunes and you’ll be fine.” Not so… I’ve noticed in my overall royalty statement that lately subscription and streaming service plays are rising while actual Mp3 and CD sales are steadily declining. I can only assume the same trend is happening for other bands and artists. So the truth is I am starting to rely on sites like Spotify and Pandora to pay for my career. That’s pretty scary. Imagine working for .06 cents an hour! (4 minute song played 15 times an hour)

Honestly, I’m just trying to give you some perspective as a listener. Spotify is fine in moderation or for discovering new artists, consider it a way to sample music – not have it. The fact is, if the free services become “the new thing” for music there are a lot of humble and hardworking songwriters, bands, and artists who’s careers hang in the balance. That’s a lot of music that could potentially change your life that you’ll never know about. It’s important for people to know about this because everyone has the power to control the situation – and I’m not speaking just for my own sake, but for all musician’s sake.

Now that you know, please pass this page and message along, inform your friends and get this conversation going. Start supporting your favorite music again and make the difference.

Thanks for reading,


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I Used To Travel Around in a Van and Play Music

While Kelly was pregnant with Dylan it seemed the question people asked most was “Are you scared about becoming a parent?” I could always answer easily with a swift “Nope!” I’m  really proud that I’ve walked into fatherhood feeling so confident, but, that’s not to say I didn’t sit in deep thought many times over the pregnancy and wonder how having a baby would affect my music career, especially during such a huge transition. I spent ten years building something successful out of Five Times August and I could just as well keep going with it, but, my gut says it’s time to expand my talents and try new things under a rebranding. But man, to start from the ground up all over again, at THIS point in my life?? What kind of musician does that?? Especially during this economy! Well, apparently me, I do.

Over the years I’ve seen several friends gracefully bow out of their musical aspirations upon having a baby. I certainly don’t blame them, there’s a lot of pressure at that time to come back down to earth and get one of those “real” jobs. If it’s tough making it before the kid it certainly isn’t going to be any easier once they arrive. When we found out we were pregnant I didn’t even really have a new direction yet, just scattered songs in a bunch of styles, trying to find myself musically again. I was worried that this would be the culmination of ten years “doing the music thing” and those new songs I had would eventually just dissipate after losing myself in parenting. I began to have visions of myself at 40 walking in on my son’s first garage band telling stories of “You know guys, I used to travel around in a van and play music,” trying to sound cool and hip but ultimately getting sighs of embarrassment. “Daaaad… come oooon… get out of here!” I don’t want to be that guy, I can’t be that guy. Not to say my son won’t be embarrassed by me at some point in his life, that happens to even the best of parents. I would just rather embarrass my son with stories along the lines of “You know, when I won my first Grammy…”

Yeah, maybe the Grammy thing is shooting high, but you have to think like that. That’s what makes us dreamers. Not only that,  you have to be confident that dreams can come true if you are seriously working at it. Whether you are an actor, singer, dancer, you almost have to have a certain amount of personal arrogance deep inside you to help push through it all. Do I think I could actually win a Grammy one day? Hell yes. Can I start an entire music career over and do it even better than I did the first time around while raising a new baby? I can and I will. I think that’s where fear subsided for me by the time Dylan arrived. I realized I am perfectly capable of living a dream, I’ve done it for ten years already and have been extremely fortunate to do it with my best friend and wife. We just get to bring the baby along for the ride now, that’s the only difference.

I think one of the major reasons I had any doubt to begin with was that I never felt like making music was my job until this very year. It dawned on me that one day people were going to be asking my child “What does your daddy do for living?” and he will inevitably answer in basic fashion “He sings and plays guitar.” It’s only taken me ten years to realize this is what I do. I’m sure the “job” title of it all has been masked by the fact that I love what I do. I also think most people do not acknowledge being a songwriter or musician as a real job. If you are a fledgling artist of any kind you’ve undoubtedly heard somebody along the way ask “Don’t you think it’s time for you to get a REAL job?” That sort of thing rubbed off on me for many years. I always felt like I was an aspiring amateur and never noticed the point of becoming professional. It didn’t matter what I had accomplished, it was all irrelevant. The mind game is that to the average person, if they don’t know who you are then you aren’t anybody to them, and when you are trying to be somebody, well, you feel like nobody.  It finally caught up to me that it didn’t matter who knew me or didn’t, I’m somehow doing it and that speaks for itself.

I guess what I’ve come to conclude is that if you have high hopes and aspirations for yourself in whatever skill, activity, hobby it may be and you aren’t quite where you want to be by the time you have a baby you can use them as inspiration to keep going instead of calling it a day. Maybe that sounds easier than it actually is, everybody is different. But, my advice is to try your best not to let anything stop you, not even the biggest life altering event of your life! It will be worth it when you succeed. You’ll be able to tell your child they can do whatever they want and be whoever they want to be in life and truly mean it because that’s exactly what you did.

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