Why I’m Not Streaming My New Album

On March 23rd, I’ll be releasing a new record, Hope You’re Happy Now. All the records I’ve made have been different to a greater or lesser degree. Music is a cauldron of influences, moods, life circumstances, and physical limitations. Even if you try to use the same ingredients each time, the cake comes out of the oven a little differently.
But this record is going to be different from the others for another reason. I’m not going to sell it on streaming services. You can still find all my other work on Spotify, Rhapsody, Pandora and others, so I suppose I’m not a militant opposer. But it’s easy to keep this new recording away from that streaming universe, and I’d like to share the reasons why I’ve made the choice to do so.
For the vast majority of musicians and artists making records has NEVER been a lucrative business. Whatever complaints people have about the music business now the fact is it wasn’t better for 99% of artists in 1990, 1980, 1970, 1960, 1940 or 1920. There have been periods where gigs we’re more plentiful, but recording and being paid for it has always been hard.
In 2000, it was hard to sell records, and I know because I was hard at it, but the value of what I made and sold felt appropriate for the work that went into it. I could sell my 1000 CDs for $10 each. Make $10,000 and cover the cost of recording and manufacturing the record with a little profit. Second and third runs of CDs were even more profitable.
As CD sales began to be replaced by downloads I noticed that selling 1000 CDs worth of music now paid me about $5000. Some costs associated with recording went down, but this was a pretty bad trend. It felt weird, because I didn’t have the costs of making plastic discs, but the net profit was still falling.
Now, as streaming replaces downloads that compensation for 12,000 songs (10 songs per record and 1,000 record) is falling to somewhere around $480. You’ve seen the Spotify statements from acts far more successful than I. This is not news.
The question is WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT IT?
The first thing I’ve done is get very honest about who I am and what I do. I am a boutique artist. I make a small kind of music for a relatively narrow audience. I have no interest in the mainstream. My music is for a particular kind of person. The second thing is to become aware that I don’t have to do anything. I am not hamstrung into some contract that constrains how I sell my music. I have done things a certain way because I bought into several myths concerning the music business. I can change my beliefs at any time.
If you’re a little guy just getting exposure is more important than getting paid. You’re building fans! Sure streaming doesn’t pay anything, but you’re getting exposure!
This is also known as a “loss leader”. Retail stores have put merchandise front and center for years as bait. Merchandise that they are losing money on, hoping that you will then buy other things while you’re in the store. It works like magic. Building fans suggests that at some point in the future these fans will contribute to your endeavor. I hate to use business talk here, but you want to monetize the fans. After all you need to eat, buy strings and put gas in the van.
BUT THANKS TO STREAMING NO ONE EVER HAS TO BUY YOUR MUSIC.They can listen, more or less, for free forever.
Now, if you tour the country often and with a large enough ticket price, perhaps you can drive these fans to a show with a substantial payback. That’s what the Foo Fighters and U2 do. Hell, they can give their music away because they have another very impressive way to get fan dollars.
The world is changing and you better change with it. Or Else!
Technology has a way of making headlines and making us think that we’re being left behind unless we fall in line. But while technology is busy making art free something else is happening. People are falling in love with craftsmanship again.
They’re buying great french butter, and delicious fair-trade coffee, and hand-crafted leather bags. AND they’re paying more for the privilege. People are discovering that it’s easy to buy high quality stuff with a history and a human being behind it. Certainly one of the major players in this movement is Etsy. If you don’t know, Etsy is an online store where crafts people can sell goods. My wife was looking for small dolls to give as gifts. She searched Etsy and found just what she wanted. The woman who makes them lives in Turkey, and the shipment arrives in 5 days. She may be in Turkey, but her Etsy store is on my laptop in Los Angeles, CA or anywhere on the planet.
You can make small things and charge a fair price for them. If it’s good, and made with love and care, people will reward you for it.
This is your art! It isn’t about making money.
Doesn’t all this talk about getting paid make me some kind of mercenary jerk who has my eye on the wrong thing? Shouldn’t I just do what I love and the money will follow?
The one thing I’ve observed in this culture is that things that make money tend to continue, and things that make no money tend to go away. I want to keep making music. I want to pay my musicians. I want to put tires on the truck so we can drive to Texas and play shows. Covering those costs is about being a kind of business person. That’s a fact. There are some very successful musicians who seem to feel that, “It’s all good, man. Just put it out there and the success will find you.” Maybe, for them, that’s proven to be true. I find that the harder I work, the more I plan, the smarter I am, the more successful I am. Understanding that it’s okay to be paid, and to spend some mind-share on the business is fundamental to being able to make more music.
ThatPaul on the Road to Damascus” moment
So these factors and thoughts led me in the direction of a drastic realization. SELL YOUR OWN STUFF!
Stop trying to use your music as a loss leader to drive people to something else. Imbue the record with value. The record is the ART. If there are people walking around in 1,000 years they won’t be writing and talking about the Beatles concerts. They WILL be writing and talking about the art that is Revolver, Sgt. Peppers or Let It Be. That’s the Mona Lisa. We can’t give up on the value of the painting, or the book, or the album. I won’t do it!
Help people understand that this art comes from me. Buy the new record from me. Don’t wait to listen to it on Spotify, it won’t be there. Don’t wait for it to be on iTunes, it won’t be there. (That’s another blog.) Come to the source.
LASTLY, I never want to hold fans responsible for the choices that affect my business. They aren’t out to hurt me. Do this test. The next time you’re in a group of 5 or more friends ask to see a show of hands from everyone that has bought a CD in the past 12 months. Almost certainly no one will make a move. Then ask how many people have downloaded music in the past 12 months. Some will raise their hands but most will not. MOST PEOPLE, EVEN PEOPLE THAT LOVE MUSIC, JUST POACH IT FOR FREE. I’ve done this in a circle of musicians and THEY ARE EXACTLY THE SAME AS EVERYONE ELSE! Good people never buy music anymore. As creators of real human music we’ve got to help people understand why this is a bad thing, and how they can move in the direction of owning music again.
In a world of commodities, the Internet wins because it is convenient. So your music and my music must be more than that. It must be about supporting us, and being part of something real and honest. Something homemade. Something really really good.
Also, there is simply no way to convince people to buy your music, when it is free on Spotify. So, they must be deprived of that choice. Sometimes less is more.

So folks, PRE-ORDER Your LP or CD of the new record, HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY NOW. We accept all forms of payment. Click Here. AND THANK YOU!