Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Music Fans : Buy Merch and Feed The Creative Machine

The life of a musician is a tough go. It is often a struggle to make ends meet. This is not earth-shattering news, it is just the way it is for the majority of musicians ( say 90%...maybe 99%). But this is the life we have chosen,and I personally, am not bitter about it. Working a regular job would be a lot harder for me.

When I was younger and out playing shows, people would ask, "What else do you do?", but now that I'm older, folks can't wrap their head around my life, "How do you do that?". Well, it is like anything else in this world that you want to succeed at : You have to work your ass off!

Forget about the countless hours booking shows, promoting your shows, promoting your music, growing your social media presence, rehearsing for shows, performing at shows, driving to shows, radio and television appearances, newspaper interviews...

Let's focus on creativity. What goes into making an album?

As an original music artist, the first thing you have to do is write the songs. This could take, well, years in some cases. Assuming you want it to be good, taking your time is always a good approach. Of course, some songwriters are more prolific than others. So, let's just say it takes 2 years to write a 10 song album (you'd write more than 10 songs, but it might take 40 songs written to get 10 good ones, or 10 that will fit with the context of the album).

Let's break it down even further. How many hours would that be? Suppose you spend 10 hours a week writing ( and maybe 20 hours a week sitting staring at the blank page), that would be 1040 hours of writing time to get the material together to record on the album.

Then you rehearse the songs to get them to a performance level that is worthy of recording. This can vary depending on the artists. Some folks let things come together in the studio.I'd be one of those artists in a way, but the guys I brought in to play on my latest record were all familiar with each other, and had been performing together for years. So it depends on the situation.  That being said, I played most of the songs myself at least 100 times before I brought them to the band. Call it 500 hours.

Recording the album comes next. Again, depending on genre and recording style this can vary greatly. With my latest record, we spent 2 days recording the bed tracks. then 3 months recording overdubs, and mixing the record... How many hours? 100 at least.

Then I listened to record over and over with the songs on shuffle to find the exact order I wanted. To give the album a good flow. 30 hours maybe ( although mostly while I was driving to a gig).

That's 1670 hours of an artist's life that has gone into one creative project. In most cases, they have not yet made one cent from their efforts.

This is where you come in.

Why is it important for you to purchase that album? or T-shirt or Coffee Mug, etc. etc..

Songs are important. They make us feel things. They bring us together. Think of your local hang on a Saturday night without the band playing. Okay, maybe you're too busy staring at your phone. But imagine no music on your phone streaming at you from those evil-doers over at Spotify. 

Life would be pretty bleak without music. And that's not likely to happen. But the inability for a professional musician to make a living could drive a lot of talented people out of the business. I'm talking about original music. Cover bands generally get a guarantee, but for musicians touring their original music, a lot of the time their money comes from ticket sales or cover charge( or passing the hat).

Five bucks a head at the Mansion or the Townehouse doesn't add up to much unless the room is packed. And even then, considering the expense of touring...

The point I'm getting at is this : It is up to us. You and I as music fans need to support artists by buying that album they slaved away on for months and years. We need to feed the creative machine.  The more we put in to the cycle, the more return we will see because of it.

If you don't want the cd ( you listen to music on your phone), but you really liked the show, buy a tshirt, or other merch. It's all about supporting the creative process. 

Don't ask the artist if they're on iTunes. If they are anywhere near having their shit together, they are on iTunes.  Downloading legally is cool but it is always better to buy something at the show. It helps the musician get down the road. Food in their belly and gas in their car.

You also walk away with something to remind you of a great evening!

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