The Future of Bandcamp Fridays

[Note–after reviewing my accounting, I realized I double-counted some tip money as also a private lesson payment, so I’ve adjusted numbers down $50.  That caused some minor changes in my calculations.  Those should be updated and correct now.  —TPP, 18 December 2020]

Regular readers will know that since March 2020, Bandcamp has been waiving its commission on sales through its platform on the first Friday of each month.  The company even dedicated a webpage to answering the burning question “Is it Bandcamp Friday?

The promotion has been a real boon for musicians—myself included—who have seen a major reduction in revenue from gigs, lessons, merch sales, and other sources of income.  I just ran the numbers, and I grossed around $4976.18 this year from lessons, gigs (including a play I was in), merchandise sales, streaming payments (only $10.15—and it took five years to accumulate that much!), and Bandcamp sales (around $159.03 after payment processing fees and Bandcamp’s commission from purchases not made on Bandcamp Fridays).  That’s compared to roughly $9099 grossed last year from the same sources, so about 54.69% of the revenue in 2020 vs. 2019.  My lesson revenue fell to 45.34% of its value in 2019, from $7465 to $3385 (but I also only drove 1941 miles for lessons in 2020, versus just over 6000 miles for lessons in 2019).

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TBT: O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting

Christmas is looming large—a mere eight days away—and I have been enjoying an unexpectedly quiet exam week.  After returning from Orlando Monday evening, I’ve enjoyed some sleepily productive time at home, writing Christmas postcards and letters, watching movies, and enjoying the warm glow of my Christmas tree.  I’ll be spending next week with family, and all the hustle and bustle of my niece and nephews, so this quiet time at home has been a welcome calm before the joyous storm.

Despite the lack of serious deadlines (other than waiting for final exams to roll in so I can grade them), I’ve managed to get quite a bit done, and I hope to get a bit ahead on the blog.  I enjoy writing daily posts, but it’s nice knowing I have a few posts squared away some days in advance, as it relieves some of the pressure to produce.  I’ll be doing more throwback posts and the like as Christmas approaches, as it’s the time of year when we’re all scaling back our efforts and taking a bit of a break.

That all goes to the point of this TBT post, “O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting.”  The story behind the sweetly iconic carol is one of last-minute inspiration and hasty songwriting.  There is something about the intense pressure of a time-crunch that turns the coal of writer’s block into glistening diamonds.  Not every songwriter works this way, but I know for myself that a hard deadline does wonders for motivating this songwriter’s pen.

Indeed, during the height of distance learning in the spring, I fully anticipated I’d be churning out new hits, maybe even finalizing a long-delayed follow-up to my piano-and-vocals debut, Contest Winner – EP.  Instead, I squandered my newfound time (well, “squandered” is a strong word—I quite enjoyed taking that time to work on the blog, to travel, and to do the other things I’m usually unable to do).  Without a deadline pushing me to create, I didn’t get anything done!

Or maybe that’s just my excuse.  Regardless, I imagine it’s something many songwriters can relate to, and it’s certainly the story behind “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

With that, here is December 2020’s “O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting“:

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Gig Day IV: Spooktacular II

We’re a mere day away from Halloween.  All the build-up and fun are reaching their culmination.  Indeed, I’ll be playing a fortieth birthday party tomorrow—a last-minute booking that will make it a very lucrative Halloween for yours portly.

But tonight I’ll be hosting my second annual Halloween Spooktacular!  I staged my first Spooktacular last year, and it was so much fun, I decided I had to do it again.

Unfortunately, in The Age of The Virus many venues have stopped hosting live music.  For example, the coffee shop that hosted last year’s Spooktacular is doing take-out orders only.  That’s the case with a number of other coffee shops in my area, which has eliminated most live performances and open mic nights.

So I decided to stage the Spooktacular on my front porch!

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My Musical Philosophy in Song: “Delilah”

On Sunday (my first day back playing piano in church!—everyone else was in their cars listening over a short-range broadcast)—I posted a video to my Facebook artist page of Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson singing Tom Jones’s 1968 classic “Delilah”:

I’ve received a handful queries about my statement that “this video sums up my entire musical philosophy.”  Naturally, there’s a bit of cheek in that statement.  My short answer is similar to the jazz musician’s (Louis Armstrong? Dizzy Gillespie?) when a lady asked him how to swing:  “if you have to ask, you’ll never know.”  The video should speak for itself:

But I began digging into this video a bit more.  What is this bizarre game show?  When was it aired?  How did Bruce Dickinson end up singing “Delilah”?  It reminds me another video that “sums up my entire musical philosophy”—Jack Black’s appearance on American Idol singing Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose”:

Fortunately, there are some scant details out there.  The show was Last Chance Lotter with Patrick Kielty, an Irish game show that ran for ten episodes in 1997.  The gimmick was that the show took losers from other game shows, gave them a lottery ticket, and anyone who had a ticket worth ten pounds or more could compete in the main game.  Some of the money won would go into a pot for one random audience member to win.

I haven’t quite worked out how the musical numbers figured in, but the musical guest would essentially sing a song to add even more cash to the pot by spinning a wheel (that was transparently rigged—the audience knew the wheel was controlled, from what I can gather).  That’s why Bruce Dickinson was on the show, and his performance of “Delilah” is one of the most spectacular musical renditions I’ve ever heard:  mariachi horns, bouncing bassists, leopard-print suits, and Dickinson’s soaring vocals.

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TBT: Gig Day II

Tomorrow—Friday, 1 May 2020—Bandcamp is waiving the commission it takes on sales of musicians’ work.  That means every purchase made on the site from midnight to midnight Pacific Standard Time tomorrow goes completely to the musicians (other than PayPal processing fees)—another 15% in our pockets.

The Age of the Virus has really taken its toll on musicians.  As I wrote last Thursday, a substantial portion of my income in 2019 came from music lessons and gigs—nearly 17% of my gross income for the year.

With The Virus holding full sway over us, shutting everything down, there are far fewer opportunities for musicians to earn a living—except by way of online album sales.

As such, Bandcamp sacrificing that 15% commission is a huge act of charity for its users.  It also means that it’s the best time to support musicians you lovelike me!

Bandcamp gives musicians the opportunity to sell their music in high-quality digital formats directly to fans.  One nifty feature is that artists can offer their entire discography in one go, often at a discount.

To that end, my discography—seven albums, EPs, and retrospectives, spanning fourteen years of artistic development—is on sale for $15.75.  All of it.  That includes my tour de forceContest Winner EP and its hit single, “Hipster Girl Next Door.”

Another fun feature is that Bandcamp allows fans to pay more if they so choose.  Indeed, when I announced on my Facebook artist page that the full discography was up for grabs, two fans paid $20 for it.  Some artists have reported fans paying as much as $100 for a single album.  I don’t expect that kind of generosity, but, hey—dig deep.

Regardless, there’s never been a better—or more necessary–time to support indie musicians.  We can’t play gigs.  We can barely teach lessons (some folks are doing so online, but it’s just not the same).

So, any support you can offer is always welcome.  To purchase the full discography, you can view any of my albums (like Electrock EP: The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse) and find a button/link that reads “Buy Digital Discography” (unfortunately, there’s no way to supply that link directly).

Of course, you don’t have to buy all seven albums—it’s just a good deal.  You can also buy individual releases, like 2006’s Electrock Music (ludicrously cheap at $1 for twelve tracks!) or 2007’s Electrock II: Space Rock (just $5!).

But enough soliciting for now—there will be more of that tomorrow.  Let’s get to the ostensible purpose of today’s post—TBT.

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Lazy Sunday XLIII: Music, Part II – More Music

Well, it had to come at some point—the end to my glorious Christmas Break.  Sure, sure, summer break is great, but two weeks off at Christmas is just the right amount of time to recharge the batteries.  Plus, it’s not 100 degrees outside, and we get to celebrate the Birth of Jesus!

I wrote a great deal about music in the last quarter of 2019, and I’m kicking off 2020 focused intensely on the performing arts:  I’m going to be in a play this weekend.  That personal detail is somewhat important for the blog, as after today my focus (other than work during the day) will be almost entirely on that production.  As such, posts may be shorter than usual, or a bit delayed in getting up.

Regardless, in keeping with the fine arts, I thought I’d feature three recent pieces I wrote about music.  Enjoy!

  • Milo on Romantic Music” – Readers are probably exhausted of reading about this post, but Milo’s analysis of Romantic music, while certainly contentious, is fascinating.  He might play the role of a melodramatic, catty queen online, but he possesses deep erudition on a variety of topics.  This post was one of “2019’s Top Five Posts” thanks to Milo’s sharing of it.
  • A Little Derb’ll Do Ya: Haydn’s ‘Derbyshire Marches’” – Saturday mornings just aren’t the same with Radio Derb‘s opening music, Haydn’s “Derbyshire March No. 2.”  Nothing makes you feel more sophisticated about pouring coffee in your underwear than the strains of Haydn’s jaunty little march.
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting” – This morning I’ll finally be back to my little Free Will Baptist Church to play piano.  I’m also struggling to remember a huge amount of naturalistic dialogue for the aforementioned play.  The juxtaposition of returning to church piano playing and the pressure of conjuring up untold mental energies in a short span of time made this post a logical choice.  The music for “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was composed in great haste, and completed mere hours before it was performed.  My instincts (and experience) tell me that the play will, much to the director’s chagrin, unfold the same way—incompetence giving way to brilliance the night of the show.

Well, there you have it!  Happy New Year to one and all.  Back to work!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT: The Bull on the Roof

It’s been a cheery, musical mood here at The Portly Politico.  I’ve been tearing through popular Christmas carols, offering up some histories of these beloved tunes, as well as a little musical analysis.  Thanks to Milo sharing my piece “Milo on Romantic Music,” I enjoyed a large surge in traffic that has now settled into a nice daily trickle (nothing huge, but it’s helped).

University of Chicago medievalist Rachel Fulton Brown also linked to the post in a piece on her blog, Fencing Bear at Prayer.  The success of that piece, plus the beauty of Christmas music and the general cheeriness of the season, has inspired me to write more about music.

This week, then, I’ve cast back to this summer, when I wrote a little piece about a whimsical piece of modern classical music, “The Bull on the Roof.”  As I recall, I wrote the piece on my phone—never ideal—while playing with my little niece.  I’d heard the tune on public radio on the drive to my parents’ house, and was so taken with its charm—and lacking any other suitable topic, or the proper conditions to write about them—I jotted out this short piece.

“The Bull on the Roof” is a marvelous example of modern classical music.  And for all I rail against cosmopolitanism, it’s a fine example of the ideal of cosmopolitanism:  a French composer celebrating the vibrant, lively traditions of Brazilian folk music.  That’s the “salt in the stew,” as John Derbyshire calls it—the pinch of cultural diversity that makes the broth more delicious.

Yesterday was spent teaching History of Conservative Thought, painting a classroom floor, and rushing around the Pee Dee region teaching four music lessons, before finally heading out of town for a few days. Needless to say, there wasn’t any time to get a post ready for this morning.

The news has also been light. The first round of Democratic presidential primary debates is tonight, but who cares other than the candidates?

There was a bit of a diplomatic imbroglio with Iran last week, but did anyone really think war was going to break out? Trump handled it Trumpishly; that is effectively, letting the mullahs sweat it out a bit before giving them an out (and signalling to Iranians that he cares more about their lives than the Ayatollah).

That’s why I’ve been sticking to the history and culture posts lately. There just hasn’t been much to say on politics, because there’s so much good happening. Illegal immigration is still a major problem, but otherwise the only “bad” news is that the economy is still growing, just not as quickly as a year ago.

So, brace yourself for another self-indulgent post (this publication is a blog, after all). While driving last night, I hit a classic rock and talk radio dead zone, so I resorted to public radio. I was pleasantly surprised.

The program featured a concert recording of the Greenville (SC) Symphony performing French composer Darius Milhaud’s delightful “Le Bœf sur le toit,” or “The Bull on the Roof.”

Fans of Civilization VI who have played as Brazil will hear some similar themes and styles, as the composition quotes dozens of Brazilian folk songs. The tune is full of Latin-inspired motifs, and it is a charming, fun piece.

Milhaud wrote the piece in 1920 for a silent Charlie Chaplin film that was never made, though the ballet has apparently been staged. I particularly enjoy these kinds of jaunty, popular modern classical pieces (I adore Gustav Holsts’s The Planets because they are pleasing and interesting, but never pretentious). If I’m going to listen to something for nearly twenty minutes, don’t make it a Philip Glassian nightmare experiment in purposeful atonality.

If you have twenty minutes, I highly recommend listening to this piece. It will be a more enjoyable use of your time than watching the Democratic debates.

O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting

Somewhere—I think it was in one of the Civilization games, but I can’t seem to find the exact quotation—I heard a pithy saying, something along the lines of “Genius is a combination of pressure and time.”  It’s one of those expressions that instantly rings true.

Years ago, a coffee shop in a nearby town (it’s now become a hip, upscale dining spot—and it axed the live music) used to host a quirky songwriting competition.  The premise was simple—every month, participants would pay $5 entry fee into a pot, and a “secret judge” would pick a winner, who would win that evening’s pot.  Sometimes there would be a small “second round” of the top three contenders for that evening (I won once, back in January 2014, when I believe I debuted “Greek Fair“; I was surprised, but also thankful that I wouldn’t spend $5 a month for the rest of the year).

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