Now Streaming…


Greetings!

I hope you remain well during this odd and at times terrifying time in our planet’s history.

Today’s song was written by Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith.

Ron Sexsmith

After my friends in Toronto exposed me to several of his beautiful, wise creations, I recorded “Gold In Them Hills” with the terrific pianist (and sound engineer) Doug Hammer.

I have ruminated in past blog posts about the value of music in our lives — how sometimes it seems quite disposable and unimportant, yet at other times it can feel quite meaningful and essential.

Here is some recent feedback about the value of music from folks on my e-mail list:

“Music is a great encouragement to people in hard times.”

“A song fixes memories of life events indelibly. “

“Music is a distraction from the troubles of the day.”

“Essential.”  

“Music is an easily accessible treat at a time when other treats are difficult to come by.”

“We all need it.”

“Music is a touching reminder that life is worth living.”

“Music is a balm during these stormy times.” 

“Music is part of what makes the world keep going.” 

Every time I read these ideas, I attempt to breathe them deeper into my soul.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

Today I share news that my song “Another Good Morning” has finally been distributed to a bunch of digital music platforms — including Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music, Deezer, Napster, Tidal, and Google Play.

I found — and played!— it on Spotify, which for better (and mostly for worse) is a key market for musicians these days.

I write “and mostly for worse” because the various streaming platforms pay a tiny fraction of what a performer/songwriter used to earn from the sale of actual records/tapes/CDs. 

As you may already know, the pay rate for listening to a song via streaming  — which varies over time based on a formula which I can’t even begin to explain involving each company’s most recent amount of earnings and profit — is very low.

Here are some recent rates — ranging from a high of $.019 (almost 2 cents) by Napster to a low of $.00402 (less than half a cent) by Amazon.

  • AMAZON: $0.00402 per play.
  • SPOTIFY: $0.00437 per play.
  • YOUTUBE MUSIC (GPM): $0.00676 per play.
  • APPLE MUSIC: $0.00783 per play.
  • TIDAL: $0.0125 per play.
  • NAPSTER: $0.019 per play.

Using the Spotify numbers for example, at $0.00437 per stream, a song would need to be streamed 22,883 times to earn around $100. 

One can still buy a digital download of an individual song at places like iTunes, from which the recording artist earns $.60 – $.70 per purchase.

So it would take 142 (at 60 cents per download) to 166 (at 70 cents per download) purchases to earn around $100 for the folks who recorded it.

But how many of us are still buying digital downloads of specific songs or albums?

The current name of the game appears to be Spotify playlists. 

If one can get one’s song onto a popular playlist, one can earn hundreds of thousands of streams — which theoretically translates into a decent amount of money. 

So… if you are someone who uses Spotify, please consider listening to “Another Good Morning” by clicking here.

And maybe adding it to one of your playlists.

I found a story on NPR from last year which explores the pros and cons of streaming from the perspective of a recording artist and/or songwriter.

Here is one interesting paragraph:

According to a 2017 study from Digital Media Finland, the current payment model for digital streaming services “tend(s) to benefit the services themselves, who keep about 30% of a subscriber’s fee. The rights holders of the recordings, which include record labels, producers, and performers, split about 55 to 60% of the fee. Meanwhile, the rights holders of the song itself (the composition) — which at once includes composers, arrangers, music publishing companies and lyricists — see about 10 to 15% of that pie.”

You can read the whole article by clicking here.

Another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

If you are someone who still buys digital downloads, please consider buying a copy of “Another Good Morning” from iTunes or Amazon or another digital music marketplace.

But I am certainly aware that lots of us have very little cash flow in our lives nowadays!

Since my gigs with jazz pianist Joe Reid have all dried up (except for one outdoor performance last month) due to prudent concerns about possible COVID transmission, I have been working each week via Zoom with Doug Hammer.

We are re-visiting and polishing strong takes of songs we’ve recorded during the past 20+ years.

And I will be distributing them via CD Baby to all of these far-flung digital platforms in the upcoming weeks and months.

THANK YOU for reading and listening to another blog post!

Thank you to Ron Sexsmith for writing great songs.

Thank you to Doug Hammer for his inspired piano playing as well as his superb engineering skills.

Thank you to the photographers at Pixabay for these sublime images.

Let us all keep breathing in and out in the days ahead…

I will continue leading Music Together classes two days each week.

And riding my bike.

And walking.

And checking the latest polling data about our upcoming elections.

And donating small amounts of money to down-ballot races around the USA which could use a little help…

And wearing a blessed mask when I go outside.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

As Mr. Sexsmith reminds us:

“Don’t lose heart… give the day a chance to start!”

Fever…

“Fever”

In my last two posts, I have started explaining a little of what I’ve been learning in recent months about the music business.

My musical selection for this post is from a CD I recorded with fellow singer Bobbi Carrey and pianist Doug Hammer — which was then enhanced by arranger Mike Callahan as well as other local musicians.

“Fevered” might be one way to describe my current mental state as I recover from our recent — deeply disrespectful and dangerous — presidential non-debate and THEN make sense out of the news that our president and his wife and many members of his staff have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

At the very least, this is a stark reminder of how a virus makes its presence felt in every niche of human society — from the folks with (allegedly) daily testing and access to the best (and in the case of our political ruling class, FREE) health care to the folks who have to go to work with very little (or no) protection and very little health coverage in places like meat packing plants.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

Let us all continue — in this time of COVID-19 — to remain aware of our daily temperatures and to continue wearing our blessed face masks!

Now I will attempt to explain a little bit about performance rights organizations.

One thing a songwriter must do is affiliate with a performance rights organization (also known as a PRO).

In the USA, there are two entry-level ones — ASCAP and BMI — as well as two more — SESAC and GMR — which you can be invited to join when you are earning a fair amount of money from your songs and also a (new?) one called Pro Music Rights about which I know almost nothing.

Most other countries around the world only have one PRO.

This is just one example of how things are often done differently in the USA than in the rest of the world…

ASCAP was the first performing rights organization founded in the USA.

A group of composers, lyricists, and publishers (who were selling millions of copies of sheet music on behalf of the songwriters under contract to them) decided it was time for them to get paid for public performances of their songs — which I think was already the norm in many European countries.

It 1914 they formed a not-for-profit organization called the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

The founders included Victor Herbert — who according to an article in Irish America magazine wrote the music for “forty operettas, 23 musicals, two operas, and several Ziegfeld Follies; did musical scores for motion pictures; and composed for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra” from the 1890s through the 1920s.

Yowza!

Victor Herbert circa 1895

Herbert was himself a transplant from Europe, having been born (out of wedlock) on Guernsey island in the English Channel and raised in England and Germany.

His mother told, him, however, he had been born in Dublin, and he maintained a strong emotional connection to Ireland for his entire life (perhaps jumpstarted by his mother’s and his grandfather’s strong Irish nationalism).

Herbert was also a cellist, conductor AND long-time advocate for the rights of songwriters.

According to Wikipedia he testified before Congress and influenced the formation of the Copyright Act of 1909, which allowed composers to earn royalties from the sale of new-fangled sound recordings.

And then in 1914 he helped found ASCAP to collect money for public performances of musical works in cafes, hotel ballrooms, live-music clubs, and theaters.

Thank you, Victor Herbert, along with your fellow songwriters and political advocates!

As our technologies continued to evolve, public performances grew to include music broadcasts — live or pre-recorded — on radio and TV as well as in elevators, grocery stores, theme parks, and much more…

In 1940 there was a historical turning point.

During the 1930s ASCAP had been increasing the royalty rates they were charging to radio broadcasters for the use of their members’ songs.

So… for many months the radio broadcasters decided to STOP playing any songs affiliated with ASCAP — a period which is mentioned in the biographies of many famous songwriters such as Irving Berlin and Cole Porter as a time when many potential hit songs never got airplay and consequently languished…

In 1940 the radio broadcasters took another huge step and founded a competing PRO called Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI).

BMI signed up a very different cohort of songwriters, including people from the R&B, gospel, jazz, country, folk and Latin music communities.

And some degree of competition — and diversity — was introduced into this particular segment/function of the music industry (the collection of money due to songwriters and publishers for the use of their songs…)

These days BMI remains a bit more accessible than ASCAP — because BMI is free to join while ASCAP charges $50 to join as a songwriter and another $50 to join as a publisher.

I went with ASCAP partly because my fellow songwriter Steve Sweeting had already joined BMI, and I thought it might be interesting to compare his experiences with mine over time…

There is also a man who has been at ASCAP for decades named Michael Kerker who loves the Great American Songbook and is an avid supporter of new songwriters.

I met him many years ago when I invited him to a Boston-area songwriter showcase I co-produced at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (where I worked for 16 years).

Then one of my guardian angels, Amanda McBroom — a delightful and generous songwriter whose biggest hit (so far) has been “The Rose” — recommended I reach out to him.

So very shyly, I did.

And he got back to me almost immediately.

We ended up having a long conversation on the phone — and when I had a couple of follow-up questions, he was equally prompt in replying to me.

So I am now an ASCAP member.

And on October 10th, my first recording is scheduled to be released to Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, and a bunch of other online musical platforms.

I’ll be blogging more about that soon!

Now that I think about it, songs are kind of like viruses — they are not alive and cannot reproduce themselves without the assistance of a living host.

Hmmm…

I’ll also be sharing how people who do NOT write their own music collect money for the use of their unique recordings of other people’s songs.

And I will continue to give tiny amounts of money to as many political candidates who are in close races as I can.

And I will continue wearing a face mask.

And I will continue walking and riding my bike.

And leading my Music Together classes — both outside in a local park and online via Zoom.

And I will continue to be very grateful that I have a roof over my head, and electricity, and a functioning laptop, and food to eat on a daily basis.

Thank you to Bobbi Carrey, Doug Hammer, Mike Callahan, and the other musicians involved with our recording of “Fever” — as well as the original songwriters Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell AND Peggy Lee, who added several sets of new lyrics when she recorded her classic version in 1958.

Thank you to Pixabay for wonderful images.

And thank YOU for reading and listening to another blog post!

Let us all remained engaged — and vigilant — during the upcoming days and weeks and months!

ps: Have you gotten a flu shot yet?