That's how I've felt lately. Some of it is the winter cold. I go into the woods everyday. Everything looks dead. The trees are sharp arms straining to the sky. The color is drained from the ground, the bark, even the sky most days. And that's how I've felt lately.
For me, making music full time is a slow crawl. The movies about artists cover the ups and downs of an entire career in at least 35 minutes, sometimes it's as quick as a two-minute montage. It feels so rewarding and satisfying to see your hero redeemed! For all that work to be rewarded. For all the naysayers to be told. The humiliation was worth it! Everything was worth it! Maybe that's somebody's story. Not mine.
For the past year, my numbers had been slipping. My online music sales were down, I was getting fewer gigs. It felt like I was slowly going backwards. So I posted more videos. Did more covers. Maybe if I tried harder to connect with new listeners, my audience would grow. More folks would share, I'd get more gigs, everything would grow.
I was nearly done with my newest album. Jaded. A collection of new and old dark love songs. My first true concept album. Seven songs, one mood, one ambient space of synthetic instruments and voice. This time I had to do something different. If nothing I did before worked-I had to try something new.
So I decided to release the project for free. The idea scared me. What if I didn't make any money on a piece I'd worked for months on? What if nobody took me seriously because I was giving it away? But again, I had try to something new. So I did. *FREE. The response was amazing.
*FREE on soundcloud, just means you can download the album, no questions asked. but free on bandcamp means you can name any price, including $0.00. There is no minimum or maximum price.
What I thought would happen: more people would share the music, download the album for free and I would exchange sales for a slightly larger audience. What actually happened: folks did share, I did slightly grow my audience. But people also gave what they could and I ended up having greater sales on Jaded and any other album I released before. Some people were incredibly generous, and gave $30 for the album. Some gave $2. Some gave $5 for one song. Some folks sent apologetic notes, "I'm sorry I could only give this much, but I hope it helps." And as any self-employed artist knows- every little bit helps. Something shifted and more and more people downloaded and gave what they could. I am by no means a rich woman now-but that shift means I did something right.
So today. I decided to make all of my music on bandcamp name your price. Because I would rather more people have the music than limit it to an arbitrary number. And this time I am not scared. I am excited.
So back to the metaphor. Winter. Muted colors. The look of death. It is almost impossible to walk into the woods right now and imagine what it looked like four months ago. How could these be the same trees? How could something change so much? I know that my music career doesn't necessarily hold the promise of spring. That's not how it works. Some people never get where they want to be and I am prepared for that. But knowing that something can change, go from dark and barren to green and full-that gives me a little bit of hope.
I'm so sad to say that after some months of keeping all my music "name your price" on Bandcamp- I can't afford it anymore. The trend of folks giving generously ended quickly and It started to break my heart to see people pay $1 for entire albums. I'll keep some of my music free, but I can't do so for all of it any longer.