Friday, May 6, 2016

$12.49 for an Album? In 2016? Are You Kidding Me? For Past Releases as Well? What Gives?

In short, you do.  My fans do, that is.  They give in the form of payment of this album price for a reason.  They give in support of music they really appreciate for a variety of good reasons actually.  They feel good about contributing to the sustainability of an artist putting great music out into the world consistently, in a time when such a thing is a challenge.  Read on, and you'll hear about what those good reasons are.

I can't tell you how good it feels to be in the process of getting another album out into the world of music I made.  Releasing songs you wrote and recorded gives you the feeling of release, as if you didn't want to die with the music unreleased.  Although there's more competition than ever in the music business, there's simultaneously different levels of opportunity nowadays. 

The ability of the average joe musician like me to do this didn't exist a decade ago, and thanks to the evolution of technology, it does.  Inexpensive home recording equipment, plus digital distribution to online web stores has made this possible.  You hear a lot these days about songwriters and music artists not making as much money any more since CDs, MP3s, Napster, and the iPod changed everything, which is absolutely true.  The only advantages are that it is convenient and cheaper for both consumers and home recording hobbyist / independent DIY people like me.  The word "cheaper" being the most important word.

So, when you see I have albums for sale online for $12.49 and single songs for .99 cents, it's arguably shocking and inexplicable at first glance, I'm aware.  Why does an average joe musician like Scott Cooley charge so much, you might wonder, when you can get the new Justin Beiber or Taylor Swift album for $7.00?  That's the big question, and one I fortunately have an answer for!

I see a three-level pricing stucture in place here - Free (Amateurs, DIY'ers),  Mid (Independent labels) and Pro (celebrity musicians), admittedly with some crossover between levels.  When you scour the internet for places where average joe musicians post their music online - at places like YouTube, SoundCloud, or MySpace, etc., you obviously are prone to finding a lower production quality, lower average talent levels, and a more amateur overall experience. 

When you get beyond the free places, you have music that is being offered for sale, and all said factors are higher on average, as you would expect.  I am in the middle here, and although this may be arguable to you, hear me out first.  Then, at the top tier, you have the aforementioned mega-popular major label artists and bands.

Now, I'll quickly explain why I'm firmly in the mid-tier, with some crossover.  I am an amateur do-it-yourselfer, and my sound quality is not bad, particuarly when you consider I don't use virtual instruments or auto-tune trickery.  Although the all-acoustic instruments and recording of them being played live can sound amateur in comparison to fake drums, bass, horns, etc. made with software loops or midi keyboards, it arguably shows more talent that I play all the instruments myself. 

While I don't give much away for free, you're paying for real music recorded live by a person.  I'd like to think fans of my kind of music are willing to pay a little in support of the real thing.  The mid-tier artists signed to established independent labels actually have recording budgets fronted by the record companies, and said money is often spent in real recording studios with session musicians and professional producers and engineers. 

Again, I'd like to think the kind of people my music appeals to would tend to have a higher appreciation for an artist who did not need to hire pro session musicians and engineers to achieve a desired sound because what I do is way more authentic.  Willing to pay a little extra to support that aspect of it as well, I would imagine.  I can arguably come up with fairly well-produced and arranged songs with a fairly good level of sound quality as compared to what the pro facilities and session musicians can deliver.  To toot my horn a bit further, the quality of the songwriting I would argue is up there quite high, and at times, crosses over into the pro realm.  Fans are willing to pay a little for that aspect as well.

Crowdfunding.  You've heard of it, mostly for software startups, or gadget-makers.  The mid-tier musicians who have that top-tier sound these days get it from crowdfunding.  There are a lot of them - PledgeMusic, IndieGoGo, etc.  There's something that doesn't feel right about it...has an Amway multi-level marketing uneasiness to it, and I have no idea if investors get paid back when the goals aren't met or the projects are delayed, or promises not delivered at all. 

Let's face it, we know that if you heard a robot-tuned version of my vocals, with pro Nashville musicians playing the instruments, my albums wouldn't sound like me, and they wouldn't sound like what you like about me as an artist.  I'm not a puppet, not a karaoke guy who will do a dance routine and lip-sync to fake, perfect-sounding backing tracks with my vocals made perfect via technology.  I'm old, and far from being that kind of artist.  Not a looks-first marketing whiz with a lot of videos.  You'll never see that kind of thing from me. 

So, if I emailed all my friends and relatives and asked them to email all their friends and relatives, and social networked my butt off, and basically begged people to donate money to me to pay for my next recording project, you wouldn't want the end result, even if it was possible.  You already like my style and what I produce, so I charge after I've got a product ready to go.  I ask a little more than average, yes, but I don't ask you to ask your parents to fund me first to pay for fake studio stuff.  For 12.49, you get the best I could do - real music from a real person with a real voice playing real instruments.

It could very well be that as technology has contributed to a declining music business, it has at the same time contributed to a decline in music quality.  I'm not talking about the sonic perfection that is achievable with technology, but rather, the fact that it may be a dying art to play the instruments yourself, and write the songs yourself, and record it yourself.  It could also be that the styles and genres my music encompasses is fading from public awareness and appreciation. 

Maybe the type of sound I get and the types of songs I write won't be as prevalent in the future, you never know.  Maybe younger generations won't understand it as compared with the popular music of their day.  Preservation is a part of what you're investing in with that 12.49, from a known quantity who's proven he can continue to deliver.

If you're the type who is willing to pay a little more for something made in Michigan, pay a little more at the local mom & pop business instead of WalMart, buy art from local artists, support your local farmer's market, write a check to NPR, help the homeless, pay a little more for organic, whatever your thing is, you're the type who is prone to support your local songwriter / recording artist. 

If you like the product, why not contribute a little more than what is typical.  Sustainability.  It need not happen via being hounded to fund a recording project before songs are even written.  Better to have that product that exceeds your expectations, be able to try (stream) it for free first, then buy it at 12.49.  It's not for everyone, but that's my rationale behind the price.  By the way, if so desired, almost like a tip for a job well done, at Bandcamp you can actually pay more than 12.49 for my latest album, Rest Assured, if you feel so compelled.