Monday, January 10, 2022

Scott Cooley Gets Naked

Finally, works - let me explain

I host this blog, and the main Web site it is a subdomain of, on Blogger and Google Sites, respectively.  As a cost-conscious, figure-it-all-out-myself person, I've been proud that an old guy like me with an English degree could find a way to have my own site available on the world wide web with nothing more than my own sweat equity.  

Fairly recently, I notified you via another post herein of a recent upgrade that made the site work with https protocol for improved security.  So, even if you typed in, or even just the without the http, it would automatically display the https version.  It's a simple change, but one I thought was noteworthy enough for visitors to become aware of.

Also fairly recently, I became aware that it didn't work when someone just typed in, otherwise known as the "naked" domain without the www.  It occurred to me that I rarely type in the www anymore for most websites I visit, and I like that convenience.  Of course I want visitors to my site to have that experience as well.  Now they (you) can enjoy that convenience.

It took me a couple tries with different CNAME and A record entries in the software of the registrar I use.  It took a lot of Googling how to accomplish this as well.  Turns out such a simple-sounding thing isn't so simple.  Not that you'd care why or how, but suffice it to say I figured it out, and it works now.

It was pretty embarrassing when I discovered that not only had I designed a nifty logo that includes the text "" (false advertising), but also that I had listed on various online profiles that probably gave people the impression that I was listing a site that did not exist.  It has all along if you typed in the www part, but now you don't have to.

So there, I've come clean about this oversight, and can confirm the site has existed for well over a decade, and now it's as easy as possible for people to get to.

Yep, really exciting information to be aware of, I know.  The reality is this blog doesn't have many readers, and doesn't have many visitors, but this change is likely to help.  If you're interested in finding out news about me and the music I write and record, you have to find out about it somewhere, and this is the source.

Logically, this blog is the source of updates about the blog and the site too, so that's why I'm letting you know about such an inconsequential thing here.  I care about the visitor experience.  

As for updates about my music, about all I can report at this time is that you can expect more music out of me within the next 6 months.  If I die of Covid or something else between now and then, maybe my wife will figure out how to release the music someday.  If all goes according to plan, as you might've expected, said music will be in the form of yet another full-length studio album of new original songs with me singing and playing the instruments.

Check back for further details and thanks for visiting, and (<- try it)! 

Friday, December 3, 2021

There’s A Scott Cooley Christmas Song I Forgot To Tell You About!

I’m pretty sure I never told anyone about the Christmas song I wrote last year.  I wrote it, recorded it, uploaded it to YouTube, and then forgot about it.  It’s called “Christmas Is Cancelled,” and I wrote it back in early November, so it was over a year ago now.  

I was partially inspired to write it because one of my annual Christmas get-togethers with one branch of my family got canceled.  It’s the one my immediate family has always informally called “the Cooley Christmas,” the one in which we get together with my dad’s side of the family.  We decided to do a Zoom call with everyone instead.  I wrote it after learning it would be cancelled, and completed it before the zoom call.

Let the record show I uploaded it to YouTube on November 11th, 2020.  So far it was zero likes, and 65 total views on my official channel at  So like anyone would, I logically thought I could boost the engagement by posting about it here in my blog that hardly anyone reads.

The official direct link to the song is here:

It occurs to me now that it’s still somewhat relevant, because yet another and 2nd consecutive Cooley Christmas has now been cancelled, although no zoom call has been planned this year.  

We didn’t have a vaccine yet at the time, so there’s a line about getting one someday, and sure enough, we got one.  As of this blog posting I just got my 3rd shot – the Pfizer booster.  

There’s a line about telling Trump he was fired, and he’s not our president anymore, even though many don’t seem to believe it’s true.  It’s the only time I’ve ever put anything even remotely political in one of my songs, but I felt compelled.  That may explain why the view count is pretty low!  I’ve alienated at least half of my potential audience, although they wouldn’t know that until well into the song, but who knows.  

It really is nice to avoid the usual holiday hassles by having it cancelled, but I’m getting together with the other branch of my family, my mom’s side, tomorrow, and I’m actually looking forward to it.  It’s been resurrected this year, even though our Covid numbers here in Michigan are pretty bad again.  

So, I do sort of dread the effort involved with holiday get-togethers, but I also miss them because I miss seeing everyone.  The holidays were a stressful time of year to begin with, and with no end to Corona in sight, it’s even more.  

Some high school kid about 20 miles from here just shot a bunch of other kids in the school a few days ago, so it’s got everyone talking.  I got my hair cut today, and the barbers were all in agreement that sadly, all schools need metal detectors now, even outside the big cities.

I wrote this for a Christmas song contest that I lost (not even an honorable mention t-shirt).  It occurs to me now that the contest and judges were all based in Nashville, and I suspect the vast majority of them are Trump supporters, so what was I thinking?  A total waste of an entry fee.

Here are the lyrics:

Christmas is cancelled, and that’s alright with me        

No indoor gatherings, due to Covid-19

Christmas is cancelled, this year we’re free

We’ll say hi on Zoom, forget about the tree

Christmas is cancelled

We’ll have less stress from driving, we’ll relax like never before

We’ll skip shopping and wrapping presents, let Amazon bring ‘em to the door

Christmas is cancelled, we’re stocked up with food and TP

We told Trump he was fired, that’s all the glee I need

We’ve celebrated your birthday Jesus, for over two thousand years

We need a second coming in two thousand twenty-one, to stop the dying, the fears and the tears


Maybe Christ is made up, like the news on the Fox channel         

Our country’s getting’ bluer, and that’s better than getting dismantled

Christmas is cancelled, and it’s gonna be okay

We won’t lose hope, we’ll get a vaccine someday

'Till then enjoy a break from all the usual holiday hassles

Christmas is cancelled

And here’s the embedded official “video” of the song:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

So, that was my first attempt at a Christmas song, and I know I can probably do better, so maybe will give it another try someday.  Hope you enjoyed it!

While I’m at it, on a related note, over 10 years ago now I recorded a Christmas album I titled “A Cooley Christmas” of my favorite holiday cover songs.  Similarly, I never really told anyone about it, but it was back in the days when burning CDs was a thing, and I gave out a few copies to some of the Cooley relatives.  I got a few kind, polite compliments from a few of them, but never did anything more with it.  I only burned a few discs, and I’ve actually had a request for another copy a time or two since then, but don’t have the CD burning equipment anymore.  However, I did upload them and make a playlist for the album on YouTube, which you can now stream for free.  

Here’s the link to the Scott Cooley Holiday Covers Album “A Cooley Christmas” Playlist:

Happy Holidays,


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Is a Dumpster Fire worse than a Shit Show?

Herein I attempt to answer the question, but I must first caution you that you will be subjected to repetition of a swear word, poor taste, bad judgment, and further, a song that includes cursing, swearing, and otherwise expletive language that is impolite, rude, disrespectful, disgusting, offensive, and yet arguably funny.

Is a Dumpster Fire worse than a Shit Show?

“shit show”:  a situation or event marked by chaos or controversy.

“dumpster fire”:  a chaotic or disastrously mishandled situation.

Let’s look at what they have in common:

Both are situations.

“situation”:  a set of circumstances in which one finds oneself; a state of affairs.

Both involve chaos.

“chaos”:  complete disorder and confusion

I might sum up those two by saying both are confusing situations in which things are not in order.

Let’s look at what each has that’s unique:

A shit show involves controversy.

“controversy”:  disagreement, typically when prolonged, public, and heated.

A shit show then involves the public strongly not agreeing with the confusing situation for a long time.

A dumpster fire involves a mishandled disaster.

“disaster”:  a sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, that causes great damage or loss of life.

A dumpster fire then is a confusing situation involving sudden, serious damage caused by one or more mistakes.

You might say a key difference is that a shit show is public, whereas a dumpster fire can be kept private.

You might also say a key difference is that a shit show may not involve damage, whereas a dumpster fire does.

You might also say a key difference is that a shit show may not be someone’s fault, whereas a dumpster fire involves at least one person making a mistake.

A shit show might damage your reputation, but a dumpster fire causes great damage, possibly even loss of life, and someone is to blame.

Therefore, I conclude that a dumpster fire must be worse than a shit show.

So, there you have it.  

This begs the questions:  Can a dumpster fire become a shit show?  Can a shit show become a dumpster fire?  Maybe I’ll attempt tackling these in a future post.

For now, I’ll leave you with a related original song I wrote entitled “Shit Show,” which may arguably become a dumpster fire, particularly now that I’ve made you aware of it.

Contains questionable, inappropriate profanity unsuitable for children.  Now that you’ve been warned, if you’re not a minor, the explicit lyrics (and chords) that I’m not particularly proud of are nonetheless available below the video:

Shit Show

By Scott Cooley, lyrics on 2-27-20, revised further on 4-25-20, music on 4-27-20

G                           D                                  Em                         C

Life is just one display of waste after another until you die

       G                                                D                      Em.                              C

The world’s a stage, a chocolate fudge parade flashing before your eyes

G                                            D                                   Em           C

When you’re dead you’re flushed down a toilet to rot in hell

     G                             D                    Em                     C

Forevermore you’re filthy as you fester in a foul smell

D                                                                                        C                                                G

You’ve been schooled in a cesspool of stools, it’s disaster no matter where you go

               D                                                                       C                                           D

When it comes to feculence, you’re so intelligent, nothing’s gonna stop the flow


Welcome to the shit show

G                        D                                         Em                           C

Life is just one dung performance after another until you die

        G                                        D                                           Em                                  C

It’s already hit the fan, fecal matter has scattered and now it’s covered with flies

       G                  D                           Em.                                C

The only future you foresee has brown corn logs that stink

             G                                D                                    Em                    C

For the rest of time, you’ll dine on peanuts with yellow piss to drink

D                                                                                     C                                              G

You’ve become fluent in bowel movement, total chaos is the only thing you know

                    D                                                                                 C                                       D

There’s no cure for the manure, your vision’s blurred with turds everywhere you go


Welcome to the shit show

G                           D                                         Em                         C

Life is just one excretion exhibition after another until you die

            G                                             D                 Em                       C

You’re about to snap, and all you see is crap flyin’ across the sky

          G                              D                                                  Em                          C

Everyone’s a bad actor, there’s a cringe factor there’s no more poop excuses

      G                              D                                               Em                                  C

Diarrhea gets deeper, life’s a grim reeker, floatin’ muskies and droppin’ deuces

               D                                                                                C                                   G

A septic tank of excrement and defecation, there’s nowhere for your life to go

       D                                                                                        C                              D

An eternal sewer’s your permanent vacation from the world you used to know


Welcome to the shit show

Friday, August 13, 2021

Dreams Just Out Of Reach

I got a check in the mail from CD Baby the other day.  Forty-eight dollars and thirty-three cents.  Can't remember what I paid them to distribute my last album over a year ago now, but it was a little less than that.  My music is in all the places people go to find music these days, and the checks have been few and far between, but it's always a pleasant surprise to get an unexpected gift to keep on dreaming of the day when I'll turn an actual profit.  Needless to say, I'm not worried about being in trouble with the IRS if I don't report a few dollars of "profit" as income, considering the money I forked out for minor upgrades to my music recording tools over the years.  

They're still woefully old-school, but you get what you can afford for any hobby.  I intentionally like a low fidelity, analog, minimalist type of sound with my recordings.  I've got a neighbor with at least six sets of premium golf clubs, and by all accounts, he's a terrible golfer.  As a skier, I’ve always made fun of the people who had all the latest gear and looked really good but couldn’t ski very well.  Don’t want to be that person.  On the other hand, I like knowing that people buy what makes them happy, whether it makes them better or not.  I have a fairly expensive Martin guitar, which you could argue I don't deserve, but it makes me happy.

I do feel sorry for people who take it too far though.  Sometimes the dream far outweighs the reality.  People get caught up in acquiring the finest equipment to be more professional-sounding out of passion and believe they can beat the odds and succeed despite an overwhelming amount of competition.  Sometimes the equipment doesn’t help you sound or get any better.

I'd rather be the guy with modest equipment who is pretty good, rather than be the guy who has all the latest, greatest, most expensive stuff and still be mediocre at best.  Some go so far as to really believe they can turn their passion into a legitimate profession, and I applaud them for following their dream, but know they have a tough road ahead.  As an example, just because there are way too many lawyers in the world, doesn't mean there won't always be room for new good ones.  It's just that if you have kids contemplating careers, it might be realistically good advice to steer them clear of law as a career.

I'm at once jealous and surprised at the audacity passionate people have for music when I hear they think they can actually build their own recording studio and get artists to pay them to come there to record.  Some go so far as to invest in a commercial building for such a thing, pay for fancy mixing boards and acoustic treatment and expensive preamps and microphones.  Ambitious to be sure, but very likely to result in disappointment due to a lack of demand.  That said, there’s always the field of dreams hope that if you build it, they will come, or at the very least, you’ll have better quality recordings of your own music.

I was among the first wave of amateurs who put their music in online music stores like iTunes when such a thing became possible via TuneCore, the first aggregator/distributor I used.  The reason I switched to CD Baby for the same service was a very easy choice:  they offered a one-time fee to distribute indefinitely, whereas TuneCore began demanding an annual renewal fee to keep the previously-released albums available in the stores year after year.

Anyone with an instrument, microphone, computer, and internet connection can reach a global audience with their music now.  The vast majority have little or no realistic prospect of meaningful income.  A part of that majority for a couple of decades now, I've never made the jump from "amateur enthusiast" to "middle class" as a self-contained DIY independent solo recording artist, despite having my music available in all the same places as professional artists.  

You can find my ten albums on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, and YouTube just like you can find a major-league artist like Bob Dylan's.  It gives the impression I'm playing in the same league, with the same potential as anyone else.  Having the possibility of income makes for great dreams, but the reality is I'm not even close to playing AAA ball.  I could go on with another baseball analogy that all I need are some hits to hang with the big boys, but let's face it, I'm in the same ballgame as millions of other amateurs.  The dream seems close, but realistically, it's far out of reach.

This type of situation could cause resentment or at least frustration.  If you've read any of my other previous posts on this blog, you know I've experienced some frustration, particularly in the beginning.  The potential for discovery, appreciation, and income remains, and that's why I keep releasing new music every couple of years.  Even without any income, the nominal fee is the equivalent of buying a lottery ticket.  You can't win if you don't play, and the fantasy stays alive until you check the winning numbers.  The "what if" daydreaming is worth the price.

Just like a kind compliment from someone, a small royalty payment goes a long way toward keeping the dream of a growing audience alive.  My music is not for everyone, I know that.  There’s a lot of it to enjoy, once you get hooked on it.  Discovering an artist you like and then checking out all of their back catalog in your free time can be a lot of fun.  I do it all the time, and in this day and age, the convenience of asking google to play any song by any artist any time, whether from a home smart speaker, smart phone, car stereo, or computer makes it easy.  Then you can check out the videos on YouTube, read about the artist on their website, read their blog, etc.  

My catalog is out there for you to comb through, start developing a mental list of the ones you like best, eventually listening to them all, having that list evolve with time, and knowing there are more on the way.  I love knowing that’s possible, and I love making it possible for you, whomever you are.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Open Mic Night: Learn Guitar In Front Of A Real Audience

Embarrassment.  We’ve all experienced it.  I’ve embarrassed myself in front of live audiences.  I’ve also witnessed others embarrassing themselves in front of live audiences, whether they knew it or not.  If you’ve been to a typical open microphone night, you know they can at times be cringeworthy.  People who arguably have no business being on a stage get up anyway and try to play cover songs after barely learning a few guitar chords.  In my case, it was the singing.  I’ve always known I’m not an awesome singer, but I’ve always done it anyway.

From a Tenacious D episode
From a Tenacious D episode

As a songwriter and recording artist, I’ve released some embarrassing recordings of embarrassing original songs.  Looking back on my catalog, there have always been one or two songs on each of my albums that I wish I’d left off.  I released them anyway for whatever reason I had at the time.  There are no artists who don’t have a few bad songs on their albums, and it’s well documented that even the greats have regrets.  Let’s just say I have quite a few that would not be worthy of consideration for a best-of album.

Here’s a quick list of a few cross-offs that in my own opinion don’t add much to my repertoire:

From the 2004 Moon Dreams album:

  • Better Days

From the 2006 Lakeside Landing album:

  • Against the Tide

From the 2008 Drive Time Companion album:

  • Cooley’s Rap
  • The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

From the 2010 Sense Of Belonging album:

  • Stay
  • Homesick

From the 2012 Cherchez La Femme album:

  • Forever In Shame
  • With All Of My Heart

From the 2014 Used To Be Good Looking album:

  • Goin’ Up To Leadville

From the 2016 Rest Assured album:

  • None

From the 2018 Missing The Boat album:

  • Got It Made
  • Sink Or Swim

From the 2020 Bluebird Days album:

  • None

When you wish you could take something back, there can be a lot of reasons:  out of tune, bad mix, too much of a novelty song, stereotyping, contrived rhyming, too-personal subject matter, too sappy, unclear meaning, too whimsical, contains altered state reference, too monotonous, contains mistakes, has sexual connotations, too hokey, contains swearing, etc.  When you wish you could edit something, there can be a lot of reasons too:  rearrange sections, revise lyrics, change key to suit vocal better, change chords, fix minor imperfections in the recordings, etc.

Sometimes in retrospect, you wish you would’ve weeded out certain songs and left them off the album and never released them just because there’s something about each of them that is annoying.  Somehow, your thinking at the time was that they were good enough based on the new song recordings you had available.  For certain songs, being excited about them while they’re new gets in the way of giving them time for later reflection that would reveal they were not as good as you once thought.

When you choose to put new music out into the world, it's a risky proposition because you open your vulnerability for public praise or criticism.  Who doesn’t look back on decisions with regret once in a while?  It happens to the best of us.  The important lesson is to practice patience, and give new creations time before re-evaluating their worthiness of inclusion in a new release.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Trust, Safety & Buckets

I thought I would let the imaginary blog readers and website visitors out there know that I've recently updated both this blog and with improved security, because I care about your safety.  Hopefully this will entice you to visit and read more often, and maybe even recommend reading the words I type and sing to some of your friends.  I've always had imaginary friends, and I'd like to have more.  

One way I've set myself up to attract more of you is to make you feel safe and confident with your reading and listening during your visitations.  I've done this by implementing the HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), which you can identify by these letters at the beginning of the web address displayed at the top of your web browser.  Even if you don't type it to navigate here, it redirects automatically, so for example, if you only remember the domain because you know my name, and you type, or just, it will load the content, but the actual URL will be or  

This communications protocol encrypts exchanged data between your client browser and my server via third-party trust certificates and prevents eavesdropping and tampering while keeping your browsing private.  The technical details can be intimidating, but rest assured, its safer for you and me.  It can also improve the website ranking, which could result in even more friends, imaginary or real.  

If you couldn't already tell, I like to joke that I write all these songs and web content and blog posts that no one ever becomes aware of, and I question both the point of it all and my own sanity at times, but I do it anyway because I like it, and I maintain sincere hope for a larger audience.  For those of you who are reading this long after I type it, I'm glad you discovered it.  It is out of a desire for people like you to have a good experience when interacting with and consuming content I've created that I have implemented these measures to build your trust to come back for more.  

It may be of interest the odd coincidence that my new job title is Trust and Safety Content Analyst at LinkedIn, a professional social network that I work to keep professional and safe for its users in my day job.  On these pages I've also enjoyed in the past joking about the fact that I've wisely not given up my day job in pursuit of a songwriting career, and that is still the case.  After an extended period of unemployment during the pandemic, I feel fortunate to have a paycheck again, particularly due to the fact that my streaming royalties for the music I've released were a drop in the bucket to sustain me during a challenging time.  

Less than that even, since the fractions of a penny don't come close to adding up to even one single penny to drop into said bucket.  On LinkedIn every day I read of people who are much worse off than me, who are struggling to find work, and who have resorted to asking for financial support to tide them over from the kindness of strangers.  I understand hitting that type of low point, having similarly made public a method to accept donations in this recent post (  -  note the https at the beginning of that URL), and although I did not receive any response -probably due to the fact that no one became aware of it due to a lack of actual readers and/or fans- I'm happy to report things have improved.  

Yes, as a writer of many sad songs, and as someone who has had my share of hard times, I can relate to the pain in the world right now.  It's the stuff of great songs, it's healthy to talk about your troubles I think, and misery loves company.  Sometimes hearing about the difficulties of others can make you feel better about your own, as is the case with the reason people love blues music and sad country songs.  

And this reminds me of a great way to both sum and wrap up this post - two versions of the great song "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" one by Hank Williams, the other by Jimmy Page & Robert Plant:

Enjoy, and hope you'll be back for more words & music.  If not, that's cool too, hope your life improves too as we get back to easier living in the year ahead.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

"coversbycooley" YouTube channel features new epic acoustic Neil Young jam w/ mashed up lyrics from SNL comedy skit

Especially in times like these, when everyone has cabin fever, you can lose your music mojo.  Here's a little scenario of one example of what you can do in such a situation to get back into a groove again.

If you’re like me, you and at least one other dude have jammed a 10-minute epic acoustic-only cover version of Down By The River by Neil Young in a basement or living room at least a few times in your life, and loved it.  I’ve recreated such a jam session in my home studio with me playing all the instruments and singing all the vocals.  However, I mashed up lyrical content I culled from a Saturday Night Live skit, supposedly written by Bob Odenkirk (known for acting as character Saul Goodman) believe it or not, with the music and chorus of that song.  The result is the following YouTube video of “Down By The River (In A Van)” for your enjoyment:

It’s on the "coversbycooley" channel I put together a while back on YouTube (, which contains many acoustic multitrack recordings I’ve made of songs I like by other artists, ranging from the cringeworthy to the mediocre.  This is the first time I’ve made anyone aware of it on this blog, so now you know about it, and I hope you find time to enjoy the other 67 songs on there.

This is what happens when you’re a songwriter in a drought.  You make up lyrics from the dialogue of a famous comedy skit, like these:

Down By The River (In A Van)

Em  Em7  A    Em  Em7  A

       Em7                                              A

My name is Matt Foley and I’m a motivational speaker

              Em7                                                                        A

For the last four hours I’ve been downstairs drinkin’ coffee with your dad

    Em7                                          A

Before I begin let me tell a scenario about myself

      Em7                                                   A                         Cmaj7   Bm

I’m thirty-five, thrice divorced, and I live in a van, oh yeah, ooh  ooh yeah

      Cmaj7                               Bm                      C                                               Bm           D

I’m gettin’ my gear and I’m movin’ in here, ‘cause I’m sick and tired of livin’ in a van

G        D         D A     G D           D  A

Down by the river, I shot my baby

G        D          D A    Em7    A      Em7        A

Down by the river, dead, ooh, shot her dead

Gonna tell you a little story about a boy who liked to throw things

Started out throwin’ eggs, then he threw the big game, yeah!

Threw back a shot of whiskey, and then he threw up

Got thrown out of the house, and moved into a van     oh yeah  oooh yeah

I’m gettin’ my gear and I’m bunkin’ here with you kids, ‘cause I’m sick and tired of livin’ in a van

You won’t amount to jack squat, on a steady diet of government cheese

From what I’ve heard, you wanna be a writer someday young man

You’re using your paper not for writin’,  but for rollin’ doobies

Gonna be doin’ a lot of doobie rollin’ when you’re livin’ in a van      ooh   la la la yeah

I’m gettin’ my gear and movin’ in here, ‘cause I’m sick and tired of livin’ in a van

Then you feel the urge to play, and you’re alone, so you record yourself as Crazy Horse unplugged in your home studio with a couple microphones playing all the parts.  You insist on making it last at least 10 minutes, of course.  🤘 It’s what you do.  

Helps you get back into a creative mindset sometimes, too.  Until next time, party on campers.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Asking for Support – A Backwards Proposition?

I’ve been unemployed for a long time now and due to the pandemic, have had a tough time finding a new day job.  With all the free time on my hands, I have of course written a few new songs, but it’s a bittersweet situation and not as ideal for a songwriter as it sounds.  I’ve always wondered if the song quantity and quality would improve if I didn’t have to work, but needing income is a constant worry, and I’m actually more prolific when more busy, as odd as that may sound.

When not applying for jobs, I’ve wondered if I could figure out ways to earn more money with my music, how to make the music more commercial and competitive in the marketplace.  Since I’ve always been more of a songwriter than a singer or instrumentalist, practice aside, the one thing I might theoretically have control over is the quality of the recordings.  Although I’m satisfied with my low fidelity homegrown approach, I’ve wondered about professional studio time and the related equipment, techniques and costs.

Through surfing the Web recently in an attempt to try to learn what other, more successful musical artists have that I don’t (other than more talent), I’ve learned a few things and want to share with you my key takeaways.  The biggest takeaway, and focus of this post, is that I’m dumbfounded by the number of seemingly well-established artists signed to real record labels who engage in shameless fundraising to record and release new albums.  

My immediate reaction is to ask “shouldn’t the record companies pay for this?”  Isn’t that what record labels do?  I thought they advance expenses related to recording and promotion, then recoup with sales percentages as their basic function.  It is confusing.  I won’t name names, but there are countless examples out there of popular artists currently signed to popular labels with multiple released albums who are asking people to donate money for their next recording project.  Let me get back to my motivation a bit first to give a proper background to my confusion.

Sound quality

To get the obvious out of the way, there are countless artists out there who can sing way better than me and play instruments way better than me, so it makes sense they’d be more successful than me.  More practice in those areas aside, I’ve wondered what else could I be doing?  One is to get a better sound quality, like the kind you can get when you pay for time in a real recording studio with a real engineer and maybe even a real producer.  Another is to pay professional session musicians play a lot of the parts on the recordings.  Presumably, you’d end up with everything quantized and automatically tuned perfectly, with tastefully appropriate effects, proper eq, compression, mastering and all that stuff.  The end result would still have my melodies and lyrics and substandard voice, but paying a bunch of money would get me a modern, professional, radio-ready level of sound quality.

As a do-everything-myself home recording artist, I do the best I can with what I’ve got.  I can’t afford anything else.  Admittedly, there’s no accounting for people’s taste in music, and anything I’ve ever written about myself has an undercurrent theme that I think my songs are pretty good, despite not being able to deliver them all that well.  I dream of hearing mainstream artists recording versions of my songs that would make people realize they are as good as I think they are.  I dream of my own recordings gaining massive popularity long after I’ve given up.  Pipe dreams.  However, I would never dream of asking the few fans I have to just give me some of their hard-earned money so they could hear what a new Scott Cooley album would sound like with pro-level sound quality.  

As a matter of fact, I’m told part of my appeal is the “lo-fi” sound my recordings have.  My vocals are “pitchy,” my percussion is slightly off-beat at times, my tempos vary slightly throughout each song, my guitars can be slightly ahead of or behind the beat, parts aren’t perfectly synchronized, instruments can be slightly out of tune, etc.  I use a little effect like reverb here and there, but don’t know how to use it correctly, as a pro would, and when I do, it arguably sounds worse than it did before, which is why I leave all of the tracks fairly clean.  People have told me they like it that way.  They like the fact that I record everything live with microphones and all acoustic instruments.  They like the amateur quality.


Nonetheless, better sound quality is something an infusion of cash could help with, no doubt.  Another is that I do absolutely nothing to make people aware that my music exists at all, other than post a tweet to my few followers and announce it on my website hardly anyone visits, let alone is aware of.  That’s the other thing it seems you get when you’re signed to a record deal – they actually pay for ads, they actively get people who write about music to write about yours.  That costs a lot of money, I am assuming.  

Word-of-mouth without any of that is what I’ve been hoping for.  Just as it feels wrong to ask for money to record a higher-quality sounding album, it feels wrong to ask for money to get exposure.  Truth be told, I don’t want fame at all, I don’t want to be a celebrity, I don’t want to be a public figure in any way.  All that would be terrible, from what I can tell.  I want organic popularity without any of that.  Without paying for fake follows and likes, and without any grandiose gimmicks to get attention, I’d like to have an increasing fanbase through real recommendation.  Accidentally going viral, yet somehow remaining mysteriously anonymous as a person.  These are Catch-22’s, I’m aware.  

Streaming, touring and merchandise

Streaming offers fractions of pennies as compared with CDs or vinyl.  The best way to support me as an artist currently would be to buy one of my CDs that are still currently available, rather than streaming.  I could pretend to be more professional than I am and offer t-shirts, but that would be embarassing because I don't play live gigs.  It wouldn't be possible anyway due to the pandemic.  

A record company and most individual patrons want a return on investment, and that means touring and merchandise.  Realistically, although I’m capable of practicing enough to memorize my own songs and play live gigs and get applause and enjoy it, despite knowing that would help with exposure and record sales, it doesn’t sound fun to me to do that all the time.  To constantly travel and perform to make money isn’t the type of life I want.  I’m a homebody, not a live performer.  

If I hit the lotto, and then decided to sink a ton of it into advertising, and also to hire pro music PR people or whatever they’re called to get me press and media exposure, it would certainly help.  Would any of my current fans enjoy having a t-shirt with my name and picture on it?  Possibly a couple, but even with increased exposure and popularity, I just don’t see much of a demand there.  I’m not much to look at anyway.  I know the appearance of popularity begets actual popularity, so they could certainly help with that.  I wouldn’t mind doing interviews for publications, but public appearances would need to limited to only a few per year.  Currently, I don’t do any, and frankly, I like it that way.  

The Bob Dylan / Nick Drake dreams

I’m happiest to have my little modest home studio where I can put on my mad scientist cap from time to time and write and record songs.  I like everything about my current level of involvement in music, except I’d like it to reach a larger audience.  To make it more appealing, I guess money would help with sound quality and exposure and thus popularity and sales.  I’m not going to ask people for it though.  It doesn’t feel right to me.  

They say people realize what a great songwriter Bob Dylan is after hearing other artists’ covers of his songs.  I’m content daydreaming that someday, great and popular recording artists will discover and record cover versions of my songs that are better than my own versions.  They say obscure artists can become popular and appreciated long after they’re gone like Nick Drake, and never got to enjoy it in their lifetimes.  Maybe after I’m dead, I’ll gain popularity without having to deal with the downside of experiencing it myself.  Chances are slim, but the potential is there.  

It would be neat if there’s an afterlife in which you can enjoy looking down on living world as they wonder why you never got the appreciation and mass appeal while alive.  They’d wonder if you were ahead of your time, and conclude the world just wasn’t yet ready for it during your lifetime.  Either the Dylan or Drake scenarios are appealing.  Potential without the trappings of fame, that’s where I comfortably sit I guess.  Submitting my next album to a record company who says they’d like to give me a bunch of money to re-record it with pros and get ready to tour and sell t-shirts?  Nah, no thanks.  

Aggregator distribution and tax avoidance

Thankfully, the whole CD Baby thing happened, allowing amateur artists like me to have that potential.  I’ve never made enough to actually report income to speak of, so it’s like our president’s companies that constantly lose money.  It costs me more to distribute than I get back from people purchasing my music, but it’s a nominal cost that is like buying a lotto ticket:  you can’t win if you don’t play.  It’s a license to fantasize.  Losing well and keeping up appearances.  I’m guilty of it as a songwriter and recording artist, representing myself in the most favorable light, but I have morals, and though imperfect as we all are, I draw the line and like to think I have integrity.  

I have great pride that my music is completely self-made, like it or not.  I acknowledge my wife has helped me with some accordion and editing suggestions here and there, but otherwise, love doing it all myself.  The appearance of success can get you elected president of a big country.  There are a lot of people who pretend they’re self-made, forgetting to acknowledge the help they got along the way, and hiring tax avoidance strategists who provide them with advantages in maintaining this situation, and seemingly live well with themselves.

Crowdfunding and liner note acknowledgment

So maybe the way it works now is that even if you are on a record label’s roster, you have to fund your own album recording costs somehow, then submit your high-quality pro music to the record company, and then maybe they still pay for the hype in exchange for a cut of the sales.  They probably have a tough time turning a profit these days, I would think.  It’s surprising that they keep signing new artists consistently though, year after year.  

If they rely on patrons of the arts to contribute, anonymously or otherwise, it helps everyone stay afloat perhaps.  Anyone can have a donate button on their website that anyone can use to send money into an artist’s account, no strings attached.  If I was a music appreciator with a lot of money, maybe I’d like to help a friend, but not a random stranger.  Just to see them do well, or better, might be satisfying in and of itself.  I’m no philanthropy expert, but I would imagine that a lot of people want acknowledgement in the liner notes, just like they want the building named after them that they donated to their alma mater, or getting their name on a plaque at a local theatre or whatever.  

They want credit, recognition, and the supposed community prominence that comes with their charity.  It could be that since it seems to work some of the time, the labels said do your own crowdfunding, record the highest-quality album you can, then send it to us, and maybe we’ll release it if we like it, maybe not.  Maybe that’s replaced advances for recording.  It remains confusing to me, and a bit sad.  

It takes audacity I simply don’t have.  You can go to the indie label websites that list artist rosters, then go to those artists’ websites, where you can then see their posts of them asking their fans for support to finance the recording of their new batch of songs.  Seems like a backwards proposition to me.

Making potential donors aware of the ability to accept

All that being said, at one time I did in fact set up a Donate page on my personal web site, with some language I brainstormed about what would be in it for the giver and the receiver, and even went so far as to set up a PayPal account to make it quick and easy should anyone ever want to contribute to my quest for improved recording quality.  It's similar to this venmo thing the kids use these days.  I never made anyone aware of it though, and this post rationalizes that reluctance.  It just so happens that I have in my lifetime become acquainted with many a trust-funder type who would probably never admit they feel guilt for not deserving or earning their wealth, but it occurred to me that some of them may just be odd and twisted (and generous and kind) enough to part with some of it and send me a giant payment anonymously, no questions asked, and without expectations.  If you’re one of them, I can honestly say it would be cool if you did.  

Would I use it for improved sound quality and exposure?  Absolutely.  Is it possible you’d later learn that I bought a large trimaran sailboat and ski-in/ski-out mountain home with your money instead?  Yes.  Would I feel embarrassed or ashamed about it?  A little, but I predict I’d get over it quickly, just like you have managed to learn to get enjoyment out of your standard of living, whether you had to work hard for it or not.  This might add to that enjoyment immensely.  You won’t know ‘till you try.  The grand experiment, unproven to this point in time, may finally have an outcome!  You could know if a cash infusion could show what I’ve always suspected myself:  that my songs are indeed better than my recordings of them reveal.  

Songs as unique investment opportunities

It's actually a hot topic in the music business news lately - famous people like Dylan, members of Fleetwood Mac, and Neil Young selling their back catalog of song rights to investment companies.

If you're interested in some sort of investment in my potential future recording or back catalog earnings, I'd of course be willing to talk to you about it, but realistically I don't see any such potential without marketing and exploitation and a lot of luck.

Shameful random songwriter support benefactor solicitation

What I could benefit from instead is direct, no-strings-attached contributions from either people I know or kind strangers who prefer to remain anonymous.  Well, what the heck, I’ve now talked (blogged) myself into deciding to make people aware that I do have in place the capability to receive donations.  I can only gain from it. So here's the shameless pitch with handy button you can click to send me money (now also at the bottom of my Contact page):

Stand With Scott - No independent solo artist, even a do-it-all-yourselfer like Scott, is capable of developing a great music career alone. Aside from buying the CDs, or volunteering some free time to help promote the music, if you'd like to reach out by way of donating directly (either anonymously or to get a free future CD with your name in the liner notes), we now offer that ability.  You should probably be an adult U.S. citizen using your own funds with a personal credit card issued to you in order to contribute, and you should be aware that your gift is probably not deductible as a charitable contribution for Federal income tax purposes.  To be one of the first to help Scott get off to a strong start making his next batch of new songs into a future album release of higher quality than ever before (and to help offset associated expenses with recording and marketing), click the button below:

In case that button doesn't work for you, here’s the direct link for good measure:

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Beyond the lyrics: now you can learn to strum and sing any Scott Cooley song quickly for free!

I am pleased to let you know about a significant project I’ve recently completed that you may have interest in and benefit from.  A while back, you may have noticed I posted the lyrics for all of my songs on  Now you can find out the chords for them as well.  There is now a Scott Cooley songbook, believe it or not.  It’s available now to anyone, and it’s absolutely free.  Why would I produce such a thing, you might wonder?  Read on to find out.

This is more of a long-form news item covering in greater detail what I previously covered in the more condensed post on the News page of "The new songbook is here!".

As a guitar player, if I ever want to learn how to play a popular song, I do what most of you probably do:  I google it.  Typically I’ll put in the song title, followed by the word ‘chords’ and click on the results.   We all have our influences, and learning from listening to recordings alone can be a tedious process.

There are issues with these guitar chord sites.  One is that they’re often wrong.  Another is that they don’t use the screen real estate smartly.  What happens is you get a bunch of annoying introductory information, and then usually the first verse and the chorus, but that is all that appears “above the fold,” which means you’re forced to scroll vertically down to see the rest of the song. 

Wouldn’t it be great if you could see the entire song on one screen or page?  That’s difficult even when you are trying to learn a song from printed sheet music.  You have to turn the page.  It impedes your progress to have to scroll or turn the page. 

I know some people back in the day would write with pen on paper the lyrics with chord above word where played, and they’d try to write small enough, sometimes using a two-column approach, to get it all on a single sheet of paper.  The online chord sites often try to cram in a bunch of tablature as well, sometimes tablature-only, when you expected lyrics and chords, presumably to satisfy the apparent demand for the lead guitarists of the world who want to master the riffs, solos and melodies.  The sheet music publishing companies throw in a bunch of notes on staffs to satisfy the people who read music. 

All that said, the average joes of the world just want to know the chords and words so they can play the song and sing it to close family and friends without the subtle detailed nuances of notation and tablature.  This is the dilemma for most, I suspect.  A great way to start is by knowing the chords and words and basic structure of a song first, and then you can always figure out the melodies, riffs and solos later on.

I realize a few people out there in the world will spend like a whole year learning one song on guitar, perfecting every single note exactly like the recording, becoming a true master before moving on to another one.  There are kids on YouTube who can play Eruption by VanHalen perfectly all the way through, for example.  Nothing wrong with that.  

I'll never be that kind of person.  If I learn part of a cover song at all, it's from looking up the chords with words online.  I have recorded and released for free recordings of me covering songs I like by other artists, however, and find it a fun thing to do when the songwriting muse is temporarily absent.  You can check some of those out here if interested.  

It's an extension of studying songs you like to become better at songwriting.  You try to figure out what about a song you like makes it good, which can inform your knowledge when you write your own originals, and then attempting to record a song you like by another artist takes it a step further and is always great practice and a learning experience.

With the internet, you typically don’t waste your time paying for sheet music or guitar books anymore.  I did buy one once though:  it was called The Beatles Complete Chord Songbook, and although it was too thick to hold it open to any song due to the binding, I thought it was designed and laid out well.  Most songs spanned two pages, though some were only one, while others were up to four.  Then an idea occurred to me.

What if I used the same way of notating the lyrics, chords and song parts as that book, but made sure every single song spanned exactly two pages?  Further, what if I then printed and bound it with a coil ring binding that would allow it to stay open?  I thought it would be possible, so I set out to make it happen – with my own songs.

The result is a book containing the chords and lyrics of every song I’ve released on my first 10 studio albums that can be opened to any page, set on a music stand, and have the even numbered page at left be the first half of the song, and the odd numbered page on the right be the last half of the song.  As a bonus, the electronic pdf version of it can be used on a computer, while taking advantage of search, electronic table of contents and index, so you can find and display any song in the same way – provided you have it set to show two pages side-by-side.

I’ve never memorized any of my own songs really, enjoying just writing them and recording them, then repeating, but never revisiting any of them to be able to learn them and play them live for people.  I’ve just always thought it was more fun to spend my time writing and recording new songs rather than be able to perform past songs from memory.  People think that’s weird.  They hear you write songs, hand you a guitar, and want you to perform them, understandably.  When you can’t do that, it’s embarrassing.

My motivation, therefore, was to properly type up both the words and chords so that I could at least open a book on a music stand in front of me and be able to perform my own songs in their entirety in front of people.  If I dedicated time to do that alone repeatedly, I may even be able to memorize some of them.  I guess since I’m not a live performing type of musician, I never gave it much attention.

In the back of my mind I thought someday, I’ll get out the scraps of paper I scribbled lyrics on and type them up, try to remember the chords and type those where appropriate on there too.  I guess I always thought I’d wait until I had a bunch of really good original songs first, before I even bothered attempting to actually learn them.  Still not sure if I’ve attained that yet!

For many non-musicians they figure that if you wrote a song yourself, well then you certainly should know how to play it from memory.  For me, that’s not the case.  I have it fresh in my head enough right when I complete it to get it recorded, then I promptly forget it forevermore thereafter.  Most of my songs I only played through once or twice before hitting record.  It’s hard for people to fathom, but that’s just how I’ve always approached the hobby, never intending to be a public performer.

Like most people, eventually, I could actually play several popular cover songs all the way through when I first started playing guitar.  That was the original goal – to just get good enough to play songs you liked by other artists.  Singing and playing at the same time was no problem for me.  I also knew a lot of little parts of famous songs, never learning how to play them entirely.

When I did jam with duos and groups, I always just sort of naturally gravitated to being the lead guitar player, the role in the band where all you had to know was the key the song was in, and you were good to go.  Classic rock and blues were the main types of songs we played, and playing some variation of a pentatonic scale worked well enough to entertain most crowds and appear somewhat competent.  The solos were no problem, and throwing in a few fills between chords here and there were adequate enough.  Somehow, I instinctively knew how to make it sound good and not interfere with the singer, while sounding like I knew what I was doing.

So, the background of being a lead guitarist, rather than a lead singer or rhythm player, was such that I could play with people and never need to know all the chords or words from memory.  After a few years of jamming with others playing covers, I realized I loved trying to make up my own songs.  Being primarily a songwriter and home recording hobbyist has always been what I love most about music.  Probably in the back of my mind I thought that some day when I had a bunch of really good songs, I’d learn them so I could play them in front of people, but I’ve just never gotten around to it.  The motivation just isn’t there.

Now the only excuse I’ll have for not learning my own songs is procrastination.  I’ll still focus on writing and recording new songs as my primary hobby, but now that I’ve got a songbook, it will be way easier if I ever decide to learn a few of my own songs.  I’ve heard you have to play them regularly too, or else you’ll forget. 

It’s why famous bands have to rehearse for a month before they go on tour.  Lots of famous bands and singer/songwriters actually use teleprompters when you see them perform live these days.  Practice and rehearsal would allow me to be the person who claims he’s a songwriter to be able to back it up when handed a guitar and play from memory some of the best originals.  Maybe enough to play a live set at a bar or coffee place sometime.  You never know, but the point is, if I had the desire, it’s more possible now for it to become a reality due to the tool of having everything properly typed up.

Publishing companies are traditionally into charging for songbooks and sheet music for their artists’ and songwriters’ songs.  Going against that norm, I thought in this modern age, why not make it free and easy for people to learn my songs?  It was never a motivation, and there’s never been any demand for it to speak of yet, but maybe, just maybe, someone other than me might want to learn how to play and sing my songs someday. 

Maybe in the future someone might want to record and release a cover of one of my songs one day.  It would be really cool to hear someone else’s version of a song I wrote, so why not make it easy if anyone ever had such a desire?  If that someone is you, you can easily fill out the simple form on the Licensing page of to get official permission - that is, only if you intend to try to commerically sell your cover recording of one of my songs.

Check out the songbook here:

It’s got 126 of my original songs in it.  It’s professionally done, and I should know, since I’ve been a professional technical writer for over 23 years now.  This is what is possible when you’re a skilled technical writer who has a period of unemployment. 

I did 100% of it myself – the design, the layout, the formatting, the typing up of the lyrics, the perfect placement of the chords, the electronically linked page numbering, table of contents, index, and discography, the acknowledgements, preface, and introduction.  A ton of work went into this – particularly listening back to the recordings with guitar and figuring out the chords and words I never bothered to write down for many of them, so it was a labor of love. 

It’s a passion hobby of mine.  I love doing it all myself – the writing, the singing, the multiple instrument playing, the recording, the mixing, the mastering, the cover art, the packaging design, the arranging, the producing, the web site design and maintenance, the social media and blog posts, copyright registration, various label and distribution duties, the production of videos, the rights administration, and now this expansion of song publishing in the form of a book.  It’s a passion to write songs, it’s fun to record them, and all the rest is in support of that hobby, including this songbook, and I’m proud of all of it.

Hope someone, someday (maybe you?) will actually want to learn one of my songs, and if so, find this book and appreciate the ease at which they are able to use it to do so.  If not, maybe I’ll learn some of my own songs as a result.  It was definitely worth the hard work, because at the very least I can lug a music stand and my printed version along to any place and open to any page, and have a complete song in front of me that I can perform in front of people.  Pretty cool.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

New album "Bluebird Days" is now available

GRAND BLANC, MICHIGAN - The follow-up to 2018's Missing The Boat is out in web music services as of June 21st, 2020.  It has garnered praise from my innermost circle already, it features no guest stars, and already a few of the songs with videos have recieved play on YouTube.  

This is a true solo effort, with me doing all the work alone at home to make this album exist.  My loyal audience should not be disappointed, as this, like many before, is an album that includes the same great quality of songwriting and the same acoustic lo-fi sound they've come to expect.

As is always the case with any album, I’m excited once again to announce the release of my latest, Bluebird Days. It’s the 9th official studio album I’ve released since 2004, so it marks 16 years of me releasing albums on my pretend record label Scott Cooley Records.  I wrote my first song in about 1990, so this year marks 30 years of songwriting, one of my favorite hobbies.  

Bluebird Days contains 13 new original songs that I wrote and recorded.  As usual, I performed all of the vocal singing and instrument playing, which includes acoustic guitar, acoustic bass guitar, ukulele, piano, marimba, harmonica, drums, percussion and whistling.  I also did the production, arrangement, engineering, mixing, mastering, packaging design, etc.  

The cover photo was taken by my dad, Richard E. Cooley.  It was one of the first he ever took with a digital camera, many decades after he had let his family photography hobby lapse as my sister and I had grown up and moved away.  He was particularly pleased with and proud of this one, which I think reminded him that he had a particular artistic knack for taking a good picture.  

It is of a special place to my family, a ski chalet formerly owned by my sister that served as a getaway and an extended family gathering place associated with skiing, good times and fond memories.  As one might surmise, another favorite hobby of mine is skiing, one my immediate family have all had a passion for, and this album includes a few songs about skiing.  

When you release albums, you’re always excited that it includes the best you had available at the time, and this one is no exception.  As I look back on all of my releases, there are maybe one or two songs on each album I would now leave off, and there are maybe one or two little things that I could’ve improved about the ones I did include, but overall I am still pleased, and I have no reason to believe this one would be any different.  

An interesting fact about this one is that completing it got me on a roll of sorts to keep on with a similar theme, and I later came up with another album that also has songs about skiing.  I thought of releasing them as a double album, but then decided to do them separately, the first (this one) to be released now, and the other to be released two years later in June of 2022 in keeping with my every-two-years album release schedule.  

Due to a mistake by the distributor, Bluebird Days II actually came out before this one in 2019 when I submitted them both, so the sequel became a prequel.  It’s all good, so if you liked one, you will no doubt like the other.  

I officially described it as “bold, acoustic ski bum garage rock songs with traces of folk, blues, funk, punk, psychedelic, reggae, art rock, soft rock and Americana mostly about wanting to fly high and ski on sunny powder days in the mountains to escape the blues”.  

Several of these songs I started writing back when I was a ski bum living in Vail, Colorado, and I both revisited and revised them for this album.  Songs about skiing, songs about having the blues, songs with the word ‘blue’ in the title, the fresh powder and blue sky in the photo, all added up to a title that is used to describe a great day of skiing.  

Anyway, if all goes well and according to plan, this one should be available as a CD on Amazon and as a download or streaming album on Amazon Unlimited, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, etc. on June 21st, 2020.  As of this blog post, I’ve checked the main places to get music online, and it seems that the distribution went off without a hitch this time.  

In addition to those “big 5” web music services, there are some others carrying this new album of mine as well, including Tidal, Deezer, 7 Digital, Napster, iHeartRadio, Anghami, and Yandex.  Also you should know I’ve uploaded 5 videos for 5 of the songs on the album that are on my YouTube channel.  

There is a related news post where you can get all of the links here:, but you can also get them from the album page here:

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Miniscule Following: Where to Go from Here? Self-Assessment May Reveal Insight

It’s cheap and easy for almost anyone to make music on a computer where they live, then put it on the web for people to stream.  Confusion about terms like indie, DIY, lo-fi, and bedroom pop aside, we’re all aware it’s possible to “go viral” which can catapult an unheard-of artist to instant popularity.  We’ve heard it can be lucrative.  If accidental, it’s usually a really catchy melody with relatable lyrics from a young person with a great voice who looks good.  If it’s more of a slowly-building, steady-growth situation,  maybe there was some investment in promotion along the way.

Breaking through the noise of all the home recording musicians out there now is a huge challenge.  The average music consumer might not realize traditional record labels will spend a ton of money to “break” an artist.  In today’s changed music business, if anyone is going to invest in helping to break you, they want some assurances it will be a good investment, understandably.  What do those assurances entail, one might wonder? 

You have to show proof of things like:
An interesting backstory
Evidence of being “on the verge”
A popularity trajectory
Lots of existing fans, “fan engagement”
Lots of existing streams
Lots of likes and follows on social media
Lots of subscribers
An appealing web site and online presence
A strong “brand”
Press attention in blogs, news, magazines
Self-generated internet buzz
Radio airplay
Film/TV placements
A marketing plan
Drawing live performance crowds

How do I rate my current situation?  Undeterred by a lack of success, and still trying to write and record great songs.  Like most creatives, not excited to self-promote.  Like many songwriters, not excited to "pitch" songs to famous artists, but would love to be able to boast "cuts".  No real press clippings to boast about at all, no email mailing list subscribers to boast about at all.  No live performances (caveat:  in the novel Corona/Covid age, playing field levelled) at all.  Still chasing the dream of writing really good songs, still haven’t yet (arguably).  No radio play, no idea how to achieve this.  No film/TV placements due to the DIY sound quality.  Still trying to improve on my home recording ability to achieve better sound quality.  A poor physical appearance due to being old and overweight – hence, intentionally not a lot of pro photos of myself out there, and no videos featuring me. 

Overall, just some old fat white guy in Michigan who can’t sing very well who likes to think he can write and record interesting songs in his house in his spare time.  Would love it if some famous major label artist would record one of my songs and it would become popular, which would then spur other artists to want to do more of the same.  More of a songwriter than a solo artist.  Not out to get famous, but would love more popularity and appreciation of the recorded output.  Secretly hoping the slowly-building discovery and appreciation will ramp up a bit, despite the reality that the style is almost the total opposite of what is popular these days!

I find myself in 2020 to be someone who has a catalog of released albums that is larger than most famous major label artists, a musical artist without youth, looks, professional videos & photographs, or a great singing voice on my side, a prolific songwriter/recording artist who doesn’t perform, a solo artist who has a really small following by fans who buy and/or stream my music on the world wide web, an independent musician who does everything myself without help from anyone.  When you find yourself in such a situation, the glass half empty part of yourself might advise you to be realistic and find another passion, but the glass half full part of yourself might advise you to keep at it because a following and some sales translates to success, however miniscule it might be.  So far, I go with the half-full approach, refusing to give up, while admitting the harsh realities of my abilities, talents, and skills. 

I'm happy to continue to hope it takes a long time to infiltrate people's attention spans for discovering new music like mine, let my music slowly seep into getting recommended via playlists and word of mouth, let it percolate down into more people's music consumption habits over the long haul.  It is highly likely it's all a pipe dream, and after I'm dead and gone, there will be no trace evidence that I ever put new music into the world at all.  I'm cool with that.  Maybe self-assessment can help me narrow down what it is I like about making music.  Maybe you can identify and relate to my self-assessment:

Marketer/Publicist:  Self-promotion is something I have no talent for or desire to do, not wanting all the negative things fame and celebrity would bring, yet still wanting increased awareness and sales of my music, having no budget for such things whatsoever, while remaining unwilling to do anything that would help like losing weight, getting dressed up for pro photos/videos, pitching, networking, playing live, seeking publicity, or advertising, happiest doing absolutely none of these aforementioned things.
Performer:  Not bad with stage presence despite lack of confidence in singing, like the applause and attention as everyone does, realize it’s not as fun as songwriting and recording, happy to have the ability and some experience, but choosing to not ever do it very much at all.
Singer:  Not naturally gifted at all, no formal training, realize training and practice likely won’t help much, happy to be able to record own lead & backing vocal tracks on own songs and have them pass as real singing, just not very good singing.
Instrumentalist:  Possibly a little bit naturally gifted, no formal training, not willing to put in the time, money and effort for lessons and practice, realize playing in a band would mean focusing on getting really good at one instrument, happy to be self-taught and adequate at playing several different instruments, able to make multi-track recordings myself to sound like a full band.
Producer/Engineer/Recording Artist:  Possibly a little bit naturally gifted, no formal training, self-taught via experimentation, happy to be able to make my ideas of how I imagine a completed song become a reality.
Songwriter:  Possibly naturally gifted, self-taught in the craft via listening closely to songs I like, can begrudgingly do it on assignment, enjoy it more than any other creative endeavor, possibly a little better with lyrics than melody, happy to be able to do it, but only when the urge strikes.

So, there.  I did it.  I self-assessed the main aspects of music I’ve undertaken.  What did I learn?  I guess it helped me to be honest with myself in thinking about and typing those, and although it confirmed what I already knew, the act of writing it down is an act of being realistic about it, and then to know the areas in which I could enlist pro help if I ever had extra money laying around.  Even more profound is as a result of this little exercise in this little blog post, I wonder if I would hire pros at all - even if I hit the lotto and had plenty of time & money suddenly to help with things like marketing.  I might still choose not to market and secretly just continue to hope I accidentally get popular or magically go viral somehow, but who knows?  You don’t know what that’s like ‘till you’re in that situation.  I know I wouldn’t want the pressure of a loan I’d have to pay back via endless touring like a record company would offer, that’s for sure.  There’s a satisfaction in doing it all myself, but it’s also overwhelming at times. 

I said you can’t be great at everything, but well, Paul McCartney can write beautiful, timeless melodies literally in his sleep, can play a lot of instruments well, can sing well, is a great performer, and is still a way above-average lyricist, so he’s a popular artist who is a rare exception in that he appears to actually be good at everything.  Bob Dylan is a great lyricist, is perhaps underrated at writing melodies, can play several instruments competently, but you wouldn’t ever list him as a great vocalist, and you probably wouldn’t find very many people who say he’s pleasantly appealing as a singer or performer for that matter.  He can sing though, and does in fact sing.  I’m a lot closer to Bob than Paul, no doubt, but dare I even compare myself to either in any way?  Well, I just did, so I’m bold.  Why not, I say.  The drastic difference in the size of the fanbase shouldn’t prevent a comparison.  Any combination of strengths and weaknesses can result in mass appeal.

Another grand revelation of this honest self-assessment is that maybe I’m a little too self-deprecating, rating myself lower than I should, and not accounting for how big an accomplishment it is to be able to teach yourself to do all these things I’ve done.  I should be prouder, and not be afraid to reveal it.  On the other hand, glass half empty self is chiming in that maybe hidden in my self-assessment is a bit of inherent humble-bragging I secretly hope will be revealed by reading between the lines and looking at the overall accomplishments by the astute readers among you.  That would require a pro shrink to help me decide…which is another thing I’ve never been willing to pay for. 

I am proud that I can figure out a lot of things on my own without anyone’s help, including how to stay fairly sane, and how to write and record a bunch of acoustic rock songs that don’t just sound kind of like real songs, they actually are real songs, and they’re pretty damned good.  What else have I learned?  Don’t be afraid to state your opinion of the music you come up with, be both honest about your weakness and strengths.  Stick to your instincts to please yourself with your involvement in music, do the parts you enjoy that make you happy, and don’t stop because you’re not popular….yet!  Not giving up the dream is the same as living the dream.  I like to pretend there are real people out there who are either songwriter/home recording hobbyists like me, or who are simply fans of my music, who might enjoy reading about my random thoughts like this about the hobby and/or craft – whatever you call this thing that I like to do.  Hopefully some of the imaginary people I envision who read this blog will find this post to be inspiring in some way.