Wednesday, June 22, 2022

"Upping" My Video "Game": More Scott Cooley Music Videos Available Now

It's a strange time in the world when hobbyists like me can offer up their music publicly even though they should probably keep it private.  The same goes for videos for that music.  Then again, we're in a social media era when everyone's personal lives are on full display online anyway.

Everyone (and their brother) can self-publish and find cheap distribution, and there are countless places online to post one’s creative works and even try to sell them.  It’s allowed people who are not great to try anyway, and in today’s gatekeeper-free world of music, I’m one of the mediocrity saturators.  Now I’m doing the same thing with music videos you can access here:

The only consistent compliments or positive feedback I've ever received about my music are about my song "Mackinac Island," a funny song about a familiar nostalgic place people love, with a repeated swear word in it. By the way, it happens to have a great video of free public domain footage I found of a family’s home movie from their trip there.  If I was signed to a label, they'd say "give us more swearing songs about vacation destinations!" but fortunately, I don't have that pressure.  

I know people are likely disappointed when they try listening to any of my hundreds of other songs and say to themselves "oh, he's trying to be serious, he's writing love songs, these are not funny, they're not about places we've heard of or been to, there's no swear words, yuck." 

I get that. However, in the unlikely event some of you out there actually like knowing I not only have new songs available, but also a few new videos to go with them, then you might be happy to hear about this.  I already had some, and now there are more, and supposedly this can raise or improve one’s game. 

My game is writing and recording songs, and in case you’re a new reader, the way I play is that I sing like a writer - meaning not well - and although I can sort of claim to be a multi-instrumentalist, I’m self-taught with no formal training and not great at any of them (I drum like a writer too).  The writing part might be good here and there, but I have yet to fire on all cylinders.  It will become obvious to you that music videos are not something I’ve mastered yet either.

An addition to said game is that in recent years I’ve added music videos to the mix of things I make, and recently, I’ve made a bunch more available for your viewing/listening pleasure.  I’m not sure I can say I “make” the videos, because I use “found” footage of video.

I might've "downed" my video game by putting more music videos out there, and it could very well be that I had no "game" to begin with.  Before this announcement, I had many music videos out there on the web, accessible world-wide for people with internet-connected devices with screens and speakers or headphones to find and view and like, but there's little evidence to support that they have been found or liked much so far.  

View counts are present, and even a couple viewer comments have been posted, but largely, my video game, if I have one to speak of, has gone unrecognized and ignored.  Here I am announcing I've created more, and there's a very long-winded explanation why.  Bear with me as I figure it out by typing my thoughts on the matter.

As with my songs, my videos are do-it-all-myself, zero-budget affairs, and it shows.  Just having a higher quantity of low-quality videos doesn't improve the situation, but the same can be said for my music album releases alone, sans video.  So, there's a recent increase, but I really have no idea if it is a welcome increase by anyone.  

No one asked me to make music in the first place, or make music videos for that matter, and once I made some, no one asked me to make more either.  A few views, like a few polite compliments about my music, go a long way toward me thinking people might like more, but regardless of assumed demand, I was going to do it anyway, like any of it or not.

Maybe you think my music is bad enough to begin with, and adding videos to go with it makes it even worse.  Fair enough!  I never claimed to be good at any of this, and yet I do it anyway because I want to, and because I can.  

I'm a fan of music videos, and always have been.  I was a teenager when MTV was new, and I loved it.  Before that, I loved The Monkees TV show when I was a little kid.  Elvis did movies with singing/performing, so did the Beatles.  Visuals to go with music has always worked…and having good songs to start with always helps.

The performance of music, before recording technology existed, always had the visual aspect of being able to see the performers, so their look and style mattered.  Now going to a concert by a popular artist means also being able to see video content on big screens on either side of the stage.  I'll never forget going to a Pink Floyd laser light show at a planetarium in Flint, Michigan back in the 80s - another way to enjoy visuals with music.  

I know the appeal, and the evolution has brought us to a situation in which amateur musicians who are a far cry from Pink Floyd are able to upload music videos to YouTube, saturating the world with music and video content that is mediocre at best, and yet, there are people out there who do find it and like it.

As a music consumer myself, I mostly like the best songs by the best artists.  I may check out some of their other stuff briefly, but I only revisit the "hits," and I understand most of you are no different.  The obscurity of an artist is based on what you've been exposed to, where you live, who your friends are, what you read, etc., and of course one's taste in any art is influenced and personal, yet we can all agree some are better than others.  Everyone's heard of the Beatles, and can rattle off many of their song titles.  

Other artists, not so much.  For example, the only song I can name by the Milk Carton Kids is their song called "Michigan," and similarly, the only Gillian Welch song I know is "Everything Is Free".  I've listened to several other songs by each, and they're good and everything, but not as good as those really good ones.  

These are established, famous artists, but you have to like mellow acoustic guitar music to even know about them.  I haven't become so enamored by them that I’ve taken a deep dive into their back catalogs, but those single songs I remember from each are so good that the presence or absence of videos wouldn't change my mind about them.  

I can't even name off the top of my head any music videos that really stand out that I've seen, except maybe Take On Me by Ah-Ha.  That said, I'm sure there are songs that never would have achieved their popularity without videos, I just can't think of any to name right now.  A lot probably involve dancing, and a lot of those for female artists depict them performing dance moves while scantily-clad.  

Sexy helps the sales, no doubt.  On the one hand, it's too bad if artists like Beyonce think they need to show off their bodies to sell music, but on the other hand, "if you've got it, flaunt it" might not be bad advice.  

Several years ago, after surmising it was "the thing to do," I decided I should have music videos on YouTube, even though I know I have an off-putting appearance that is far from sexy, and furthermore, know I pretty much suck as a singer and musician.  It's crazy in the first place, but if you're going to do it, YouTube is popular and accessible (and free).  

I want my music to be popular, but I don't want to be recognizable as a person, if that makes any sense, and obviously I lack confidence about this whole hobby of mine.  Just like when you see an unflattering photo of yourself that makes you embarrassed, any video of me would be exponentially worse.  

I can barely stand listening to most of my own songs I've written and recorded, and the only ones I'd consider doing videos for that feature moving images of me would be my very best, even though my best are nowhere close to being as good as the best by the famous artists that I myself enjoy as an appreciator of music.  

I do have a couple of dance moves, but like my singing, I have no natural talent or training so it would significantly detract unless I'm intentionally trying to make people laugh.  Maybe someday, but thus far, I'm sticking with existing video content that doesn't show me.  Royalty-free video content is out there to mix with your music, and I’ve found some.

There are other places to put your music videos online, but YouTube is the main place.  So, I set about figuring it out.  You can combine one of your songs with a picture of something and save it as an MP4, and that's like the bare minimum of what qualifies.  I did a couple like that, then realized I could add some text and make a lyric video.  

Free tools that allow you to do this are fairly simple to figure out, although lyric videos require a lot of painstaking tedious effort.  Slowly over the years, I've added more.  It's a form of social media presence that most musicians have, and I've now joined them.

When you're not confident in your own appearance, and you're not much of a videographer, you find existing public domain visuals for your music videos, and you "create" them even though they're not your own creation, and you "produce" them by including them with your music and maybe adding some text, but you can't really call yourself a "director".  

For the DIY musician crowd, you put them on YouTube yourself, as opposed to employing a service that distributes them to YouTube for you.  To have an official artist channel, you need to already have at least 3 official music releases distributed by a distributor (I now have 11 released albums in the YouTube Music service), and be in the YouTube Partner program.  

To be a YouTube "Partner" you have to reach 1,000 subscribers (I have 30), and 4,000 watch hours over the past 12 months (no idea how many I have).  This gives you more features and "monetization" tools.  Needless to say, it's a little confusing, but I have produced and uploaded at least 5 music videos for each of my 11 albums now to my channel.  

Somehow, there are ads on there anyway, yet I don't make any money from them.  It is painfully obvious I'm far from the popularity needed to make money, and need a lightning strike of good luck to have the required viral spread.

If a band or solo artist does a music video, should it always show images of the band members themselves, or the solo artist himself?  Should they always be lip-synching?  History has shown us that no, it's not always necessary.  Should they always feature original footage?  Probably.  Can they use "found footage" from the public domain?  Yes, I think so.  

Are such videos less authentic?  Probably.  Can they still be cool, or is it a waste of time?  The answer is that a lot of people like to enjoy music while also having something interesting to look at that goes with it, so yep, it can be cool.

It's a somewhat sad time when it seems everyone and their brother is trying to "go viral".  Particularly the generations younger than me seem to place a lot of importance on using social media to get popular.  I hate hearing about the negative aspects this has on society, particularly for young girls who want to look good and be popular who get depressed when they don't feel they measure up to unrealistic ideals on the filtered and photoshopped web.

Computers let you make yourself look better than you really do, and when it comes to music, sound better than you really do.  Although I need all the help I can get, I try to stay away from the trickery, try to keep it real, but admit I'd be happy to hear that my music was getting more popular.

The appearance of popularity begets more actual popularity, and although I would never consider it, I know it's possible to pay for fake views, streams, playlist adds, likes, etc.  Shortcuts seem to work, but I only want the satisfaction of real, organic popularity, thank you.  

The music I create should speak for itself, and if it doesn't catch on, well, I don't care that there's a ton of competition out there.  I would, however, be thrilled if my music reached a larger audience, and I've heard that having music videos can help.  So, "creating" some and then telling you about their existence would be the logical next steps.

So, I'm pretty sure that I have now "upped" my video "game," and although I'm happy to report this to you, I'm not exactly sure what it means.  The impact of the number of views listed on YouTube doesn't necessarily mean more streams elsewhere.  These are free streams, after all.

Included are videos for songs from my last two albums, Bluebird Days II, and Lockdown Leftovers, as well as a few more from past albums.  I think this puts the total video count at over 60 different official music videos now that I've created and produced and uploaded there myself.

It's unclear if by YouTube Partner they mean a partner that distributes videos to YouTube, or if they mean one who distributes your music to YouTube Music (which itself integrates videos).

You might appreciate being made aware of the videos from my last album "Bluebird Days II" becoming live recently and automagically.  Unlike my music distributor, who mistakenly released Bluebird Days II 21/2 years early, YouTube Music also allowed for content to be uploaded and then scheduled to go live for a release date well into the future, but their software worked accordingly.  

This means that way back at the end of 2019 when I uploaded my two Bluebird Days albums for future release in 2020 and 2022, I also uploaded the videos for them.  

The first Bluebird album's videos went live in June 2020 as expected, and now the second one's videos have gone live as expected as well.  It's good to know that scheduled videos do get made public on the date specified in YouTube, but I sort of learned my lesson that you shouldn't upload an album and specify that it go live well into the future, it's instead best to just wait until a couple weeks before you want it to be public, and then upload it, which the music-only distributor partners can handle.  

It was so cool to know I could kick back knowing I had two future albums that would just be released automatically, but it doesn't work if it's too far into the future - that's my lesson learned.  Those include "Feather In Cap," "Green Love," "Brain Dead," "Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way," "Mountain Time" and "Any Port In A Storm" which is a sea shanty that features my lovely wife Lenore Cooley playing amazing accordion!

It should be a clue to me that people's favorites are not only the ones in which I swear, use humor, and write about a place everyone's heard of, but also the ones where I involve another musician!  Indeed, she is a real musician, unlike me.  Now if I would only get real singers to sing them, and other real musicians to play the other instruments, maybe I'd be on to something.  

That was the plan all along, by the way:  I only ever envisioned myself as a songwriter, not an artist myself, and that's still true, but I wisely wasn't into taking the big risk of moving to Nashville, networking, and pitching my songs to famous artists.  As aforementioned, I’m still trying to accidentally write a good one.

Instead of soliciting good singers and players to record one of my songs, I pass myself off as a singer-songwriter solo artist and release my own versions of my songs with me combining multiple tracks I play and sing on, because none of my songs are pitch-worthy yet.  Minute improvements over the years may be arguably evident, but I keep at it because I like doing it, and I still haven’t written a great song yet, but I want to, so I’m still trying.

I’m not attempting to get better necessarily, I’m just enjoying my hobby and hoping I get better or get lucky or preferably both, but I’m not working too hard at it at all.  To me, it’s just fun to try to make up songs, and some of mine actually sound like they might pass as sounding like real, actual songs sometimes, which is always encouraging.

Additionally, I've uploaded new videos for songs from past albums.  While originally, I had done 5 videos for each album - each featuring a song from those albums - I've now added at least one more per album, so now there are at least 6 songs from each album that have videos associated with them.  

Those include: "Serenity" from Moon Dreams, "Lakeside Landing" from the album of the same name, "Road To Me" from the Drive Time Companion album, "What Money Can't Buy" from Sense Of Belonging, "If I Had Time" from Cherchez La Femme, "Used To Be Good Looking" from the album with that same title, "Something About New Orleans" from the Rest Assured album, "It's Not Gonna Be OK" from Missing The Boat, and "Love Is Like A Rose" from the first Bluebird Days album. 

The new and latest Scott Cooley studio album "Lockdown Leftovers" also now has some videos associated with it, although there are only 5, and 2 of them were released previously.  They include "Christmas Is Cancelled" which was my first holiday/Christmas song I wrote for a song contest back in November of 2020, and "Austin's Story" which I wrote in April 2020 in association with the Sing Me A Story Foundation for the benefit of Gilda's Club.  

Some only have static pictures as opposed to moving, some have lyrics and credits, some don't.  Therefore, some might be more interesting than others.  One of my motivations was to make sure that every song on which Lenore plays accordion had an associated video so people can further marvel at her excellent playing.

The idea is that the video tells more of a story than just the words, and when you view them, you're more engaged or involved from understanding the song and the artist better somehow.

They should theoretically promote the music more than if they don't exist.  Other artists do it, so you're doing it to compete with them I suppose, but I feel no sense of competition with anyone at all.

Just having videos that feature your studio recordings of your songs doesn't seem to make much difference in your popularity as an artist though, if you're me anyway.

I had one miserably failed attempt at lip synching with my song “Cooley’s Rap” a while back, and I've always had mixed feelings about those kinds of videos – they seem fake, particularly if you do them in one take like I did.  To reiterate, I don’t dance, don’t videotape stuff with a camcorder, and don’t like my appearance, so featuring myself is ruled out.

All this means I have to find free public domain footage of stuff out there to go with my songs because I'm on a budget.  So, it's not really all that original or authentic, and that's why it doesn't feel right.

Theoretically, a good song doesn't need a video, and good art can exist without anyone else ever experiencing it at all.  I'm sure there are art for art's sake people in the world who don't feel compelled to make public everything they create, or record everything on their smartphones.  

Hobbies are for personal enjoyment.  You do it for yourself, but on the other hand, we're in the age where if it wasn't recorded, it didn't exist, right?  What is the saying "if a tree falls in the woods and there's no one there to hear it did it make a sound" or maybe it's "does a bear shit in the woods"?  Anyway, I'm sure YouTube has countless hidden woods cam videos that confirm with evidence both of these things happening.

To use a swear word again I've already over-used, a shitty video can make a song worse, and I'm certain I’m guilty of this.  I'm putting them out there because I think I should, or because it seems like the thing to do, and I hold out hope it will mainly be a positive thing for you, the people who are into my music.

I know it's an increasingly popular way for people to consume music now, and with the tight integration of YouTube and YouTube Music, the videos are tied in to the experience if you choose to enjoy music that way.  

I guess it's somewhat useful to see how slowly over time, certain ones emerge as more appealing.  Sometimes it's because you leave one up as the "trailer" - which is the first one people see upon arriving to your channel.  

On the Videos tab, when you SORT BY > Most popular, it's no surprise to me that my song "Mackinac Island" leads the way with over 300 views.

Others make me wonder if the "thumbnail" photo you see before you hit play makes a difference, and I think it does.  But eventually, maybe some patterns emerge that it's a combination of things.  

Some songs you think are really great never get the views you expected, so it's probably because I either never made it a featured trailer or didn't select an appealing thumbnail, or the video sucks pretty bad and people bail out before it finishes.  

A lot of my songs are in the over-three-minute range, so that too could be a factor with the ever-shorter attention spans these days.  Maybe for some, it's just the title, too, so you wonder if any of it is valuable feedback.

The bottom line here is if you're like me, you're more of a behind-the-scenes songwriter/recording artist who is not into performing in front of live audiences, and you shun the spotlight, and you're embarrassed about your old fat ugly appearance, and you feel your songs are what it should all be about and not the visuals.  

On the other hand, if you're like me, you forget all that, cave to the pressure that it might help you reach a larger audience of appreciators, and you vow to take a stab at it.  Mainly, you chalk it up to it seeming like the thing to do, so you do it.

When you find yourself being a do-it-all-yourself solo artist with a bunch of songs recorded, you take the hobby to the next level and put them in online music places so people can hear them.  Another level beyond that is you can make videos for some of them and put them online where people can hear/see them.  

You do it because you're brave, you do it because you can, in the land of the free and the brave.  Similar to blogging, it's a very American thing to do now, I suspect.

Like some of my songs, some of my music videos are now cringeworthy to me, but I leave them up anyway.  Once released, they'll always be "out there" on the web, even if I attempted to delete a few of them, so bad or not, they'll stay.

I sincerely hope you feel the Scott Cooley music listening experience is enhanced by some of them, and you get some enjoyment out of them and feel entertained.

If you want to Add a any of them that would be cool, and also if you feel compelled to Like, Share, or even Save them, go ahead, be my guest.  That will be great.

When you’re an amateur musician who can somewhat pose as a professional thanks to technology leveling the playing field a bit, you want to appear as professional as possible to hang with the big boys whether you deserve to or not.

Lastly, I got the impression from some of YouTube's documentation that if I don't get more subscribers, they may not ever give me the coveted music note icon next to my profile name, and further, may take away some of the cool existing features that go with the custom name and the verified check mark, so please sign in to your Google account and hit that SUBSCRIBE button if you want to enjoy more in the future.

Or, just click this:

All it does is send you a little email notification when I post something new.  No big deal.

Thanks in advance for subscribing, for reading this blog (and for watching the new videos)!

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