Saturday, February 24, 2024

How I Became A Songwriter/Recording Artist & My Subsequent Half-Hearted Attempts At Self-Promotion

A Songwriter Is Born

Elsewhere on this blog and in I’ve covered this, but I’ll quickly reiterate my start.  I took Intro To Guitar and Intro To Poetry as “blow off” classes my senior year in college in 1989.  I learned more about guitar from my friends than in the class, but these gave me a foundation.  A year or so later, after learning covers of blues and classic rock songs, I wrote my first song.  

Don’t know why, but I just decided to try writing a song, and I liked doing it.  Friends heard some of my early songs and said they indeed sounded somewhat like real songs.  Hot babes hanging out in the living room at my 20-somethings ski bum parties as I played them were impressed.  It’s possible they liked other things about me and were just humoring me, but it no doubt helped spur me on to continue.

I did solo open mic nights in bars, a few paid gigs as part of an acoustic duo doing covers in an apres-ski setting, getting even more attention from hot babes as a result. Lots of fun acoustic living-room jam band situations with impromptu groups of crazy characters as well.  However, I quickly realized I wasn’t a great singer, didn’t want to just be a lead guitarist in a cover band, so I slowly phased out of live performance situations, decided I wasn’t cut out for it, but kept up with the songwriting hobby.  

My friend’s band got really popular, and they learned and performed a couple of my originals, which people loved, and the lead singer announced me as the songwriter and pointed me out in the audience, and this also got me attention from hot babes.  Hot babes, that’s what it was always about for everyone, wasn’t it?  ☺

So the songwriting has continued, and that hobby evolved into being a recorded songwriter and solo artist with released music you can get on the web.  In between, there was an interesting progression of related things I got into learning about that led to this, and a lot of significant, rapid change in the music industry that all happened at a good time for me.  Since about 2005, when it first became possible for regular people to distribute their independent, home-recorded music online to music streaming services like iTunes, I’ve been one of them.  

The years leading up to that were a fascinating time for someone with a songwriting hobby, when I experienced first-hand what it was like in a perfect storm of the combination of affordable personal computers, home recording software and hardware, and the internet.  Things evolved quickly.  Keep in mind that when I got my college degree in 1989, the world wide web didn’t exist yet, and no one had their own computers. 

How I Started As A Recording Artist 

In the late 90s, I pawned my portastudio 4-track cassette recorder for a USB audio interface to use with my windows 95 laptop. Then I bought an AKG condenser microphone.  Then I bought an acoustic bass guitar and a djembe, a snare drum, and a high-hat cymbal.  I already had an acoustic guitar, a few harmonicas, a tambourine and a shaker.  The audio interface came with a free trial light version of Cubase digital audio workstation software, but I quickly found another software application I liked better called Cool Edit Pro, which was later bought by Adobe and renamed Audition.  I still use Adobe Audition 3.1 today.  Later I added a CD burner – one of the first external ones that was gigantic and heavy.  

With a computer, an audio interface, a microphone, recording software, and a few instruments, it was all relatively affordable.  Over the course of a few years, by the time Y2K came around I could multi-track record rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass, drums, percussion, lead vocals and backing vocals, then mix them all down to a stereo song.  It was a lot of fun being able to write a song, and then record it as if a full rock band played it.  

I could also master it and burn it to CD, share with friends & family.  I could also save songs as MP3s and share electronically.  This was all really cool.  This all happened after I taught myself to play guitar a few years earlier in the early 90s, and then for some reason, thought I could make up my own songs.  I found the songwriting part to be a lot of fun, but also the ability to multi-track.  

Just when I started to get fairly good at making my own music this way for a few years, in the mid-2000s, mp3s were a thing, Napster piracy happened, the iPod and iTunes all happened.  Web sites for amateur musicians popped up where you could send your song and make it available for free web streaming.  MySpace was one of them.  I uploaded my MP3s of my original songs to various places online (most of which don’t exist anymore), and some of which I still have links to on my website here:  

This was kind of cool, you could make your songs be available for people to stream for free online.  Then I heard about the idea of a digital “aggregator” serving as a way unknown amateurs could get their music onto iTunes so people could download it on their iPods, and around the same time, make your CDs available on Amazon.  I decided to go for it.  After a while, they would send your albums and songs to a bunch of music download stores, and I signed up for them all.  Some folded, got bought out, got renamed, etc., but I’ve preserved the old links to a lot of them as well here:  

A few years ago, Amazon stopped offering their burn-a-CD-on-demand service, but it was cool while it lasted.  I actually made enough money for several years to cover the cost of the distribution service!  Just having your album available in the same places people go to buy a Led Zeppelin or Beatles album or whomever, was very awesome.  

The downloads thing has slowly been phased out as well, but all this is still possible today with web streaming.  Last year, my royalty check from the distributor CD Baby was about the amount it cost for distributing the last album (which admittedly wasn’t one of my best), so I pretty much broke even (minus my sweat equity, instrument & home studio equipment upgrade costs over the years).  

Albums Available, Now What?

So, now, fast forward to present day, and with a large and growing catalog of studio albums available, how can I make the next one make more money?  If my next batch of songs gets more popular, it would also make the back catalog more popular, and then maybe I could reach some level of profitability someday soon.  

Free Record Industry Expert Advice On The Internet, That’s What

At this point, one looks up advice about what an independent DIY solo artist with no money can do to make their music more well-known.  

Be Better

They tell you – of course – first and foremost, write and practice more, have better songs, be a better player, singer.  Again, voice or instrument lessons are not something I’m willing to pay for.  I know I could get better at guitar if I shelled out for lessons, but there’s probably not much a vocal coach could do to help me improve.  Just guessing, but I know I’m not naturally gifted.  So, those are out.  

Pay For Someone Who Is Better – Session Players, Studio Pros

The next thing would be to get better players to play on your records.  I’m not going to pay session musicians to play on my albums because they cost money I don’t have, but also, it wouldn’t be me, and I wouldn’t be the DIY solo artist I am today.  I love doing it all myself.  The end results of my songwriting and recording are all me, like it or not, and I prefer it that way.  Some artists just sing and dance, and have pros literally do everything else for them.  Then the final thing would be to pay for studio time in a real professional recording studio with a pro engineer, maybe even a producer, and then also pay for pro mixing and mastering.  Once again, these are out due to my nonexistent budget for such things, but also because I don’t have the desire.  

I truly love doing it all myself and enjoying the results that I know were the best I could do at the time.  A part of my appeal is that I’m obviously not an expert in any of these things, with zero formal training in any of them, and yet somehow, I find a way to figure out how to do it all by myself anyway.  I get a big kick out of that, knowing the finished product was all me without any outside assistance from anyone for any of it.  

Play Shows, Duh

Getting that out the way, what else?  If you don’t play live shows like me, that’s automatically ruled out as well.  Experts always advise you to go out and ask venue owners to let you play, then play, then build a following that way – the old-school approach.  Then you make enough to hire a manager to do the asking for you and get you more gigs, take it from there.  The approach I take to a music “career” does not involve any of that.  Not about “getting discovered” by a record label rep at a live performance venue at all.  Recording artist only, no marketing budget – that’s me.  I need my recorded music to get discovered more on streaming services.  What now?  What else can I figure out how to do on my own, that is free, and that I don’t mind doing?  

The Dreaded Self-Promotion Thing

Now you’re talking about self-promotion, having a website, a blog, photos, videos, social media, branding, getting on playlists, getting people to write about you, etc.  Creating a buzz, asking others to help create a buzz, paying others to create a buzz.  I have so far refused to ever pay for anything, have refused to ever ask for anyone’s help, preferring the joy of knowing I did it all myself, and just hoping it somehow magically gets popular through word-of-mouth recommendation alone.  This is obviously not the best strategy.  

The Stuff Record Labels Do For Artists

Marketing, promotion, advertising, publicity, creating buzz.  This is what record labels do for music artists, but now that they let you in the record store without a label, you’re on your own to figure out the rest.  It’s a blessing and a curse that cheap DIY distribution is possible.  Great, your album is available for people to find and stream in Apple Music or Spotify, right there where you can find and stream Bob Dylan.  Now what?  You’ve got to do all these other things to get noticed.  You ask Google what you could be doing, and the results from supposed experts all say the same stuff, and most of it requires a budget for such things.  

Focus On The Free Stuff – My Motto So Far

Some marketing-related things they say solo recording artists should have or do I’ve found can be done yourself at no cost other than your own effort.  I’ve tried some of it, but it doesn’t come naturally to try to get attention and sell yourself, for me anyway.  This blog is free, for example, and my website was free for about 10 years, but now I pay a little bit, but it’s nominal.  Making my own music videos I figured out how to do only because they say you should have some.  They’re not professional, they don’t feature videos of me, but at least they do feature my studio songs, and I used free tools.  I’m not into having a bunch of photos of myself, but there are a few, mostly because I don’t like my overweight, elderly appearance.  I’ve never asked any tastemakers or music journalists to write about my music, probably because I’m scared of negative reviews, not so much because it would not attract new listeners, but mostly because of the anticipated ego bruise.  It also seems like a Soup Nazi situation as far as the hassle goes for following the ultra-strict submission policies of these music bloggers.  Asking friends to spread the word about how awesome my music is goes against my grain.  I don’t have it in me.  Asking for fans, plays, likes, follows, subscribes, shares, etc. is just weird.  It’s hard enough for me to get up the courage to post a simple release announcement on social media when I have a new album available.  There isn’t any free online music advertising I’m aware of, and I’m not willing to pay.

Going Viral Sounds Great To Everyone

There’s always a chance.  You can’t win if you don’t play.  The Great One said you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take and I agree.  At least I’ve continuously taken my shots and put the music out there.  You need a perfect storm of stuff happening for something to catch on.  In my case, I’m in it for the long haul.  It actually took years before I built up over a thousand annual streams for my “hit” Mackinac Island, so it was a slow-building appreciation for my most popular song.  Nothing went viral.  Just uploaded the music video for it a few years ago, even though I first released the song in 2006 I think.  

Long-Tail?  Not So Fast

I’m maybe more of a slowly-growing, back-catalog type of artist.  There was this theory I read about a few years ago called The Long Tail – a concept that 80% of all digital music listened to would be from established artist’s existing back catalogs vs. new, current popular artists.  This contributed to a bunch of speculation and investment in music publishing rights.  We all read in recent years about famous artists selling their publishing rights for millions of dollars.  The trend tapered off.  Now they’re realizing most people listen to the hits of the day, and the hits of older artists, but not so much the “deep tracks” of any of them, after all.  Not sure if any of it is true or not.

Fan Engagement and Other Stuff They Say You Should Have

So you have recorded songs, you tell a few people they exist for streaming, and that’s it.  Then you wonder why they didn’t just start getting popular.  Without anyone telling you how bad you are, you just keep doing it because it doesn’t cost much.  A cheap, fun hobby you can do on your own.  You hear music on the radio that is wildly popular and you don’t understand why.  You think your own songs are better than theirs.  What do they have that you don’t?  Way better singing voices, better session musicians, better recording engineers, and a whole lot of marketing dollars.  Supposedly their record labels do a lot for them.  They also make their artists do a lot to get more popular.  Getting in the public eye, having interactions with fans in person and online.  Those types of activities they call “fan engagement” nowadays.

What’s The Deal With Fan Engagement?  Why Is It So Important?

There’s this theory that if you have a fan, and then make some sort of personal contact with that fan, they think it’s so awesome that they tell more people about you, and that gets you even more fans.  Something like that, but I don’t really know.

As a recording artist, I might be described as “emerging” or “developing” or “undiscovered,” although some people have discovered me.  I had one song last year with more than 1,000 streams, the perennial favorite “Mackinac Island”.  

Otherwise, I don’t stand to make much money with my music being available for streaming, particularly the other 143 songs I’ve released on my 11 albums.  There’s a ton of music out there.  Too much probably.  I would love to have more interest in my music, and there’s just so much competition for your attention.

When I first heard there was a way to get my music in iTunes and on Amazon, and decided to try it out, I did have the thought that maybe there was a slight chance some of it would catch on.  “Going viral” was a new thing at the time, and I thought to myself “you never know”.  Now there are 100 billion new songs every day – I’m exaggerating, I know – but I was among the first to go for it.

How to make yourself stand out – without record label support – is a gigantic challenge.  “They” say “fan engagement” is crucial to getting more listeners.  Reaching out, interacting somehow, exchanging messages with people I guess, letting them get involved somehow.  It’s confusing.  I’m a fan of a lot of music and bands and solo artists, but I don’t have some yearning to connect with them in any way or become pen pals.

I had a KISS poster on my wall when I was about 10 years old, but that was 1977.  Otherwise, I’ve not ever been a merch purchaser, never wanted backstage passes, never been to any band convention, let alone join any mailing list or fan club.  I subscribed to someone’s YouTube channel once, then got bombarded with stuff, and then quickly unsubscribed.  Did I mention my channel is  Ha ha.  Wink wink.  So, I understand how the notifications you get from subscribing to anything can be annoying.

I followed the Grateful Dead around for a few shows one summer while in college – 1986 I think – the memories are a bit foggy.  To this day, I still love and listen to their studio albums  Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty, Reckoning, and Almost Acoustic by the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band is one of my top 3 favorite albums of all time.  Yes, I’ve checked out some of the billions of live recordings that are out there, totally understand the appeal, but still like the studio albums more.  The scene was fascinating, but not for me.  I’m not a joiner by nature.

So, you can tell I’m not fanatical about any musical act enough to go beyond enjoying their albums and attending a concert once in a great while.  I’ve bought a concert t-shirt or two over the years, maybe a baseball hat, but I have a huge body and head, and their largest sizes never fit me.  Nothing wrong with showing your favorites with pride, but I’m just not into it myself.  I like a wide variety of different kinds of music.  The point is I’ll never be a super fan of anyone, but I understand it.  I’m not an engager, but I guess if you want to be with me, you can.

I put together some potential “street team” resources on my website once a long time ago, because I read advice that it was something an “aspiring” artist should do.  You can check it out if you want to here:  I’m not going to do much to turn any of you into super fans, and you’re probably like me:  you just like the music part, and not all the other hoopla.  

You don’t hop on a bandwagon and become a cheerleader for your favorite band or solo artist.  Realistically, you might tell some people you know that you’ve found and enjoyed some of my music, tell them it’s on all the streaming platforms, and that’s about it.

It's not a situation where I play in your favorite local bar and you come to watch me play a lot, and you want to help me get famous because you’re 21 years old and having fun and drinking and are excited and passionate about it all.  My fans are older and less enthusiastic, I suspect.  People in general are less likely to volunteer now than back in the late 80s when I was that age.  

Gone are the days of needing to be discovered and signed by a record label to make your music available to people, but “breaking” yourself with zero budget is tough.  You’d like to think the cream rises to the top naturally, but major labels have no doubt always manufactured successful artists through their machinery that might not have risen on their own.

Why should you listen to my music?  I don’t know.  Wish I could entice you somehow.  I’ve tried, but it feels wrong.  I don’t even know how to describe what I do, but “acoustic guitar” needs to be in the description, “quality songwriting” should be in there, with “amateur-quality performance and production” thrown in.  I’m being boastful about the songwriting, and honest about everything else, I guess.  You have to like that kind of thing.  

You either like some of it, or you don’t.  Chances are you won’t like all of it, if any.  I’m in the latter stages of a music journey that has advanced slowly, but I think it’s possible my best is yet to come!  According to my own definition, I consider what I’ve done so far to be successful.  People who have interacted with me socially might think otherwise, but I’m not an outgoing person, and I have some humility.  In lieu of marketing, I blog about how great I am a few times per year.  Not the best strategy, I know, but it’s all I can do besides writing songs, recording songs, and making a few music videos.

Constantly trying to figure out what to do to make it catch on with more people, and then constantly doing whatever those things are, is not something that appeals to me.  I have a mild curiosity, but I’m not a pitch man, and I’m not out to constantly make contact with my existing fans to ask them to help me spread the word about my music.

One could argue if anyone were going to be that passionate about my music, they would’ve shown it by now.  If I were ever going to get popular, it would’ve happened already.  He has not risen, indeed.  Not the cream near the top, highly unlikely to ever rise much more.

I’m embarrassed about marketing myself as a singer-songwriter.  It’s uncomfortable putting on a salesman hat and telling people how great I am and finding publicity and attention to “get my name out there” more.  I don’t try to cultivate an audience.  I just make music, make it available, and hope people find it and like it.

I’m glad when people do find it and like it, but even making people aware it exists is a challenge for me.  I have to muster up the courage to announce an album release.  I know I could and probably should be doing a lot more to get more fans, but I only like the creative part.  As an indie artist, it’s all I have time for.  You can’t be great at everything.

I don’t like asking people to help promote my music.  Asking them to tell their friends about it, etc.  I assume that will just happen naturally.  I don’t like bugging people, and fortunately, I’m not desperate for greater popularity, although I wouldn’t mind it.  Aside from making the music, the only other way I like to offer information is via this blog.  Feel free to comment, by the way, but know I probably won’t reply.

I might have a few superfans out there, but none that I know of, and I like it that way.  Not that I wouldn’t interact with them if they reached out, but it might be weird.  People with excessive or obsessive interest in a particular music artist scare me a little.


Audience engagement seems to be something that music industry experts advise artists to focus on, and they don’t get into specifics, so I struggle to understand it.  Both what it is exactly, and why it's so important.  I'm talking about music makers when I use the word artist here.  I think "engagement" means the artist should communicate with fans in some way, and do it regularly.  Presumably social media is involved, which I don't really get into.

A part of that might be a meet-and-greet situation before/after shows, but I don't play shows.  I'm available for shows, and might be willing to do a more intimate house concert that would offer in-person hand shaking and more banter between songs, but thus far have received no such requests.  I haven't actively pursued live performance opportunities at all, like ever, but I have done a few before, and could and can do more.  However, I prefer being a recording artist only.

You can reach out to me directly via multiple options on my Contact page here any time:  I even have a group forum email list thing you can participate in if you want to here, although no one hardly ever does:  I have a facebook page here that I sign in to and check a couple times a year:, which seems to be best for my audience demographic.  I have profiles on a lot of the other social media sites too, but don’t use them very often.  

I make available a bunch of ways fans can connect and interact with me and get involved and even participate, but no one hardly ever does any of the above.  I wouldn't mind attracting more interest in my music, and I'm willing to communicate, offer the options, but no takers.  I think my fans are like me, they just like the music and don't necessarily want to get to know me better somehow.

Hardly anyone has ever signed up for my mailing list, for example.  Another thing "they" tell you that you should have.  I've had one for years, and even had newsletters ready to send, but people can just read my blog and my website and get the same information I would've sent them.  My fans know that, probably.  They're not the types who would want my autograph or anything, but maybe they'd like to hang out and have a drink sometime, and I could arrange that I suppose.

As a music fan myself, even though I'm of a certain age, I discover several new artists per year.  Sometimes they get recommended to me by friends, sometimes suggested by the streaming service, but mostly from me doing my own web surfing research.  Likely, my fans are not the superfan types who would want to pay extra for some sort of VIP treatment from me, although, hey, I hereby announce it's available.

One thing I could offer if any of you are of the VIP mindset about my music is that I have tons of original songs I've recorded and not released.  They're previously weeded out and unreleased for good reasons, but if you want to pay to hear them, I'll send those over right away.  I admit I've bought a few t-shirts at concerts before, but I'm not ever thinking I'd like to hang out with the band afterward.

I guess I could put the Cherchez La Femme album cover art on a t-shirt and see if anyone would buy one.  I drew it with pen on paper with my wife.  It's my only album art that is actual art I created as opposed to a photograph, and I don't think it's very good art, but I could throw that on a shirt for you if you want one.  Or, you can go ahead and just do it yourself, have it made, wear it with pride, you have my permission.

For artists I really get into, I check out their websites, which are usually underwhelming, and then I check out their wikipedia pages.  That's all I ever do, just find out a little bit more about them if I'm really curious.  That's it.  If I really like an artist a lot, I might buy a ticket to see them go play live once in a great while.  

I never subscribe or comment or follow or like or share or post or join fan clubs or mailing lists for new artists I like.  Or existing artists I already like.  None of that.  Or artists who don't exist anymore that I like.  I'm not the type of person to visit a dead musician's grave.  I tell friends verbally when I see them about new artists I've discovered and liked, but otherwise, I don't ever want to talk about artists online or buy their merch or get exclusive stuff or pre-order anything.  

I'm not that kind of a music fan.  Like all of us, I have my favorites.  I love the Beatles and Led Zeppelin for example, but just their music.  Mostly just their studio albums.  I don't really care much about what kind of people they were/are.  I like the Grateful Dead too, but again, not into the whole tape trading thing.  Not ever going to collect memorabilia or go to fan conventions or anything.

So, yeah, I like Neil Young's music too, and I've liked it since I bought Live Rust when it came out in the late 70s, but I don't want to send him a text or an email or whatever.  I bought several of his albums, tapes, and CDs over the years, seen him in concert several times, but beyond that, I'm not out to interact with him in any way.  I just like streaming his music.

I guess I just like the recorded music, and don't need to engage with artists I like in any way.  I've met a few celebrities in my life, and each time it was a combination of being a little bit excited and then a realization that they're just people too and not a whole lot different than anyone else.  If I got introduced to Neil, although he seems like a cool guy to hang out with and all, I'm sure it would be the same.  

I watch videos on YouTube all the time - some music videos, some live performance videos, but mostly to learn things, and one of my biggest pet peeves is that a lot of them spend the first 5 minutes going on and on about asking you to subscribe and like and follow and share and all that.  You want them to just get to the point.  For a similar reason, most of the time I turn on my TV I'm watching Netflix because there are no commercials.  So much better that way.

I don't like being begged to buy stuff, or to "engage" in any way.  I'm not sure if that makes me a passive type of music fan or not, because I'm a huge fan of certain artists, some of them from recent times, and not just the ones I liked in high school.  I'm passionate about listening to their music, maybe reading a bit more about them online, and then I'm good.  

I don't need automatic notifications when they have something new.  I find out about it eventually anyway when I get around to it.  Sometimes a favorite artist came to do a concert nearby where I live and I find out about it after the fact, and I just think oh well, missed out on that one, no big deal.

I can only imagine how it must be for the artists signed to record labels.  They would constantly have people bugging them to engage, engage, engage with the fans.  All the time.  Never stop.  Sending them messages constantly, checking inboxes constantly.  I don't get it.  

Does it make people feel more special somehow if they make contact with a musician they like?  I guess I can understand it a little.  I imagine they become bigger fans as a result, and they tell their friends, and there's some potential exponential growth in the fanbase.  It's not the kind of music fan I am.

Your music listening preferences are often a personal, private thing.  Whether when home alone, with headphones/earbuds on at work, alone in your car, etc., you probably spend more time enjoying music that way than you do with other people.  You might enjoy certain bands or solo artists that you don’t necessarily want anyone else to know about.  When people ask me what kind of music I like, the less I know them, the more I tend to go with a safe answer.  We all have our guilty pleasures that we’re maybe hesitant to admit we like, knowing it can give people a certain impression.

I appreciate all kinds of music, like a lot of you do.  Everyone has surprises in their record collections (or playlists now).  People know that when my high school friends were getting into Journey and Van Halen, I was leaning toward REM and Tom Petty.  What they didn’t know was that I also liked John Denver.  

Now I’ll readily admit I’ve always loved the Carpenters, but it wasn’t cool back in the day.  I still listen to them fairly regularly, but never around other people.  I assume my Deadhead friends or Headbanger cousins are not going to get into it, if you know what I mean.  So, yep, we have our secrets.  I love more of the Beatles and Led Zeppelin catalogs than other bands, but have obscure favorite songs by lots of artists, whether they were famous or not.

I’ve never loved music by one artist so much that it becomes a big part of my lifestyle.  I’ve never wanted to get involved in any kind of scene.  I guess I understand why people become superfans a little, but assume most people are like me and are fairly private about it.  As a solo artist myself, I know recommendation is how I have fans, particularly since I don’t perform live shows.  

Replying to anyone who comments on my music or reaches out to me in some way sort of freaks me out a little, but I’ve done it.  I’m not really out to converse with strangers, it just feels uncomfortable.  I am sincerely thankful there is interest though, of course.  The more popular someone is, the less feasible it is, and the more ridiculous it would be.  You can’t send a thank you note to everyone who likes your song or your post or whatever.

If you are one of those people who like my songs and want to let me know about it, you can.  Some of you have before, some of you will again.  Know that I appreciate it, even though I haven’t sent you a personal reply.  

We all have limited free time.  As a DIY solo artist, mine is best spent writing and recording more songs for you to enjoy, which I’m sure you understand.  I’m not a natural engager.  I am a loner, an introvert, someone who really has to psych myself up for going to social functions.  I used to be a frequent “partier” and my inhibitions were eased by alcohol, but I don’t drink anymore, so those situations are no longer my cup of tea.  When forced, I drink tea.  Non-Long-Island.

I always appreciate the listener support.  I’m not much of a public thanker or acknowledger either, and am not into social media much at all, so I hope you understand why, but I hereby thank you all and promise to keep at it so there’s more music for you to listen to in the future.

This blog is how I engage, I guess.  They said I should have one, and turns out, I like blogging about myself and my hobby several times per year.  It’s how I keep readers updated on what I’ve been up to and what I think about being a solo artist.  I’d like more of a following, but guess I’m not willing to do a whole lot to get it.  I’m somewhat of a slacker.  It’s the ski bum mentality I haven’t been able to shake since my wild and crazy youth.  

In a good way, that’s probably reflected in my music and my alter ego as a singer-songwriter.  I work hard at the day job to pay the bills, but in my hard-earned free time, I just want to do what I enjoy, like we all do.  I wouldn’t even call this a side hustle really.  It’s good I haven’t pursued music as a way to earn a living.  I’m doing it with no pressure…but limited time (or desire) to self-promote or advertise or do any more of the dreaded “engaging” they say I should do.

Other Stuff They Say You Should Have

As many of you already know, I am just one of millions of other people in the world who like to write and record and release songs.  Most of us are men, I’ve recently learned.  The music world needs more women!  A lot of currently-popular mainstream artists did in fact go the DIY route to start, but then got “discovered” and subsequently “broken” by the big-budget marketing machines of record labels that picked them up after they gained some traction on their own.  This is what I’m trying to do.  Gain traction on my own.

The past 20 years happen to have been a really great time for someone with this hobby (man or woman) because it's relatively inexpensive to get started, record at home and then distribute to streaming services.  Especially great luck for someone like me who would never have had a chance to have my music alongside the superstars before this all became possible.  I do not have their level of talent or skill, but I’ve been allowed to have my creations alongside theirs.

You put your music out there next to Elvis, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, etc. and obviously don't expect much, but you wish it would at least get a little more popular over time.  You wonder what else you could do to help things along, and predict it will be overwhelming hard work that doesn't sound like much fun. 

So, despite your fears, you Google advice on what else you need.  I’ve made small attempts to “have” some version of most of the other things they say might help the fanbase grow, but I can only handle so much.  The "experts" say you should have things like these: 


Big ones.  Hi-res.  People want to see what you look like.  I don't like how I look.  Embarassed about my appearance, I've let myself go.  If I can admit that in a blog, why not show the proof and own it?  Can't bring myself to go there.  Like the non-famous actors in movies who won't ever be stars, they are necessary.  I'd like to think of myself that way a little bit, only as a music person.  We all want to represent ourselves in the most favorable light, but photoshopping and touch-ups are not going to help me much.  I want people to enjoy the music and that's it.  Unfortunately, I know the experts say you have to have an Instagram account and post pictures of yourself constantly.  Not for me.


I’ve done a whole blog post about my dislike of the word ‘merchandise’ being abbreviated like this, but other than that, I understand the appeal.  You want to show off to passersby who your favorite musical act is, whether via a bumper sticker, shirt, hat, button, patch, whatever.  All those can be cool.  You have to be famous though.  You need some measure of celebrity I would think before you have those t-shirts or coffee mugs with your name on them made up.  

I know that if you have the up-front money for it, which I don’t, you can upload pictures of yourself to these online services and design the items on there, then you can sign up for Shopify or some similar place to sell stuff, even use it as a page on your own website.  I could pull it off if I had the photos of myself I liked to begin with, the money to begin with, and the belief I would sell any in the first place.  I currently have none of these.

Playlist Adds

As far as I knew a few years ago, my music hadn't been added to any people's playlists at all, except my own.  Now, I guess I’m included in some, according to the streaming service dashboard stats some make available.  There are whole branches of music marketing focused on how to get these, but you have to either pay for them, or reach out and pitch yourself.  I won’t be doing either.  Let the people add who they want, if it’s me, great.


One somewhat related cool thing I recently discovered is that people have used my songs in their TikTok videos.  Like 20 people or something, so I doubt that will be financially lucrative in any way, but maybe the exposure will help?  Somehow somewhere I opted in to some license thing to make my songs available to add to their short videos.  I have a TikTok account, and got a notification that I qualified for long-form music videos, but the software doesn't work - I tried unsuccessfully to upload my music videos there and the videos are there, yet the sound won't play.  I then made a video demonstrating my frustrating experience and uploaded that, which didn’t accomplish anything.

Press Coverage

I haven't had any press coverage whatsoever.  I not only don't pay for these, but I don't do anything at all to seek them out.  I guess I could look up how to type some perfectly worded email to music review bloggers to let them know about my new album releases, but it's like ordering soup from the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld - if you do one little thing wrong, they're easily offended and weed you out so I've heard.  They'd probably weed me out anyway.  I'm sure they get gazillions every day.  

Yeah, and the other thing is - I'm a non-performing solo artist - no shows, gigs, tours, etc. ever except the occasional family/friends get-together, so I'm intentionally out of the public eye in that regard.  Songwriter/recording artist only.  This fact wouldn't help bloggers decide to write about my music I suspect.  The other thing is, honestly, I'm sensitive, and don't really want to know what people think of my music unless it's all 100% positive compliments of course.  I'm not into criticism.  I can dish it out, but can't take it.

Website & Blog

I update stuff on my website a couple times a year, and I average about 1 blog post every two months.  I can see that I have visitors to my website every year, from many places (mostly Michigan), and I see that way more people read my blog posts than I ever imagined, like sometimes over 100 readers for a single post.  I have no idea who they are, but it's cool.

Mailing List

As aforementioned, literally no one ever signs up for my Email List at all.  If people would sign up for it, I would send them awesome emails with updates about my songwriting and recording a couple times a year, and it would be similar to what I post on my blog anyway.  Here that is again:  

The Dreaded Social Media

It can be exciting.  I get it.  I posted a “short” video my friend took of me skiing moguls once to the YouTube Shorts area of my channel (which I think is here: ), and it immediately got thousands of views – way more than any of my full song music videos.  I know that’s the rush of TikTok too.  The virality potential is there and enticing.

I'm on Facebook, but my actual family and friends are on there, and I've friended them, and I'm embarrassed to ever post anything promotional about myself.  Plus, my mom will scrutinize anything I post, whether its about my music or not, so I avoid it by not ever using Facebook.  I log in every couple years and thank people for wishing me a happy birthday and that's about it.  

Sometimes people tell me someone else posted some old childhood photo of me or something on my feed or whatever and tell me I should log in and check it out, so I do, but that's only a couple times a year.  I'd say for the last 10 years or so, I sign in about 3 times/year on average and rarely post anything myself.  I used Twitter for a while, sharing my blog posts on there, but that Elon Musk guy really made it way worse in many ways, so I rarely use it anymore.  

I don’t have money to pay someone to manage my socials, but I’m aware there are such services.  Must be nice for the famous artists to not have to deal with any of that.  For now, I’m on my own to announce stuff on Facebook or Twitter, tell you about my new album or whatever.

Feel free to follow me on either of those, or any others I might have a profile on that I've forgotten about.  It can only improve your reputation, I assure you.  I've checked out most of the socials, and don't really like any of them, especially the ones that are all about photos or dance videos.  I don’t like how I look, and I can’t dance, so Instagram and TikTok are out.  I guess my Blogger is social media, and so is my YouTube channel, and I do like those.

Music Videos

Speaking of YouTube, over the last few years I decided to create and upload music videos that feature my studio recordings of my songs mixed with lyrics, photos, and free video footage.  I don't like the way I look, so there's no lip-synching.  I'm not a dancer either.  They've had a few hundred plays or streams, so maybe that has helped awareness a little.  I try to get people to subscribe, but I only have about 30 at last count.  

What's a little disturbing is that it seems like every time I post new music videos on there, someone un-subscribes and the count goes down, which is also hilarious.  I've subscribed to both mailing lists and youtube channels before, and know the overwhelming feeling when people bombard you, so understand wanting to bail out.  But I assure you, I only post about 3 new videos per year on average.  Here's that subscription link again, just in case:  

A Backstory

If you read my last post before this one, you know I’ve tried, exhaustingly.  I like a lot of artists’ music, but I don’t want to know a lot of personal details about their lives.  I just like listening to their songs, and that’s good enough for me, but a lot of people need the background info to really get into an artist.  They say you should offer up some intimate details about your life, and that will make people become more of a fan.

My story isn't that interesting.  For example, I don't have a beard, I don't write an album in some remote cabin up north while snowed in for a whole winter, I don't write a song of anger about rich men in some county in my state, etc.  I am fed up with things in the world, but don't like to get political or controversial in my songs (or in my blog) with the hope of going viral.  

There are a lot of ways you could spin my story, but none would appeal to a pro marketer.  I'm a late bloomer, I'm a slacker, I have a ski bum mentality, I grew up a lawyer's son and country club kid, yet haven't come anywhere close to the standard of living my parents afforded me as an adult on my own.  I've hung around lots of trust fund kids in my life, but I'm not one of them myself.  

If you really want to know more about me, I’ve provided a ton of information on my website and in these blog posts.  Everyone’s favorite topic being themselves, of course.  I don’t mind revealing details, even things most people do not know about me.

For example, my parents' generation had a now-archaic way of describing someone like me who lacks ambition as a "ne'er-do-well" and relatively, I probably am one in a conventional sense.  I didn't get sober until age 50 with the help of a 12-step program.  I'm obese, I'm old, I'm poor.  My teeth are way more yellow in recent years, and my hair is almost all grey.  I'm average in many ways.  I haven't saved for retirement and I have trouble holding down a job for very long because I get frustrated and quit a lot.  I've never found a job I liked, have never known what I wanted to be when I grow up, but now I'm on the brink of senior citizen age.  There, I admitted stuff most people don’t know about me.

What else?  I like skiing and tennis and sailing, but can't afford to do any of them very often.  I don’t play live, don’t use real recording studios, don’t get pros to help me, and am opposed to getting my picture taken.  A marketer's dream, I know.  There's a lot to everyone's backstory, but how to spin that in a way that makes people want to stream your music?  No clue.  I know how to ride a unicycle though, and here's proof:

The self-taught thing started early for me.  Get the unicycle first, then teach yourself how to ride it.  Get the instrument first, then teach yourself how to play it, get the recording equipment, figure it out on your own.  Nerd glasses, cowboy hat, cutoff jorts, high-calf gym socks w/ stripes, riding around your neighborhood, smiling, waving at you.  What would you think of this kid riding down your street?

Mainstream Commercial Appeal or Being Radio-Friendly

Nope, none of those.  Never had them, never will.  I intentionally leave in minor mistakes in my released songs, I have no idea what I'm doing with the arranging/producing/recording/mixing/mastering, let alone the instrument playing or singing.  I'm completely self-taught in all of it, with no formal training in any of it, and you can tell.  I don't use auto-tune or quantization or other digital perfection trickery.  I don't even use reverb very often.  

I have a somewhat clean analog sound using real acoustic instruments played into microphones, and no one tells me what to do, and I like it that way.  I don't follow trends, I don't copy popular artists, I don't even listen to the radio except NPR once in a while.  It's far from major-label, far from perfect, far from what's popular today, and that's all good.

Synch Placements

That's why you'll never hear any of my songs in a movie or tv show.  Maybe if some other artist does a cover, but not mine.  They want pristine quality for those synch licenses, and my music is nowhere close.  I do, however, have a page for that: on which you can access a handy form to request a license to place my songs.  Just in case, you never know.  Someone might want intentionally imperfect sloppy lo-fi amateurish music for their project.

I'll be a home recording guy for life I suspect, so the sound quality, the production quality isn’t what you hear in the background of shows and movies.  I do everything myself, and have never paid for studio time or hired anyone or collaborated with anyone.  Unless someone out there just gives me money that's my paypal for your donation by the way (thanks in advance):

Streaming Stats

I'm not an artist with any “trajectory,” but my streaming stats keep going up a little bit every time I check them over the last few years.  I'm talking in the hundreds of streams, not thousands or millions, across platforms.  That's my reality:  there are some streaming stats, not many, but I'm not going to buy them -to look more popular-in order to get even more popular.  

I want it to be real, not purchased popularity.  Supposedly there are a few people who get enough streams and follows and likes and subscribes, etc. to grab the attention of record company people who then sign them.  You’ve heard of the now-famous Soundcloud rappers who started that way, and like The Accidentals or Prince, some that go the opposite way and ditch the labels and go DIY independent again.

A Fanbase

I'm not building my fanbase in any way that I'm aware of, and I'm not doing anything toward such a goal.  It is a goal, but I just hang out hoping for word-of-mouth recommendation, I guess.  I don't play live, don't advertise, don't market, don't publicize, don't promote my music in any way.  I should, but I don't like doing any of that kind of stuff.  Doesn't sound fun at all, so I just don't do it.  If people want to find out about me, I have a website and a blog, and that's about it.

Being “Emerging” or On The Verge

What does it mean?  Related to what?  I'm not on the verge of anything.  I'm a late bloomer in many ways in my life, getting my first "conventional" day job in my early 30s, getting married and buying my first house in my late 30s, starting my music "career" by not releasing albums publicly until my late 30s (mainly because it wasn't possible yet), not seeing an uptick in my streaming stats until my late 50s when most artist's careers are long over or winding down. 

I notice I'm improving in little ways as an artist over a long period of time all on my own without anyone's help except reading advice online and my own trial and error.  We're talking fractions of pennies per year coming in now, which at this rate won't come anywhere close to offsetting the cost of the equipment or Martin guitar I love but probably don't deserve, so no industry pro would confuse "uptick" at my levels with "emerging".

Is There Room For Me?  Why Not Giving Up Has Served Me Well

There's not room.  Whatever the numbers are is staggering - something like 200 million new songs per week on Spotify - that may be an exaggeration.  I'm not in a great position to compete for listener attention.  The major labels are certainly trying to figure out how to reinstate gatekeepers in the music business to push average joes like me back out as we speak.  

I'm living proof that not giving up is an awesome thing though - not for the public necessarily - but for me.  I've gotten so much enjoyment and satisfaction out of writing and recording songs for a few decades now.  I've got a few I'm quite proud of, and a large catalog of original music.  It was worth buying a bass and drums I didn't need or know how to play, the audio interface(s) - I'm on my 3rd one now, the DAW software, etc.  

The nominal CDBaby distribution costs have been worth it just to know that my music CAN be discovered on Apple Music, Spotify,etc. and listened to and potentially enjoyed by other people in the world.  It's awesome to know that some people have, but at the same time it can be very discouraging, and let's face it:  I have no business in the music business, but things changed and I'm sort of in it now, and there are people out there who do like to actually stream my music.  

My Take on Converting From Outsider to Insider

There’s this guy named Ari Herstand out there who now gives advice about how to navigate this "new" music business I've been talking about if you’re not someone likely to be discovered and broken by a label.  I’ve read and even followed some of it, and I think he’s a good communicator and offers good content.  I suspect he started like me as an early user of the “get-your-songs-in-iTunes” aggregator music distribution services.  

My first impression of him was, who is this guy complaining about his frustrations with becoming successful in the music business as an artist by ripping into these services that “let him in”?  Their relaxed gatekeeping made it possible for me and millions of others to participate in the real music marketplace.  I’m not saying he’s necessarily one of them who would not have been discovered and signed to a major label in a traditional way, but we are all lucky the Average Joes of the world have been permitted to make our music available in the places where everyone gets their music.  

Now the labels are establishing ways to keep us out again.  If you’re fairly young like him, you maybe realize you’re not that awesome to begin with and pivot to carve out a music-adjacent career for yourself as he has.  I’m too old for that now, but he’s done it.  He’s one of the “theys” now, an insider expert giving advice and attracting advertisers.  I'm sure he's a great and deserving artist too, and I admit I haven't heard his music, but he's made a nice career in the music business for himself and helped many others, including me.

Wrapping Things Up

I've said to myself and others way too many times that I know I suck at pretty much every aspect of being a solo artist, but some sort of inner passion made me not want to give up yet.  I’m completely self-taught in every aspect, and I keep learning and make little improvements here and there I can notice.  Arguably and slowly, I’m sucking less.  Hopefully, but we all know our favorite artists had some dud albums, and maybe their careers faded on bad notes.

Overall, it’s been extremely rewarding to have a creative outlet in my life.  It was fun to write my first songs in the early 90s, get my first 4-track cassette recorder, use my first DAW, burn my first CDs of my own recordings, distribute my first album to iTunes, create my first website, post my first blog, upload my first music video to YouTube, etc..  

When I first started teaching myself to play guitar in the late 80s, pre-world-wide-web, none of this was even fathomable.  Super exciting that all this became possible for someone with my hobby when it did.  My engagement with you is this blog, my website, an album announcement every couple years on social media, and a few videos on Youtube.  

If I don’t die between now and then, you can expect at least a couple more albums out of me.  The recording myself part has also become a part of the hobby in addition to the songwriting.  All the other stuff – what little of it I do – is done somewhat begrudgingly.  The stuff record companies with budgets do to break their artists and turn a profit…young artists with real talent, formal training, great voices, good looks, etc. – in other words, not artists like me.

The bottom line is it's been a fun thing to do.  I’d like to say I’ve done all I can (without spending any money), but I’ve done all I wanted to toward gaining an audience.  All I was comfortable with anyway.  I can, and might, do more in the future with self-promotion.  I doubt I’ll ever sink any money into it though.  They way I’ve gone about it, it’s been slow to catch on with the masses, and I’m a “niche” artist at best so far.  

Like I’ve said before, for a person who likes writing songs as a hobby, the world changed to allow someone like me to also become somewhat of a real recording artist too.  I had my hobby at the right time to do such a thing.  If I’d been born in 1957 instead of 1967, it may not have happened.  As I’ve mention previously, I’m a late bloomer when it comes to making music.  Whether I ever made any money at it or not, I was going to do it anyway, so I might as well keep putting it out there while I can.


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