13 september 2022
Four albums into my music "career" now and I still feel a little silly about it. My brother bought a digital copy of my first album from Bandcamp recently and it was gratifying but also all $5 went to Bandcamp because I owed them money from selling a couple tapes months ago, because the money from physical sales went directly to my PayPal account. My spouse thinks by now I've put enough work into my music that I should be actually making money from it, and the fact that I'm not making money from it means I need to promote my work more. But the fact is I'm not sure what more I can really do in that regard. My music is on Bandcamp where people can buy it. I've got videos up on YouTube, which tend to get single-digit views in the first week or month after uploading. My first three albums are on all the streaming platforms, and my fourth was released by a well-regarded small label. It seems to me that money follows an audience, and beyond the gradual social networking I've tried to do regarding my music I don't know what more I can do to grow that audience. All I can do is to keep making sounds I like, packaging them up neatly with fun little album covers for listener consumption, and reaching out to say, "Hey, here's some more sounds I've made!" Regardless of the money, it will feel worthwhile to me if people are hearing and feeling these sounds, and the music is affecting people other than myself. But making that happen also requires maintaining a level of self-promotion.
Something that has changed is that a few radio programs have shared my music now. I've caught a couple of them on internet radio but they've also broadcast over the air locally in the Germany, the UK, and Australia. Which is really cool. And I think that's a result of having this label that's recognized in the experimental music scene release an album of mine. I just did a little five-minute atmospheric IDM/ambient kind of track, something I find entrancing and moving in a very particular way, and now I'm dealing with the delayed gratification of not immediately sharing it all over the internet because I'm hoping to make it part of something bigger (another album) and hoping it will be heard more that way. But I'm also pretty uncertain about whether that will pay off, whether more people really will hear it as a result of it going on another album.
Recently I burned CDs of my albums to send to my grandparents because I can't reasonably expect them to get them from Bandcamp or whatever. I get a real kick out of sharing music (my own or otherwise) on tangible media like that. Lately I listen to more music on cassettes than on any internet music-streaming service, not because it sounds any better (it really doesn't) but because I tend to listen to albums and compilations anyway and I like the experience of having this dedicated physical thing to hold my music, of picking up a tape with the intention of listening to precisely the music that is on that tape and loading it into a portable cassette player that is just going to play the tape and can't get any notifications from GMail or Al Jazeera or anything no matter what I do. There are a number of little music labels that do creative cassette, CD, even MiniDisc releases for people who like physical formats like this, and sometimes I think I could almost run one. After I noticed that the track lengths of my fourth album don't line up just right for perfect gapless playback on a CD, I learned more about CD audio standards and now I could produce a CD with that perfect gapless playback. And I'm pretty proud of the cassette releases I put together for myself. But being able to make the things doesn't mean I know how to sell them. Most of my tapes still just aren't selling, and I only made very small batches of them to begin with. It's all very well to live and learn when it's my own sales at stake, but I couldn't take that chance with other people's music releases.
Money's kinda tight around the house between inflation and some unusual expenses we're recovering from: an emergency vet visit for the cat (he's fine now) and a weekend hotel stay so we could bring the kids to my brother's wedding in New Hampshire (it was nice, but even the cheapest hotel rooms we could find to fit all of us were not cheap). In fact inflation has been high enough that, mathematically speaking, the raise I got with a promotion at my day job in January doesn't fully compensate for it, and management tells me there's not enough money in the budget to bump my salary up closer to the average. I want to spend less time thinking about money but it keeps becoming important.
The kids are back in school, which since we're doing that at home means my partner is doing more formal curriculum work with them again. (Mostly the six-year-old, but the almost-two-year-old is in on some of it too.) They are a handful, particularly the younger one, who is more adventurous and has less of a common sense for self-preservation.
I'm starting to feel a little feral from having been inside at my desk or trying to get the toddler to stop eating markers all the time. I prefer to take nice walk around town every day but I haven't managed to get out for it in weeks. We'll see about it today.