I chose to post this from a concerned musical artist….Doria Roberts. Recognizing the new Taylor Swift and other’s decisions to get off Spotify… I have no business or otherwise obligations to either of them. Only offering conversation and dialogue…from the mind and heart of an independent artist to the minds of the logical listening/buying music public. Please enjoy…observe and absorb her commentary. A bit lengthy….but well worth the read. C’mon. Take a minute to read it…
I cannot tell you how happy I am that the conversation about Taylor Swift and Spotify is happening. Maybe people will start listening to what independent artists like myself and my peers have been saying for years now.
Like clockwork, once or twice a week since I stopped touring full time in 2008, I get asked when I’m coming back to XYZ. And, once or twice a week I’ve had to say I can’t afford it. Not only have physical CD sales been down, the digital money I used to get from iTunes (79 cents for every 99cent download) all but disappeared. Instead of getting weekly payments ranging between $200-$750 from my distributor CD Baby, I’m getting $11.36–once a month from Spotify, Rhapsody and every other streaming service *combined*. Yes, $11.36/month is what i get from all of them. That is not a sustainable business model for a truly independent artist.
When I toured in 2012, while I am eternally grateful to the people who came, I had miserable turnouts at most of the shows. In Buffalo, I made $14 once the door was split with the venue. In Philadelphia, where I started my career, I lost upwards of $1,500-2,000 on one show because only 12 people showed up. I still had to pay the venue (door person and sound person), pay my band, pay for their hotel room and mine for three nights so we wouldn’t have to stay in NYC, paid for their flights to Philly (along with baggage handling fees for my cellist’s cello), my rental car and gas, food for myself and the band (breakfast, lunch + dinner). Same with DC where the venue wouldn’t even allow me to officially charge a door fee and where people (my fans included) opted *not* to pay one even as a requested donation. This is my reality and the reality of the many artists you care about.
I’m sorry if you think so, but music is not free. It costs money to make and it costs money to support via touring. It’s a “life cycle”. This “life cycle” is how I used to get my CDs out and how I used to come see you 2-3 times a year in some places. You would come to my shows, you and your friends would buy my CDs and then I made another CD and went on a another tour and so forth and so on. All the money I made went to bills and to touring and creating new music. I kept my overhead low. So, no new cars (I had and still have my ’78 Volvo that I bought for $600 in ’96), no new shoes or clothes and a small 425 sq ft apartment for 12 years. 12 years. That’s how I did it. It’s not a sob story. It’s not mysterious. It’s not a marketing ploy. I am a working class artist. There is no rich uncle. This is how it goes when you make hard decisions to be true to your life and your life’s work. I have no regrets.
I’m seeing a LOT of people talking about her supposed “greed”. You’re probably saying it because Taylor is already wealthy. But, what about artists who aren’t? If you or your friends are one of those people, I challenge you and them to go to work for a year, bust your butt, do a good job (maybe even a *great* job) and then accept half a year’s pay (or less) from your boss. I further challenge you to pay your bills and keep your financial commitments from that pay. Go on. I’ll wait…
For all intents and purposes, you, my fans, control my career, the ebb and flow of it, its trajectory and course since I can’t rely on expensive PR firms since that costs money, too. For example, if I hadn’t raised enough to do the Odetta tribute CD via Kickstarter there wouldn’t have been a new CD to this day. Period. No new CD in 8 years even though I have enough music for about four or five full length CDs with all new music right now.
Another example: I haven’t been back on the road since 2012 because I assume you don’t want to see me or can’t afford to see me in NYC, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Buffalo, NY and Charlotte, NC. Because of that, I can’t take a financial chance on Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin and the like. That’s why I’ve been doing online shows via StageIt. I haven’t just “given up”. It’s not that I don’t “want to”. It is simple math that mostly prevents me from doing what I love the most.
If you want to see less “flufff” in the music industry, if you want to see your artists in your hometowns again:
1. Start buying our music again.
2. Stop using streaming services that only pay us $.00006 per listen if you don’t own our music either via a legal download from iTunes or a hard copy.
3. Set your DVRs on your favorite show nights and go to our concerts. If I had a dime for every time a person told me they weren’t able to make my show because it was the finals of DWTS/American Idol/The Voice, I wouldn’t be writing this post. I’d be sitting in a bungalow in Costa Rica.
This goes for movies, books, indie/feminist bookstores, small venues and small businesses, too.
Remember this: You have the power to change the cultural landscape around you. Use that power wisely. #TaylorSwift #Spotify #SupportIndieArtists#SupportAllArtists