I've been writing songs and releasing records for almost 20 years now. I guess that officially makes me old, but it also means I have a little perspective on the whole music making shizness.
Writing songs is generally speaking, hard work. Occasionally a song will just leap out of you without a lot of interference, but sometimes you struggle with a song that's not quite there for years. And years.
There are people out there who really, really like my songs, and that's incredibly gratifying, and playing a good show is rewarding too. But for me, the actual act of songwriting is artistic and personal and selfish, if you will. The feeling of accomplishment I get after writing something I think might be actually be great -- that's like the weirdest, most addicting orgasm there is. You want to keep going back there.
Then the post-coital, chocolates-in-bed moment is actually making a recording of the song. It used to be a lot more expensive to make great-sounding records, but thanks to some mind-blowing advances in technology anyone can do it. The downside, of course, is that everyone thinks they can do it.
Not that I feel (as some seriously do) that music and songwriting are fields solely for professionals, but with a gracious nod to Anders Ericsson's 10,000 Hour Rule let's propose that some effort, practice and serious time commitment are required to be really good at this.
Which is perhaps where you come in.
Why this and not a Kickstarter like everyone else?
My intent with this interesting and promising platform is first and foremost to buy myself more time for making music. Time I don't have to spend chasing a dollar here, a dollar there.
I have a wife and recently a kid, and it's been tough justifying the diminishing returns of making music by carrying on as if I will sell enough "albums" to even approach the income of a real job. These days most of my favourite artists don't (or barely) make a living from music. My income from the sale of recorded music has dwindled to the point of not muchery. Once Apple or Amazon takes its percentage, and then the aggregator takes its cut, I'll be lucky to buy a week's worth of groceries with my six month royalty cheque. Payments for using indie music in TV shows and movies keep getting lower and lower, and they're all up front these days with no residuals.
I've been on labels and done completely DIY releases. Much of my album Pop Psychology is about the frustration of dealing with the boom and bust of music biz hype cycles. The economics of selling recorded music without some publicity machine blowing smoke up everyone's asses don't seem to work any more. And boy do I suck at being the guy constantly telling everyone how great I am. Some days I sit down at the piano and honestly believe I totally suck. But I keep working, and eventually I write that one song that I fleetingly think might be as great as a great Mark Eitzel or Lily Allen or Paul Williams or Jill Sobule song, and that gives me the faith to keep going.
So maybe it's time to reassess what a "Dan Bryk Album" is, and whether what I do has value above and beyond the sale of a little polycarbonate disc (or these days, .zip file) of ones and zeroes.
What I (and Patreon) propose is simple:
1. I keep writing songs and recording them, and
2. You give me a little money when I release them.
No more irrelevant focus on finishing and marketing a 10-12 song "album", although I certainly have some songs in mind to release together. I might even have a "concept" album or three in the works, so if and when I compile these songs into digital albums available in online stores I promise that the same finished and mastered versions will be available to you as a patron so you don't have to go and buy them all over again at iTunes or Amazon. (I certainly wouldn't stop you from doing that, though.)
If I end up releasing any physical product of these songs I will offer steep discounts to Patrons, since you've already helped pay for their creation once. (If enough people are interested, I would love to raise funds Kickstarter-style for pressing vinyl or some other objet d'art format. Lovers Leap never made it to vinyl. Hell, Pop Psychology never even made it to a proper CD pressing.)
And if by some chance I end up playing a live show near you, you will have first dibs on discounted admission.
Couldn't I just give the music away and make money from Other Income Streams, like say, Playing a Live Show Near You?
You hear a lot of this talk from people in the tech sector, as you might expect from businesspeople whose stock valuations are based on commodifying and devaluing music. In my personal experience there's little or no money to be made on the road. It can be fun, and you get to meet the people who love your work, but I'm not a folksinger or a jazz musician, and most of the touring for pop-rock artists like myself happens in smelly bars.
I'm not a social drinker, and with some notable exceptions my fans don't seem to be heavy drinkers either. There are too many struggling artists ALL trying to tour, booking their own shows and jamming econo, and so few non-smelly-bar venues for them to do it, and even fewer traditional ways to promote the gig outside of the weeklies that exist to cover the smelly-bar-circuit. Splits are low, and there aren't even guarantees to cover the gas. I did tons of unpaid gigs for exposure in my twenties, and once in a while plugged my nose and did a "pay-to-play" gig, believing I was "paying my dues", but after a certain point you have to put your family (and even your dignity) first. I've played some great house concerts, but the catch is you kind of have to be asked. And I'm not out there blowing smoke, remember? I will admit I haven't put enough effort into my merch over the years, but that's never been a huge moneymaker either. I'm not sure if I have the kind of image people want to plaster all over their bodies.
But back to all that exposure from letting people share my music. It's not really about swapping a C-90 or putting a song on a mix CD to turn your girl/boyfriend on to your favourite music anymore; these days kids swap terabyte-sized iTunes libraries in their quest for auditory awesomeness. I even allow everyone to stream nearly all of it for free on my Bandcamp page. It's been created, it's been recorded, it's ready for someone to enjoy, and it seems silly not to have it out there in people's ears. But that still doesn't put food on my family.
There's got to be another way to let people who love music by non-famous people help them make continue making it. One that isn't filtered through the capricious fractions of Apple, Pandora and Spotify.
I'm certainly hoping this might prove to be a reasonable option as another income stream. It's a low-entry, low-committment thing for people who have fallen for a particular song of mine and want to check out what else I'm up to. And help me continue putting as much of my focus and energy as possible into making music, not t-shirts or no-whip skim doppio lattes.
And for the dozen or so of you who are hard-core Dan Bryk fans, there's an extra tier with demos, outtakes and old rarities. No $500 after-show VIP passes here, but I will do my bestest to keep you guys and gals VERY entertained.
Isn't this just passing a hat after a gig?
Perhaps. If what I do tugs at your heart strings, would you mind if it also tugs at your purse strings?
But you'd just be doing it anyway!
Of course I would.
Bunnies and flowers,
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania