I’m in the process of burning 1,000 demos in hopes of generating a solid following in Dayton and Cincinnati by giving those demos away at open mikes over the next couple of months, which is the impetus for this post.
I started rapping in 1992. The mp3 hadn’t been invented yet. Neither had Google, YouTube, or online social networking. CD burners weren’t an option in computers. If you wanted to pirate music, your primary option was using a cassette recorder to tape a song from the radio. If you wanted to copy music for a friend, you had to use a dual cassette tape deck with “high speed” (2x) dubbing. In short, piracy wasn’t really an issue.
It was also much more difficult to get music to the masses for an individual artist. And that’s where the two-sided debate comes in. The mp3 unquestionably revolutionized the music industry. In some ways, it’s a vast improvement. You no longer have to pay $16.99 for a CD just to get one good song. Independent musicians can get their music out there much more easily. Listeners are no longer stuck with having the radio be their only option for discovering new music. On the negative side, it’s much harder to get someone to financially support music via song sales. It forces bands to tour in order to generate revenue. In theory, that’s ok. It means bands are trading hours for dollars just like the rest of us. However, touring for an independent musician is a daunting task. Even booking a show isn’t easy. Generating a following is even tougher. Etc.
You could write a book about those topics. I’m just focusing on piracy in the specific case of my music. The short version: share my music with everyone you know, but please drop me a dime if you want to support my dreams. The long version:
Next month will be the 19 year anniversary of when I started rapping. Within a few months, I made a cassette with a few songs on it and gave it to a talent agent. She said “rap is on its way out, and you should do something that’s you.” My first attempt at making a living from music, and my first rejection. I was 13. I’ve tried every way I can think of to make an honest living from music. I’ve tried giving away demos and going to open mikes (which worked well for a few months in 2005, until my fan base graduated from Miami and spread themselves across the country and I couldn’t figure out how to generate followings in the places they spread themselves to). My music has been on iTunes, CDBaby, Mavaru (name your own price), and every other major digital distributor. I’ve toured 13 states. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars making and promoting my music. I haven’t come close to making that back…
Obviously, money isn’t my primary motivation. I honestly would’ve made probably $500,000 more in my life (so far) if I had taken a traditional career route instead of working jobs that allowed me to focus on music first. I wouldn’t have been happier. Music has allowed me to live a tremendously satisfying life every day. The mere fact that I’m pursuing my dream makes me successful and happy. I love the connections I’ve made from music, and I love how much I’ve learned about myself.
Because of all this, I want my music out there. I want to continue making connections. I also love having larger crowds who are familiar with my music; it makes the energy of the show that much greater, and those moments are incredible. What this means, is that I want you to share my music with your friends. If you have mp3s of it on your computer, copy those mp3s for your friends so they can put those songs on their iPods. If I give you a demo, burn copies for everyone you know. Share my videos on your Facebook page. Anything you can do in that respect is wonderful!
Seriously, I’m grateful to anyone who spreads my music. Obviously, I’d love to make a living from my music. I’d love to be able to tour full time and perform for all of my fans. It’s great for you and for me. In order to do this, I do need some financial support, so do everything above, and then please buy a song or two from iTunes, or buy an album from CDBaby and then copy it for your friends. Encourage them to do the same. If you pay for 10 songs and have 100 (hence the dime reference, pay me a dime and take a dollar’s worth), that would make me smile quite a bit. If all of your friends follow suit, it gets me closer to living my dream full time, which would allow me to tour more. If their friends do the same, I can achieve my dreams. Thank you!