Category: Music

Consumption Versus Creation: The Ongoing Battle

Consume Less, Create More

A couple months ago I was asked to do an interview for the Why Is That Important podcast to discuss Therapeutic Creativity. I had great time talking with hosts Joe Wenger and Andrew Martin about how creativity can be used as a means of personal therapy whether that creativity take the form of music, art, or even cooking. Do me a favor and check out their podcast and my interview.

During that interview, I briefly strayed off topic a bit to discuss an idea that had recently occurred to me: That we creative types are in a constant struggle between creation and consumption. What do I mean by that? Simply this: On any given day, I can choose to spend my time consuming other people’s creations or I can create my own for other people to consume. No one is capable of being in a state of constant creativity and productivity but surely I can do better than I often do. I like to think of this struggle between consumption and creation as a spectrum.
consumption vs creation
It is a strange reality where I can know and make plans for all of the creative pursuits that I say I care about and want to succeed at, but then can waste an embarrassing amount of hours playing video games (That dang Steam summer sale!) and not making progress towards my goals. I recently listened to an interview with author Rachel Amphlett on the MyKitaab podcast about her self-published books. In the interview Rachel talks about using project management spreadsheets to keep her on track. I’ve exchanged a couple emails with her and she was kind enough to share her spreadsheet template with me. What I saw surprised me….It was very very simple. There was no magic formula hidden inside. It was just a simple spreadsheet where you list what you want to do and you put a check mark in the month you intend to have it completed by. The key to her success in writing has very little to do with those spreadsheets I now realize. Oh sure, they keep her organized but the truth is that Rachel Amphlett and other highly prolific creative types like her are able to accomplish all they do through what everyone knows as self-discipline.

Developing the Discipline for Self-Discipline

That’s right. You just need to actively choose to do the work necessary to reach your creative goals. No special software, no self-help books, no amount of inspirational podcasts can instill in you the will to do more today than you did yesterday. You have to WANT it enough to do the work. I realize that I am not saying anything new here. The concept of self-discipline is an old one. What I hope to grasp personally,  is to understand how people can develop good habits that lead to multiple books being written each year, multiple albums released,  a continuous stream of finished video productions, or whatever the creative medium is. How do you become that person?

I don’t have the answer to that for myself, much less anyone else. What I do know is that I am trying to walk a little further away from the consumption side of the spectrum and closer to the creation side. We all need time to relax. We all need time for leisure activities. The key is finding a good balance that leads to the achievement of goals while also leaving space for family and friends, and just letting your brain reset occasionally.

Why Taylor Swift’s Return To Spotify Was Inevitable

Where It All Began

When Taylor Swift announced in 2014 that she was pulling all of her music from streaming services I had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand it made sense. Streaming revenues in and of themselves in 2014 were not great and by making a big public spectacle out of her departure from the likes of Spotify she was sure to boost album sales through more traditional outlets.

What struck me as odd though is that her music remained on Youtube, the largest streaming music service in the world. Youtube’s streaming royalties are far worse than Spotify’s as well. This alone should have clued everyone in that the very public departure from Spotify wasn’t much more than a marketing ploy. And it worked too. Swift was the highest earning artist in 2015.

I should also note that the reason Taylor Swift’s share of streaming revenue is so bad is because of her record deal. She signed that deal and like most artists on record labels, I assume the deal sucks. The label does almost no work to create the streaming revenue and takes most of the profit. So why would her label go along with ditching Spotify if they stood to make tons of money? Again, it comes back to marketing. They knew that Swift’s pre-teen audience would still go buy the album and they manufactured a public feud with Spotify to create buzz around the album 1989.

Streaming Revenue in 2017

Fastforward to 2016 and I wondered why they hadn’t changed course and released 1989 to streaming services. The market had shifted significantly in the 2 years since it was released and surely everyone who was going to purchase it had already done so.  But still they held back without explanation.

Then the revenue numbers for the music industry for all of 2016 came in and for the first time ever, streaming revenue made up the majority of all music revenue. That is an impressive paradigm shift from just a couple years earlier. It is the same type of seismic shift that happened when music listeners switched from buying CDs to downloading MP3s.

From the very beginning, the decision to hold her album back from Spotify felt like a backward decision from an artist and label that were looking at the future of the industry and stubbornly refused to accept reality. But that was then and this is now.

Here in 2017, two and a half years after release, they finally bowed to changing market conditions and put 1989 on Spotify and other streaming services. Will her next album be kept off of streaming platforms? Doubtful. The time for principled stands against streaming (read: marketing ploys) is over. Streaming is here to stay and Spotify is the king of the hill.

In the previous years when the album was not available for streaming, many independent artists were able to earn thousands of dollars by recording cover songs of Taylor Swift’s music. Swift might not have been interested in earning streaming royalties but that doesn’t mean other artists couldn’t profit from her songs.

My Thoughts on Taylor Swift’s Album 1989

One final thought. I never listened to 1989 until last week when it was finally available to stream. First off, I realize that I am not the target audience for this kind of music. I’m not a 15 year old girl and perhaps that has affected my opinion in a negative way.

Overall I found the album to be disappointing. The lyrics were just empty pop music lyrics and for some reason I had expected a bit more from Taylor Swift. I should give some credit that lyrically it isn’t the same low brow sex filled lyrics of the likes of Katy Perry or Meghan Trainor.  But to me it was all very uninspired and uninteresting. What do I know though? Millions of teenage girls can’t be wrong, right?

New Music Tools

For Christmas some nice folks had given me a $100 gift card to Amazon and I knew right away what I wanted to use it for: A pair of studio monitors. If you aren’t familiar with what studio monitors are, they are essentially just speakers that are intended to produce a flat “untainted” sound. This is especially useful for music production when trying to mix all the elements of a recording together into something that hopefully sounds good to the listener.

I’ve never had studio monitors before and it has definitely been a struggle mixing my songs over the years. I would mix it on my computer and think it sounded good then make a cd and listen to it in my car and for some reason it sounded terrible. So I would go back to the computer and tweak the mix and then make another cd and repeat the whole process. It amounted to a lot of frustration and wasted cds.

Mixing music is an art form unto itself and I can’t hope to match what a professional could do. However, I should be able to have a fighting chance at creating something that doesn’t sound like I recorded it in my bedroom, even though I did.  I’ve learned from past experience not to discuss what musical projects I am working on because I have a pretty bad track record of actually completing them. These new Numark NPM5 studio monitors should make the process just a bit easier though and hopefully lead to some more music actually making it out my house and out into the wild.

Where Desire Meets Ambition

I’m just a few weeks late with my New Year post but I’m sure you’ll forgive that compared to the six months that have gone by since I posted anything new on here.

My last post way back in July mentioned that I was going to be moving and that move finally happened in late September. It’s amazing how long it can take to find a house and then you’ve essentially got another month’s worth of waiting while all of the other paperwork is taken care of. But we finally did move in September and the ensuing months have been kind of crazy with getting settled in and then leading into the holidays after that.

Life is getting back to normal though and that’s where today’s post finds me. I generally come up with some kind of theme for my life for every new year. Sometimes I post that theme publicly and sometimes not. Most times I don’t know what that theme means until something happens through the course of the year that makes it plain to see. 2012 is a little different though. I knew what my theme for the year was going to be back in November some time.

Unlike previous years, it’s not some vague nebulous concept that could be fulfilled in any number of ways. No, this year’s theme is direct and challenging to myself. This year’s theme is The Year of Accomplishment. What that means to me is finishing up writing projects that have been hanging around for awhile. It means recording a new music album for the first time in over five years.

I debated for awhile whether or not to publicly share this year’s theme for myself because it’s very goal oriented and relies on my working very hard to achieve those goals. But in the end I decided that not sharing it would make it easier on myself to not follow through. Of course, random life events or God’s intervention might completely derail these plans but I’ve found that most often in life if I don’t accomplish something it’s because I didn’t really put the effort into it that it needed.

As 2012 unfolds I hope to be able to share many completed creative projects with you. There’s at least one that I will be sharing on here in the next couple weeks. I was working hard to start the year off right by finishing up a writing project and that’s part of why this post didn’t happen sooner. Stay tuned.

Music, Moving, and Self-reliance

Things are about to change drastically in my life. It’s a good change I believe, though I’m sure that there will be something of an adjustment period. The change I speak of is that my family and I are moving about 60 miles away due to a job promotion.

The promotion is a good thing of course. We are leaving behind the farm house that we’ve called home for more than six years. I have mixed feelings about that. Up until a few months ago we hadn’t really given serious thought to leaving here but the situation has changed and we’re excited about the future and the possibilities that lie ahead. Though life will certainly be different.

Though we are still searching for a new house at this time, we assumed early on that wherever we end up that it would be unlikely we’d be able to take the chickens with us. So we’ve already sold them. It was bittersweet seeing them go. I enjoyed having chickens these past couple years but I’m not gonna lie, the idea of not having animals at home to take care of is an attractive one, at least for now. I could see raising chickens again some day, but for the time being this is a serious blow to my not too seriously pursued pursuit of self-reliance.

It’s also an opportunity to find new avenues to pursue some measure of self- reliance however. What exactly those may be I won’t know until we’ve found a house and I know what is possible there.

Then of course there is the consideration of my music. It seems like I spend more time dealing with roadblocks to recording my songs than I do actually recording them. I really don’t know what to expect yet on this front since we haven’t found a house yet. Long term I think without animals at home that I will actually have more time to accomplish music. On a brighter note, I recently won an iPod Touch in a lyric contest and it seems that I may be able to use it as a little mobile studio which should be fun.

That’s pretty much the summary of what is going on right now. In other news, my first book is getting published soon. I’ll have more details on that as the date draws nearer.

New Album from My Band 2 Hour Drive

It’s been a long time since I’ve released any new music and I’m glad to be able to do so today. My band 2 Hour Drive just released a six song album on Amazon Mp3. It’s available for only $5.34. Click Here!

For those of you who don’t follow my music news very closely, 2 Hour Drive is my band that I do with Joe Quatrone. It’s primarily an internet band but we do get together when we have the opportunity.

I really do hope to get new music out more regularly than I have in the past, but we’ll see what happens. For now please go take a listen to “Lift Your Hands” and consider purchasing it. Thanks

I am a Musician and a Writer

I am a Musician and a Writer. It’s who I am.

I work in retail management. It’s what I do for a living but it is not who I am.

This is an important distinction that I need to keep clear in my mind at all times.

For the sake of the well being of my family I pursue career advancement whether at my current employer or at another company. This is only because my current employer doesn’t pay me very much. I have no choice, I must try and seek greater financial gain for the sake of the long term security of my family.

With that in mind, during the past couple years I have applied to countless job openings and only once have I even been called for an interview. I know that the job climate is tough but I didn’t know it was that tough to even get an interview. This makes me thankful that I am employed at all.

I came to a realization tonight though. That all of that wasted time and energy directed towards trying to get a better job has gotten me nothing. Meanwhile I put very little time in to my writing and music. I’m not a great writer but I’m a decent one and will writing ever make me money? I don’t know but a sure way to not make money writing is to not write. Likewise, I’m not a great musician, but I’m a decent one and will music ever make me money? I don’t know but not making music is a sure way to not make money at it.

I used to have a friend that felt that my focus with my creative pursuits had too much of an aim at making money with them. This friend didn’t have a family to take care of though. I don’t choose to focus on money with my creative work because I love money so much. I focus on the financial aspects of what I am doing because unless I treat my music and writing as a business that needs to be grown and nurtured, then it will whither and die and all that I will have left is half written books that no one will ever read and dozens of songs that no one will ever hear.

I will write. I will make music. I will not give in to the “do nothing and be happy” mentality that seems to permeate society. There is a fire in me that will not burn out. At times I’ve maybe had to shelter that fire from the storms of life to ensure that it continues to burn, but it has never gone out.

Godzilla, Don’t Eat Me Music Video

I recently put out a new music video for a song I recorded a couple years ago titled “Godzilla, Don’t Eat Me”. The video is made from clips of one of the very early Godzilla movies. I had a lot of fun making it and you can view the video below.

The reason for releasing this right now is because my focus is shifting away from doing music as a solo artist and I wanted to get this made before I get too deeply involved with my new band. Yep, I’m in a new rock band. I’ll have more details about that once we have a proper website put together.

New Old Music!

Six years ago me and some other lads formed a pop/punk band named CrewmanNumber7. We wrote songs, played shows, entertained, and generally had a good time. The band even recorded a five song EP with Grammy winning producer Barry Blair (Bleach, Audio Adrenaline).

That 5 song EP was titled When Yellow Met Blue and included some of our fans favorite songs like “Plutonium Girl”, “Dreams for Us”, and “Empty Spaces.” The band split up four years ago for a variety of reasons, all very common ones among young bands. Just pick whatever cliche band split up reason you can think of and put that on CrewmanNumber7. The details are not all that important.

What is important however is that for the first time in four years our album is available for purchase through Amazon Mp3. I wanted to make it available because it was a good little album that I just didn’t want to be collecting dust on a shelf. Click here now to go have a listen and see if you enjoy it.

Christmas Song Airplay

Now through December 27th my Christmas song “Can’t Wait For Christmas” is on the radio playlist at Check it out, there are plenty of cool songs on the radio and it’s a really neat site in general for independent Christian music.