Lesson Learned.

It may have taken the sum of my whole life up to now, but I think I’ve finally learned the basic methodology behind music performance. It goes something like this.

  1. Have something to say.
  2. Work on saying it until you’re ready to share it with others.
  3. Let go.

If I remove one of these steps—or, just as importantly, if I add another step—the whole thing starts to tumble to the ground like a house of cards.

As anyone who knows me well could tell you, I’ve rarely been guilty of the removal of steps. (Adding, on the other hand? Guilty as charged.) And as any artist will tell you, each of those three steps carries within it a creative process that has its own beginning and end—knowing a good idea from a bad idea, creating versus finding, the healthy repetition and ritual of practice, the importance of nutrition and hyrdration, discovering the zen of performance….

But letting go is the most important and most difficult step that I’ve learned in all of my time on this planet. The real letting go started with the first step, and it spilled effortlessly over into the others. I could never truly let go onstage and feel completely liberated and confident in how I performed until I felt that way about what I was saying.


“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” —Teddy Roosevelt

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Not Created Equal: An Honest Conversation about Pandora and Music Streaming Royalties

Since going viral, a lot of you have seen the now-infamous Huffington Post article about my good friend and label-mate Blake Morgan very publicly calling out Pandora’s founder Tim Westergren for their unfair and unbalanced musical artist royalty rates.

Because I run my own artist-controlled record label (Hook & Ladder Records) through ECR Music Group, I’ve had a number of musicians ask me—what are the differences between the different kinds of royalties? ASCAP, BMI, SoundExchange . . . it’s confusing, right? Allow me to explain it here, and also shed some light on why Pandora is lobbying Congress to exterminate the SoundExchange music royalty.

SoundExchange. SoundExchange is an non-profit organization that collects “artist” or “performer” royalties on behalf of musicians for the fair use of their recorded work.

PROs. Performance Royalty Organizations (PROs), including BMI and ASCAP, are organizations that collect royalties for the compositions themselves. If you write a song and someone else records it, ASCAP or BMI would still collect royalties for you as one of the “owners” or “shareholders” of the intellectual property that is the song itself in any form.

The Huffington post piece reports that Blake got $1.62 over a three-month period for 27,900 plays on Pandora. This is for the composition—which means Blake got paid $0.00005806 every time Pandora used one of his songs during that period. Outrageous.

So is that “other” SoundExchange performer royalty massive and burdensome for Pandora?

I see similar numbers as the ones Blake reported at my own label, and for an artist getting 25,000 to 30,000 plays on Pandora in a fiscal quarter, I consistently see them net an extra $3 to $4 dollars per quarter—ONLY, that extra comes from Pandora through SoundExchange on behalf of the recording.

So under the best circumstances, Blake might get a whopping $5.62 per quarter for nearly 28,000 plays . . . roughly what a busboy makes in an hour.

And don’t forget . . . if Pandora gets its way in Congress, he won’t get that at all. You know, because obviously, it’s way, way too much.