May 22, 2012 @ 5:14 pm
Ahhhhhhh….ok. I’m going to go stream of consciousness on you all here and hopefully end up with something coherent. One of the biggest things I struggle with in regards to MisCast (though in a similar way with my business) is the business vs art debate. When we finished Clutter in the Machine and I was posting it to bandcamp, I had a whole lot of mixed feelings. The first was pride…pride that we had actually completed this. As someone who’s been making music since I was 13, it was a powerful moment to see a collection of my songs…complete and available for the massess. Then I got to the box on the form where I had to set price, and my whole cloud 9 moment came crashing down.
You see, I don’t write/make music to get paid. I make it because I have to. Because if I didn’t, these ideas and melodies would forever be bottled up in my head torturing me until they finally exploded in a violent don’t-wanna-even-imagine-it kinda way. It’s part of my soul…who I am…and no matter how lousy or silly or basic these songs may seem…they’re all parts of me in some way. (Though some I really wish weren’t) They’re not intentional pandering or topics carefully crafted and selected based on hours of tactical demographic research. I really do love bacon enough write a song about it. I’ve worked IT for far too many years and paid my dues on a soul crushing help desk to not have a song in me about it. It’s organic and strange and geeky. Like Me.
So feeling as I do about the music, when it comes time to face the commercial reality of it…I don’t know what to do. As an artist, I just want to give it away and hope that people enjoy it as much as I do. But as a realist (and as a web designer), I know I can’t. Not only would giving it away prevent me from getting a small bit of cash to continue to make music but, more importantly, it would be disrespectful and devaluing to all other independent artists who are serious about doing this for a living. I know…I know, I see you rolling your eyes. I won’t get into a big thing about economics and perceived value of goods/services…but the short version is, music does have value. We all may not agree on exactly what that is, but…it’s a start.
So as I stared at that box, things started running through my head. How many hours I’d put into the album…the gear I’d bought to make it…how badly I wanted people to hear it and, god willing, like it…what others charge for similar albums (style, track count, etc). I was building a sort of mental ‘Pro’s n Con’s list’ a la Ted Mosby. The one big thing that kept coming back to the top of the ‘Con of charging’ list was, “Feel like a fraud”. It’s true. I enjoy making the musics so much…and sometimes it comes so easily, that to charge someone money to hear it made me feel like I was doing something wrong. How !@$#ed up is that, right? And while I’m sure you’d love to see how far down THAT rabbit hole really goes…I don’t think we’re at that point in our relationship just yet.
So how’d I get over it? Well for starters I gave the whole thing away for two weeks. At the biggest gathering of our “target audience” (short of SDCC) possible. Sull and I hit PAX East tossing Free Music cards everywhere and to everyone who would take one. (Fun Fact: The ONLY person to date to outright refuse to take one of our cards? Wil Fucking Wheaton. No lie.) And you know what? I’m probably going to give it away again at some point. It felt good.
“So, that’s great and all Jay, but what’s the fucking point?”. I don’t know? Since we released CitM, I’ve struggled with a way to market it without coming off as sleazy or annoying. I’m constantly looking to others in the scene (is it a scene? I like to think so) for inspiration and motivation, and it’s been fun watching them find success. So for me, venting about all of this is part of the process. Just like giving it away was. So if I write this and lay it all out, I can go balls out with the dirty marketing and salesy crap…and then refer back to it…”See?! I have the best intentions! I’m an artist!” when everyone calls me a sellout. Right?
Here we go.
(Aside: Just to be clear, this is all my personal feelings, insecurities, and general insanity. Sull thinks I’m fucking nuts and is generally more level headed about it all)