I need to get this out there, so maybe I can start sleeping at night…
I launched my great folly of an “absolutely free” music site last week, promoting it heavily on every form of media to which I had access. I’m not going to lie…I have been incredibly disappointed by the numbers. Even factoring in that nothing there is really “new” and that some people probably already had it…there were still only seven people who downloaded anything in a week’s time. I offered about 60 tracks for FREE, and seven of my friends (and/or family members) downloaded any of them. That’s it. Seven. Four people downloaded EVERYTHING, and three downloaded sporadically. The Bandcamp site also allows you to track how many people listen to songs without downloading. They even tell you how many people listened to partial songs and how many listened to complete tracks. Out of 60 tracks and over 100 page-hits (at least 50 of which were probably me checking the site), I’ve had 14 total listens. And that’s it. I can account for two of those listens myself.
If you want to know what it’s like to see the folly of 20 years of effort, give away your music for FREE in such a way that people don’t even have to put on pants to get it, tell ALL of your friends and family members about it, and then have only seven people take any of it. I feel completely defeated, hurt, and baffled. And when I voiced it on twitter, the only response I got was one well-meaning friend basically saying, “the website design sucks,” taking four tweets before even throwing me the bone of saying, “It’s good music.” I have never felt so much like quitting in my entire life, and I am considering doing just that. If you can’t even GIVE it away…what’s the point of doing it at all?
I have voiced that thought to three friends, and also on twitter. And no one has tried to dissuade me. In fact, I flat-out said to one person, “I have started pricing how much I want for each guitar” and his response was “How much do you think you’ll get?” That felt like the equivalent of me saying, “So I think I’m going to shoot myself” and him asking, “What caliber of bullet are you thinking of using?” (Before anybody over-reacts–I’m not going to shoot myself.)
So… I’m considering walking away. I’m in my 30s now…I can’t keep wasting tens-of-thousands of dollars on something that turned out to be a hobby rather than the identity I thought it was. And that hurts. Badly. And what hurts the most is I know for a FACT that some of my best friends didn’t even go over to the site to stream, much less download anything…and those same people didn’t even try to talk me out of it when I said I wanted to quit. And this blog post is a last desperate attempt to get ANYONE to ask me to keep going–but honestly if anyone does, I’m not sure it was worth pulling the teeth necessary to drag it out of them. I have not yet made a final decision…but it is likely that I will pursue no further solo gigs after the thing I’m doing on October 12, and I am presently suspending all work on what was supposed to be my next solo record–I just don’t know that anyone WANTS it, and I’m not sure I am able to find the necessary joy and fun needed to complete it.
I can not put into words how grateful I am to the seven people who made the effort to go over to the site. I also can not put into words how grateful I am to those who showed me support over the years by buying physical products and/or coming to gigs. Me considering walking away from music is like someone saying they’re thinking of walking out on their wife and kids–because not to get too weighty, but I don’t have those things, and at this point it’s kind of unlikely that I ever will. Music has been the only thing that has been a constant for me. I was a musician before I was a Christian, and before my mom died. It’s all I’ve ever turned to…and it turned out to just be a hobby.
I’ll keep you posted on my final decision–the handful of you that it matters to. I don’t know when I will make it, but if you see me listing gear on Craigslist, you’ll know. There is a possibility that I will keep playing with The Social Gospel, out of a sense of loyalty to particularly my brother…and at least people came to that gig. But I am having difficulty finding a reason to proceed as a solo “artist” at this point. The simple fact of the matter is that my typical Facebook statuses get more “likes” than my entire music career. That’s eye-opening.
So…there you go. I honestly have no idea what happens next. I’ll update when I update.