What now for albums?

Free-EP-cover

Do you see value in a full length, cohesive project vs a shorter collection of tracks?

I love making albums.

Actually, I mostly love making albums, the process totally has its ups and downs. What I mean is; albums are how I like presenting music. I like to try and tell a story, to let ideas flow into each other and for there to be a start, middle and end.

I’ve been debating the point of making another album (my fourth) for some time now. At the end of 2013 I’d all but given up on the idea. But whether it is spring in the air, or life changes (aplenty) I’ve begun feeling the need to once again make something, a longer statement, a soundtrack for this point and place in time. That’s what an album is to me. Something to pour all your thoughts and feelings into. A snapshot.

But does that come across? Do you listen to an album how it is intended? Do you feel or hear the difference between, say, a six-track Forgotten Songs EP and The Hollow?

Giving It Away

I’ve given away a lot of music over the years, many of you who are reading this now are here because of downloading a free EP or track. And I thank you for that, whether you contributed or not. The joy above all is to share music.

While I, personally, have a very real sense of songs I didn’t have the right place for, didn’t think were quite album quality or were simply practice spaces and experiments (Forgotten Songs) or nine to twelve pieces that I poured myself into, revised and re-revised, mixed and remixed (Along came the Devil, The Hollow, Bight); I wonder if it makes any difference to you?

This does also come back to a slight point of survival.

Like many independent musicians, I don’t make enough money off this alone to live from. But like most, I hope to. But making music does cost money. For every forgotten song, stitched together from leftovers, there are the sessions to make the albums they are salvaged from.

The Cost Of Creating

Recording live instruments, working with better skilled players where needed, working in studios from time-to-time. It all adds up. Then there is marketing, manufacturing physical product when it makes sense (maybe not any more), rehearsals for live shows. I aim to be as self sufficient as possible, but some costs cannot be avoided.

And yet, in attempting to lure you into my little world of music with these free collections and track giveaways, I wonder if I’m simultaneously eroding the value of my albums. If you can get six free tracks in an EP, on my website, why would you pay for a ten-track album? Regardless of how much time, energy or money has gone into its production. Well, you tell me?

Some Real Statistics

I’m able to look at a lot of statistics now about album releases and free downloads/pay-what-you-want.

From direct sales alone, the music that you and I communicate about here and in my newsletter (I am not including any iTunes, Juno, Amazon etc. sales in this), the albums barely have an edge over the “free” EPs and only because of minimal full price CD sales adding to their figures.

I would be highly tempted to make my next album release pay-what-you-want to see if it made a real difference. But would it devalue something I worked so hard on? It would feel a little unbalanced, or wrong to me, I know that much. But it could reach more people, and that is key.

Of course, in the process I would completely piss off iTunes, Amazon, Juno and all the other lovely stores out there who support my music and in many cases feature and promote it. And those channels are vital.

But…

On DIRECT sales ALONE:

My last full, twelve-track album Bight received around 86 purchases direct, with 25 of those being CD copies. Adding up to a little over £500.

Forgotten Songs Vol. 2 a six-track EP, offered up for pay-what-you-want, has so far received 1024 downloads, of which 113 people chose to pay something (from as little as 50p to as much as £10) and has turned over just shy of £300. Plus of course I now have 1024 more email addresses to write to each month, of which around 400 of them will open up the email and read it on a good day.

Forgotten Songs Vol. 1 which was initially offered ONLY as free has had nearly 3000 downloads.

So What Now – Would You Support An Album?

Would Bight have made more if I had offered it to people for free/pay-what-you-want? As it stands presently, even with other distribution figures added in, that album is still in the red. And the costs really were quite modest.

But maybe more importantly, after giving away so much music, though the story makes sense to me, how do people feel when prompted to pay full-price for a release? Quite likely no one other than me gets the difference between the two types of releases. Can that ever be established and does it really matter?

I write a lot of music and I like the mechanism of passing along these leftovers in return for an email address and, in theory, the opportunity to tell you about that album one day. But in doing so, have you come to feel that album is not worth the price, regardless of the real cost?

A Response To Your Post About Why Spotify Must Die…

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I need to write a blog about my pro-streaming thoughts so I can just post a link every time I see another “spotify is killing the music industry” facebook status/link to poorly researched article/reactionary rant/genuinely upset, worried artist.

I think it’s important for people to hear the other side because I truly believe in it, but I can’t keep spending as much time as I do replying to every anti-spotify post that I see on facebook. Before we start let me just say, I am a songwriter, someone who plays on other people’s tracks too, a listener (one who buys and streams music) and a label owner, so I do have a few different perspectives on this – right or wrong.

I’ll tell you what I believe has been killing music, major labels throttling innovation that could be working us out of the slump we’ve been experiencing. Labels taking equity and/or advances against catalogue and syphoning it away into their own pockets instead of to the artists who’s content secured the necessity for those deals. It’s little wonder that some of the larger artists on our radars are reacting with contempt towards streaming services, but in many cases I really believe it is outdated recording deals and cruel business practices that are to blame.

Tech companies (not just spotify) behind streaming operations are offering an interesting new solution for current user behaviour, for the present market, not that of 15-20 years ago. A market irreversibly changed by P2P (napster et al). But no service will succeed without those major catalogues making the platform “definitive”. Free or not many users don’t want to subscribe to multiple apps, they want one go-to. So for any streaming platform with ambitions of being the future of music consumption, those major catalogue deals are vital.

I’ve done my own research on this with people who download legally or otherwise. People’s value ideas have changed. Interestingly everyone seems to develop their own kind of “moral guide” to downloading. Some are really quite complex; getting in to percentages of music they’ll pay for amongst all the “free” stuff. Some gauge it by their perception of the commercial size/success of the band or artist as to whether they will “support” or not. Some simply value music by the format (this really upsets me actually), therefore a CD is worth £5, vinyl is worth £10-20 but your digital is valueless – the art contained on it is evidently meaningless.

However, within all this you do start to see conversions from people previously torrenting/downloading music moving to streaming platforms. This combined with “cloud streaming” options like iTunes match, which even registers your torrented tracks and then pays the artist a small rate per subsequent play and you’re already looking at new income streams in your accounting.

I’ve seen figures that suggest 25% of internet users seek copyright infringing content ie. torrents, MP3 blogspot links etc. Around 327 million people (from a 2013 study). With iTunes alone as big as it is now, we can begin to rule out availability as the issue behind many of those downloaders (though buying major label catalogue in lossless quality is still a total nightmare). So lets suggest that a big percentage of those 327 million don’t want to pay money for your digital music.

We need free streaming options to start to convert more of those people. The more we convert, the more valuable this method becomes. More ad revenue for streaming platforms, more 0.007s of a penny going to artists, maybe even an increase in those streaming rates (who knows).

This is, rightly, such an emotional topic for so many people and it is endlessly complex and evolving. There are much deeper conversations, vaguely alluded to here, about the value of music as art, and the straight up value of music as product which is unquestionably broken. Conversations about ad support for “pirate” sites, about levelling the advances and streaming rates playing field for majors and independents, about artist contracts and remuneration. I don’t want to go in to all that now. I just wanted to, for me as much as anything, write down my thoughts right now on 28th July 2014, about why I believe in streaming.

Music is alive and very well. More people are listening to music than ever before. But don’t think for a minute that they all want to buy our music, that’s just the way it is now, I’m sorry, I don’t necessarily like it either. But we need to educate more about the effects of torrenting/copyright infringement. And we need to educate more about the legitimate, free alternatives…

…not try to bury them.

Splendidly Blended Podcast 33 – Favourite Albums by Female Solo Artists

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Last week I asked people on my facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/scrimshire) to name their favourite album by a female solo artist. There were some amazing suggestions and I thought I’d pay back the contributions and people who suggested things by making you all a mix of each others’ favourites.

It’s quite a mellow affair and I didn’t really want it to be so one sided, but I hope you will still enjoy this fairly soulful mix of classic and favourite albums.

I’ve just realised I forgot to put Andreya Triana and Corinne Bailey Rae in here, but i think I got almost every other suggestion! There is much more I’d like to put in too, but it’s over 90 minutes already. So maybe another time.

Splendidly Blended Podcast 33 Download Link – mixcloud stream at the bottom…

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Beautiful Feeling – PJ Harvey – Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea
Sand River – Beth Gibbons, Rustin Man – Out Of Season
Easter – Patti Smith Group – Easter
Wholly Holy – Aretha Franklin – Amazing Grace
Green Eyes – Erykah Badu – Mama’s Gun
I Think It’s Better – Jill Scott – Who Is Jill Scott
He Loves Me (Lyzel In E Flat) – Jill Scott – Who Is Jill Scott
Twin Peaks – Alice Russell – To Dust
Be My Husband – Nina Simone – Let It Be Me
Lost Ones – Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Reasons – Minnie Riperton – Perfect Angel
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out – Nina Simone – Pastel Blues
Some Unholy War (Down Tempo) – Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
Edith And The Kingpin – Joni Mitchell – The Hissing Of Summer Lawns
It’s Too Late – Carole King – Tapestry
It Ain’t No Big Thing – Donna Mcghee – Make It Last Forever
Death By Disco – Tokimonsta – Midnight Menu
Let Your Heart Be Free – Patrice Rushen – Shout It Out
Sweet Is The Air – Alice Russell – Under The Munka Moon
Hejira – Joni Mitchell – Hejira
Juju – Gretchen Parlato – The Lost And Found
Sunny Road – Emiliana Torrini – Fisherman’s Woman
Slave Song – Sade – Lovers Rock
Take Me Over – Mckay – Mckay
My Angel Is You – Jean Grae – The Orchestral Files
Unison – Björk – Vespertine
Day Dreaming – Aretha Franklin – Young, Black and Gifted

Splendidly Blended Podcast 33 – Female Solo Artists by Scrimshire on Mixcloud

Groovement Mix

Scrimshire Groovement Mix

Another mix from me, this time way more upbeat.

A long time ago Jamie at Groovement asked me to do a guest mix and things kept conspiring to keep me away from making it (in no small part, finishing my album).

But over the last few weeks I’ve been getting back to DJing again and making a few special ones (including my Slumber Sessions mix for i-D Magazine).

But here is my Groovement mix for you. It’s also accompanied by an interview, where we talk about Amiga 500/1200s and OctaMED and music education and all that sort of thing.

Slumber Sessions Mix for i-D Magazine

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I made a very special mix for i-D magazine recently. Took me a few days to put together. The brief was to have a mix entirely dedicated to the sea, music influenced by and written about the sea.

I call it Music For Ocean Explorers though it features in their ‘Slumber Sessions’ series of mixes.

This 62 minute mix includes 33 tracks, excerpts from some of my favourite nautically themed books and some sea themed film fragments too.

Here it is on i-D including a few words from them. http://i-donline.com/2013/06/slumber-sessions-scrimshire/

Here is the complete track list. I hope you enjoy:

J’aimais – Jacques Brel (Barclay)
Clear The Track and Let The Bulgine Roll – Sam Eskin (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings)
Anchorsong – Bjork (One Little Indian)
The Mermaid Song – Cab Calloway (unknown)
Song Of The Mermaid – Petula Clark (Coral)
Ode To The Big Sea – Cinematic Orchestra (Ninja Tune)
Waves Within – Santana (Columbia)
Dreams By The Sea – John Martyn (Island Records)
Lifesaver – Emiliana Torrini (Rough Trade)
Rolling On The Sea – Taj Mahal, N. Ravikiran, V.M. Bhatt (Water Lily Acoustics)
On The Lookout – Moscow Symphony Orchestra : Moby Dick (Marco Polo)
+Excerpt from Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Song To The Siren – This Mortal Coil (4AD)
Aqua Worm Hole – Drexciya (Clone Recordings)
Ecco The Dolphin Opening Theme (Sega)
+ Excerpt from 20,000 Leagues Beneath The Sea by Jules Verne
Ping Island/Lightening Strike Rescue Op – Mark Mothersbaugh (EMI Records)
Les Marins Ca Fait Des Voyages – Edith Piaf (Membran Music)
Beyond The Sea – Bobby Darin (Atlantic)
Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (Unknown)
+ Excerpt from Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Aqua Marina – Barry Gray (Silva Screen)
Pescadora – Los Bribones (Sony BMG)
La Pescadora – Mike Laure (Musart)
Mar De Copacabana – Gilberto Gil (Warner Music Brazil)
Lonely Sailor – Sergio Mendez and Brasil 77 (Bell Records)
High Tide – Batteaux (Columbia)
+ Let Me Tell You About My Boat – Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic (Touchstone)
Submarine – Genesis (Virgin)
The Planet Suite. Op. 32: Neptune, The Mystic – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The Ambrosia Singers (K-Tel)
+ Excerpt from Moby Dick by Herman Melville
La Petite Fille De La Mer – Vangelis (Universal)
Siren – Scrimshire (Wah Wah 45s)