Chapter 16: Plenty left to do - taciturn (part 3)

Jan considers what lied behind the veil and what lies ahead ... 

Talking about budgets, percentages, royalties, session fees, contracts - the business of music -  is like going behind the veil and giving away the secrets of a magician.
We really don't want to know - we prefer the illusion of reality.

I used to run an indie label funded by dreams. When the internet became available in 1993 I could see the potential for musicians using the world wide web. These were exciting heady days. It was like being part of a pioneering club of explorers. Hard to believe twenty years later, isn't it?

My label was called 'Collecting Dust'. Back then the only way to get your music  "out there' was on a CD or cassette via a record label and distributor, promoted via radio, TV and live gigs. There was no Bandcamp, CD baby or Soundcloud, in fact the mp3 format was still in its infancy. If you didn't get a company to place your album in the 'bricks and mortar' stores it was relegated to sitting on a shelf somewhere 'collecting dust'.

In my circle of music making outsiders, the major labels/publishers were seen as 'bad' and independent was 'good'. It was very much an 'us and them' situation. Today being a lot older and a little wiser, you will often hear me say "If you want the corporate money be prepared to play by the corporate rules". Based on years of observation I would say most financially successful artists are shrewd business people too. There is little room for altruism in the corporate or indie world unless you're prepared to go broke.

With my usual unbridled enthusiasm mixed with large dose of naivety, I threw myself headlong into the on line music business abyss.

Dreamers provide the thoughts, strategists and business minds turn them into reality.
Music was my religion and the congregation was loud and enthusiastic whilst I watched the collection plate became increasingly empty.
Looking back I realise I didn't have much of a clue!

I continued living in my utopian music bubble at English Valley Tennessee, recording and distributing artists I really believed in until the bubble finally burst. The reality is dreams don't sell albums.
Dreams make music.  Money records music. Promotion sells music.

The business model Collecting Dust embraced, where the artist is part of the whole package, was not fully understood by many artists back then. Today it's a much more transparent world and people starting off in music don't have the baggage of the old way of doing things to contend with. No one makes you a star - you're either one or you're not. There isn't much of a smokescreen anymore. You Tube, iTunes, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter et al are the norm. Us old timers have had to become as creative about making a living as we are about creating our music. It's a different playing field than 20 years ago!

Looking forward I can see the success of Collecting Dust as being that, out of all the albums released, one made some declarable money and the trickle of sales from the downloads of Delcimore is still paying off the unrecouped recording budget. (Ironically the other thousands of CDs sat collecting dust for years in a storage room until they got hauled off to the dump.)

And why do I consider that a success? Because here I am still embracing the new, still believing in good music and still finding new ways of releasing it to the world.

The past is a well trodden path to the future . . .

And next week another adventure begins as we explore releasing music via 'Crowd Sourcing' - Estelle, Chico and I become alchemists as we take "The Sound of You" to Pledge Music and turn our music into gold . . .

I hope you will join me on yet another adventure . . . there's plenty left to do!


Something Jan wrote caught my eye "Dreams make music, money records music and promotion sells music - profound!!! The quandary of the ages exists in this statement. Art vs business vs art vs business; will it ever resolve itself? Music is so subjective, it's meaning to each of us is so unique, its' presence is so ubiquitous, its' effect is so penetratingly profound that to categorize or in essence entrap its' spirit is akin to imprisonment of ones deepest self and expression. 

When I awake each day I am thankful for the opportunity to continue my search for the truth of my self-expression and to make an offering to the world of my findings. Each day I realize that in the humility of knowing how much one doesn't know is a gift that keeps giving. To keep learning, trying, succeeding and never giving up, that failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Abraham Lincoln said, "It's not the years in your life that counts, but the life of your years". 

Jan Pulsford said, "The past is a well trodden path to the future…" How true this is and one can truly be sure that as long as we are here there will always be "Plenty left to do"; let's do this part of it together.

Estelle ponders plenty and exhales...

Early morning light North London
It's been a productive few days, immersed in the music where I love to be most. You can't force it. Well...I can't force it and there's always something going on to distract and disturb. If it isn't the road being dug up in the street outside, it's the traffic on that same street or the news you don't want to hear. The hours in one day, they wait for no-one.

I love space and there is one day in my week when I experience the space of sky, high up in North London, while walking to my destination. It doesn't matter if it's raining or clear, I inhale that space and exhale my noise.

Just like this project, there are times when space is required so not only we three can exhale, but the music can breathe too.

The year is almost on it's back and I still feel like I am shifting gears. It takes a good long browse through the calendar to realise exactly how much has been achieved, but there's lots more to do and November is always my preamble to 'taking stock of it all'. I keep having to remind myself that anything that's going to be worthwhile and has a lasting impact is going to take time to get right.

You can't rush it and it's taken me some time to learn these songs. There have been plenty of interruptions  and breaks, like 'daily life' for one. Then there's the three months in South Africa reconnecting intensely with my musical roots. There's the keeping of the wolves from moving in too close and more, much more.

The other things that happen in life serve a vital purpose in the making of the music. It could be something someone says or something heard or seen that inspires and contributes to the learning process. All these things are there to draw upon when needed.

The songs are slowly becoming a part of my daily existence and absorbing the essence doesn't happen overnight. Growing into each one takes time and they are now a bit like rowdy teenagers exploring new territory and pushing the boundaries.

It's that mix of sort of knowing who you are but not being quite sure what direction needs to be taken because the possibilities are endless. They need to explore all the avenues, including a few detours and crossroads while they're at it. Heads will be bumped and a dead end will mean turning back and choosing another option. I don't want the possibilities to become saturated though, as there always needs to be scope for spontaneity and the unexpected.

This creative process of discovery is the adventure I live for and once the songs have become part of every muscle and fibre, they will be all grown up and brave enough to let go of preconceived notions and go that extra mile. 

They are beginning to discover me, these songs. It could be one note played or not. It could be where I take a breath or where I don't, that unlocks the door to my story.

I like to think of it as an open road. One long straight stretch of tarmac and a solid convertible that isn't going to have to overtake any trucks or spend too much time making pit stops! When I reach my destination, I might need to take a long hot bath to get rid of the dust and the grime that's gathered and settled, but this is when I will be ready to share my journey with you.

Shadow and Sand by Richard Oakland
You're like the girl who left her shadow in the drawer, but when she went to get it, it wasn't there... Wayne Shorter.

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