The Holidays Don’t Have To Be So Rotten!

Speak for yourself, Balke. I love this time of year. The title of this post is actually a benefit instrumental compilation that I’m honored to be a part of! Last year my contribution was comprised entirely of musical instruments I’d received as gifts, with the exception of guitar. This year my song centered around a Hammond organ that came on hard times and ended up in my parent’s garage, and is now residing in my living room. Jon Autry (who is also featured on the comp!) recorded the song, and decided that it was high time my Maraca Boot made it’s musical debut. I’ve had a rock stuck in the heel of my favorite pair of boots for over a year now.

This year in addition the digital album you can even get a mug featuring Gavin Smith’s artwork or a Christmas card with a digital download code! All proceeds benefit Middle Way House, a safe place for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and will be used to buy gifts for children currently staying with their mothers. There’s two hours of original instrumental cheer and it’s sure to spice up your holiday music collection.

For my Indiana folks, I’ll be a part of the official release show on Monday, December 3 at the Bishop. The Flannelgraph folks tell us there will be free pizza and Santa! See you there!

Jon, playing the Maraca Boot

The whole gang!


Dear Reader,

After a recent decision to pull my music from all streaming services, a number of people have been asking the age-old question, WHY? So I thought it wouldn’t hurt to type out the various reasoning behind my decision for the Internet to see. And while I did also pull my music from Rhapsody, Napster, and Zune, the catalyst for my decision was Spotify, therefore I will name it by name.

1. Everyone wins but the artist
As long as there has been a music industry, there has been opportunity for business minded individuals to sweep in and broker something unique and special to the masses. Musicians are an easy group to prey upon, and I’ve personally seen the sharks attacking so many times that I decided early on that if I was going to do it, I was going to do it myself. Spotify seemed like a really great idea at first, and my records were automatically released to them at the renewal of my yearly “worldwide distribution.” Fans could now easily access my music, I would still be paid, and perhaps I could pull in a few more listeners. But as the popularity of Spotify grew, it began to look more and more like another way for artists to be exploited for the monetary gain of others. I have the tools available to self-distribute my music (thanks, bandcamp!), and am ready to break these tired cycles. Many musicians who are in support of Spotify use a sort of “all press/listening/streaming is good press/listening/streaming” argument. I once used this argument, too. While some may be happy to use their recordings merely as a calling card for their live show, and therefore do away with the concept of making money from album sales, I do not feel the same. Additionally, For Spotify plays to affect attendance at my shows in any tangible way, I would have to have a hefty budget for press and promotion in order for all of the dots to be connected. I do not have a budget for press at this time (might not, ever!).

2. They’re not being honest with you
Perhaps the most insulting and disappointing aspect of Spotify is the ads they run ads praising the fact that they pay their artists. Now you can have everything available at your fingertips, for free or for a small monthly fee, AND a clear conscience. One friend of mine was hoping that with a paid account more money would go to the artists. The truth is, that whether paid or unpaid, from 100 album streams I make 18 cents. I have a thing for candy machines and I can always use change for the parking meters, but 100 album streams won’t even bag me a quarter!

3. Pulling away from this endless, meaningless stream
And I’m not talking about our existence. I know that as a music listener I attach more value to that which I’ve invested into. Most of my favorite records took repeat listens to be absorbed and appreciated. I’m not sure if I’m making the kind of music yet that yields the fruit of complexity and depth, but it’s certainly an aspiration of mine. And I don’t think an endless stream of free, disposable music provides incubation for such discovery.

4. It is not sustainable
Recorded music takes an exorbitant amount of time and/or money to create. As my Spotify listens went up, money from digital sales went down, to the point where I would be paying more money to distribute my music than I was making from it. Let me give it to you straight: in 1600 album streams I made as much as I do from 1 iTunes sale. I have decided to make music my living, for better or for worse: but trust me, I don’t always want to be eating garbanzo beans from a can in my car. I also have had the good fortune to know many inspiring individuals who have made a similar decision. Spotify does not create a brighter, more sustainable future where musicians can make a decent living. Rather the opposite, and that is a huge factor in my decision not to participate.

5. I’m headed in a different direction
Recently I’ve become more and more drawn to the idea of creating music with corresponding visual art. As I plan for my next record release, I want to move away from situations that wouldn’t allow for the whole piece to be experienced.

That’s it for now!

I hope this finds you well.

All the best, Laura