reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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twenty years later

my sister sent me this.  i don't know who to credit, but it's brilliant.

my sister sent me this. i don’t know who to credit, but it’s brilliant.

a year ago yesterday i wrote about an anniversary….it was 19 years since i released my first album. well, that makes this year’s yesterday 20 years since the release concert for that first album! i looked at someone last night and said, “two decades!” which makes it sound like forever ago. in some ways, it is.

fifteen albums and several singles after that first release i sit here at my piano and get lost in thought. thoughts of what next? thoughts of direction – looking back and looking forward. thoughts of relevance. (yes, i have used that before in writing. but it’s so…relevant.)

at 56 i am a different composer, a different performer, a different dreamer than at 36. it doesn’t seem as important to fill any concert venue in order to have impact, in order to resonate with someone in his/her life. i wonder where the next two decades will take me. sheesh, where will the next one decade take me?

i face different challenges now than i did at 36. i’m not writing in interrupted bursts at the piano, in-between toddlers’ requests or needs. i have more uninterrupted time to sit and compose, to write lyrics. hmm…i find that i’m actually better when being interrupted.

my songs are different too. lyrics at 36 were designed for airplay – 3.5 minutes or less. more than that was the kiss of radio-death. lyrics at 56 aren’t designed. in fact, i’m wondering who will listen. how many other pianoplayingsingersongwritercomposers are out there?

i was listening to pop radio while driving the other day and was floored at all the lyrics i would never have written. the lyrics “i’m all about that bass, ’bout that bass, no treble” would never occur to me. so i’m guessing (newsflash!) i’m not cut out for this pop radio thing any more. that’s a no-duh, you’re thinking. and yet, i know that people are still listening. i get feedback (jay’s word:) from people who generously take the time to sit down and jot a note to me about how something i have written touches them. this is huge. this is what makes writers keep writing, composers keep composing…the idea that something they have to say resonates with someone else. although the muse forces us all to continue regardless.

so….where am i going? i’m thinking about recording a new vocal album that is ukulele-based. not because i am a good ukulele player, but because i am not a good ukulele player. it will force me to really think about the lyrics, the melody, the stuff of emotion. i won’t be able to rely on those familiar and beloved 88 keys. it would make me change; it would make me grow. both are good.

i’d like to find a way for all the music that i’ve already recorded to be accessed more…in a fiscally rewarding way. the 319,954 downloads in the first quarter (see post from September 22) didn’t actually help me make a living. and that same thing happens each quarter that goes by. i’d like to think that everything that has been invested in all those albums – all those pieces of music – all that heart – might be able to help me pay my bills. $0.00079 royalty per download isn’t really the way to get there. and all the radio promoters and marketers i’ve paid in the past didn’t need the income from my music to pay their electric bill. they needed the income i paid them. big difference. but genuine iTunes downloads or licensing for movie scores or some wildly lucky viral hit would help.

in the meanwhile, i have to decide to decide. that it doesn’t matter, ahead of time, to know who will listen or what will happen. that if music is to be written, it just must be written. i have no real control over the rest.

twenty years later i think i get it.

www.kerrisherwood.com

itunes: kerri sherwood

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319,954. first quarter 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 5.12.43 PMbmi, one of the major music royalty companies, sent me a statement and a check which i opened today. happy to be a bmi artist, i was grateful to receive the check; i read it first, a natural human reaction. then i pulled up the statement.

my original music had 319,954 plays in the first quarter of 2015. that is: between radio, tv, internet, music program companies, my music has been spun over 319,000 times. in one quarter of a year. now…that sounds like a lot, doesn’t it. one of my big questions these days about my music is – is it relevant? well, apparently, it must be. and so this is reassuring.

now, you would think that would equate to a decent royalty check, the ability for an independent artist to make a living. this is what i made per spin (an average…i am a bit of a math geek)….are you ready? i made a whopping $00.00079 per play. that isn’t even NEAR a PENNY. so let’s see. that means that the total of 319,954 plays has NOT netted me enough to:

1. buy a decent basket of groceries
2. even pay half of my private health insurance premium
3. pay for my dog to have 3 months of heartworm preventative medication and flea and tick preventative medication
4. pay my one-month cell phone bill
5. contribute to half of the mortgage payment
6. pay the minimum payment on my master card bill
7. pay the amount of my monthly parent plus loans for my son’s college fees
8. pay an hour of an entertainment attorney’s time
etc etc etc

it would just cover the electric/gas bill.
it would pay for life insurance.
it would cover a month of car insurance.
it would cover the cat food.
it would cover the water bill.

but. it will not cover any combination of these bills. and, as i pointed out above, there are many it won’t cover at all.

and that brings me to value.

what is the value of music? and, if it is relevant, why is so little value placed on it? how many places have you been, events have you attended (weddings, funerals, dance parties…what would those be without music?), commercials you watched on tv, movies that inspired you, moved you, disturbed you – how would those be without a soundtrack? how many moments have you cherished that would have changed dramatically withOUT the music in that space of time? what does it do to your heart? and how can we place so little value on that?

there were a reported (mind you, this is what is reported, not what is the real total) 19,974 plays on the internet of my original music. this netted me (wait for it) a grand total of $3.61. yes, you read that right. $3.61. i could not even treat you and me to a starbucks for that. i couldn’t even get a happy meal for that. and yet, 19,974 people/entities listened to the music i conceived, wrote, recorded, paid for a recording engineer, mastering engineer, piano technician, miscellaneous equipment, yamaha had a piano delivered to the studio, purchased upc codes and copyrights, had a graphic designer design a cd format, ordered and paid for replicated cds and print art (jackets, tray cards), paid ups to ship boxes upon boxes to the office, paid for marketing materials, paid employees to market and distribute, drove thousands of miles and carried hundreds of pounds of boxes of cds to play concerts, perform at wholesale, retail shows and stores and do radio and tv interviews, uploaded over 200 tracks from 15 albums to itunes, and see that pieces have found their way onto the internet in ways i can’t put my finger on…..i needn’t go on….i’m sure you get the point…. in the days of physical cds and brick and mortar buildings, and even in the days of just itunes downloads that paid artists, there was a chance at treating you to BOTH a happy meal AND a starbucks. but now…..

and so. the music. it’s relevant. and it has value. but who is missing out in this equation??

a few weekends ago i performed for an important event. as with all work, it took preparation and commitment, practice and heart to make sure that my performance supported the event. after it was over, many people commented on how touched they were by this music. one gentleman asked me, “when you aren’t playing music, what do you really do?” really???

i am 56. there is a lot of music left in me to write, record, perform. how do i justify continuing to make this music when each piece that reaches the ears of another living soul pays me less than a penny? do i hope for sheer luck? for an overnight itunes download sensation? or a youtube that goes viral, heaping advertisers at my doorstep?

these are potent questions. what are the answers?

how can i (afford to) live and keep making music? how can i (afford to) live and not keep making music?raw-1

www.kerrisherwood.com

itunes: kerri sherwood


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19 years ago today

RELEASED FROM THE HEART november 11, 1995

RELEASED FROM THE HEART
november 11, 1995

19 years ago today it was snowing. this morning i look out the sunroom window at golden leaves on the ground, a grey sky, rain falling. not as stunning as snow falling, but still part of the plan…a season of preparation, of going fallow in the overcast to come back stronger in the sun…

19 years ago today it was frenetic…the official release of my first original album with a big concert to celebrate it. family and friends had flown or driven in to be here and i was balancing my time between kirsten (who was 5), craig (who was 2), practicing and visiting and getting all the details in place…

19 years ago today ‘released from the heart’ entered the world…funny how you can be nervous and sure at the same time. this heart-project – so raw-ly (is that a word?) me…scary to put ‘out there’ and yet i was so ready.

19 years ago today i played the piece ‘galena’ on stage to start the release concert..originally written, spur of the moment, in galena, illinois where three of my friends and i were mini-vacationing. we had some amazing mystical moments during that trip, things you simply can’t explain. you know what i mean; those things that are happenstance, but aren’t happenstance. we sat around a table at a bistro, enjoying wine, laughing, talking, listening to a piano player who was accompanying various servers as they sang broadway tunes. my friends, carol, jo, patti, volunteered me to play the piano. i wasn’t about to duplicate the broadway theme, so i noodled around and wrote a piece on the spot (later to be called ‘galena’.) a family dining there insisted on buying the recording of this piece, which didn’t exist. one of the members of the family persisted and tracked me down in wisconsin, asking me to please record this piece that had meant so much to their celebration that evening. motivation. an impetus. it pushed my buttons and i started exploring the options.

that’s where the most amazing producer comes into the picture. our first recording encounter, which was also our first meeting, was not without challenge. my playing was measured, unemotional. ken’s suggestion was to get someone else to play the music i had written. i’ll never forget that. i was appalled. so we re-entered the project, building a remote studio in one of the concert venues at northwestern university. the day we started our recording there was blistering hot and the air conditioner units on the roof began to leak into the auditorium. we laid comforters on the chairs and could still hear the persistent drip, drip, drip. so we waited. two more dates there and at least twenty-six hours of playing and re-playing and re-playing and we had completed the fifteen pieces on the album. a zillion details remained: editing, mastering, graphic design, getting a UPC, cd (and cassette) replication choices, copyrighting my music, seeking distribution channels……

thank you to all of you who, 19 years ago, were a part of this beginning for me. and thank you to all of you who have been on the journey with me along the way. your prodding, your enthusiasm, your quiet help, your encouragement, your making-me-think, your life wake-ups have all been exactly what i needed. granted, i, like anyone, would have loved an easier journey, but then it wouldn’t have been this very journey. and so i trust the design of it all and try to learn each of the lessons.

and so 19 years ago today i released that first of what is now 15 albums and a few singles. and today? today i sat and listened to every track of ‘released from the heart.’ i am on the way to recording a new album…a new vocal album. it’s been 12 years since ‘as sure as the sun’ was released and it’s time. here’s the thing, though. as i think about this new album, as i come out of a long fallow, i wonder. i’m not 36 anymore. i’m 55 and by the time this album is done i will be 56. and i want to be relevant.

so today, 19 years later, i’ve decided to share the stories, the ones behind the pieces i composed. in concert it is natural for me to do that; people have asked me if i would record albums with the stories as well. i personally can’t imagine listening to me speak every time i heard the music – you know that thing about hearing your own speaking voice on tape – seems blahblahblahblah-ish. but i will write the stories…and, in this new day, share them in a new way. and in the writing-back and writing-forward, i’m hoping for clear relevance. the other night john the drummer said, “it’s not your job to determine relevance. it’s your job to put your work out there.” as i listen to this album and watch my little candle flicker next to me, i’m beginning to suspect that relevance is already there. for each of us.

RELEASED FROM THE HEART november 11, 1995

RELEASED FROM THE HEART
november 11, 1995

 

 

go to iTunes for the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART

kerrisherwood.com