Let the Music Play
Taking a break from promoting my music in order to focus on the election cost me in more ways than I expected.
If you’d have asked me what I did for a living at the beginning of this year, before the pandemic, I would have said writer and musician. Working writer, working musician. In other words, that’s how I made my money. It’s been that way for many years. In fact, save for a couple of self-imposed exiles, it’s mostly been that way for 25+ years. Percentage-wise, I’ve sometimes made more from writing, sometimes more from music. But it’s pretty much always been those two.
That all changed, of course, when the pandemic arrived.
Suddenly, there was no performance-related revenue. None whatsoever. No performance fees, no merchandise sold from the stage. No gigs, no private events, no booking. Nothing. It’s been brutal. I’m not going to share financial particulars, but suffice it to say, when live music went away, a significant percentage of my total income went with it. Gone, virtually overnight. And it hasn’t come back.
The only strategy left, of course, has been a total reliance on digital media.
For some, this has been a severe shock. For others, it hasn’t been much different than it was before. Most dedicated independent artists have long known that our survival depends on our abilities to work the digital margins. While we’ve largely gotten priced out of competing for major traction and visibility by massive corporate ad spend, we’ve nonetheless been able to find ways to leverage Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, CDBaby, Bandcamp, Spotify, and more, to keep our music moving.
And then came the election.
As a working musician suffering significant income loss during a pandemic — and relying entirely on digital media for revenue of any kind — it was a tough decision to put music aside to focus on politics. But that’s the decision I made many months ago; that I would use what little visibility I’d earned over the years to take a stand on what I knew was one of the most important political moments of our time.
It cost me.
I lost a lot of followers these past months. I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of abuse, insults, attacks, and threats. And I’m not just talking about people telling me to shut up and leave the politics out of the music. I’m talking about violent, weird, creepy language. People telling me they were “coming for me.” That I “was being watched.” Dark stuff.
I’m sure I’ve lost a lot of potential sales as well. I haven’t been promoting my music. I’ve been talking about the election. Like all independent artists, I have access to my own analytics, and I’ve seen the numbers. I haven’t sold more than a handful of albums in months. Partly because some people don’t want my music anymore because of the views I’ve aired and the action I’ve urged, and partly because I’ve just faded from view through not continuing to actively promote.
But that’s ok. I did what I did, and I’m glad I did it. And this article isn’t meant to be a complaint. It’s intended to be a thank you. I want to thank the 7,401 people who still like the Preacher Boy Facebook page. The 2,113 people who still follow the Preacher Boy Twitter account. The 611 people who still follow the Preacher Boy Instagram account.
Thank you for staying with me. It’s meant the world to me. It still means the world to me.
And you know what? It hasn’t been all bad. Accordingly to YouTube’s analytics, there have been 122k+ views of the Preacher Boy channel in the last three months. According to Spotify, there have been well over 30k streams of Preacher Boy music in the previous month alone. I’m amazed by these numbers, and so grateful.
Seriously, thank you. Thank you to everyone who read, who responded, who engaged. Thank you to everyone who voted. Who protested. Who marched. Who campaigned. Who donated. Thank you to the 75 million (and counting!) people who made this new day possible.
We will see this pandemic controlled. We will see decency and civility return to our daily lives. We will see social and financial inequality narrow and opportunity rise. We will see amoral, sociopathic, profiteering proto-fascists removed from power. We will see that no one falls too far or ascends too high. We will see the common good prevail. We will recognize the unshakeable interconnectedness of us all, and act accordingly.
And we will listen to music.
We will play our guitars, our pianos, our drums. We will sing, we will clap, we will stomp. And it will be beautiful. I am ready. I am ready to share music again. To talk music. To celebrate music. To celebrate music listeners and music makers.
Mind you; this isn’t a farewell to politics. Politics and music are inseparable. Music is the story of our lives, and our lives are political. Whether you are rich or poor, working or unemployed, overfed or starving, this is politics. Whether you are well or sick, on the way up or on the way down, where you want to be or where you don’t want to be, this is politics. Whether you are safe in a trusted community or alone in a dangerous world, armed or aimed at, hopeful or hopeless, this is politics. As an artist, if someone tells you to keep politics out of your music, they are telling you three things: 1) They don’t understand politics, 2) They don’t understand music, and 3) They don’t understand you.
Henry David Thoreau once said, “When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.”
I am happy to say, despite all the horrible things that have happened these past four years—all the deep traumas inflicted during this election, all the losses suffered during this pandemic — that I fear no danger. I see no foe. I am related to you all.
Let the music play.