Currency As A Point System

The past few months I’ve been really happy, less stressful, and slowly seeing my dream come to life. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think a big part of it is due to my pretending that money doesn’t exist. Well, actually, it doesn’t - but anyway…

I’m seeing my money is a point system now, like in a videogame. If I only have $100 then I see it as 100 points. In some role playing games, you can decide where to divy-up your points: should it go towards experience? buying potions? or better weaponry?

I “lost” $200 this month on some trial-and-error ideas. Years ago I would have been sick to my stomach over it, but today I see it as trading in 200 points to gain experience. I needed that experience to “level up”, and now I’m ready to continue my journey to slash monsters. And my best work is coming out because of it.

Your party in Final Fantasy - be it warriors, magicians, or ninjas - need balance, and so do you. Your party can’t be only strength, or only agility. Some times you need to gain experience, sometimes you need speed (travel), weapons (hardware), or sleep (rent). But the goal, for me, is to stop thinking so linearly when it comes to money and start seeing it as just a point system.

It’s the same mentality of how Poker players can put $100,000 on a bet without breaking a sweat. They don’t see the chips as actual money because the chip’s worth are just “points” to them.

Life is simply a series of decisions based on the question “What’s my best move now?”. This month I may not be left with a lot of points, but I gained a lot of experience because of it, and I’m OK with that.

asker

Anonymous asked: seriously you are an amazing human being! thank you for being so passionate about music. I seriously more people like you should exist. thank you. music really is the best thing in life and it is often ruined by very commercial artist who only care about money, but I'm so glad to see that there still are people who genuinely care about music. thanks

I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to be commercial. Different things make different people tick. I’m pretty firm on my stance that Beethoven and Justin Bieber are on the same artistic level, at least in my opinion. To me, the art of marketing, writing a hit pop song, or composing a symphony are all equally as hard as one another.

Go ahead - try and get 100,000 Youtube subscribers writing cheesy songs about girls, or farting, or giraffes. Or maybe writing the world’s next memorable symphony. Anything really.

The fact is that it’s incredibly tough no matter how you slice it.

The ones who do it well have “something” going for them. I’ve learned to study what they do, appreciate it, and admire it.

I care about music much like most people do. The difference is that money doesn’t make me tick. Changing the world does. There’s nothing wrong with wanting money, but there has to be a balance, and there has to be a heart.

Everyone’s muse, lifestyle choices, careers, and thoughts are different, so who am I to judge that one is better than the other?

I actually care more about if the person is a good person more than anything else. Money only gets me the things that allow me to tackle my dreams. That’s always been what it’s about to me, but I wouldn’t look down upon someone who believed otherwise.

A Note About Pandora Royalties

Pandora has been getting a lot of flack for this artists’ post titled “My Song Got Played On Pandora 1 Million Times and All I Got Was $16.89, Less Than What I Make From a Single T-Shirt Sale!”. I disagree with that post, here’s why:


1.) You shouldn’t be mad at Pandora, you should be mad at Congress’ tiered unleveled playing field for treating internet radio royalties differently than legacy AM/FM radio. Pandora can barely swim above water because their royalties are over their heads. Sure, they’re a publicly traded company, so maybe they’re being dramatic about it, but that doesn’t make the double-standard law any better.

2.) Pandora is most likely helping sell those $17 t shirts


As I mentioned last month, the old business model allowed you to only make $1 off of a song per person. And that was it: $1, sale is done, no more money. No viral sharing, no playlists, sandboxed, no charts, nothing. Now that an artist can average $16.89 per year per song - that’s incredible!

The difference is that the old model consisted of releasing 3 CDs over a lifetime to a million fans, whereas today’s model consists of releasing 30 CDs over a lifetime to a few thousand fans.

Not only that, but Spotify has actually increased paid downloads, so I can assume that


1.) Pandora’s royalties over a lifetime amount to greater income than retail sales
2.) Pandora actually increases retail sales, too
3.) Pandora, like AM/FM radio, increases ticket and merchandise sales (exposure)


So I have no problem with Pandora’s current royalty payments. I also agree with their recent loophole purchase of an AM/FM station. (I don’t have music on Pandora simply because their odd submission rules, but oh well).

Granted, Pandora and Spotify (and Apple Radio, etc.) follow slightly different technicalities in royalty payments, but they’re similar enough to draw the comparison. I pay out royalties to the songwriters whose music I cover, and the musicians and publishers of each respective song will receive that split for eternity - and trust me, they’re all very happy.

Similarly, when looking at the Youtube model, some publishers want synch license fees so people can upload their cover songs to Youtube, then they also want to claim the streaming royalties. But they’re missing the point. They should forget the upfront fee and make it easier to upload music, then use Youtube’s Content ID so they can make royalties on every stream. The royalties over a lifetime eclipse any synch fee. Plus, it’s trillions of half-penny transactions versus 10’s of large transactions - as a Youtube partner, I can tell you that the former eclipses the latter. And guess what? Youtube increases iTunes sales.

So welcome to the new model, nothing like the old model. It’s much better.

Your Money Update

As I mentioned last week I want to publish a monthly accounting update so everyone knows where their money goes to. That’ll all be itemized in my next post.

I paid royalties to all the Homestuck musicians and many more this week. One thing I liked is that Sinister Psyche AKA Kezinox (the composer of Homestuck ‘Fuchsia Ruler’) told me it helped him get a mishka watch he wanted:

That was cool to know, so I wanted to pass that on to you. Feels awesome to help out other musicians for their incredible music.

I’m for it. Tumblr only made $12 million last year, which seems that they can use a bigger advertising company to support them and exponentially grow their income streams.

As much as I hate ads, I understand Tumblr needs to make money so that Tumblr (and this amazing community it nurtures) can survive. I thought $5 promoted posts could have worked with some tweaks, which would have created a serious income stream. I also felt Tumblr needed an internal Bandcamp-like store, Etsy-like store, and more. They host they content - why not sell it too?

If Marissa Mayer leaves Tumblr untouched and allows David Karp to run it as promised, then I see it being a win-win for everyone.

I also think our Tumblr pages may see a lot of traffic in the year to come because Yahoo plans to incorporate it with their other sites. This is both good and bad, I’ve repeatedly said that I don’t care about web traffic, I care more about the tight community. So if Tumblr becomes mainstream then it risks losing its niche audience. Only time will tell.

Tumblr and their investors always had an eye on an exit strategy, so this was seemingly inevitable. All things considered, I think Yahoo was the best company that could have bought it. Twitter would have sunset it like they did with Posterous, Facebook would have destroyed it, Google would have acqu-hired the talent and sold the parts, and if Tumblr remained independent then they faced increased competition from Pinterest, Wordpress, Twitter, etc.

I think this is a direct offensive move for Yahoo to incorporate Flickr so they can go against Facebook and Instagram. Gaining a younger demographic while securing mobile users is exactly want Yahoo needed, and that’s what they got - for a fraction of the price, too (Tumblr is worth a lot more than $1B in my opinion). Yahoo’s stock isn’t dependable, so an all cash deal was a good trade-off for a lower price tag.

I’m for it. Tumblr only made $12 million last year, which seems that they can use a bigger advertising company to support them and exponentially grow their income streams.

As much as I hate ads, I understand Tumblr needs to make money so that Tumblr (and this amazing community it nurtures) can survive. I thought $5 promoted posts could have worked with some tweaks, which would have created a serious income stream. I also felt Tumblr needed an internal Bandcamp-like store, Etsy-like store, and more. They host they content - why not sell it too?

If Marissa Mayer leaves Tumblr untouched and allows David Karp to run it as promised, then I see it being a win-win for everyone.

I also think our Tumblr pages may see a lot of traffic in the year to come because Yahoo plans to incorporate it with their other sites. This is both good and bad, I’ve repeatedly said that I don’t care about web traffic, I care more about the tight community. So if Tumblr becomes mainstream then it risks losing its niche audience. Only time will tell.

Tumblr and their investors always had an eye on an exit strategy, so this was seemingly inevitable. All things considered, I think Yahoo was the best company that could have bought it. Twitter would have sunset it like they did with Posterous, Facebook would have destroyed it, Google would have acqu-hired the talent and sold the parts, and if Tumblr remained independent then they faced increased competition from Pinterest, Wordpress, Twitter, etc.

I think this is a direct offensive move for Yahoo to incorporate Flickr so they can go against Facebook and Instagram. Gaining a younger demographic while securing mobile users is exactly want Yahoo needed, and that’s what they got - for a fraction of the price, too (Tumblr is worth a lot more than $1B in my opinion). Yahoo’s stock isn’t dependable, so an all cash deal was a good trade-off for a lower price tag.

Forever.

Yea but I’m not too worried about it. I live a pretty minimal life, here’s my monthly breakdown:

$400 rent
$200 food
$200 health insurance
$200 music licensing and distribution
$200 recreation and hanging with friends
$50 phone and internet

At this time last year I had just made over $700 a month which was an insanely huge amount of money for me at the time. I always said that if I made it over “the tipping point” then I would give my music away and just keep doing this for everyone, close my eyes and see where it takes me. “If it scares you, do it” - so sure, I’m scared I may have cannibalized my income, but I’ll know in 3 months if I’m stupid or if my community will make sure I don’t go away.

Here’s where your dollar goes when you purchase my music. I have two lines of income that have been just enough for me to survive:
1.) my Youtube music lessons here
2.) my orchestra music here.

I also want to start a monthly accounting blog update on the first of every month so everyone can see what I made, where the money went, and future plans. As an internet junkie I’m big on transparency, but this is also about the structure of what I want this to be:

I see you as my employer, and me as the employee. So you should know the finances anyway, in my opinion.

That being said, t-shirts are coming out soon, so they’ll have higher profit margins than a digital download. I’ve been so busy the past year arranging that I haven’t gotten around to it - but expect it in a few weeks at most.

Forever.

Yea but I’m not too worried about it. I live a pretty minimal life, here’s my monthly breakdown:

$400 rent
$200 food
$200 health insurance
$200 music licensing and distribution
$200 recreation and hanging with friends
$50 phone and internet

At this time last year I had just made over $700 a month which was an insanely huge amount of money for me at the time. I always said that if I made it over “the tipping point” then I would give my music away and just keep doing this for everyone, close my eyes and see where it takes me. “If it scares you, do it” - so sure, I’m scared I may have cannibalized my income, but I’ll know in 3 months if I’m stupid or if my community will make sure I don’t go away.

Here’s where your dollar goes when you purchase my music. I have two lines of income that have been just enough for me to survive:
1.) my Youtube music lessons here
2.) my orchestra music here.

I also want to start a monthly accounting blog update on the first of every month so everyone can see what I made, where the money went, and future plans. As an internet junkie I’m big on transparency, but this is also about the structure of what I want this to be:

I see you as my employer, and me as the employee. So you should know the finances anyway, in my opinion.

That being said, t-shirts are coming out soon, so they’ll have higher profit margins than a digital download. I’ve been so busy the past year arranging that I haven’t gotten around to it - but expect it in a few weeks at most.

Bandcamp takes 15%, which is really awesome. iTunes and the “big stores” take about 30%, which is insane (but it’s a smaller percentage of a bigger pond. iTunes is still somehow the lion’s share of my income.)

Here’s how I see it:

Since the beginning of time musicians and artists had to work for kings and queens and all types of horrible situations. Plus, they usually died by their mid-30’s, and their music wouldn’t be heard by others until 150 years later.

Later on in history, if I was on a major record label I would have only seen 3 cents per song [link], sometimes less (like how Eddie Van Halen actually somehow owes money after a shady record deal [link] )

Anyway, fast forward to today and when you buy something off Bandcamp I make about 85 cents (with another ~40 cents going towards licensing, web hosting, and overhead, etc.)

So in the span from the year 1960 - 2013 the “royalty rate” I can make from my music went from 3 cents to ~50 cents. And here’s the kicker: I don’t have to pay for manufacturing, distribution, marketing, etc.

So go ahead and get it for free, or throw in $1. Whatever you want. When I first started this idea I financially couldn’t make it free because I needed an income stream. Now after 7 years I’m finally living light and minimal, and have a low enough overhead that I can finally spread my music around to teach people about the orchestra without fear of starving. It also feels good to be in a position to not have any barriers to stopping people from being exposed to the orchestra.

I do hope to have t-shirts in a few weeks, which will have higher profit margins (making $4 on a shirt is better than making $0.50 on a digital song that should be free anyway). Plus shirts are COOL.

I have a whole tag where I respond to people asking me about downloading my music without paying for it. I’ve said plenty of times - I don’t want to be dead before people hear my music because I don’t want to fall into that trap. I want to change how things are.

So I don’t care what you do. It’s music, it’s meant to be experienced, shared, hated, loved, and invisible. Just enjoy it. That’s all I ask.

Bandcamp takes 15%, which is really awesome. iTunes and the “big stores” take about 30%, which is insane (but it’s a smaller percentage of a bigger pond. iTunes is still somehow the lion’s share of my income.)

Here’s how I see it:

Since the beginning of time musicians and artists had to work for kings and queens and all types of horrible situations. Plus, they usually died by their mid-30’s, and their music wouldn’t be heard by others until 150 years later.

Later on in history, if I was on a major record label I would have only seen 3 cents per song [link], sometimes less (like how Eddie Van Halen actually somehow owes money after a shady record deal [link] )

Anyway, fast forward to today and when you buy something off Bandcamp I make about 85 cents (with another ~40 cents going towards licensing, web hosting, and overhead, etc.)

So in the span from the year 1960 - 2013 the “royalty rate” I can make from my music went from 3 cents to ~50 cents. And here’s the kicker: I don’t have to pay for manufacturing, distribution, marketing, etc.

So go ahead and get it for free, or throw in $1. Whatever you want. When I first started this idea I financially couldn’t make it free because I needed an income stream. Now after 7 years I’m finally living light and minimal, and have a low enough overhead that I can finally spread my music around to teach people about the orchestra without fear of starving. It also feels good to be in a position to not have any barriers to stopping people from being exposed to the orchestra.

I do hope to have t-shirts in a few weeks, which will have higher profit margins (making $4 on a shirt is better than making $0.50 on a digital song that should be free anyway). Plus shirts are COOL.

I have a whole tag where I respond to people asking me about downloading my music without paying for it. I’ve said plenty of times - I don’t want to be dead before people hear my music because I don’t want to fall into that trap. I want to change how things are.

So I don’t care what you do. It’s music, it’s meant to be experienced, shared, hated, loved, and invisible. Just enjoy it. That’s all I ask.

My Music Sales Income The Past 3 Years

Last year I published my finances so it helped other musicians, artists, and showed a level of transparency I wish most businesses had.

Anyway, I’ve been doing this idea for about 6 years, and the first 3 years were awful. In the first 3 years, 2007-2009, I made about $2,000 in total: In 2007 I made about $200. In 2008 I made $500. In 2009 I made about $1,000.

There have been other things I’ve done to survive, like write music for people on the side, collect unemployment when I was laid off, worked as a music instructor, cashed in my baby bonds, and made music tutorials on Youtube. Although the pay wasn’t much, it was just enough to get by so I didn’t lose sight of this ‘ForOrchestra’ goal. So now onto the past 3 years of my music sales:

July 2010 to July 2011 I made $4,766.64 of music sales
July 2011 to July 2012 I made $9,232.80 of music sales
July 2012 to December 2012 I made $11,862.88 of music sales

image

image

image


So it’s safe to say I’ve seen a 100% growth year over year. In that last picture above you’ll notice that I made more money in the last 6 months than I did in all of the previous year. Since I’m on track to make $22,000 this year, for the first time in my life I’m finally above the poverty threshold (which for individuals is $14,800).

Those stats are my gross income, so I still have to pay out royalties, taxes, etc. But still, that’s insane, and I can’t believe this. I actually feel like crying. Anyway, there are a number of reasons that explain why I’ve grown:


1.) My music sounds better every week
2.) The arrangements themselves are much more mature
3.) I understand the music catalogue, trends, and demographics much better
4.) I’m more focused than ever before
5.) I’m becoming more transparent and creating more rapport with my community
6.) Unlike the first 4 years, I no longer need a job to support myself - so I’m spending more time on writing music as opposed to having a side-job
7.) Update: as Vexarian mentioned: there’s a 7th point you missed, which is that over time your community grows by default the longer you stick with it (thanks for mentioning that. Yep -that’s true!)


In my tips tag I always say that being patient is the #1 thing. If I gave up on year 4, then I would have never known if this idea could work. I also talk about the importance of being on a schedule. It doesn’t have to be a weekly song schedule, it could be something like a tour schedule, or a merchandise schedule, or whatever. The important thing is to stay on point.

So to answer a few pre-determined questions:

Yes, it sucked every Thanksgiving for half a decade saying to my relatives “My music is going to work out, trust me.”

Yes, it sucked being $15,000 in debt a few years ago.

Yes, it sucked when my hands went numb from pinched nerves and over-working.

Yes, it sucked working weekends and 16 hour days.

Yes, it sucked having a failed Kickstarter at a time when this idea needed it most.

Yes it sucked at times not having a car, health insurance, a haircut, a house, or a steady paycheck.

Yes it sucked when I ate turkey gravy straight from the can because I had no money to buy food.

Yes, it sucked to break up with someone special because you were trying to make ends meet.

Yes, it all sucked. Everything. It sucked to the point of almost breaking down. And then something funny happens after a few years. Something magical. A tipping point sort of experience. And you think. You just think. You stop and realize for the first time you’re able to make ends meet. You start thinking that since you now have disposable income you can start making merchandise this week and other higher-margined items as opposed to a song that pays 40 cents. You even start thinking about how your own story probably isn’t much different than others you read about over the years.

You start getting excited at the idea of hiring real artists to make beautiful cover art as opposed to the ones you’ve been struggling to make in your room. You start thinking that you’re following your heart. You start thinking that all those days people said “don’t give up”, that they weren’t just words, at this very moment it was turning into advice from experience.

You start realizing the importance of how none of this would be possible without a community who kept you up when you were falling. Every comment, every share, every purchase - they were all like these little silent whispers saying “Keep going, we believe in what you’re doing for new orchestra music. You can’t stop now”.

So I want to say thanks. I’m so glad you enjoy my work and that this idea is creating a glimmer of hope in the orchestral repertoire.

To sum up this post, I want to say to other artisans - you have to keep on going. Your DeviantArt drawings, music, or unpublished books are meant to be read and experienced, and it’s more DIY-accessible today than it’s ever been in history. In fact, a lot of the ideas for my music are the result from all the amazing things I see online and offline each day. Art is a melting pot, so you need to create great work so we can all add to the brew kettle. Some people need to drink from it whereas others just want to watch it and experience it. But the point is that the kettle needs to keep being added to, or it will die. Every single thing you see in this world is here because someone brought something in their brain to life.

Fluency, mastery, learning, and overcoming obstacles take decades - so you can’t give up. You have to keep on going.

asker

katzmatt asked: why dont you accept donations for getting licences for songs, IE i could pay you like 5 dollars to cover the licences for the bond songs , because i would totally do that if you wanted

Well it would be $2.03 per sale. So $100 in donations would cover ~45 sales (remember, 23 songs at 9.1 cents each is $2.03 in royalties per song). If I did all 23 James Bond intros into one song then I would have to sell each single for $3 just to make up the difference (Bandcamp would allow this tiered pricing, but iTunes doesn’t allow $3 singles.). Plus I’d imagine not too many people would buy a $3 song, which further reduces the finances of arranging it.

On the other hand, if I only got $100 in donations and the song somewhow went gangbusters and sold 1,000 copies, then I’d have to make up the difference 1.) out of my own pocket 2.) hoping for more donations. Hope is deadly, I don’t base any decisions in my life based on hope. I need things to be concrete before I do anything - like I said last week, being poor sucks but being debt was the absolute worst.

One option would be to raise $1,000 to cover royalties for a limited edition download for $3, capped at ~480 downloads. That could work because since I would owe $2 per single, I would never have to worry about selling more songs than the donations covered.

As for donations to me, the link is fororchestra.com/donate. I never promote it though because it feels spammy to me.