Tone Deaf Eagles

March 25th, 2009

In case you missed it during the internet telethon insanity that was RedNoseNet, here’s a video of me and Paul and Storm working on our new cover band project. (Please note: it is not too late to donate to Comic Relief.)


March 24th, 2009

People often ask me for stats about how much free downloading there is vs. actual sales. I’m sure they are very frustrated when I explain to them, in excruciating detail, how impossible it is to know such a thing. I used to track stats like crazy back when I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make a living this way. And it was often depressing – songs like Baby Got Back or Code Monkey would get huge traffic and few sales, and the performance of less successful songs like Drive or Resolutions are best left undiscussed. But somewhere along the way the bottom line started improving, and I became less obsessed with tracking every little thing. Now I sort of think of the whole engine as a special genetically engineered cow who eats music and poops money – I have no idea what’s going on in its gut, and I have the luxury of not really caring that much about the particulars.

But because it’s interesting, since I posted Blue Sunny Day here is what happened (according to Google Analytics):

I posted it to the blog on 3/16, and twittered about it with a link to the blog post on 3/17. I have about 5,000 blog subscribers and about 23,000 Twitter followers.

On 3/16 the blog post received 740 unique views, on 3/17 it received 1,942.

As of today, the original blog post has received 4,313 unique views: 2,518 direct, 1,721 from twitter, 788 from google, 209 from facebook, and then some more smaller sources.

The link to the free mp3 has received 1,544 unique views. The way things are set up I have no way of knowing how many of these were downloads and how many of them were just people clicking on the link to listen in their browser. Though I can tell you for certain that none of those views come from people clicking on the blue playtagger play button, because Google Analytics doesn’t track those clicks.

The mp3 has been sold 179 times and earned $196. Some people bought it several times, not sure whether that was a shopping cart mistake or just people deciding to pay me more than a dollar for the song (if you made a mistake and would like your $$$ back, let me know).

The FLAC version has been sold 11 times for $11. Yay FLAC!

Worst case scenario (every unique view = one free download), the ratio of paying customers to freeloaders comes to about 13.4% if you count dollars instead of purchases. That’s actually pretty good in my opinion. And maybe I just have my rosy glasses on this morning, but I’d guess that some of the people who bought Blue Sunny Day were tipped over into buying other stuff.

So how does this work? I put out a new song and make $200? Obviously it’s a lot more complicated than that, because I’m making a pretty good living considering my recent output is about 2 songs per year. Even not considering that – I’m not getting rich exactly, but I make more money now than I did when I wrote software.

So here are some of the questions I can’t easily answer:

How many free downloads were actually “lost sales?”
How many people downloaded/listened and then donated instead of purchasing? (Full disclosure, probably not many – donations are generally a teeny tiny fraction of my income.)
How many free downloads happened in other places (P2P networks, emails, etc.)?
How much increased buying of tickets, CDs, Tshirts, mp3s happened as a result of this song and news of its release bouncing around the internet?
Who is currently making a movie about a suicidal vampire and is planning on paying me a million dollars to use this song for the final tragic scene? (Seriously, who is it? Call me…)

The eight-day period since the song was first posted boasts a 40% uptick in digital sales in my store compared with the eight days prior to that, though I just did a show and a bunch of press at SXSWi last week, so that could account for the uptick as well. And of course there are ancillary benefits of all kinds that come from the simple fact that for once there was some new content on my site – more traffic is always good.

So then extrapolate what happened with this song across my entire catalog, across all the things sold that make up my income, across the past and present and future, across all the internet radio stations and file sharing networks and Facebook pages and Twitter posts and the whole wild and wooly internet – you will never know HOW it works, but I can tell you that for me it does. The state of the industry makes a lot more sense when you think of it this way, all these new business models rising and falling, internet radio choking on insanely high performance royalties, Radiohead and NIN giving stuff away and making a killing. This is the thing about the new landscape that drives everyone crazy: you can’t see inside the cow; you can only build one, feed it music, and wait for it to poop.

Spiff – Tom Cruise Crazy

March 23rd, 2009

I think my favorite moment is Tom sliding across the floor in his underwear (but then I have always been a sucker for an attractive young man in briefs):

Len – Blue Sunny Day

March 19th, 2009

Oh man, no wonder this vampire’s so sad, he’s only got four fingers on each hand! As usual, Len finished this in record time and I took a million years to post it. (Check out his initial sketch too, probably done in two minutes with ketchup and a toothpick on the back of a napkin.)

Blue Sunny Day

New Song – Blue Sunny Day

March 16th, 2009

Unbelievably, there is a new song. As I’ve mentioned the couple of times I played this live, I tried very hard to NOT make this about a sad vampire, but of course it is. It started out with the idea that I should just, for once, write a song that was kind of bouncy and happy. Though once I had decided to use the phrase “blue sunny day,” it was hard not to notice that the word “blue” can have another meaning. From there it’s only a quick jump to vampire suicide. I don’t know what happened to him exactly, perhaps he suffers from seasonal affective disorder? Or maybe he’s just sick of working nights.

I’ve had this chord progression and melody running around in my brain for a long time, so it’s nice to get it out. This was one of those songs where the arrangement started to build itself in my head before I had really finished writing, I could hear all those vocals from the very beginning. I’m stealing from all sorts of places of course, there’s more than a little Tally Hall influence, some Queen in there, maybe a little Jeff Lynne, and the bridge makes me think of XTC so much that I fear I may discover it’s a direct lift of something and I just haven’t realized yet (in which case, sorry Andy!).

Other cool things: Dave has already posted a video guitar lesson for this song here, as well as put the chords into the wiki.

As always, you have a choice: stream it, download it free, or buy it.

Blue Sunny Day
Buy It

By the way, I have messed up the store link to the flac version somehow – sorry to everyone who’s trying to buy it, I will fix it as soon as I can, and then offer you some kind of lavish compensation for your trouble. UPDATE: Fixed. Let me know if you bought and ran out of downloads. This is very embarrassing.