Three Mysteries, Solved

April 9th, 2009

Where the hell is Jonathan Coulton

1. Millionaire Matchmaker – you were not imagining it, the bachelor named Alex sang “Soft Rocked By Me” on the Bravo show Millionaire Matchmaker. They did get permission from me before doing this, and the last time I was in Vegas Alex even took me out to a delicious Thai lunch to thank me. It was my first lunch date with a millionaire. Hopefully not my last – AM I RIGHT?!

2. Ernie Wade – April Fools! You all know that by now, and most of you knew it pretty early on. I meant to juice up a little more doubt and controversy, but when it came down to it I couldn’t keep a straight face. Also there were enough people in on the joke tweeting and blogging about it that I enjoyed watching it all unfold. In case you missed it, the idea took shape in Vegas (erm, I guess there are a lot of things that do NOT stay in Vegas) when I was at the New Media Expo playing the Coverville 500 concert. At the table were me, Len, Patrick and Tom, and I hope nobody else that I’m forgetting because I’m an insensitive jerk. We thought it would be funny to manufacture a scandal in which it is discovered that all my songs are stolen. Because he is crazy, Tom actually followed through and created a site and recorded a couple of songs: Code Monkey and Warrior Robot Revenge. Say want you want about these kinds of April Fools Day pranks, but there are some really nice touches on the site, in the photos, the cassette labels, and especially in the songs. My favorite is the photo on this page captioned “Here is a picture I had of Ernie driving his truck…” And the songs have a perfect bizarro-world-JoCo quality to them – poor Ernie really loved Jan.

3. Where the hell is Jonathan Coulton? Last week we closed on the sale of my old home and the purchase of my new home, and on Monday we moved. I’ve been too preoccupied to blog or twitter – sorry if you’re waiting for me to get back to you, or even just let you know that I’m alive. I’m still in Brooklyn, not too far away from where I was, but kind of on the fringe of Stroller Town itself. The new place has some leaks and broken things, and of course my entire life is packed into lots of poorly labeled boxes. I can’t find anything, all is chaos. I had no internet until yesterday afternoon, which was painful. And my studio does not really exist at this point – it will only when I muster up the strength to find everything and plug it in again. The photo up top is my old studio room, now empty and sad.

Moving is weird. A lot happened in that old apartment – I entered as a childless writer of software, I leave as a twice bekidded musician, with Thing a Week and all the rest of it trailing out behind me. The new place has quite a bit to live up to. I’m hoping that soon it will actually feel more like home, and less like a showroom for a cardboard box company.

Sorry to have been so quiet. I will start making noise again soon.

I Totally Forgot

April 1st, 2009

To post anything about the NYC show. Isn’t that terrible? It was a great deal of fun, and if you missed it, you also missed this:

Yes, that is the Hungry March Band, and they are the nicest group of anarchist marching band hipster types you will ever meet.

And if you missed me at University of Arkansas last night, you missed a sound check (which the audience was lucky enough to see), and a set done WITHOUT A SET LIST. Very dangerous, but I think it worked out OK. Thank you Arkansonians.

In other news, some attorney friends of mine say it’s probably a good idea for me not to say anything about this.

JoCo Cannot Be Stopped

March 27th, 2009

So I guess I lied when I said that was the last of the Spring shows – INADVERTENTLY. Check it: a FREE concert at University of Arkansas next week, then Dallas, LA, and Solana Beach (the one near San Diego) in May.

Plus a special benefit show at the Birchmere on May 21 to benefit the Lung Transplant Foundation – a cause near and dear to my heart because my booking agent recently had both lungs replaced (you can go back and read that again if you want) and is doing really well. I don’t know what my booking agent would have done without these new lungs, and I don’t know what I would have done without my booking agent.

But enough about lungs, here are the details:

Friday March 27 at 8PM
Symphony Space (New York, NY) with Paul and Storm

Tuesday March 31 at 7PM
Arkansas Union Theater (Fayetteville, AR)
FREE and open to the public!
(sorry for the late notice on this one, I thought it was students only)

Thursday April 23 at 8 PM
Lula Lounge (Toronto, ON) with Paul and Storm

Friday April 24 at 7:30 PM
Lula Lounge (Toronto, ON) with Paul and Storm

Wednesday May 13 at 8PM
Granada Theater (Dallas, TX) with Paul and Storm

Thursday May 14 at 8PM
Belly Up Tavern (Solana Beach, CA) with Paul and Storm

Sunday May 17 at 8:30PM
Largo (Los Angeles, CA) with Paul and Storm
For tix call (310) 855-0350
This one will sell out I think, so don’t wait too long.

Thursday May 21 at 7:30PM
The Birchmere (Alexandria, VA) with Chelsea Lee
Lung Transplant Foundation Benefit

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.