Long term musician tells the story behind his song “drifter” and why he became a music industry drifter after one too many music industry ripoffs.
Drifting from streaming services and bad music labels
Drifting Away From the Music Industry Monster
The Demise of the DIY artist has come slowly inch by inch since I initially Set up Regalia Records in 2007. The “Back Room Deal” is still the Monster in this Movie. Ownership changes and agreements made with new streaming services are an ongoing Blow to the face of Distribution. You can read the fine print and sign on the line In Legal good faith. Unfortunately, they can negate what you agreed to and if you Don’t have the funds to fly to the companies State to file suit (and yes you have the burden to sue them where they live), then the only thing you can do is opt-out. These conglomerates own the keys an indie artist needs in not only a strong Web site but a Distribution network. As in my case you end up paying them monthly to give away your music.
I had been a client of one of these companies, in fact, was a client of their sister company. One side was Physical and digital distribution, the Other Hosted My Record Label website. I was in good standing for 13 years and had a monthly fee to pay for the sight, and when a client went to upload their new album or EP it cost at the time roughly $50 to have them distribute it.
That adds up over time of making 10 albums. One of the perks of being involved in both sides was once every 3 months you could upload a project for free. During the 13 years, I had taken that opportunity on 4 full projects. It’s just how it worked. I had seen Owners and CEOs come and go and the digital outlets expand and change the royalty rates. If you googled your project you would find it sell on one site for $7, another $10, and a 3rd it might just be free.
So I became a music industry drifter
I woke up one morning and 4 of my albums were no longer on my website and were no longer in fact anywhere to be found for sale. I Grabbed up my old friend on the telephone and called to Inquire what the issue was. I was told on the phone that part of the deal no longer applied. Now I had accepted we were in trouble with the streaming royalties paying an artist 0.0098745 of a cent per play.
I had accepted they were setting different sale prices so I make $3 here and 5o cents there. Then the lady said something that for those who know me personally turns me into the “other Jimmy”. She said, “we would be more than happy to put them back up everywhere they were, but you need to pay for each project at standard Rate.”
Atomic Bomb Jimmy. “Maam you are teetering on the very knife-edge of extortion as you are literally holding 4 units of my Intellectual property Hostage.” She was instructed to remove ALL of my content from everywhere because I was in fact paying them to give my music away. “I can give my own music away for free, I don’t need to pay you to do it for me.”
She said I would have to wait a number of weeks and for one Major corporation Month to terminate. I said “you didn’t hear me correctly, you will do it now, by the end of business day” Their reason was I still was owed money and it had to wait. My reasoning was you are going to use my projects to generate money for your company and then pay me out under $10 so they could keep it. I cared zero about anything other than the insult they had doled out to not only me personally but most all their clients.
By 5 pm it was gone. It was a tremendously difficult situation because now I had no way to sell anything but ethics to me are everything. So for quite some time now I’ve been finding ways to at the very least get my music heard and hope some financial compensation would arise from the efforts made.
A song has been devalued. The life behind the song may mean everything to the artist and the listeners, but Bring in the suits and ties and briefcases and they can make a decision as to whether they help you or bury you.
So drifter was an autobiographical track
Your songs, most times were lived. For instance a Track I wrote “Drifter” is about as autobiographical as they come. It means a lot. I had been to Nashville on many occasions and was lucky enough to Have a connection at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge which allowed me to perform there on a few occasions. It’s about the only place I do go when in town. The History, The Ghosts of the Legends were often born there.
Hank Williams sr. would slip over there and drink until he had to stumble out the back door and walk a few feet to perform on the Grand Old Opry. He had recorded some songs under Luke the Drifter” to avoid legal issues. Well, I’ve always been an open book about my Alcoholism and I would often return home after maybe a 2-week party and my dad would say “There’s Old Luke”.
Years after I was sober I was looking back on all of that and Wrote that song. The 19 coffin Nails, meant I had one less than a whole pack of smokes and I was Raised in The Baptist Church and I had been to Jail as well and my 25 nightmares were every year I had made the journey to being “Old Luke”. It reflects failed relationships and the failure of my own unhappy relationship with myself. Some other stranded soul was about Drinking with a Major Country Artist’s manager at the time. He didn’t have his own money paying, he flat told me it was “Her Money” anyway.
The sound of the track itself was a Transition. I’m not a big “Gear” talker but it was the first time I had owned an electric Guitar with old-fashioned P90 or “soapbar” pickups as they are often referred to. The Guitar was made by the British company Stagg and I’ve been a fan of their instruments for many years. In Closing, we invest not only money and time, sometimes a lifetime, and our Soul to create our music.
We need to stand up and say enough is enough. And not let our life’s passions be deemed its worth by a guy whispering to another guy in the Back Room. As the great Patti Smith and Fred Smith said “People have to Power to redeem the work of fools”. But I have drifted away from being a fool and got my own label and store you can visit me here on Guitardoor. Like my page on Facebook or Subscribe to me on Youtube