Taking Pre-Orders for BLEACHED BONES (reposted from Facebook)
So, nobody likes to beg, but here comes the spiel. The last time I released a full-length album, 2013’s MEMOIRS OF A MANWHORE: THE REELING WALTZ OF A DRUNKEN LOTHARIO, I ran a full-fledged Kickstarter Fund. The four intervening EPs were all produced on my own dime with no form of crowd-sourcing. They cost me an arm and a leg each (thank goodness not literally or I’d be at a loss as a piano-playing entertainer!), but I was willing to undertake these ventures on my own for the same reason I have avoided looking for a label: To maintain creative control of the direction my music takes while I build a back catalog of strong original material.
I considered doing another Kickstarter campaign for this full length album, or switching to Indie-a-go-go. But instead, I thought I’d just like to contact you all directly to discuss the costs of creating a new album and to ask you to consider pre-ordering a copy.
This new album contains 11 songs with a total running length of about 47 minutes. For those of you who are not employed in the business of creating music, each song typically requires about two to four hours of studio time to record, at $80 an hour for the studio (and that’s with a steep discount that my engineer gives me, partly because he’s a great guy, but partly because I think he has genuine faith in my ability to create a lasting canon of significant music, and he enjoys being an integral part of that process). Of course, my band mates don’t play for free, either. While I do give them a percentage of ownership of the songwriting credits to take care of them for all posterity if we ever hit the big time, in the mean time they have genuine expenses like the rest of us. They each charge $25 and hour, again a HUGE discount compared to what I’ve been quoted from other studio musicians by about 75%, but they are willing to work for peanuts because they love to play and they love to be a part of my creative process. These aren’t half-assed musicians. My bassist is Jacque Jobes, a former member of The Roots who has toured at various times as the bassist for Miley Cyrus, Eryka Badu, and Destiny’s Child. My drummer, Paul Galiszewski, is a 25 year veteran of the music industry who started with the seminal band China White in the 80s and continues to play as the drummer of record for the Josh Zuckerman Band. Tom Briant, my guitarist, is also the lead guitarist of local rising star Taylor Tote’s band. My occasional co-writer, who also shares keyboard duties with me and does all the string arrangements, is Adam Silverstein of the UK band Karl & The Marx Brothers, who are now headlining in front of crowds of thousands across England. And of course all of this was helmed by the amazing Steve Jankowski of Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Once the songs are recorded, each song requires several hours of mixing and mastering, again at $80/hr.
That brings all the pre-production costs to about $8600 before we’ve even made a single physical copy. Now, I’ve paid these costs out of pocket because I believe in my product, but it leaves me no room to make physical copies. Of course, without physical copies to send to radio stations, the chance of getting a station to play you is close to nil. Even with physical copies, getting radio play could euphemistically be described as difficult.
Given that the cost to produce 300 CDs is only marginally less than the cost of producing 1000 CDs, a 1000 CD run is always the best option for a first run for any album. But each disc, once the gatefold digipak and the lyric & art booklet are factored in, costs around two and a half dollars to physically produce. That brings that run cost to about $2500 once you factor in registering the copyrights with ASCAP and listing the tracks on distribution outlets. And this is about as cheaply as you could possibly make an album: When big name stars like Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus make an album, they spend tens of thousands of dollars; I’d like to think that I’m creating music that, while not as widely appealing (i.e. not geared towards teenagers with no attention span, or middle-aged narcissists who still exist in the same attention-and-intellect-addled paradigm as they did when they were pre-pubescent) is imbued with greater staying power. These songs will continue to make you think and feel long after the rush of a first listen has faded.
So, here’s what I’m asking of you, my fans: Please pre-order some CDs from me, so I can make a credit card payment to free up the space to get these albums physically produced! For $12.50, you can order one hard copy of the CD; for each CD you buy at $12.50, I’m willing to let you buy four CDs at a 20% discount (i.e. $10 each) if you want to surprise a music fan with a holiday gift (did I mention these will be ready a month before Christmas?).
Now, I know there will be those amongst you who will no doubt equate this entry as whining or begging for money. I’m not asking you to fork over money for free. I’m asking you to pay money in exchange for a product I offer, much multi-billion dollar international corporates do every time you watch television (in fact, that’s what eight out of every thirty minutes of prime time programming is: companies asking you to spend money on their product, only without the attention to individuality and artistry that I put into my product, and without the honesty to admit that that’s what they’re doing, since they want to trick you into thinking that it was YOUR idea to buy that sports car, and not their ability to manipulating you into feeling as though your sexual inadequacies will be cured upon said sports car purchase). You’re not being forced to buy anything here, or even being tricked: You’re being offered an opportunity to hear some really good music that will probably never be played on the radio, but being asked to pay for it because it cost me a shit ton of money to create and bring to you.
Basically, I need to pre-sell about 200 copies of the full CD in order to make this run happen and still have the funds to mail copies to radio stations with potential for airplay. It’s no more than you’d pay to buy a CD at Wal-Mart, and less than what you’d pay for most Amazon purchases once you factor in shipping and handling. In fact, it’s only one dollar more than what you’d pay to DOWNLOAD the album on iTunes after its official release date, and you’d have a hard copy, signed by me if you specify that you’d like that, with gorgeous packaging, a lyric booklet, and original artwork by visual artist Mark Paich. When you consider that the cost of buying a CD twenty YEARS ago was $12, assuming you bought it in person (i.e. sacrificed your time to go to the mall if you didn’t live in a town with a walkable business district that included a record store), I would argue that this is CHEAPER for you as a consumer than it would have been in my teenage days, by a considerable factor.
If you want a copy of the album but can’t afford the $12 fee for a hard copy, you do have other options. I am willing to make DIGITAL download versions available once I’ve begun my iTunes pre-orders in mid-October; if you would like to order a digital copy of the album, I will send you the zip file link for $4.25 once my iTunes pre-orders period begins on October 20. You’ll have the full album in advance of the general public for less than forty cents per track. If you think in terms of inflation, a 45 rpm single with two tracks (assuming the B-side wasn’t just an instrumental version of the A-side) ran $2.19 in 1985 and would easily cost twice that today. This offer is a steal.
Of course, you can also do the iTunes pre-order option. I’ll be making the album available on iTunes but, unfortunately, without that steep discount… But at least you have the “respectability” of a big name distributor like iTunes behind your purchase.
Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. Obviously, I’d love to sell several hundred hard copies in advance to pay off my recording studio bill while also covering the cost of a 1000 disc run! But I’m happy to give people the digital album for $4 (this option, incidentally, is ONLY available if you are already a personal friend who wants a copy, or a friend of a friend). The iTunes sale price gets me free publicity if enough of you order to put me on the charts on release date (thus exposing me to new music consumers who might otherwise never have heard of me), but it also means I have to wait three or four months to get paid.
If I get enough pre-sales to pay off EVERYTHING, the extra money will definitely go to good use: I would allocate some for marketing and advertising to expose my music to new audiences; with enough money, I’d consider doing a vinyl pressing (vinyl is very expensive, but anybody who partakes of the sales I’m offering in advance of the official release date would have an option to buy a vinyl copy, should they be made, discounted by whatever they contributed to the pre-sale; so, if you bought a hard copy of the CD, you’d get a $12.50 discount, and if you bought a digital copy directly from me rather than through iTunes, you’d get a $4 discount); I’d use some of the money to visit my account and set up a legal corporation/record company separate from my own individual identity; and, should there be even MORE money in sales than that, well, let’s say my touring vehicle has 220,000 miles on it and isn’t really large enough to travel with my keyboard anyway, so I might look into a new car!
I am lucky enough that my day job affords me SOME latitude to pursue my musical aspirations, but it hasn’t paid enough to let me tour for the past two years, to make vinyl copies, or to market my music with a publicist or promotional agency, all of which, of course, are what it requires to get exposure in markets beyond my immediate circle of friends. Please consider PURCHASING a copy of my upcoming album in advance to help guarantee that we can make hard copies of the album and promote them on radio. All sales will be made through PayPal, and I will begin accepting requests and sending invoices this week, although I ask that nobody pay their invoices until October 15, as I want to know that I have enough presages guaranteed to make the run, or I will cancel all invoices.
Also, as a reminder of what you'll be hearing: We paid tremendous homage to early 70s Brit rock on this endeavour, so you are going to hear songs that remind you of Ziggy Stardust era David Bowie or T Rex, Peter Gabriel era Genesis and Yes and ELP, The New York Dolls, Yellow Brick Road era Elton John, and so much more. We got really, really weird on some of the tracks; we got goofy funny on some of them, and dead serious in others. There are songs that are about as dark as you'll find, some that are flat out silly, and others that tackle some heavy subjects in a sufficiently satirical, tongue-in-cheek manner as to make you laugh. During our time in the studio, I made certain to maintain my British affections as often as possible to maximize authenticity. Oh, and there's an ORIGINAL CHRISTMAS SONG! How much more could you ASK for????