World-obscure

Published 26 Jul 2021, last modified 26 Jul 2021

I recently released my second album of music, Point Mass, on a variety of digital platforms. I’ve written before about how, at this point in my life, music is a passion and a creative medium more than it is a business for me, but I’m going to talk about it as if it were a business for a moment so I can break down some things I find interesting about the analytics I’ve seen.

Uploading my music to a distributor has given me an interesting look at my music stats. From a business perspective, they’re abysmal right now cumulatively, it seems my music is only streamed a handful of times on any given day. Plague sold a few copies in the wake of its appearance on Bandcamp’s “New and Notable” feature, so that now I’ve made nearly US $50. Considering the money that I spent to get started (MIDI controller, some VCV Rack plugins, and supplies for a DIY audiocassette release I abandoned at the last minute when I realized my cassette deck was busted and would be too pricy to repair or replace) my music is still definitely a net financial loss. And no one has yet bought my new album Point Mass or its tracks on Bandcamp. However, from streaming on other platforms it seems I’ve made US $0.28…

So I think it’s fair to call my music obscure at this point, where I’m just getting started, but the funny thing is that it seems to be obscure in a global way; it’s world-obacure! Youtube Music and Spotify report streams from cities around the world, but so far the most interesting picture I have of my music’s global reach is the Shazam analytics provided by Apple Music for Artists. My understanding of Shazam is that it identifies music from ambient sound around the device on which it was installed, so if someone’s phone detects my music playing nearby it will get reported here. That’s a little bit creepy for my taste, but in theory it should provide me a sort of sampling of the aggregate transmission of my music, via one of the streaming services or via download it from the Internet Archive or Jamendo where I also posted it or whatever. Shazam reports that my music has been detected in 32 cities across all of Earth’s continents except Antarctica, including Tampa, Bogotá, Barcelona, Nairobi, Vladivostok, Huế, and a suburb of Melbourne. For most of my life I haven’t had the means to travel to any of these places (except maybe Tampa), yet somehow my music has visited all of them. I wonder how my music came to these places and how it was received. Did someone who bought my music on Bandcamp send it to a friend in Nairobi? Did someone hear my music because a shop-owner in Huế left YouTube Music running in the background? Did it affect their mood—just a little, not enough for them to remember it specifically later?

I wonder, too, if people perceive even roughly the same emotional aura about my music that I do. My music distributor has an AI tool that analyzes various aspects of a track, and one of them is an attempt to quantify its emotional valence. Most of my tracks, even some tracks I think of as abundantly joyful, are categorized by this AI as angry or sad with a high degree of certainty. After I uploaded Point Mass to Jamendo, its slow, spacy piano-and-synth ambient tune “Standard Candle” was somehow tagged with #angry and #deathmetal. Is this just AI not understanding the niche genre space I’m working in? Or do other human listeners perceive the pieces I think are merely reverent or even euphoric instead as sad, or as angry death metal? It’s a bit of an unknown for me because so far I have only a little direct feedback on my music to go on.

I’m hoping that, over time, I can engage more people with my music by uploading more videos to YouTube demonstrating my techniques in VCV Rack; watching such videos is a popular way to learn the software. But I’m in no particular hurry to make that happen now. I’d rather focus on the craft of my music and let that guide me toward gradually making more of these interpersonal connections with listeners and fellow musicians. I feel that Point Mass Is a more consistent, straightforward album than Plague. That’s why I haven’t posted long, detailed longer notes about the new album here; the music speaks for itself. And yet, it hasn’t gathered nearly the same attention that Plague did at this point, over a week post-release. I’m not sure why that is. I feel like I’ve talked about it and shared it in most of the same places. But it doesn’t work me too much.

Anyhow, I’m not going to be able to focus much on my music for a little while. The plan we had developed, to buy a big “fifth wheel” RV to live in full-time, had fallen through for a few reasons, though we still have the truck we bought for that purpose. So now, instead, we’re moving into a house, one with enough space to comfortably accommodate our growing family. In order to find such a house within our budget we had to look beyond where we’re currently living, in the Merrimack Valley. After two failed attempts to buy a house in Central and Western Massachusetts, someone accepted our offer to buy a house in the Greater Hartford area, so if all goes well over the next few weeks we’ll soon move to Connecticut, two hours from here by car. The whole process is incredibly unnerving.

There are a few new directions Is like to try with my music in the nearish future. One is to try working vocals into my music. I haven’t felt inspired to do this lately and in this crowded apartment I haven’t really had a suitable place for recording them. But I think it could add something to my music now and then. I might also like to try learning a more general-purpose digital audio workstation, like Ardour. And the big, daunting thing I want to try is building a collection of semi-generative VCV Rack patches to perform live, at local coffeeshops or something, and start looking for occasional live gigs like that. I’ve never really done anything like it. It’s all enough to make my head spin.


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