Saturday, February 20, 2016

An Anniversary Revival!

Well, folken, the anniversary of my debut EP has come and gone! I probably should have written an article yesterday, on the actual date, and promoted the anniversary party (which could, in effect, still be going on; it's entirely up to you) here on the blog, but I spent the day promoting all the goodies on social media while doing a little networking. However, I'll still be sharing all of what went on, as well as making some announcements, and maybe sharing an anecdote or two. Probably the most relevant bit of anniversary-themed background that I shared on social media yesterday is this: two years ago, on February 18th, 2014, I was discharged from hospitalization for nearly needing (in fact, qualifying for) a liver transplant due to alcohol abuse. Now, I love drinking, and I did it to excess, but I don't consider myself an alcoholic. What I was (and still am, to a degree) is suicidal, and I was going a slow route in killing myself. I knew what I was doing and I knew that I was dying. I was okay with that. I wanted to die, and I was doing it on my terms, in the most enjoyable way I knew how. However, I was forced into hospitalization against my will, and the results weren't pretty. We're talking about vomiting and shitting blood, with no control over my bowels, as they were drying me out. Due to an outbreak of flu, the hospital was overfull and I was in the ER for two days before I was given a proper bed in a proper room. All in all, I was in the hospital for ten days, then released to the care of my mother, who was determined to never see me touch a drop of alcohol again.

There was lasting damage, to my mind and body. I was angry. I didn't want to survive, and now I could barely walk due to neuropathy, and my mind was functioning as if it was permanently in an alcoholic stupor. But without much choice in the matter, I lived and I started an arduous process of training my mind and body to function again. Some of the damage has been permanent. I still have neuropathy in my hands and feet, and I exist in constant pain, without being able to walk very far before its unbearable, and my fingers stiffening up and crying out at the tap of a screen if I use them for any sort of task that requires dexterity for long, the latter being the reason why I can't perform as a live musician.

During the first year out of the hospital, I immersed myself in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series of books and otherwise entertained myself with computers and television, my mother's iPad never being far away, with Sudoku and word games helping me to retrain my brain to function. The following winter, I began to lament that I could no longer function as a musician. Before, I sang as a front-person for multiple metal projects that never quite got off the ground, and I also sang solo and a cappella as part of spoken-word performances. I also played piano and guitar proficiently. None of these were things I was going to be doing again any time soon. Part of the lasting damage done was to my voice. Throwing up so much blood will abrade your throat and damage the tiny veins that run through your esophagus, and to this day I still periodically have a scope shoved down there to check for any bleeding and take preventative medication (that, fortunately, doubles as anxiety medication!). So, my singing voice is pretty shot, especially compared to what it used to be. It's come back somewhat, two years later, but I'm afraid it will never be the same again.

But I'm getting away from myself. That winter, I began playing around with programs for creating music electronically, some available as touch-screen apps with virtual instruments so I could also work on my dexterity. With nothing left to lose, I decided I was going to electronically compose an album, and I was even going to release a digital record. And that was how the idea for Nothing Left To Lose (an album that remains in my future) and (the far-more-immediate EP) Progress Report was born, Progress Report being just that - a report of my progress after hospitalization, which was released one year and one day after being discharged. The decision to release Progress Report on the 19th rather than the 18th was wholly influenced by the Dark Tower books, as 19 is a very significant number throughout those novels. If you've read the books, you'll also note that a large part of The Lady's public persona (which uses words and phrases like "folken" and "say thankya") is influenced by those books.

And that's my share about just how significant Progress Report and its release date are to me. A year since it's release, I have shared above with you an Anniversary Spin on that EP, which has turned into more of a mini-album (as I guess my seven-track EPs already technically qualify as) with its two extra tracks. For this anniversary release, I decided to compile my favorite incarnations of the songs from the original EP that have been released over the past year, and I threw on a couple of bonus surprises. Not much of a surprise was the track "Progress Report," which I shared that I was working on along with a SoundCloud release of an earlier version two months ago. More hey-check-this-out-worthy is the Higher Gain Mix of "Momentum," which came around for the sole purpose of being shared on this record, and "Inglorious Wrath," a new take on "Vainglorious Wrath" that came into being (after a miserably failed first attempt) for both this record and part II of my anniversary gifts to my audience, Revival.

Of course, I'd been thinking about doing Revival for a while, and the anniversary was a nice excuse to move forward with it and also have a release date set. I think the most important reason for moving forward with this record was probably to finally put a finished version (as opposed to the "demo" that's on The Hypnotic Jamboree) of "Hell is for Reels" out into the world. It made me finally sit down and attempt rerecording those violin tracks, which I had been too intimated to try for far too to long. I wasn't going to release a "finished" version of the song without doing so, and I finally did it, and I'm much happier with the results than the strings on the demo. In fact, I'm mush more pleased with the song as a whole. I not only rerecorded those fiddle bits, but also some of the cello and drums, and I wrote and recorded a whole lot of new instrumentation - most notably some synths to give the song a post-industrial feel to it, as opposed to being such a straightforward folk-rock tune. I've ignored that the demo even exists since finishing this recording. I'm just so freaking happy with it! I think it's beautiful, and I'm a little anxious to release it on, as it was the most popular tune of mine on that website for quite a while. Hopefully, the new version doesn't overwhelm the site and make it explode. Just kidding. I do kind of hope that happens.

Also notable on Revival is "Odd Gastropod," which is an alternate spin of sorts on "Trip-Hop Thing." I wanted to do a remix of "Trip-Hop Thing," but that song doesn't lend itself well to such an attempt, so for the most part, I just rewrote the drum tracks and added some instrumentation - again with the post-industrial synths. I like the finished product. I wouldn't go as far to say as I like it better than the original song (though I do like the title better), but it's not a bad attempt at a different version. All in all, it's just that: different.

And, of course, Revival makes public (finally; it seems as though in my personal world - of which I include Patreon in quite a bit of, musically speaking - it's been around forever) the final release of "They Delving," version 3.33 (which has already been remastered for its inclusion on Revolutions). With some of the vocals rerecorded (and even some vocals removed) and the addition of quite a bit of electric guitar, as well as some synths, this final version is quite a bit more metal than the previous versions. This song has always been intended to be classified as "industrial," which feels more appropriate now that it can be pretty safely categorized as "industrial-metal." I'm thrilled with it. I don't even want to look back at any of the other versions any more, except maybe version 3.0, which is the sin palabras version. It sounds quite good (sometimes, to my ears, even preferable) as an instrumental.

Part III of my anniversary gifts is the release of a new song for free streaming, which sort of ties in to one of my announcements, and also ties in to my anniversary gift to Patreon Patrons. This song was intended to be on Revolutions, but no matter how I tried to shift around the order, it just didn't fit with the other songs, so here it is, before the album is even released, the "lost track" from Revolutions, "Ideally."

Well, "before the album is even released" is only half-true, as my anniversary gift to Patreon Patrons was an Artist's Edition of Revolutions! As has become usual for the Artist's Editions, it has individualized track art unique to this release, along with a PDF booklet of album art and liner notes. As is becoming usual for these editions, I've added bonus tracks - three this time, as opposed to the two that were added on to Jaded! This was to give the release a total of nineteen tracks, which, or course, was the magic number of the day. Also, all three of those tunes fit beautifully among the others that I am hesitant to go back the original sixteen-track listing for the public release; but I will, to keep faith with my Patrons.

Now, I have some really big announcements to make about some changes that are being made. As it has been a year now that I've tried being a primarily non-commercial artist, it's been time for me to take a step back and examine how well that's been working for me. The answer: not very well at all. My hope was that people would have enough respect for the art that I produce, and for musicians in general, that I wouldn't have to require payment for my music. That people would buy music when they were able to, or at least leave a tip here and there, no matter how small. I've been sorely disappointed, but after thirty-three years of being disappointed by people, this was to be expected. However, being a person with anti-capitalist leanings, I had to give it a try, and all in all it was part of a larger business plan, which was to use this first year to gain exposure. I feel as though I have made a (small) name for myself, as I've exposed thousands of people to my music, and at least hundreds now have songs by The Lady anoNYMous in their music libraries. By stats from Jamendo, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and the fact that I'm now experiencing regular radio airplay, I feel pretty confident in this assumption. But speaking of Jamendo... Well, that site has been a large part of this decision. There has been over 7,000 downloads of my music at that site, and not a single person has tipped a single cent. At Bandcamp, I've fared better, but there's still been less than $0.09 USD paid per download, on average. Aside from Patreon, I've been experiencing the most revenue from my commercially-distributed music. And you've probably all heard how shitty royalties from streaming platforms are. Yet I want to make a living from my art, so it appears to be time to suck it up and shift away from being a non-commercial artist.

This means a restructuring of my business plan and how I release and distribute my music, and this largely means that I won't be able to release my music for free as much anymore, and that Snail Tunes will no longer be an entirely non-commercial enterprise. Fuck, I hate speaking this language so much: the language of "enterprise" and "commercial vs. non-commercial," the language of the corporate and the capitalist. But I have to start being more of a capitalist when it comes to my music. If I want to make a living from it, capitalizing off of it is exactly what I have to do. So now I gotta eat shit and like it. Well, I don't have to like it. I just have to learn how to swallow.

I'm thinking I'm going to be implementing this new structure with the release of Revolutions, and I'm thinking this new structure is going to go kind of like this: First, no more non-commercial EPs. Those are going out the window. I still want to cyber-busk and offer my music for free, but the EPs making it largely available before commercial distribution is going to be getting a bit of a reversal. Instead, there will still be non-commercial compilations, released after the music has been commercially distributed. The Snail Tunes EP will not go completely extinct, but those will now have a price on them. A low price. I don't think I can go lower than $1.00 per song on Bandcamp, but I can make the EPs available for a price that makes the per-song average less than $1.00. These EPs will also be distributed through Distrokid, and therefore will be made available for free streaming on commercial streaming platforms. I'll also still be making songs available for free streaming on SoundCloud and on YouTube as I'm promoting the EPs. The EPs will be leading up to commercially-distributed albums, and then, after I'm done doing my promotional rounds for those albums, I'll be releasing non-commercial compilation albums that will, unfortunately, not have all the new music available on the preceding album, but will have most of it. The compilations will be of material from the EPs, but not any new music from the albums. This way, my music will still eventually be made freely available for streaming and download, but all those willing to pay to support my art will have first dibs on downloads, and there will be further incentive to buy the music. I plan to still release free bonuses for my audience at the Snail Tunes store, such as the above "anniversary gifts," but they'll be few and far between.

This, of course, means things will be changing on how I charge and reward my Patreon Patrons as well. Mostly, things will remain the same. $10 Patrons will still be charged per EP, but receiving albums and other bonus content for free. This will be more evenly matched at The League of Extraordinary Snails, where the price of per-month membership will likely be affected (meaning, most likely it will be going up). I'm not quite sure how $5 and $1 Patronage will be affected. I'm going to be restructuring some of this and learning new things while implementing new ideas as I go along.

I hope y'all understand just how hard this is going to be for me. As I'm writing, I've already made mostly completed track listings for the next two non-commercial Snail Tunes EPs, and the track lists for both are exciting for me to look at...and I'm going to have to scrap them. I really enjoy making my music as freely available as possible, and therefore as widely available as possible. But there's just no way I can afford to devote this much time and energy to my music while getting next-to-nothing in return. If I want to continue having music as this large a part of my life, I have no choice. And if I can possibly make a living doing what I'm doing, that's what I'm going to pursue.

Hopefully, this is understood and sympathized with. Because I hope to retain each and every one of you as my audience. I value you immensely, folken. That is the main reason I want my music to, in the end, still be freely accessible for streaming and download, and why that's been an important focus in this restructuring. I hope this all works out for the best!

We'll see, as our inner snails remain resilient and determined.