The Room Where It Happens
I wish I could get “in the room” and write a song every day. I’m not the machine I used to be. That’s Ok.
There is a season…and a time to every purpose…
These days, I’m putting time aside to make soup, to practice yoga, for retail therapy (although I’m constantly delighted to discover just how little I need…a couple of white t-shirts—preferably James Perse—and 2 great pair of jeans), for praying for the spirit of my country (this says a lot for a girl who’s not sure about God), and…Advocacy—Giving back. Helping a new generation of music makers go forward with enthusiasm as well as responsibility. This is done in ‘another room.’ Very often a classroom.
On behalf of my grassroots advocacy group SONA, Chris Horvath and I ventured downtown to USC last week to visit Chris Sampson’s Careers in Music Class. Wow. These kids are Sharp. They're not being coddled or made to feel their future as a rock star is guaranteed especially in an industry that has faced so much disruption, yet they’re optimistic and haven't lost their passion or the plot: to write something someday that shifts the Universe is some small (or large) way.
It’s not easy telling millennials that we used to earn two hundred thousand bucks a year on album cuts. Singles were the cherry on top but the ice cream was pretty damn yummy (and sustainable) as well. That said, Chris and I are determined to encourage students to follow their bliss while we simultaneously shine some light on realities, work arounds and the potentially positive changes on the horizon. I think we’re doing a decent job cuz look at these faces. Does it look like we're bumming them out?
Maybe that's because, those of us who thrived in the gold rush feel the economic effects of a digital delivery system more acutely. See it’s always been digital for millennials. So, they're not cynical. Hopefully they'll stay this way.
USC students are quite aware of what’s going on with the imbalance in today’s music licensing system. One big problem, as one student confessed, is that they’re being shamed into believing they should “give it away” for free. Or for way below market value, while the very entities that are telling them to do this are raking in millions from the “free” music. Kids are being told that simply having the opportunity to make music is a privilege and they're foolish to protest the inequities....that they're not seeing the big picture. I strongly do not concur.
You wouldn’t walk into a restaurant and expect a free meal in exchange for spreading the word to your friends. By the time the restaurant gets hot they’ll be out of business.
I am aware of what Satchel Paige said: "Work like you don't need the money." I get it. While in the divine process of birthing a song, it behooves us to do so unconditionally. But when it's completed and sent out into the world heed ASCAP:
"American songwriters and publishers deserve to be paid fair market value for the use of their musical compositions, just like any other small business owner is for the use of his or her product."
Never forget that, dear millennials. Do not let them shame you.
On the upside, music streaming subscriptions are on the rise. With that and the potential boost in rate per 100 streams, as a result of the CRB hearings earlier this year, future hard copy royalty statements may soon be a little thicker. Sadly, still no album sales, but that ship has sailed. What we want is a fair ride on the ships that are still sailing.
I love young faces. College campuses. Skateboards. Limitless possibility in the air. I want to be part of the movement that helps make those possibilities possible. Perhaps it’s a different road than I traveled but even a detour should eventually lead to the same bliss, sense of accomplishment and livelihood.
Next up on my travels…The Neverland Songwriting Retreat in Costa Rica where I’ll be mentoring another group of hopefuls. I know I know, life is hard….Costa Rica. But it is another week “out of the writing room.” It’s worth it though…even if it rains (barring a hurricane). It’s another room where something else…something very important…happens.
SONA is happy to pay a visit to your school. Let us know if you’re interested and we will try our best to get there. Especially if you’re in the LA area. :)
Thanks for reading. Sign up for SONA. We need your support. Sign up for this Blog. Find me on my Serial Songwriter Facebook Page or Twitter or Instagram. Check out my whole website. Read my book! or Listen to my book on Audible! Much thanx!
Shelley Peiken, SONA Steering Committee