from Sam Rosenthal:
Thoughts at the end of the tens.
Today is that "holiday" launched by AmEx in 2010, Small Business Saturday, where we go out and support a small business or two. Well let me tell you, Projekt is small. Very small!
Projekt is almost as small as it gets. The staff is:
Sam (me) — (not quite full time) — I communicate with the artists, design the album covers and other graphics, keep on top of the physical production schedule, email the distributors (Hi Sebastian, Mike, Scott, Tracy, Rob, Sue, others), communicate with many of our press contacts, update Projekt’s Bandcamp store, post a portion of our social networking, update the website, write album bio copy, and look out over the bow a year into the future for an idea of where the industry is headed.
Joe — (a few hours a week) — fulfills your orders at the Projekt webstore.
Shea — (a few hours a week) — posts the rest of the social networking, updates the reviews on the website, proofs the copy I write (but not my email lists, which is why there are always those damn typos), and is my trusted sounding board (She’s worked at Projekt since 2001!)
We’re a small business, and that leads me to what I’m thankful for.
I’m thankful for you, and your love of music… hold on… I have to do some business before I continue with what I’m thankful for…
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Right. As I was saying…
I’m thankful for you, and your love of music! I’ve run Projekt as my full time job since 1991. For 28+ years your love of music has put a roof over my head, food in my belly, and helped me pay the costs of raising my son. It’s pretty great that we’ve been doing this for each other all these years!
Projekt began as a hobby when I entered college in 1983; the label grew out of my fanzine, Alternative Rhythms. Do you watch Stranger Things? I’m the same age as the older kids like Jonathan, the non-conformist photographer. That show does a good job of showing what it was like to live in non-big-city-America in the mid-80s (except we didn’t have to deal with The Upside Down where I was from.) I popped over to youTube to find a video of Jonathan and synchronicity brought me the perfect clip for this blog. In it he’s giving his younger brother a mix tape. They’re listening to The Clash and Jonathan says, "All the best stuff’s on there — Joy Division, Bowie, Television, The Smiths. It will totally change your life!"
Honestly, that’s exactly the reason I made the fanzine and started Projekt — I really loved music and wanted to expose other people to it.
Back in the 80s and well into the 90s, we didn’t have the internet to expose us to interesting music from around the world. It took dedication to find underground sounds. We read magazines, listened to a cool local college DJ if our town had one, went to dance clubs, and if we were lucky there was a cool record store where the owner got to know our tastes ("Yes, Leslie, of course I want to special order a copy of that Mick Karn/Peter Murphy 12-inch!")
Exposing people to great music is what I did and continue to do.
I know it’s easy to stream music these days; people are buying less and less. I’ll fess up, I’m one of those streamers. Streaming brings in around 50% of Projekt’s income and it grows every month. Streaming does pay!
If you’re a digital fan, it helps that you go to the Projekt Bandcamp page to purchase a download, and/or chip in when there’s a new name-your-price release. That money ads up to royalties for the artists you love. In fact, right now there’s a new release, Christmas Nocturne by Sue Hutton and Athan Maroulis. It’s a name-your-price holiday download!
As many of you know, I’m the songwriter/bandleader of Black Tape For A Blue Girl. Since 2013 (when I moved from Brooklyn NY to the more-reasonably-priced Portland Oregon) I’ve put more time into my own art. It was hard in NYC — working as much as I could at Projekt to bring in income, raising my son, AND trying to find time for music? It was too hard to do it all. I know everyone has different economic realities, for me Oregon is a less-expensive place to live; this has lowered my financial stress and I take more time to make art. It also helps that I have 67 very cool patrons who contribute towards my music-making expenses.
It takes time and money to create music.
Back in the beginning of this decade, I used to argue with people on Facebook (and in email) about how piracy & illegal downloads hurt artists because it deprived them of income they needed to cover the costs of creating (let alone paying the rent.) I’ve long since given up on arguing with people on social networking (that was a pretty annoying way to spend time, wasn’t it?)
In a sense the battle was won by Spotify, Pandora and YouTube. Streaming took over, and much to my surprise it seems Daniel Ek was right — streaming reduced the piracy problem, while sending money to artists. Count me corrected!
Now we’re in the last weeks of this decade (!!!) and I understand that the problem of fans buying less physical releases is going to be solved when artists (1) catch up with the modern age and accept what is changing (and has already changed) and (2) embrace new ways to bring in income.
Projekt has a couple of artists with the success necessary to work full time on their music. However, most of the musicians I know create on a very part-time basis. That’s sad when you think about it. There could be a lot more great art if musicians were able to work less at their income-producing job, and more on their art.
It turns out I am a (Democratic) socialist. I think society would be much better if the billionaires didn’t have quite so many billions, and their hoarded money wasn’t sitting in their 3rd mansion and stocks. It would be better if that money was equitably shared in the system. This isn’t just to benefit people I know, it’s to benefit you. I doubt you’ve got a billion, or even a million, or probably even fifty-thousand, socked away that you’re not using. You could probably use a little more of a fair share, and some security, right? I hope one day we have Health Care For All and a Basic Income for everyone, so if you want to get out of the grind of that day job and start the business you’ve been dreaming about — well, you can take the leap and try. I was fortunate that I didn’t have crushing college debt, and I was healthy. I could chuck the job in 1991 to focus on Projekt. The label was growing and it needed me to take the risk to be there full time. Nowadays, how many of us can follow our dreams?
Economically, that’s not easy at all!
I hope that things change in 11 months and we get new leaders with a desire to help the people rather than the rich. Oh, yes… another thing I’ve learned is talking politics here on the list pisses people off. I’ll just say: let’s all get along and be good to each other. I’ll be thankful for a time when there’s more love and compassion, and less divisions and us-against-them.
And that’s my Thanksgiving message of hope (and despair — yes, I’m GenX. I have a healthy dose of skepticism and cynicism.)
Somebody will inevitably email me and tell me off — that’s not going to wreck my day. After I realized life wasn’t a tragedy, but a farce, it got a bit easier.
Speaking of governing the right way — Ryan Lum (formerly of Love Spirals Downwards and of LoveSpirals) is running for Long Beach City Counsel. If you’ve loved their music and you’re a progressive that wants to see positive change, pass a donation his way: https://ryanlum.net/
So….. new topic…. I’ve made a video! My first new video in 6 years! It’s really nice. Please watch it…
black tape for a blue girl "In my memories" video at YouTube
I conceived, shot & edited this rumination on the passing of time, nostalgia, regret and loss with the help of my three great actors. Shot over the course of two year, it stars Dan Von Hoyel (vocalist/songwriter from the bands Harmjoy and Titans) and fellow adult industry performer Mercy West.
Watch “In my memories” off To touch the milky way.
Sam explains, "The piece began with a half-minute phone-video of Mercy splashing & diving underwater at a rubber fetish pool party. A few months later, a piano part I played in the studio felt to me like it was about ‘memories’ — those seconds of Mercy in the pool inspired the direction of the music and then the lyrics I wrote. It’s a character’s first person narrative thinking back to the summer when he was 23 and enjoying a nothing-special — and yet everything-so-special — afternoon with his lover. It moves me seeing the raw emotions Dan brought to his performance. How often do you see men cry in tv or film? In our culture, men are considered weak when they show feelings other than anger. It’s still not common for them to tear up and display their loss or sorrow. I like that we captured that; it gets to the core of the song.”
Next week I’m reprinting BlackTape’s The Rope T-shirt. If you’d like one, preOrder at the BlackTape Bandcamp page.
Projekt 20% Off Sale. Enter BF19 in the coupon code field during checkout at projekt.com. Sale excludes pre-order & new category items. Sale ends Friday December 6 at Noon EST.