Thanks for Supporting Indie Musicians

Back on 1 May 2020, Bandcamp waived its commission on musicians’ sales for the day.  A number of you dug deep and picked up my discography, which was a big help at a time when musicians are running low on funds.

Bandcamp repeated that commission-free day in June, and is doing so again today, Friday, 3 July 2020.  It’s a great time to pick up my discography.  If you’ve already done so, and enjoyed my music, consider forwarding this post to friends and family that might enjoy my work.

If you didn’t enjoy my music, well, that’s fine, too—go ahead and forward this post anyway!

Regular readers will recognize most of the information below from that 1 May 2020 post.  My apologies for another extended solicitation, but I do appreciate your support (and your patience with reading lengthy ad copy).

One other note:  next week marks #MAGAWeek2020, in which I will post daily about an American (or concept) who has, in his or her own way, made America great.  But those posts are SubscribeStar exclusives for $1 or higher subs.

Thanks again for all of your support!

—TPP

The TL;DR takeaway of today’s post:  times are tough for musicians, and you can help.  You can purchase my music on Bandcamp today (Friday, 3 July 2020) without Bandcamp taking their 15% commission.  You can also tip me directly via PayPal.  Finally, you can always support the blog—and enjoy exclusive weekly content—by subscribing to my SubscribeStar Page.

Bandcamp is waiving the commission it takes on sales of musicians’ work TODAY, Friday, 3 July 2020.  You can pick up my entire discography for $15.75 (or more, if you feel so inclined).  To purchase the full discographyseven releases in total—you can view any of my albums (like Electrock EP: The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse) and find a button/link that reads “Buy Digital Discography” (unfortunately, there’s no way to supply that link directly).

You can also send a digital tip to me directly, if you’re so inclined, via PayPal.

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Big Deal

A big story in media this week is Joe Rogan, host of the popular podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, has signed an exclusive deal with Spotify that could be worth over $100 million.

Joe Rogan’s podcast has been around since 2009, and features long (two hours or more) interviews with personalities from every background and occupation.  The long-ranging, free-flowing conversations (really, they’re more conversations than traditional interviews) make for great listening, and I suspect part of the key to Rogan’s success is that he offers something for everyone.  For example, I ignore most of Rogan’s content, but I’ll never miss an interview he does with any of the various figures on the Right, from Ben Shapiro to Gavin McInnes (persona non grata from Rogan’s show these days, unfortunately).

McInnes describes Rogan as a man with a “blue-collar brain,” but who is generally open to learning.  That is, he’s rather meat-headed and unsophisticated in his analysis, but he’s willing to discuss anything with anyone (Flat Earthers, for example, are regulars on his show).  His only real sticking point, until the SJWs targeted him, was marijuana.  He lost it on Steven Crowder for merely suggesting that copious consumption of marijuana isn’t completely benign.  Yikes!

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Lazy Sunday LX: Music, Part II – Gigging

The past week was largely dedicated to music, as Bandcamp waived the commission it takes on sales of musicians’ work on Friday, 1 May 2020.  All of those posts—which were essentially extended ad copy—may have helped remind folks to pick up my full discography (still just $15.75), so I appreciate your patience.

Even more than your patience, I appreciate your support.  As of this morning, ten of you—and I know every single one of you (thanks, family and friends)—purchased tunes, nine of those being the full discography.  At a time when the traditional avenues for musicians to earn money, like gigs and private lessons, have pretty much dried up, your support means a great deal.

Those ten sales are, I won’t hesitate to admit, the first I’ve made in a decade on Bandcamp.  Perhaps I could have twisted arms more tightly in the past, or my music is, ultimately, more forgettable (or, even worse, bad) than I care to admit.  But I’m listening to Electrock II: Space Rock again for the first time in a few years while writing this post, and it’s pretty dang good!

Regardless, given the momentum, I figured today I’d look back wistfully at past “Gig Days”:

  • Gig Day!” (and “TBT: Gig Day!“) – I wrote this post the day of a comeback gig at Crema Coffee Bar, a coffee shop in Hartsville, South Carolina in summer 2018.  I’d broken my wrist the prior Thanksgiving Week, and had largely let my music lapse, other than some occasional open mic appearances.  That summer, I arose like a phoenix, and began playing (and writing) again regularly for the first time in a loooong year.  This post covers my elaborate pre-show rituals in detail.
  • Gig Day II” (and “TBT: Gig Day II“) – This post was about my first big road gig since my broken wrist:  heading up to The Juggling Gypsy in Wilmington, North Carolina.  That gig came amid a great deal of chaos in my life, as my old apartment had flooded—again—and I was living (temporarily, thankfully) in a sleazy motel near I-95.  Talk about living the musicians’ life, eh?
  • Gig Day III” – I love Halloween.  October always seems to shoot by in a blur of busyness, so each October I try to slow down and appreciate the month (which, if we’re lucky, will occasionally feel autumnal).  To that end, I try to put on some kind of Halloween-themed show.  In 2019, that was my “Halloween Spooktacular” at The Purple Fish Coffee Company in Darlington, South Carolina.  It was (contrary to expectations) very well-attended, and my buddy John (twelve-string Takamine guitar) and my student Trystan (drums) sat in with me; it might for quite a show (including a lengthy cover of “Thriller” complete with jammy sax solo).

Well, hopefully live will return to normal-ish soon, and I can get back on the road.  I love playing gigs, from singing pop tunes in the background of an engagement party to standing on coffee tables singing “Delilah.”  Sometimes, I even get paid to do it!

Anyway, I’m off to play piano at church.  They’re broadcasting the service to people’s cars, so I will (apparently) be one of three people in the actual sanctuary, playing hymns from the digital keyboard as people pull up.  Sounds fun to me!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Support Indie Musicians

The TL;DR takeaway of today’s post:  times are tough for musicians, and you can help.  You can purchase my music on Bandcamp today (Friday, 1 May 2020) without Bandcamp taking their 15% commission.  You can also tip me directly via PayPal.  Finally, you can always support the blog—and enjoy exclusive weekly content—by subscribing to my SubscribeStar Page.

Bandcamp is waiving the commission it takes on sales of musicians’ work TODAY, Friday, 1 May 2020You can pick up my entire discography for $15.75 (or more, if you feel so inclined).  To purchase the full discographyseven releases in total—you can view any of my albums (like Electrock EP: The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse) and find a button/link that reads “Buy Digital Discography” (unfortunately, there’s no way to supply that link directly).

You can also send a digital tip to me directly, if you’re so inclined, via PayPal.

You can also purchase albums individually, either at their listed price or higher.  Here are my seven releases, in chronological order:

So, again, today Bandcamp is waiving the commission it takes on sales of musicians’ work.  That means every purchase made on the site from midnight to midnight Pacific Standard Time TODAY goes completely to the musicians (other than PayPal processing fees)—another 15% in our pockets.

The Age of the Virus has really taken its toll on musicians.  As I wrote last Thursday, a substantial portion of my income in 2019 came from music lessons and gigs—nearly 17% of my gross income for the year.  And as I wrote yesterday, we can’t really gig anymore, at least not in the traditional sense, due to shutdowns.

With The Virus holding full sway over us, shutting everything down, there are far fewer opportunities for musicians to earn a living—except by way of online album sales.

As such, Bandcamp sacrificing that 15% commission is a huge act of charity for its users.  It also means that it’s the best time to support musicians you lovelike me!

Bandcamp gives musicians the opportunity to sell their music in high-quality digital formats directly to fans.  One nifty feature is that artists can offer their entire discography in one go, often at a discount.

To that end, my discography—seven albums, EPs, and retrospectives, spanning fourteen years of artistic development—is on sale for $15.75.  All of it.

Another fun feature is that Bandcamp allows fans to pay more if they so choose.  Indeed, when I announced on my Facebook artist page that the full discography was up for grabs, two fans paid $20 for it.  Some artists have reported fans paying as much as $100 for a single album.  I don’t expect that kind of generosity, but, hey—dig deep.

Regardless, there’s never been a better—or more necessary–time to support indie musicians.  We can’t play gigs.  We can barely teach lessons (some folks are doing so online, but it’s just not the same).

So, any support you can offer is always welcome.  To purchase the full discography, you can view any of my albums (like The Lo-Fi Hymanl) and find a button/link that reads “Buy Digital Discography” (unfortunately, there’s no way to supply that link directly).

Of course, you don’t have to buy all seven albums—it’s just a good deal.  You can also buy individual releases, like 2006’s Electrock Music (ludicrously cheap at $1 for twelve tracks!) or 2007’s Electrock II: Space Rock (just $5!).

To recap, here is my full discography, which is only $15.75 if you buy it together:

And, remember, you can always tip me directly, or via my SubscribeStar page.

Thank you for your support!

—TPP

Counting Blessings

After writing yesterday’s blog post about our diminished prosperity, I was quite upset.  I am an emotional sort, given my brooding artistic temperament, and I should know by now that complaining about money and the state of the world will only work me up—or, perhaps, down—into a blue funk (or, occasionally, a purple rage).

So today’s post is meant to be a yellow counterpoint.  It’s easy for me to fixate on negatives.  That’s pretty much the nature of blogging and commentating about politics and culture.  And while I am optimistic for the future, I am a declinist:  I can’t help but notice that much of culture is, at best, a stagnant swamp (hiding away the occasional orchid); at worst, it’s swamp draining into a desert.

But enough that.  Today’s post is about counting blessings.

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Cass on Our Diminished Income

Way back in The Before Times, in the Long, Long Ago, before The Age of The Virus, Oren Cass presented a series of sixteen tweets, asking this question:  “How is that our economic statistics suggest workers have been making slow but steady progress in recent decades, while popular perception is that their family finances are coming under increasingly untenable pressure?”

Cass also wrote about the issue in greater detail in American Affairs and in a lengthy paper for the Manhattan Institute.  That question—why does it feel like it’s harder to make ends meet now, even though inflation is low and we’re wealthier?—is one of the gnawing concerns of modern-day America.

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Yet Another Monday Morning Appeal

If you don’t want to read all of this post and just want to get the point where you give me your money via my SubscribeStar Page, here is the TL;DR pre-summary of the post below:

  • For $1/month, you get exclusive posts every Saturday.
  • For $3/month, you get the exclusive Saturday posts, and one edition of Sunday Doodles each month.
  • For $5/month, you get exclusive Saturday posts and Sunday Doodles every Sunday, as well as random exclusive content.
  • You can also subscribe at $10/month or, if you’re just looking to give me money, $50/month.  I’ll probably come wash your car (or call you and talk politics and culture) for that much.  Yeesh!

Last week I made another appeal for subscribers to my SubscribeStar Page.  Not wanting to write about the coronavirusagain—I decided to break my self-imposed “once-every-six-months” rule to bring you another shameless appeal for your support, because it didn’t work last week.

To sweeten the pot, I’m going to include some of the whimsical doodles that, up to this point, only $5 or higher subscribers can view.  These are my Sunday Doodle posts, of which there are currently twenty-two editions.

Here is a sample of the instantly classic artwork you’re missing:

To make it even more compelling, I’ve introduced a new $3 tier, “Fried Bologna.”  At that level, you’ll get all the great SubscribeStar Saturday posts of the $1 level, plus one monthly edition of Sunday Doodles (along with the $5 subscribers).

To recap:

  • For $1/month, you get exclusive posts every Saturday.
  • For $3/month, you get the exclusive Saturday posts, and one edition of Sunday Doodles each month.
  • For $5/month, you get exclusive Saturday posts and Sunday Doodles every Sunday, as well as random exclusive content.
  • You can also subscribe at $10/month or, if you’re just looking to give me money, $50/month.

These are tough times, so any support you can muster is appreciated.  If you are already a subscriber, thank you so much, and please send forward this post to friends and family that might be interested.  If not, please consider subscribing—even $1/month helps immensely.

Thank you again, and have a wonderful Monday!

—TPP

TBT: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective

Last year marked the tenth anniversary of my unceremonious lay-off/non-renewal of my teaching contract.  It was the height of the Great Recession, and jobs were lean on the ground.  “Entry-level” positions called four a four-year degree and two-year’s (minimum) experience, yet holding an advanced degree was considered “overeducated” and could potentially disqualify an applicant for work.

It was the worst of all situations for a young man barely out of graduate school and just one year into his teaching career.  I was lucky, though, to have a good dad with a background in human resources and local government, who helped me find a decent job with the City of Sumter.  I was only out of work maybe three months, and had parents who were able and willing to support me during that period.

Even then, I was anxious to get out on my own again, not because I was chafing under my parents, but because I was keenly aware I was not being a man.  Instead of earning my own way in the world at twenty-four, I was living off the generosity of my parents.  That’s one of the myriad ways in which an economic downturn can take a spiritual toll on a young man.

Now it appears we’re on the precipice of another major economic catastrophe, this time thanks to the coronavirus and the stringent public health measures taken to slow its inexorable spread.  Things were really started to rev up again.  Even though the economic recovery began even as early as 2009, it didn’t feel like we were in a recovery until around 2017.  Trump’s election didn’t just buoy the stock market; it brought a sense of renewal, hope, and optimism to the United States.

Americans, especially younger Americans, don’t remember how bad the Great Recession was.  I feel for young college students who are just about to enter the workforce—I was there, too, not long ago.  I wish you could have enjoyed at least a few years of the good life.

On the plus side, we will get through this downturn, although I suspect it’s going to be far worse than the Great Recession.  We’ve never tried shutting off the entire economy before, then plugging it back in two weeks—or maybe a month, or three months—later.  Two weeks we may have seen things roaring back; maybe we will after a month.

But I can’t conceive of a rapid return to normality if it stretches much longer than that.  Small businesses are going to go under once they burn through their cash reserves.  The restaurant industry, along with the hundreds of thousands of waiters, cooks, busboys, hostesses, etc., it employs, is going to be changed for a long time.  That’s just one example among many.

I’m already feeling the effects on my private lesson business, which was booming before The Virus (although it was down a bit from its 2019 peak).  Right before The Virus hit, I had six consistent students at $30 per lesson, per week.  That’s not bad for supplemental income (at my peak, I had ten students, one for a $45 lesson, though I was only charging $25/lesson at that point).  Most of those cancellations are for the duration of The Virus, but once the plague has passed, the damaged economy will remain.  Some of those students will resume, but belt-tightening budgets are going to eliminate piano lessons fairly quickly, if I had to guess.

That said, I am blessed to have a steady job now, and will hopefully avoid any repeats of 1 April 2019.  The Great Recession left a mark on me, and it’s made me more prepared for this next downturn.

With that, here is 2019’s “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective“:

Today is April 1, 2019, popularly known as April Fool’s Day.  It’s a day for good-natured pranking and mirthful fun, a bit like a poor man’s Halloween.

This April Fool’s Day holds a particular resonance for me, however.  It was ten years ago today that, in the midst of the Great Recession, I lost my job.

Technically, my teaching contract was not renewed.  I still had an obligation to finish out the year, which I did as best I could, but I would not be coming back.

I remember it vividly:  my school’s former headmaster told me he wanted to speak with me.  I went into his office, and he told me a few things:  the school was consolidating my classes into fewer sections; the school desperately needed money (the enrollment was around ninety-five kids, and things were so tight they needed the $28,000 going towards my salary); and the economy was not conducive to private school fundraising and tuition.

He told me that, as I’d studied history (he, too, was a history teacher), I knew how these kinds of economic downturns went.  I thought he was mentioning this as a bit of cold comfort, a sort of, “don’t worry, it won’t last long, a[nd] you’ll be okay.”  Instead, he continued, saying, “this thing could last an entire decade!”  Yikes!  Way to kick a man when he’s down.

I knew (or, at least, I hoped—the day isn’t over yet!) that I’d never have the opportunity, grim as it was, again, so I said, “Wait a minute—this isn’t just some elaborate April Fool’s joke, is it?”  He said, stone-faced, “I wish it were.”

So, there I was, facing imminent unemployment in the worst job market since the Great Depression, with only one year of teaching under my belt and a Master’s degree in United States Trivia.

We forget, living in the wonderful Trump economy, how hard it was back then.  Jobs were not to be found.  Remember going to gas stations, and people would start polishing your hubcaps against your will so they could sell you the cleaner?  That’s how bad it was—people were hawking hubcap polisher at rural gas stations to try to make ends meet.  “Entry level” jobs required two years of experience, at minimum, which no one fresh out of college plausibly had (unless they’d wisely done some kind of internship or work study).

Fortunately, with some help and coaching from my dad, I landed a job at the City of Sumter, after only three months of formal joblessness.  I was quite fortunate.  I managed the Sumter Opera House, where I learned to run live lights and sound.  I also met some interesting people, including the comedian Gallagher (that used to be an impressive anecdote, but now few people under thirty know who Gallagher is; it’s a shame).  He was an odd bird, which isn’t that surprising, given he made a career out of smashing fruits with a sledgehammer.

That job turned into a grind—remember, if you had a job, you had to do pretty much anything your employer demanded, lest you face termination—but I learned a great deal, and it landed me back at my old teaching gig, under a new headmaster, in 2011.

That experience—being jobless in the Great Recession—left an enduring mark on me.  My first year teaching, I definitely phoned it in.  I worked hard on lectures, of course, but beyond a little club for musicians, I didn’t do much extra.

My first year back in the classroom, in 2011, was completely different.  I was teaching World History, Government, Economics, History of American Popular Music (a course I created), and AP US History.  I had to do prep for all of them.

I was astonished how much American history I’d forgotten since high school and college (a pro-tip:  studying American history in graduate school is more about reading overly-detailed monographs about obscure bits of the story of America; when I took my exams to finish my Master’s, I essentially used information I learned in my eleventh-grade AP US History class).  I would spend hours on Sunday afternoons at the Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina writing up lesson plans.

Then, I became the de facto sound guy for school events after a talented tech kid graduated (I named an award after him, which I give to students who assist with our concerts and plays on the tech end).  It’s the ultimate in job security—no one else knows how to do it—but it’s also a major obligation—no one else knows how to do it.

Since then, I’ve grown a decent side hustle teaching private music lessons.  I also teach courses at a local technical college, mostly online, but some face-to-face.  In 2014, I taught Monday-Wednesday evenings, first from 6-7:15, then from 9-10:15 PM.  I’d come home, exhausted, and fall asleep in my recliner.  Thursdays felt like Saturdays because, even though I still had two days at the high school, it was the longest possible point before a grueling sixteen hour Monday rolled around.

I save constantly for retirement—I make the legal annual maximum contributions to my IRA, 403(b), and HSA—and spend very little money.  I still drive the same Dodge Caravan that I’ve had since 2006.  I will occasionally splurge and buy digital piano, but my saxophones are falling apart (literally—my pawn shop alto sax has a key falling off).  I occasionally worry that, on that glorious day when I do retire, I won’t know what to do with myself if I’m not working.

All that said, I have done everything possible to position myself against another recession, bad labor market, etc.  April 1, 2009, seems now like a distant memory, but it could all come back.  I’m reminded of The Simpsons episode where some repo men are repossessing property from a failed Dot Com start-up.  One of them says, “It’s a golden age for the repo business—one which will never end!” as he lights a cigar with a $100 bill.

It’s easy to fall into that mindset.  I’m optimistic for the future, but I’ll never take prosperity or security for granted again.  Constant hustling—booking new gigs, picking up more students, getting more classes, working maintenance on the weekends, leading summer camps, collecting songwriter and publishing royalties—is what it takes.

The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 1973

Yesterday morning over at the blog Nebraska Energy Observer, NEO’s in-house guest writer, Audre Meyers, wrote a short, fun piece about prepping, “The Neo made me do it!,” in which she extolled the virtues of preparing ahead of time for disasters, rather then getting caught up in the frenzied mobs of panicked shoppers.  She wrote about some various and sundry items she needed to top off, including the increasingly-precious toilet paper, because “there are some things I simply refuse to do without!”

In reply, commenter “Scoop” referenced a similar toilet paper shortage in 1973 (and provided a handy link to a piece about the scare in a follow-up comment).  There’s even a documentary about it!

With the obligatory hat-tips squared away, let’s dive into this early 1970s TP shortage—one that mirrors our own mania for clean bums.  What is it about toilet paper—and the threat that it will disappear—that drives Americans to hysterics?

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