My 2018 Music Year in Review

(This is from the 2018 Year-in-Review email I sent to my fans, family and friends.)

Things went well this year.  I played 20 shows, which is the most I’ve ever played in one year.  10 were with my acoustic band, Scupanon, 9 with my new rock band, Electric Poetry, one with both bands, and one solo show– at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival.  I reached a lot of new people with my music, and increased my fan base significantly.  (My email lists grew 27% this year.)

For the first time, instead of being a songwriting student, I taught a songwriting class at the Rocky Mountain Song School.  That went very well, and convinced me that I need to make music teaching a central part of my life.

You may remember that, in the Spring of 2014 I volunteered for a layoff from my non-music day job, in order to live off my savings for 2 years and focus on music.  I was able to stretch that 2 years into 3 3/4 years.  I went back to school and studied music theory, and took other music classes for two years.  In January of 2018, I took another day job and have been working that all year.  Because of that, I haven’t had as much time to devote to my songwriting, composing, and instrument practice that I would like. However, I did finish three new songs, “The Way,” “The Last Generation” and “You Don’t Know What You’re Missing.”

The time limitations imposed by my non-music day job, combined with the positive experience of teaching songwriting, has convinced me that I should transition from a non-music day job to a music day job;  that is, teaching.  In 2019 I plan apply for jobs as a guitar teacher at music schools and stores, and also teach songwriting.

In 2018, for the first year ever, I did not lose money at music.  I made a slight profit– $275 over expenses.  That may not seem like a big deal, but it is.  For the past 11 years, I have lost money at music– thousands of dollars a year.  A friend told me that I shouldn’t say I lost money;  I should call it “investing” in my music.  Well, I’ve “invested” $110,000 over the past 11 years, and I decided that it’s time  for a little ROI– Return on Investment.  In 2019, as I transition into teaching, this trend will continue to the point where I am making a living from music and can truly call myself a music professional.

I have written many new songs since my last songwriter CD was released in 2012.  I have plans for 3 new EPs.  One will consist of the new acoustic songs I’ve been playing with Scupanon, another of the new rock songs I’ve been playing with Electric Poetry, and one of the more out-in-leftfield rock music that I put under the Total Flower Chaos label.  The main problem, of course, is funding.  A couple years ago, I started The Misfit Club, so that fans can contribute to my recording projects.  I hope to grow the Misfit Club in 2019 so I can get one of these projects going.  Misfit Club members get access to demos of my new songs, such as the ones I listed above.

When I’m not doing music, I’m reading– novels, poetry, history and musician biographies and autobiographies.  Also hanging out with friends, and taking care of my flower garden– although that has been sadly neglected the past year due to the day job and all the music work.  I managed to ski and hike a handful of times last year.

Please reply if you want details on any of this stuff.  I always love hearing from my friends and fans.  I’m very excited about 2019, and I hope you all have a great 2019, too.

Happy New Year!

(If you’d like to join my email list and stay up-to-date on all my musical endeavors, just send an email to rob@robroper.com.

-Rob Roper, December 31, 2018

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New Song, “The Way”

The Way
by Rob Roper  July, 2018

You dared to resist
You blew ’em off with a kiss
You could have stayed in the shade
But your heart would have paid

You left behind a world of grey
You had to see the colors play
It was just a stop along
The Way

You slipped out of the trap
You set a match to your map
It’s the journey that counts
At least, that’s what I found

After much investigation
There are no destinations
Everything’s a stop along
The Way

You made it to
the other side
across the Sea of Hope
But everyone
said, “you’re not done.
Get back into the boat.”

You thought it was the journey’s end
Now you’re on the road again
It was just a stop along
The Way

 

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New Recording Projects

I want to record some of the songs I’ve written in the past 5-7 years, since I released “Misfit” in 2011 and “The Other Side of Nowhere” in 2012.  It’s true that I released “Word” and “Roses” by Total Flower Chaos in 2016, but “Word” was spoken word over rock music, and “Roses” was instrumental rock.  But I’ve written many songs since 2012 and have been performing them with my acoustic group, Scupanon, and with my rock group, Electric Poetry.  Some of them, I think, are my best songs.  And it’s not just my opinion– some of them get a big reaction when played live, and people tell me they really like the new songs.

My thinking now is that I’d like to record 3 different albums, each consisting of 5 songs, or maybe more.  They would correspond to what I’ve been playing in my two bands, Electric Poetry and Scupanon– and get the band members to record the songs– as well as the more out-there rock (musically and lyrically) that falls under the Total Flower Chaos category.

Here’s some potential song lists for each of the 3 recording projects:

Electric Poetry (Rock)
1.  3-Legged Dog
2.  Too Late
3.  Empty
4.  My Favorite Disguise
5.  Mama Had a Mohawk
6.  The Way (or include with Total Flower Chaos ?)

Scupanon (Acoustic)
1.  The Last Generation
2.  The Flood
3.  Disconnected
4.  I Didn’t Believe (acoustic version)
5.  3-Legged Dog (acoustic version)
6.  Too Much Traffic  (acoustic version)

Total Flower Chaos (Psychedelic/Hard Rock / Political)
1.  The Voice of Doubt
2.  Metadata
3.  Too Much Traffic
4.  I Didn’t Believe
5.  The Way (or include with Electric Poetry?)
6.  The Cure Goes Surfing
7.  The Neighborhood  (maybe)
Perhaps instrumental interludes between songs?

Of course, the reason I haven’t recorded any of these before now is the lack of funding.  I’ll have to figure that out.  Each of these projects will cost between $6000 and $9000.  Previous albums were mainly funded by me with income from my day job.  That’s no longer possible, or desirable.  See my previous blog, Making the Transition from a Music Hobbyist to a Music Professional.

That’s my thinking at this time.

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Foraging (Poem)

Foraging
by Rob Roper  Sept 4, 2018

The caveman
woke each morning
and set out
foraging for food.

So I
wake each morning
and tap plastic buttons
sending words through the air
and through wires
in return for food.

Nothing’s changed.

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Making the Transition from a Music Hobbyist to a Music Professional

It seems that I confused some of my friends and fans when I said in January that I had taken a day job.  Some thought that was a step backward.  Apparently some thought that I was already a music professional– making a living at music the past 4 years after I quit my previous day job.  But that was not the case.  Even during the past 4 years, my music expenses always exceeded my music income.  My savings from my previous day job not only paid my bills, but was subsizing my music.  So, even though I was doing music full-time, I was still essentially a music hobbyist from a financial standpoint.

2007:  Music Becomes my Career

It was in 2007 that I decided that music was my career.  Any job I had to pay the bills was now considered a “day job.”  From then on, when I met someone new and they asked what I did, I answered, “I’m a musician.”  I stopped identifying myself with the name of the job I did to pay the bills.  My career was music now.

However, from 2007 to 2017, I spent more money on music than I received in income.  I lost money on music each of those years.  Or, if you’re a glass half-full kind of person, you could say that I “invested” in my music career.  And I invested heavily– about $110,000– paid for by cutting my expenses and putting all income over my basic needs into music.

2018:  Semi-Professional Musician

At the beginning of 2018, however, I decided that I had “invested” enough.  It’s time for some ROI– Return on Investment.  So I set a goal for myself that, for the first time ever, I would no longer subsidize my music with income from any day job.  Music would have to stand on its own two feet and pay for itself.  This is a step away from being a hobbyist, and a step towards becoming a music professional.  I call this transitional phase being a music semi-professional.

It just so happened that my decision that music would now pay for itself coincided with my savings running out and taking a new day job.  Hence the confusion for some people.

Music Income vs. Music Expenses

It may sound like no big deal to say music income must meet music expenses.  But let me give you some numbers to show just how hard this is.

A typical gig this year with my acoustic group, Scupanon, paid $150.  Divided by 3 band members, that’s $50 for me.  The gigs were for 2 or 3 hours, plus and hour to setup the PA, and another hour to tear it down, and travel time.  It was typically 8 hours of work to make $50.  In contrast, I hired a lawyer to help me get out of a bad TV contract I signed back in 2011 out of ignorance.  One hour of the lawyer’s time cost $295.  So I had to play 6 of those $150 gigs, working about 48 hours, to make enough money to pay the lawyer for one hour of his time.

A gig last Spring for my rock band, Electric Poetry, paid us $2 for every person we brought to the show.  We brought 23 people, and so we got paid $46.  Divided by the 6 band members, that was not quite $8 each.  A new set of guitar strings for the guitar I played that night cost me about what I made for the gig.

So making enough music income to cover music expenses is not as easy as it sounds.

How Am I Doing in 2018?

I’m proud to say that I am meeting my goal in 2018.  With 3 months to go, my 2018 music income exceeds my music expenses.  Not by much– but I’m in the black.  I’ve never achieved that before.  12 years after deciding to make music my career, it is finally paying for itself.  It’s a big step forward for me.

I am achieving my goal thanks to 1) making tough decisions on spending; and 2) increased income from playing more gigs, and CD and T-shirt sales at gigs.

The Misfit Club and The Standing O Project

Another key to making my goal is the financial contributions of the Misfit Club.  This is mostly achieved by people subscribing to the Standing O Project and naming me as their favorite artist.  I have not yet had any fans sign up in 2018, but I’m hoping to get at least three more by the year’s end.

I urge you to subscribe to the Standing O Project, not just as a way of helping me and other musical artists, but to help yourself by discovering your new favorite artists.  Try it out for free by clicking this link:

Music Streaming That Supports Artists & Builds Community

Email me at rob@robroper.com if you have any questions about how it works and I’ll be happy to answer them for you.

-Rob Roper, September 23, 2018

 

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