Tag Archives: Rob Roper

Chasing the Dream, Part 2: The Mission

In my previous blog, “Chasing the Dream, 3 Years Later,” I reviewed my accomplishments over the last 3 1/2 years after I took a layoff from my IT job to work on music full-time.  In this blog– Part 2– I discuss what’s next– my musical mission– both musical and lyrical– and what type of music I want to play, and what type of bands I need to play that music.

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What’s next for Rob Roper music?  I gave this a lot of thought over the past year.  I decided to start at the top– the goal– and work down to the details.

What should be my goal?
Be happy.

What makes me happy?
Creating and playing music with and for people.

What kind of music?
Rock and folk.

Played how?
In a band.

Do you want to compose music, write songs, record or perform music live?
Yes.

Who is your audience?  Who does your music serve?
Misfits.

What is my Mission?

My mission is to create, record and perform music that I like, with and for other people, in order to serve my fellow misfits.

(You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to compose that one sentence.)

I first realized that serving misfits should be my musical mission back in 2010, while choosing songs for my album by that name.  Nothing has happened to cause me to reconsider that.  In fact, my views on that have been strengthened in these last years.  Scroll down to see my poem, “My People” elsewhere in this blog, written last May, see see how I define “misfits.”  If anything, I feel like I haven’t served my people well enough in the past.  I feel like I’ve been too conservative, both musically and lyrically.  But that’s been changing over the past 3 years.  Have you heard my songs, “I Didn’t Believe?”  Or “Metadata?”

What is Misfit Music?

Non-mainstream, original, interesting rock and folk, mixed with other types occasionally.  Musically, I strive to combine various musical genres I like into a unique style.  I want it to be difficult for people to describe my music.  Lyrically, I like lyrics about both personal and social/political struggles, done with good emotion and sometimes humor.

Solo Artist?  Or in a band?

Although I enjoy playing my songs solo at times, I prefer playing with other people.  This is true whether I play in a rock group or an acoustic group.  I just like the interplay of the different instruments and musicians, and how they add to the song.

When I took up songwriting seriously in 2004, I did it mostly on acoustic guitar.  So when I started playing my original songs in 2007, it was done in the singer-songwriter or folk environment.

But for the past 3 years or so, I’ve focused on writing rock songs.  In 2016 I released two rock albums, Word and Roses.  Continuing to write rock music, and forming a rock band to play that music, is a top priority for this next year or so.

But don’t worry, my folk friends.  I’m still writing acoustic songs, and I will continue to play my acoustic music live.

So I need a minimum of two bands– one rock and one acoustic.

I have the acoustic band– Scupanon– which is violinist Paul Ermisch and myself, and whatever other musicians pass through.

My rock band has a name– Total Flower Chaos– but no band members yet.  I’m looking for them.  It’s been a little difficult, because the music is not mainstream and neither are my lyrics.  But I’ll find them.  I’m focusing on recording home demos of my new songs so other musicians will be able to hear my musical and lyrical vision for this band.

Meanwhile I’ve been having fun playing with 3 excellent rock musicians, Paul Webb, Sean Mullen and Jay Meikrantz, with my friend Janet Lipson on backing vocals.  They like my older songs from the Misfit and The Other Side of Nowhere albums, as well as some of my newer songs, like “3-Legged Dog.”  We’ve played two gigs so far and plan to play more.

Speaking of new songs, I have more than enough for a new album.  In fact, I have more than enough for two albums– one electric and one acoustic.  What I don’t have is funding.  Recording in a professional studio takes thousands of dollars.  I have enough experience now, after recording 5 albums in studios, to be able to estimate the cost pretty accurately now.  I have given a lot of thought to this question, and that will be the subject of Part 3 of this blog.

–Rob Roper, September 29, 2017

 

 

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Powerless

Powerless (poem)
by Rob Roper 1st Draft May 25, 2017

It’s a kangeroo court

Those in authority can lie
They can invent evidence
They can falsely accuse me of things
They can say I said this or that

What they say
is gospel truth
Whatever I say
is disregarded
Their lies are accepted
my truth is rejected

They can
convict me of crimes I didn’t commit
They can
take my money
They can even beat me
and they’ll get away it
they’ll win
They always win

Those in authority have always abused me
It’s happened over and over
all my life
And there’s nothing I can do about it
nothing I can do.

People say, “Yes there is!
You can unite with others
against the people in authority!”

But they never unite.
Nobody ever backs me up.
They leave me standing all alone
to fight the powerful
It’s a losing battle

For I am powerless
I am in the class of losers, the rejects

And you wonder
why I have no confidence
you wonder
why I have no hope
It’s the result of experience
lessons learned the hard way

This is what I’ve learned:
Superior force always wins
Justice always loses

I have no power
They always win
I always lose

always lose

always lose

always lose.

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My People

My People (poem)
by Rob Roper 1st Draft May 26, 2017

I have no use for the winners
The frat boys
now yuppies
with their careers
and families
Taking the baby out for a stroll
with their expensive pure-bred dog
(probably ordered him online)
and their boring mainstream clothes
mainstream haircuts
mainstream facial hair
according to the current fad
staring at their mainstream stupidphones
their boys and girls on bicycles with
training wheels
but wearing helmets anyway
living in their big yuppy triplexes with
3 living rooms
5 bedrooms
and 4 baths
where a small house from the 1950’s once stood
generic boring
shrubs and grass planted by
Mexicans
hired by
the developer landscape company
not a single flower to be seen anywhere
all neat and orderly
like their haircuts.
I have no use for these people.
They bore me.

Give me the losers
the misfits
the rejects
rejects
not because society rejected them
but because they rejected society.
Those who
worked odd jobs all their lives
and never had a career
because all careers seemed boring to them.
Those who never made it
due to lack of enthusiasm for “it”

Bring me the failures
those who have been searching all their lives
but never found it
The wannabe poets, artists and musicians
Well-read
with and a sick and twisted sense of humor
and a healthy dose of cyncism
who know that American politics is corrupt
and whose taste in music
is a rejection
of the mainstream
and an embrace of the subversive

These are my people.
People like me.

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New Poem “The Switch”

The Switch
by Rob Roper Jan 29, 2017

I used to think
I would never
be one of the prisoners
who dug his own grave
before being shot.

I would never
be one of those Jews
who meekly boarded the train
to the concentration camp
to be gassed.

No, not me!
I would have refused
to let them
degrade and humiliate me.
I would have said,
“Shoot me now, motherfucker!”
I would have died bravely
and with dignity.

But then I remembered.

“Get me a switch,”
my Mom would say
after I had committed
some infraction.
(It seemed like this happened everyday when I was little.)

I would have to go into the backyard
and break off a branch
from a row of bushes
that divided our property
from the next-door neighbor’s.

I would strip the twigs off the branch
leaving nubs
that made it hurt even more.

Since it was green
it was flexible
so it would wrap around my legs a little
when she struck.

I remember thinking
the one advantage I have
is that I get to choose the weapon
of my punishment.
I remember
trying to figure out
which is better:
a long or short branch?
smaller or bigger diameter?
But I never figured that out.
I resigned myself to the fact
that they would all hurt about the same.

I would bring my selection inside
hand it to Mom
bend over
and she would lash me across the back of my thighs
no doubt
all the while
chastising me for my crime
whatever it was
whatever awful crime
a six-year-old can commit.

So now I know.
I would dig my own grave
I would meekly board that train

Because, afterall
I got my own switch.

Didn’t I?

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How the Streaming Revolution Impacts Music Creators

When my generation was young, we might live in a shitty apartment, with crappy furniture (or no furniture), and an empty refrigerator (except for beer) with payday still 2 days away. BUT… we had a kickass stereo! Same for our cars– our cars might be a total piece of shit, worth $400 at most, but we’d have a $1000 stereo in it. We had our priorities straight. Rock on!

Today’s generation of young people might live in shitty apartment, with crappy (or no) furniture, and empty refrigerator, and be late on their rent payment. BUT… they have a brand new $650 Android or iPhone, with a $100 a month cellphone service so they can listen to music and movies on their phone. They’ve got their priorities straight. Rock on!

This new way of listening to music is called streaming, because the music is streamed from a company such as Spotify, Apple or Google through a cellphone provider such as Sprint, Verizon or ATT. (Of course, you can also stream music to a desktop or laptop computer, or a tablet.)

Streaming is different from downloading music. With downloading, you pay for the song (or album), and download it to your computer or phone, it stays there, and you own it. With streaming, you don’t buy the song, it doesn’t stay on your computer or phone, and you don’t own it. That’s ok for streaming enthusiasts; they don’t care about owning the song, as long as they can hear it whenever they want.

But I don’t need to tell you about the benefits of streaming from the music consumer point of view. Instead, I want to talk about how the streaming revolution affects the artists who create and perform the music, and those who pay to have the music recorded and promoted (which, for independent artists, is the artists themselves). Do the music creators get the same amount of revenue from streamed music as they get from paid downloads or CD sales?

I’ll use my own streaming revenue as an example. It’s no different than other artists, regardless of how big or small. I use CDBaby to distribute my CDs as well as for my digital distribution. I checked my CDBaby internal sales page recently, and this is what I saw:

streaming_payments

If I click on details in the right column, then I get the precise payment, down to a fraction of a penny. My most recent sales were all by Spotify, but here’s a few examples of recent payments, by various streaming companies:

streaming_company_payments

As you can see, the amounts vary significantly, but most of the payments for streaming one of my songs are a fraction of a penny!

Let’s do the math here: if we take a typical Spotify sale of $ .0020, it would take 24,500 streaming sales just to cover the CDBaby distribution charge of $49. And that’s not counting the recording costs. My most recent CD, the Total Flower Chaos CD, cost about $8000 to make (which is fairly low cost CD.) At .002 a stream, I would need 4 million streams just to break even!

Now, here’s what a download sale looks like on my CDBaby internal page:

download_payment

And here’s what a physical CD sale looks like on my CDBaby page:

phy_cd_payment

As you can see, I get about 300 times as that much for a download sale, and about 3000 times as much for a CD sale, than I get for a streaming sale.

So you can see that we have a problem here. If the trend continues, and everyone were to listen to music purely by streaming, then it will be impossible for music creators to ever cover the costs of recording their music, much less make a living at it. And if we can’t afford to record our music, then it won’t matter how convenient the streaming technology is for music listeners– there won’t be any new music to listen to.

Now of course, some people still buy CDs. I do. I personally don’t like earphones or headphones, and I enjoy the higher fidelity of listening to CDs on my kickass home stereo. But CD sales have declined by half from their peak 10 years ago. The trend is obvious.

So what can be done? I am not in favor of fighting new technology that makes listening to music more convenient for some music lovers. Instead, I say, let’s make it work for those who create the music and pay the recording, distribution and promotion expenses.

Let’s pause here to dispel the myth that music is “free” when you stream it. To stream music on your phone, you’ll need a cellphone plan that has enough “data.” For example, Verizon recommends their 12GB plan for “heavy music streamers.” That costs $80 a month plus taxes and fees. You can also spend more for more data– up to $110 a month not including taxes and fees. If you only used a cellphone for text and phone calls– like I do– you could get by with my plan from Consumer Cellular for $22.50 a month.

So streaming music isn’t really “free”, is it? You’re basically paying about $60 a month to stream music. But that $60 isn’t going to the artists. It’s the middlemen– the streaming companies and cellphone companies– that are getting all the money.

Let’s make the streaming revolution work for both the music listeners AND the music creators.

The problem is that there are laws that specify the minimum amount songwriters and music publishers must be paid for every physical recording sold, such as a vinyl record, cassette or CD. But these laws were written long before streaming– in 1909. To correct the problem, the Songwriter Equity Act has been introduced into Congress, to update the act for the modern age. Read about it here– and please contact your Congresspersonality:

http://www.ascap.com/about/legislation/songwriter-equity-act

The folks at the radio show “Art of the Song” are tackling the issue in a different way– they have started their own streaming service called the Standing O Project, where they pay artists half of all the streaming revenue! They call it “socially responsible streaming” or “fair trade streaming.” I have joined this project and encourage you to do the same. Check out this video to see how it works:

If you want to join, and help support my music, you can go here:

https://www.standingoproject.com/artist/rob-roper

Now, when you plug your $650 Android into your Piece-of-Shit $400 car with the kickass stereo system with a subwoofer, you’ll not only discover new music, but you’ll be helping musical artists cover our expenses. Rock on!

-Rob Roper, October 5, 2016

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