Sturgill Simpson: “I wanna hit Goliath in the forehead with a rock”

There’s so many gems in this Sturgill Simpson interview, nuggets of advice for any aspiring musician:

  • “If you pour your heart out and you’re honest with yourself and your human experience and your life, and you put that into music, you don’t have to be talented. … People will connect, and they’ll spread it for you. You don’t need radio. You don’t need some big machine throwing it out there. I’m living proof of that.”
  • “I want people out there that are in the position I was in four years ago to know that there’s hope. I wake up every day and feel like, ‘I wanna fuckin’ crush this game, without playing the game,’ just to prove it can be done. … I wanna hit Goliath in the forehead with a rock.”
  • “It took me this long to get right here. [But] this isn’t all I want, this isn’t all I know my music [can do]. I know that there are a whole lot of people out there that aren’t aware, that will connect with [my] music. … The industry’s not gonna give it to me. And at this point I don’t want them to. I’m going to prove to them I can do it. In 10 years I’ll be the biggest country star on this planet, I guaran-fuckin’-tee it. And there’s nothing they can do to stop that.
  • “I’ve got the Rocky heart, man. I’m gonna do it now out of spite. And I’m gonna go play rock ’n’ roll, too, and take all those fuckin’ people, and I’m going to build a little army. And you’ll come to my show, and it’ll be four hours long, and it’ll be an American music show. It won’t be a country music show, Americana music show or a soul music show. We’re gonna hit it all, we’re gonna touch it all, because I love it all. And I want to love everybody.”
  • “I wouldn’t change my experience for any other fuckin’ road that could have come, man,” he says. “Because I know that this is real, and the people that are with me are with me.”
  • Simpson later recalls being back in Utah, and how his wife — more convinced than he was that he had more than a hobbyist’s skill for singing and songwriting — urged him to leave behind his misery-inducing railroad job. And leave the $80,000 salary that came with it, to return to Nashville and take a real shot at music. “Thank God, she just leveled me one night: ‘You don’t fuckin’ suck at this. … You should share this and maybe try doing something you love with your life before I wake up and I’m stuck with some 40-year-old miserable asshole.’ ”
  • “It’s all about me struggling to get my foot in the door and figuring out how to land. I’ve landed now. I can’t really sit there and complain anymore. Life’s pretty good.  … But you still won’t see me on the fuckin’ CMAs.”
  • “If you ask me what I think about, what I stress about — it’s making the best fucking records that I possibly can. [If] I feel like I just kind of went through the motions and pumped out what I think people were expecting, to appease them and make them happy to sustain my lifestyle, [then] I’m lying to them.”

How Can We Make Music More Sustainable?

Vickie Nauman provided some great questions to start making music more sustainable.

We need companies and organizations investing and competing to be the best in each of these five areas:

(1) Great Music – which labels, publishers, management companies and organizations are best at identifying and fostering new talent?  Helping invest at different career levels?  Have the best accounting systems to track micropayments and ensure accurate metadata?  Who is helping the self-released artist?

(2) Engaged Fans – which platforms and services know their customers well enough to engage around music?  How can they encourage more listening and connect artists meaningfully with these fans?  How can an engaged fan turn into a high value fan for an artist?  How can we better serve tribes and casual fans

(3) Rights Data Management – who is optimizing modern technology so that rights data is simply a conduit to attribution and getting paid?  How can data that is in a state of constant change be cleaner?  Which practices need to be left behind, while new methodologies adopted?  Privacy need not be lost in the establishment of consistency and standards.  I dream of a future state for industry events without the need for metadata panels.

(4) Copyright Law – is it possible to have laws stay current with technology?  What will get core stakeholders aligned to foster protection that is better for the whole?  Short of massive overhaul, are there interim wins?

(5) Business – we’ve currently got a handful of multi-billion dollar companies offering legally licensed music to fans – this is a fantastic new baseline, but is it enough to sustain the entire industry?  Is niche, mid-tier, and back catalog music reaching fans and generating adequate royalties through the pipes to the niche, mid-tier and heritage artists?  How can we move to spur innovation while retaining value?  Are there other ways to grow now that the industry is somewhat painted into a corner with a value proposition of $9.99/month for every crown jewel ever created?

Source: Sustainability in Music — Rethink Music

Paul Krugman: “I would have expected the Internet to be a leveling force…But, so far, that’s not reflected in the numbers.”

There’s a really interesting interview with economist Paul Krugman in Billboard which includes this quote:

would have expected the Internet to be a leveling force, because you don’t have to be promoted by a major company to find your audience. But, so far, that’s not reflected in the numbers. That may be because the algorithms at companies like Spotify are not democratizing the field as much as I would like. Or it might be that people are all pretty much the same — and they all want to hear Taylor Swift.


The Internet has made music much more democratic for its creators (anyone can make music with a minimal amount of money and effort) and its listeners (you can find just about anything online). So why hasn’t that democracy spread i.e. to concerts and sales? Has music tech (Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, etc.) just codified a winner-take-all system?

Or do most people just want to hear Taylor Swift?


Krugman also raises a point about ticket prices:

If, say, we had to pay $25 for a ticket to see a band at Bowery Ballroom instead of $15, and the artist got paid a bit more, it’s probably true that the great bulk of the audience would still come. So, I shouldn’t knock it. Organizing could make the difference between not surviving and barely surviving.

And while I agree that one quick and easy way for artists to make more money is by raising ticket prices, I’m not sure that’s the best move here. Wouldn’t lowering ticket prices increase access so that more people had a chance to see the bands?

But I agree that organizing is important.


His last point is worth noting as well:

The fact that Canadian musicians have publicly funded health care is not trivial. Policies that help low-earning workers, like health insurance and minimum wages, lead to somewhat better income for [them]…The majority of artists do not make a living, or they barely scrape by.

We have to do a better job of supporting working artists in this country.


Interesting food for thought here. Any thoughts?

What If We Made Concert Venues More Fan-Friendly?

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“You are one of us”

This quote from Sean Agnew, a promoter in Philly, got me thinking about music venues and how they make money:

The idea is to get people to become fans of the venue so they want to come back, versus, “Oh, we can make an extra $4 if we charge them this fee at the box office.”


There’s a common misconception when you’re running a club that more is always better. More shows + higher ticket prices + ticketing fees + higher drink prices = more money, right?

The idea is that once someone has come into your venue they’re yours – stuck there for the three to five hours from when doors open until the show ends. A few clubs even charge ticket fees even when you schlep to the box office. A beer that was $4 a few years ago is now $7 and so on…


But what if you flip the script?

What if you book less shows, but they’re all quality shows? Wouldn’t your club is known for good music? And wouldn’t that help create a scene around your venue?

What if you kept ticket prices low so that more people could come? Wouldn’t the number of tickets you sold in a year increase?

And once the fans are there, what if you treated them not just like bodies in the room, but actual music fans? What if you made it comfortable for them to see the shows? What if your venue had good sound, good sight lines, and room to move around? What if you hired staff who are music fans too so they actually know what it’s like to go to shows? What if you started shows at reasonable hours and ended in time for them to take public transportation home? What if you offered free water so they could hydrate? And what if you offered late-night food options to help soak up the beer?

What if you treated your guests as fans not consumers? What if you made the entire concert-going experience more fan-friendly? 

What if? 

Indeed.