Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Friday Night Date Dress



A friend of mine, Talena Winters, has just published her first book titled The Friday Night Date Dress.  It is an interesting inspirational romance. The story deals with the topic of grief and how the main character deals with it. In spite of the overwhelming grief that paralyzes her life, Melinda copes by using her creativity as an outlet. Although she is dealing with loss in her life, the tone of the book is hopeful not gloomy. The story moves along quickly and draws you into the characters lives. I recommend the book to anyone who wants to read a good story that leaves them feeling hopeful about life.

The blurb promoting the book reads, "Tragic loss has made Melinda Meyers invisible. She hides as a nondescript waitress at an average diner during the day. But each night, she sews runway masterpieces that she wears only once before putting them into a box forever.

Peter Surati, an aspiring Asian Indian photographer, can't help but notice beautiful, sad Melinda. He makes it his mission to help her find her smile again. But can he find a way to mend her damaged heart?

"The Friday Night Date Dress" is an inspirational novella about healing, hope, and love."

You can purchase a paperback or Kindle copy of the book here.  I suggest that you do.


Talena had an indirect hand in my becoming as blogger.   Talena's blog was the first blog that I read, shown to me by her proud mother. In 2008, my friend Laurel was visiting in our home.  She showed me her daughter Talena's blog. Because she lived so far away from her daughter, she kept up with her through the blog. I had heard the word "blog", but really had no idea what it was all about.

As I was reading the blog, I noticed at the top of the page that it had a link that said create blog. I had to see what it was all about, so I clicked it. In a few days I had my own blog, and I enjoyed writing and posting pictures to it. I had written a little before starting the blog, but definitely not regularly. I had occasionally written a column for the religion page of the local newspaper and I had posted a few articles on the writing website Helium, but I had never had a "reason" to write before.  Now almost seven years later, after 575 posts and over 300,000 views from 194 countries,  I can't imagine a life without blogging.


I have had some people ask me about the name of my blog.  I have to admit that very little thought went into it. As I was looking at the "create blog" page in Blogger, just trying to figure out what it was all about, one of the first things that had to be filled in was the title. I spent about thirty seconds thinking, and typed An Arkies Musings. Arkie is slang word for someone who lives in Arkansas.

We used to be officially called Arkansawyers, but now the term is Arkansan. During the Great Depression of the 1930's, Arkansas and Oklahoma were some of the hardest hit states. Many people moved to California trying to get jobs. The terms Arkie and Okie were disparaging terms used by the Californians for people from Oklahoma and Arkansas. Now the term Arkie is most often used to describe a native Arkansan and is often still a bit disparaging. It seems to indicate that someone is unlearned and backward.

I have lived here for over 30 years. Though I'm not a native, I am proud to be an Arkansan or even an Arkie. You have to admit that An Arkansan's Musings just doesn't roll off the tongue.

Please take the time to check out The Friday Night Date Dress.  It has a very reasonable purchase price and I'm sure you will enjoy it.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Spotify


I like Spotify.  I can listen to nostalgic music and to new music.  I like finding new indie artists that make the kind of music I like.  My tastes are not in the mainstream.  I have often thought that Spotify was probably not artist friendly, but a couple of days ago I became sure of the fact when I learned of a band's issues with Spotify.  I know that the story is true as I know the band.

This week the band Smokey and the Mirror had their album Thin Black Line removed from Spotify because too many of their fans were listening to the album too many times. I was one of those fans. I attended the Album Fundraiser Concert for this album and wrote about it here.


This is their story dealing with Spotify.  The band told the story on their Facebook page.

We are a folk band. We get by on a shoestring. We raised just under $5000 from our fans to help record our last album, Thin Black Line. We put roughly $5000 of our own money into the album as well. It meant the world to us that so many folks cared enough to donate their hard earned money to our artistic endeavors. We went into the studio and made an album that we are proud of and that we felt honored the investment our fans made in us.


We released Thin Black Line on April 15th. We put a lot of time and energy into the decision to load our album onto Spotify. We listened to what other artists like Taylor Swift and Jason Isbell had to say against Spotify. We were with their viewpoint at first, but then we also started to notice fewer and fewer folks buying our CDs at shows. We even called our distributor, CD Baby, to ask a few questions about whether or not we should be on Spotify. We asked our rep, "Why should we have our music on Spotify?" She answered with a question, "Do you want your music to be heard by anyone under 30?" We caved. We made a 180 in our thinking about Spotify and got with the times.
The album came out on April 15th and was released on Spotify around that same time. We made a big push with our fans. 2500+ Facebook fans and roughly 4000 folks on our email list. We asked them to have a listen. Many of our fans were not Spotify members. Some of them wrote to us and told us that they were signing up for Spotify just so they could listen to our album and support our music. Even our favorite local bookstore, Nightbird Books, starting playing our album in the store. We were overwhelmed by the support. We still are overwhelmed. It has been so amazing to hear from folks who have truly enjoyed the album and have listened to it multiple times. Many folks admitted that they wouldn't have bought the CD but that Spotify gave them a way to listen to and fall in love with the album.


Today we were notified by our distributor, CD Baby, that Spotify removed our album because they analyzed the listening data on our album and felt that it was excessive and that the listening was coming from a small group of listeners and/or the listeners were predominantly listening to our album more than other content on Spotify.

We were shocked. We inquired and it turns our that Spotify has removed our album and WILL NOT reinstate it. In our option it seems that Spotify is not working for independent artists.

Here is the explanation from CD Baby:

"Hi Bryan –
Spotify made the decision to pull the album in response to streaming activity that they determine to be abusive. This can happen if fans are encouraged to stream the album on repeat for long periods of time or something along those lines. Most digital music providers are ok with a lot of streams for indie content, but if a handful of users are just playing an album or track on repeat, which does not resemble normal listening behavior, they will remove the content to avoid financial losses. Royalties that are accrued by this kind of streaming will usually not be paid out if they are determined to be abusive.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
-Kevin"


As of today we had roughly 79,000 total plays of the songs on Thin Black Line. That is equivalent to the 4000 fans on our email list listening to the record 1.5 times. Does that seem excessive?
Just so you get an idea about the revenue from 79,000 listens it equates to roughly $474. Is this the financial loss that Spotify is worried about?

At this point it sounds like Spotify will not be paying the $474 in royalties from our listens. We can live with this, we will book another gig. But, it got us thinking, why would Spotify care enough to withhold such a small sum from a small time, independent band? It just doesn't feel right.

In the end, we are going to pull our other music from Spotify. They don't deserve it. They won't care, they have already made what they wanted from us. We spent the last 2 months trying to get our entire fan base to get interested in Spotify. Even if 100 of our 4000 fans signed up as new premium subscribers that is $12,000 of revenue (annualized) to Spotify, they are also opting to keep the $474 in royalties they would have had to pay out on our album listens. They WIN. Independent artists lose.

We are not telling this story to complain or to be outwardly negative. There is enough negativity in the world we live in. We are telling it because we support independent musicians. We promote shows, run a festival, and tell our audiences about independent musicians every time take the stage. If you care about independent musicians like we do, find another way to support them other than Spotify. It is hard being a professional musician in 2015. Spotify claims to be the salvation of musicians and declining sales of recorded music. We think our story sheds light on this claim. We will let you decide for yourself.


We have spent the last 9 years touring. We have spent the last 6 running a festival. We have worked hard to earn support from our fans. The problem that we see with the modern music business is that everything is data driven. Facebook likes. Spotify follows. The number of reTweets. It is all nonsense.

We built a list of 4000 fan emails the old fashion way: one person at a time one show at a time. Folks didn't stumble onto our digital songs. Folks came to shows, sometimes small shows. Hell, we once played the best show of our lives to a 4 person audience in Birmingham
.
The point is that we have a fan base that is not really into Spotify. We decided we would make a big push with this new album on Spotify to try and get our fans to tune in and use the service. This showed up as an anomaly in the Spotify data.

We went all in on Spotify. This is not a publicity stunt. We wouldn't invest our lives, money and time into our art just to have it pulled off the service we had bought into that we thought would help to get our music out to a larger audience.


Someone posted our story to the Spotify Community message board today. Here was the snarky response from one person:

"Re: Indy band album removed because of a too loyal fan base

What do I think, the artist profile page show 30 followers. Something is off? You can not reach 79,000 plays of a single album without at least having a far larger number of followers, the math and common sense does not work out, something is off here. Where did those mysterious 4000 fans come from, and then listen to the album but then mysteriously did not follow the artist? Something is not correct. Spotify has ways to track how albums and tracks are played and where the streams are being played from, be it if something looked fishy they might have made the proper move to the pull the release until further investigation was complete. Fraud is fraud. I would not expect a company to pay for any kind of fraud, businesses would fail everywhere from it. And why did not this mysterious hardcore 4000 fan count not also purchase a CD copy of the same release? Most indie artist are able to pull this off with 4000 in CD sales, this should not be that hard, most bands of any genre are able to pull this off just selling CD's at gigs and small shows? Most indie artists would notice rather quickly a spike in CD sales from such an event, 4000 x $12 bucks a pop is almost 50k in revenue, did this band see a revenue increase of almost $50,000 from this increased interest in their music? There are big gaping holes in this story.

I even checked on this release at Rdio and it only has 54 plays. I truly think something is off with this story and this was all just a publicity stunt. Spotify is in the news allot and ever since Taylor Swift's somewhat narcissistic view on things and her melodrama, other artists are probable thinking, can we create a false narrative to get some media attention on the Spotify Brand?

Also it is smart to also provide sources for stories like this, even if the story might be complete B.S. anything that can not be fact checked or even looked into is fishy enough and gets nothing but scorn from me.
-----------------------------------------------------------------


Bryan Hembree of Smokey and the Mirror points out that in the 60's if a DJ started spinning your record nonstop they called it hot wax and you had a hit. That radio is long gone. Now individuals are DJs, they control what appears on their personal "station" playlist. If a modern day DJ decides to spin your record non stop the streaming company calls it abusive and you have a banned record. Weird.

Bryan says, "the bad news is that Spotify banned our album. The good news is that we haven't banned it. You can still stream it at our website.


You can support the band by buying the album here.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Happy Daddy's Day

 
Today is Daddy's 60th Father's Day.  I know because I have been around for every one of them.  I have spent most of my life working along side my Daddy.  Here is proof.  I learned the auto body trade very young.

How Long Have I Been Sanding

Through the years some of the things that I have learned from my Daddy are the importance of having God in your life, and how to work.  Here are some photos of Daddy working through the years.


















30 Model A




Happy Daddy's day.  Some people have fathers, but I have always had a Daddy.




































Thursday, June 11, 2015

40th Wedding Anniversary

1975

June 15th will be a special day. 40 years ago on June 15, I said "I Do" to my very best friend. The best decision I ever made was to marry the girl who stole my heart when she walked into Mr Brost's History class the beginning of my senior year of high school. I know that high school romances are not supposed to be forever and that when kids get married when they are in their teens the marriages aren't supposed to last, but we have proven those things wrong. It is still awesome to go through each day with my best friend.

A Senior in High School

This is the girl that took my breath away when she walked into class that morning. I was too shy to talk to girls, so it was almost a year before she had any idea that I was interested. I think that the good Lord knew that I needed all of the help I could get so he made it so that our paths crossed in a number of ways that year. Mr. Brost selected five students to work together each week producing learning packets for History class. Gina and I were both in the group. We both worked at the Harris Pine furniture factory. I worked on the dresser jig, and she made drawers. I would spend my breaks back with the drawer makers, but she still didn't catch on.

It came time for our High School graduation and I still had never gotten up the nerve to ask her out. Finally I mustered up every ounce of courage I could find and asked her if she would march with me when we graduated. She told me that she would like to but she had already told Russell she would march with him. If I would talk to Russell she would march with me. Once again summoning up every bit of courage I had I talked to Russell. He was very gracious and bowed out. I was on cloud nine.

The rest is history. After a year of a long distance relationship, five hundred miles, we were finally in the same place at the same time. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this girl. On June 15, 1975 we were married in the Denver First Seventh-day Adventist Church. The last 40 years have been an interesting and very fulfilling time. I'm looking forward to the next 40 years together.

Here We Are

To celebrate our anniversary we are taking a trip to Nauvoo, Illinois. While we are there we have planned to take a handcart trek.  We are interested in doing so because of the life story of my wife's great great grandmother, Sophie Peterson.  She was born August 17, 1824 in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Sophie married Peter Peterson. When her children were small her husband died of cholera at the age of 39.


In 1855 Sophie was baptized into the Mormon Church.  She sold her homestead and left Denmark on May 4, 1856 with the promise of reaching Salt Lake City.  The voyage by ship took forty-one days and she arrived at New York City on June 14, 1856. She traveled by rail from there to Florence, Iowa.  There Sophie and her children became part of one of the most famous journeys across the United States, the journey of the Willie Hand Cart Company.



Sophie joined the Willie Handcart Company and with her children pulled the handcart across the plains. She had plenty of money to get her to Salt Lake, but she trusted two Elders with her money and they betrayed her trust. Sophie had plenty of clothes for herself and her children, but because each person was only allowed 17 pounds of possessions, she had to leave most of the clothes behind when she joined the handcart company.  Even with all of the hardships she faced, she was determined to go to Zion.


The Willie Company was one of ten groups of pioneers from England and Scandinavia that made the journey from Iowa to Utah by pulling handcarts. The trek was disastrous for two of the companies,  the Willie Company and the Martin Company.  These two companies started their journey dangerously late and were caught by heavy snow and severe temperatures in central Wyoming. Despite a dramatic rescue effort, more than 210 of the 980 pioneers in these two companies died along the way. Fortunately for me, Sophie, my wife's great great grandmother, and her son Otto, my wife's great grandfather, survived the journey.

I can't imagine what it would have been like for a single woman with 4 children aged 1 through 10 to pull a handcart west across nearly impassable terrain and with only a few ounces of flour for food each day.  There are journals of the trip that can be read online at The Travels of the Willie Handcart Company.



In 2011, the story of the Willie Handcart Company was made into a movie, titled 17 Miracles.  The movie is based on the actual experiences of members of the Willie Handcart Company of Mormon Pioneers following their late-season start and subsequent winter journey to Salt Lake City in 1856. It is a very interesting movie and can be rented from Netflix or purchased from Amazon.

We are looking forward to understanding  more about Great Great Grandma Sophie's experience.