Monday, May 10, 2010

Dayna Kurtz is a goddess. A thoughtful (and enlightening) explanation of how piracy hurts artists.

Dayna Kurtz, a wonderful musician, recently reached out to her fans and asked for help to bring her latest album to the US. (For more information, check out this link. And really, you should check it out.) Shortly thereafter, she received her first bit of hatemail. Below is the message she received and her beautifully written response. Her reply clearly illustrates the damage that piracy does to musicians, especially those who are not big time (which is most of them). Please take a few minutes to read it. (And yes, I got permission from Dayna to share this.)

this is my first bit of fan hatemail received after launching my kickstarter campaign to raise funds via fans to put my new CD out in the USA. (well, actually i think it's my first bit of fan hatemail ever. which is kind of an achievement of sorts)

my response below. this fan is from spain - hence his grammatical/spelling errors.


I really couldn't find this more ridiculous!
I wish you never had enough money to reach your target.
You Mrs. are the only responsable of this situation.
You've lost all your dignity. Maybe if one day you realised about this and stop demanding charity, things will begin to go better for you (again). That's the first step to obtain anything real in this life!
Have you stopped to think before ask for this help?
Have you ever heard about AFRICA, HAITI, NEPAL??????
Dayna, I'm a friend who bought your first two records even if I was young and with no money in my pockets. Now I regret it, honestly. Never again.

dear david,

i'm so sorry to disappoint you.

those 2 records you bought? lots of people bought those. more than 30,000. not rock star numbers. but i was, for the first time in my life, scraping the bottom of the middle class. i paid off my debts. i looked forward to being an equal breadwinner with my husband. we bought a modest house and i paid my half of the monthly bills. my third record, put out 4 years ago, sold maybe half as much. not great, but i could make it work. but 'american standard'? in 6 months, i've sold 900 copies in europe. 900. now if i were losing my audience because my music was getting shitty or boring, i'm not stupid - i'd figure it out: say, if i'd gotten more bad or indifferent reviews than good, and if my crowds were getting smaller with every tour - i'd suck it up and look elsewhere to make a living. but reviews have been mostly great. people are still coming to shows. and then there's this: a short scan today of 4 random bit torrent pirate music sites showed that over 50,000 copies of this record have been downloaded. for free. on just 4 pirate sites. out of hundreds.

what most people don't realize is that touring does not pay for itself. touring with a band usually loses quite a bit of money. the point of touring (besides the sheer joy of it, for us road dogs) is to sell records. i get next to no commercial radio airplay at all. sales of CD's and legal downloads was the only source of real, consistent profit i ever saw in 20 years of making music professionally.

i am demanding nothing from my fans. but if there's enough of them that want me to make records, that tell me, with some degree of passion, that my music means something to them and they are hungry for more - i see nothing wrong with asking those fans, that are able, to help. the only thing that causes me some degree of regret about this venture is that i'd bet my bottom dollar that the the vast majority of people that donate are the sort of fans who already buy my music, legally and conscientiously. and i am humbled and grateful beyond words to win that kind of regard and support.

so, this is not a game, david. don't be disrespectful. it's not easy to ask for help. it's hard to admit that the profession and craft to which i've dedicated my life is no longer the same and i can no longer take for granted that it will pay my bills. i'd wrongly thought that having enough fans meant that i could put out a record in europe, where my audience is biggest, and after a few months of touring and selling cd's, have earned enough to release it and tour in america (where it's much more expensive to promote). and when it was all said and done, after paying bills - i'd break even, or in a good year, have a little money to sock away to make the next record.

that's the way it was for me for the last decade, until this release. until a growing number of people decided it was ok to just steal something that cost me tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours both creative and technical to make. perhaps people thought that because there's a couple of countries in the world (spain, and the netherlands) where my name's in magazines and people pay money to see me play live in big clubs and theaters - that such a little theft wouldn't hurt me. they're wrong.

re: africa, haiti, nepal - are YOU not going to the cinema or out to see a concert because haiti needs that money more? i am not equating myself with a tragic cause. i am trying to raise money from fans who feel a connection with my music, people who feel they have a personal interest in seeing me NOT quit, because at this point, that is what's at stake.
and i'd MUCH rather feel humbly indebted to a bunch of nice people who are appreciative and respectful of what i do than to a multinational corporation who'd just as soon be selling dishwashers as music.

musicians relying on the largesse of patrons has a history going way back. i'm in the company of those famously degraded sellouts mozart and bach, sir. there's nothing new to complain about here. for centuries, artists have been scrambling, hustling and, yes - grovelling - to keep food on their tables in a fashion that still leaves them enough time and energy to create something that makes their life feel worth living, that makes them feel connected to something universal, something that moves people.

i'm sorry you regret buying those 2 records when you were so terribly poor. that's about 8 beers you could have drunk or 2 paellas you could have eaten or two films you could have seen (with popcorn!) and it's all gone to waste! i hope at least you enjoyed listening to them many, many times before i disappointed you by not passing your test for artistic purity and therefore making you feel like your money was badly spent.

i'd like you to name one musician you think passes your purity test - i guarantee you, they were either born wealthy or got very successful, very young. or, more likely, they've sold out, or as you put it - lost their "dignity" - in ways you just haven't heard about . they wrote and sang an advertising jingle in japan. they asked their publishers to pitch their most commercially viable songs to a big country or pop star. they played a wedding or private corporate affair for a fan who happens to be a billionaire and who paid them very very well. and they smiled at the man with the money. they did what they were paid to do, then they took that big ole check and paid off their bills with it and kissed their spouse and kids when they got home and with a clear conscience and a huge weight off their shoulders started working on something that made their heart beat faster with excitement and fear and great great joy.

me, and every artist i know - do whatever we can to get to that place. i've sung a couple of tv commercials (and that work is drying up too, since the recession), i've done some paid studio session work as a singer and guitar player, i've produced records for other musicians, and i've prayed to whatever god that will listen that some big stupid pop star would cover 'love gets in the way' and make it a huge hit and make me enough money so i can just fucking write, record, and perform the music in my head for the rest of my life.

i know that no one owes me this life i love, that i feel positively blessed to have had even if it's coming to a close- that of being a full time recording and touring artist. but it's the only life i just KNEW, from the day i wrote my first song, that i'd be willing to fight for. every single day.

i wish that kind of life for everyone. you too.


dayna kurtz

ps: it's clear you don't love my music anymore, tainted as it is. but if there's any other music you love - please buy it, or you will kill it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. I'd like to forward it to everyone I've met who torrent movies and download albums and then justify it by saying that Michael Bay and Sheryl Crow already have enough money. Not everyone is Bay or Crow, folks, and studio time doesn't magically pay for itself.