My $2 Investment in… Me

square-microphone-on-keyboardFor the past hour or so, I’ve found those wheels in my head turning as I either think of ways to make next month’s rent or avoid thinking of ways to make next month’s rent. I’m not sure which, but I’m sure these wheels come from events of the past two days. You see, 1) yesterday I almost on an impulse bought Hindenburg Journalist software without knowing what it really was and 2) I finally got around to starting my online Introduction to the Music Business course.

First, the software. I found today that Hindenburg is audio editing software. I watched a couple of tutorials today and saw that it works rather intuitively, which means that $1.90 I spent will most definitely not go to waste. In fact, I may have a means other than Audacity to edit my audio and perhaps provide better quality to my shows. Also, I may have another incentive to do other types of podcasts besides my lil music show.

I’m glad my instincts told me to go ahead and get the software because it looked like it would come in handy (much like the reason I never throw away lidded jars). I feel that I’ve made a small investment in my future that would have been out of my means any other day. I love podcasting and would love to create more opportunities through this medium, but I fear I cannot offer much of a quality product with what I have now. So we’ll see how this works out.

Second, the music course. I’ve grown fond of online courses through EdX over the past couple of years. I took a history of comic book superheroes a couple of years ago and just finished a Hollywood history courses a couple of weeks ago. (I also took a comic course more about creating and understanding how comics work through another outlet recently as well.) Now with the Introduction to Music Business, I’m adding to my interests.

I should note that I have an M.A. in communications, so the Hollywood history and music business courses are a bit of a refresher from what I already gained from more than 20 years of study and independent scholarship. However, the first week’s lesson of the music course has me thinking, especially with the recent discussion about the Grammy’s and other cultural institutions.

One of the first things that kept going through my head as the course began is the acknowledgment that Black female blues singers were the first stars of the recording industry. In fact, I’d say by extension that all visual and sonic cultural institutions came from the (often invisible) labor of Black people whether or not we got credit and/or compensation. I feel like this is why it cuts so deeply when Black cultural creators and innovators are not given recognition during awards seasons. The desire is not for white acceptance but for an acknowledgment that Black people are the reasons for these institutions. To have our culture stolen then be shut out from the very institutions that benefit from us is more than a punch in the gut. It is soul stealing.

So I get back to this question or declaration that my esteemed online professor John P. Kellogg made regarding the music business: “If it gets played, somebody gets paid.” As he says, he’d rather you get paid than get played. Unfortunately, Black artists have been on the receiving end of getting played more often than not when it was their music and creative innovation that created a multi-billion dollar industry.

This is where the wheels in my head come in. I am a lifelong music fan. I don’t go a day without listening to music in some way or another. Music artists are my heroes and role models. They have a talent I both admire and envy. Social media have allowed me to connect with other music lovers, many who are Black women like me, and share my experience as a music fan. However, I also noticed something about them.

They all seem to have some type of frontwoman talent. They can sing and/or play instruments. I can do neither. Like most people, my vocals are only decent in the bathroom where acoustics are good. I also have trouble moving both my hands in sync, which means I could never play chords on any instrument. Most people I know who work on the business end of the music industry have in some way or another been in the talent pool. At nearly 40, there’s no way I could ever learn music talent.

But I have to ask myself does this exclude me from being part of an industry I love so deeply even though it has been most unkind to my people? Is there a way I can put myself in a situation that would help me rectify some of the wrongs to the artists who have given so much to me?

This is the question that led me to start The Black Swan Collective. It’s been more than a year and the show really hasn’t gained that much traction. However, I keep it going through Mixcloud because I like to believe the site’s claim that artists receive royalties. Even if this is not true, including the playlist allows Mixcloud to link to sources where artists’ music is available for purchase and I hope people sometimes click these links.

I plan on keeping the show going as long as possible. It’s a labor of love and has exposed me to some really great Black female artists whom I might not otherwise heard of. Hopefully, the show is another outlet for them and those six or seven listens I tend to get per show finds a way to expand beyond that short reach.

But I want to do more. With this Hindenburg program, I might be able to do more in the way of critique. I can fangirl a little more than I do with the current show. The Hindenburg interface looks user friendly enough for amateurs such as myself. So in the next couple of weeks, I’ll give it a try and see how well I can do with this platform. I owe that much to these women. I owe that much to myself.

In the meantime, I’m trying to do more with the blog in terms of exposing music artists and giving them their due while I try to get new work and bring in more income so that I’m not floundering when I worry about not bringing in enough cash to take care of myself. We’ll see how my lil $2 investment goes.