Songs for the Struggling Artist


An Applause Button for Podcasts

When I started my first podcast six years ago, I quickly discovered that it was a low engagement form. Podcasts aren’t easy to share and the platforms that they’re on, and the medium they’re made of, don’t make it easy for people to respond. If you’ve ever been listening to a podcast and felt the impulse to share it, you know how challenging that can be. My listeners manage it with tweets and retweets and Facebook comments – but there’s no direct way to tell me they liked it or to share it with others. (Apparently we can blame Steve Jobs for this – but maybe that’s just a rumor.) As a theatre maker who is used to instant gratification and applause, I find this one of the most challenging parts of podcasting. And I somehow find it even more challenging with my audio drama than I do for my blogcast.

The blogcast, I sort of toss off. For the blogcast, I read something I wrote a few weeks before (like this!) and play a song I’ve usually spent a week or two learning and rehearsing. If no one responds to the episode, it’s not really devastating. There is a sense of routine around it that means I just keep going whether anyone engages with it or not. It’s a weekly practice, a light dusting of art, a quick expression. The audio drama, on the other hand, is the culmination of years of work.

I started writing this second season two years ago, began planning for it last year, and the production began earlier this year with the actors and sound designer. There’s a whole team of people involved. We are still in process, even as we start to release our work. It’s not just me in a room. It’s a whole web of artists.

This time around, I made a big deal of the release date and tried to create a little buzz. After all that, after finally releasing the first episode of the culmination of two years’ worth of work, guess what kind of response I got?

Nothing. Absolute silence. Not a word. Not until the next morning, about 33 hours after I set the thing loose into the world.

I work pretty hard to not take this kind of stuff personally but my theatre heart craves instant gratification and 33 hours is certainly not instant. It is very easy to fall down a hole and tell one’s self a story about how the work isn’t as good as you imagined it to be and what a big mistake you’ve made and so on and so on with other very un-useful thoughts.

Not long after this anti-climactic opening, I was talking with a friend who eased my mind on the subject and recorded some applause for me for the podcast. (I have listened to it many times, not gonna lie.) She also suggested that podcast apps really ought to include a CLAP BUTTON so folks could just push the button on a show they liked, to give it some virtual applause. I think this is a great idea. First, I’d very much appreciate some extra claps. And second, as an audience member, I’d love to leave my appreciation for the makers. In listening, there’s no way to distinguish between the podcasts I really admired and the ones I just let run while I did some task because I didn’t care enough to stop them. All the apps reflect is whether or not a show was downloaded. The only way to register your approval is to rate it and/or review it in places like Apple Podcasts and very few people can or will take the time to do that. There are a lot of things in the way of that happening. It’s not a smooth action. An applause button, though. That’s as smooth as it gets. And I think it would make a huge difference to me as both a listener and a maker. There’s a clap button on Medium and those claps, when I get them, mean something.

We need the same for podcasts – a way to let folks know we heard them and we’re giving them applause. In fact, I’d especially love it if we got notification of those claps as an audio file so I could hear some good old applause directly.

I’d like for this to be on every podcast app so I could push it and register my appreciation.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to give me serious applause?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a “coffee” (or several!) on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



Is This a Dragon Zeitgeist?
July 5, 2022, 10:49 pm
Filed under: art, Creative Process, feminism, Gen X, Imagination, podcasting, writing | Tags:

As many of my readers will be aware, back in 2018, provoked by the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, I wrote a piece called “I Am a Dragon Now. The Fear of Men Is My Food.” A few months after that piece went around, elements of it poured themselves into a piece that became The Dragoning, an audio drama podcast. The podcast came out in the spring of 2020 and Season Two just launched.

I’m taking you through this timeline because here, in 2022, an award winning author has published a novel called When Women Were Dragons, in which there is an event known as The Dragoning. A friend sent me a review of this novel because it sounds an awful lot like my piece. Not identical, of course, but close enough to be uncomfortable.

Has, bestselling author, Kelly Barnhill STOLEN my idea? I doubt it. I suspect dragons were in the air and we both reached for them. I think of Elizabeth Gilbert’s idea about ideas. She unpacks this notion in Big Magic. This is her theory that ideas just sort of float through the air and they visit whomever they think will realize them. The ideas visit lots of artists at once, just to be sure they are born. My guess is that The Dragoning was in the air and it chose both me and Kelly Barnhill. I got the idea out faster but Barnhill will spread it wider.

It is slightly uncomfortable, of course, to find that something that came from my brain also appeared in another person’s brain – and a woman who is exactly my age, no less. It’s like the idea was flying around in 2018 and was like – “I need a 44 year old woman to take this and run with it” and maybe it wasn’t even just me and Kelly Barnhill. Maybe there are a dozen more 48 year old women who were visited by the dragoning fairy four years ago.

Is it possible that Barnhill consciously or unconsciously lifted this idea from me? Like maybe she read the blog, which did go pretty viral, especially among Gen X women and thought, “I can imagine a world based on this!” And off she went. It is possible. Same thing happened to me! But, do I think she STOLE this idea from me as every novice writer is always convinced will happen to them? I do not. I’ve read Barnhill’s work. She has no shortage of imagination. She’s not out here trying to steal anything. She doesn’t need to. Her brain makes up lots of neat stuff on its own. She does not need to steal. I’m incredibly confident in her ability to make up her own magic.

But I do find myself in this incredibly awkward position of finding my own work slightly less google-able because someone else, with a much larger platform than me, has written a work with my title in it. They got Naomi Alderman, who wrote one of the most exciting books of the last few years – The Power, to write a review of it in the New York Times. Naomi Alderman is ALSO 48 years old. It feels like all the girls in my class are writing magical feminist speculative fiction and they all joined a club so they’re getting together and hanging out and I’m all by myself over here, quietly declaring I was here with this first.

The other thing that sucks about this is that the only way to find out if Barnhill’s work is somehow derivative of mine is to read it and I don’t feel I should, even though I know I’d enjoy her writing. I loved her novels for young people but I don’t want to mix up the waters. I don’t have any plans to write a third season of The Dragoning but I’d like to have the option and I don’t want to unconsciously take on a different writer’s dragons. So I guess I just have to wonder about it – or wait for my friends to read Barnhill’s book.

I feel like I want Barnhill’s book to be a success because maybe a rising dragon tide could lift all dragon boats. But I’m also not looking forward to being overshadowed by an established writer, who has an agent and an editor and all the trappings that come along with success. I’m proud of my work and it would be very painful if the spotlight shining on that award winning author just cast me further into the shadows. That’s why this is complicated. I am reasonably sure we’re all just part of a zeitgeist in a world where women long for the power of dragonhood, while we watch our rights and hope disappear. But the zeitgeist doesn’t feel great. Maybe just because I’m not in the club.

I’m obsessed with this Paolo Uccello painting from 1470. I love that this woman has the dragon on a leash, like she’s walking it and the knight looks like he’s giving the dragon a COVID test.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me be part of a club?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a “coffee” (or several!) on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



Do I Make Media?
June 15, 2022, 10:15 pm
Filed under: art, podcasting, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

For jury duty, we had to fill out information about ourselves that the lawyers then used as conversation points during jury selection. The first lawyer looked at my occupation (writer, podcaster, theatre maker, performer, Feldenkrais practitioner) and said something that I couldn’t understand at first. He said, as a statement, not a question, “You work in (unintelligible).” As I tried to work out what he’d said, he asked, “You’re a podcaster?”

This I knew what to do with. Yes. I am a podcaster. And in the meantime, my brain had managed to process the word he’d said earlier, which was “media.” I have never, in my life, thought of myself as working in media, which explains why it threw me for a loop. I suppose it might technically be true in that “media” is a kind of broad category but conceptually, it is so far from how I think of my work that he might as well have asked me if I work on Planet Earth. I mean, I do. But that’s not how I usually think about it. I was struck by the discrepancy of the confidence he had in proclaiming that I work in media and my own complete bafflement by the category. And I mean, sure, he’s a lawyer who works on civil cases so maybe overconfidence in categories is an occupational habit but I am genuinely confused by this categorization.

I suppose to his mind, people only work in large categories. He works in law. He’s pursuing a malpractice suit so he’s watching out for people who work in the medical field. He sees “writer,” he doesn’t think “Art,” he thinks “media.” And I guess media was an approved category for him because I got selected for jury service. (More on this in future posts!)

But while I make things that I suppose might be called media, in that I make things in one medium or another that might make their way to the public, when people rail against the media, I don’t even feel slightly implicated. I suppose because I am entirely independent and generally just make things because I feel like it, not because anyone told me to.

But what this experience has made me realize is how foreign my self-identifiers are to the bulk of average Americans. This lawyer would never look at my list of occupations and think, “artist!” For him, I would guess the only artists he thinks of as artists are the ones with paintbrushes and berets. And I think there are certainly more of him than me.

I live in a kind of artist bubble where I hang out with other artists, where I talk with people who actually understand artists even if they’re not artists themselves so I can sometimes forget how the rest of the world tends to operate. Artist isn’t an occupation for them. The expectation is that you have an employer and you do labor for them.

The other juror form we filled out for this situation offered no category for freelancer on its list of types of jobs. It was full time, part time, per diem/commission or unemployed. This is a whole system (that every citizen is likely to make some contact with) that misses out a giant (and growing) category of the work force. It’s not just artists who freelance, of course, but it’s an equally baffling category for a form within such a big system.

You start to see how systems are built and how easy it is to exclude people with categories. Or to include them in categories with which they not only don’t identify but that don’t even make sense to them.

I can see how this lawyer landed on “media.” Probably the only podcasts he’s listened to are Serial and The Daily. Maybe The Joe Rogan Experience, lord help us. To his mind (and a lot of people’s) – podcasts are just another channel from major news outlets. They’re not something a person might make with a mic and a laptop while sitting under a bed. (It’s a loft. But still.) The picture this guy has for what I do is very different than the reality. He thinks I make media. I think I make art and work about art, which okay, I guess is technically media – but I sure don’t think of it that way.

Is this media? It’s certainly using MIXED MEDIA. It is somehow connected to a larger organization so it may be a message for it?

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me make “media”?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a “coffee” (or several!) on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



Three Hundred Episodes. Horn Blowin Time!
April 18, 2022, 9:01 pm
Filed under: music, podcasting | Tags: , , ,

As I surely have said before, I am not fond of tooting my own horn but only a handful of others will toot their horns for me so if my horn needs tooting, the task generally falls to me. I have to seek out the milestones, keep the markers in sight and just generally seek out opportunities for self horn tooting. It’s tooting time again. I’m writing this in anticipation of my Three Hundredth Episode of the podcast version of this blog.

The blog is almost 14 years old. The podcast turned six this month.

I don’t have any special episode planned for this nice round number. It’s not an interview podcast so there’s no bringing on very special guests. I could edit together some clips but I feel like listening to me talk about 300 different things really quickly, one right after the other might not be a fun listen and it would be a hell of a lot of work.

This blog, this podcast, is about a lot of things but I always return to the source in the title. It is always grounded in the challenges we artists face in this artist unfriendly world.

In the six years I’ve been doing the podcast, I’ve recorded 226 covers, pulled 35 songs from my archives, recorded 10 old songs I’d never recorded before and 12 new originals. It’s a lot!

There’s been drama. There have been surprises. There was cake for the 100th episode.

The practice I got from all this podcasting led directly to my being able to make the leap into Audio Drama. Having made one season of The Dragoning, I’m now making a second, with actors on three continents.

And the thing is – 300 is actually a lot of episodes. One of the most famous successful (and lucrative) podcasts of all time has only 185 episodes still. I have done significantly more episodes than Reply All. Granted, their shows are a lot more complex than mine. But they also have a staff with salaries and Spotify money to back them up.

I do this for free. Sure, my patrons help support me doing it for free but it is not a money making endeavor. I tried an advertising scheme a few years back and in the two weeks I had it going on, I made $1.38 so…you know. There’s no profit in this work. The company that makes Reply All, however, was sold for $230 million. It also pretty much imploded last year. I mean – I think a lot of people aspired to be Reply All but sometimes just steadily working at something, year after year yields results too. I’ve got 115 more episodes and no major reckonings.

When I started the podcast, it was really an experiment with the form. I know it seems like everyone has a podcast these days but in 2016, it was still a little bit new. I started on Soundcloud. Some episodes are still there. One of them because more popular there than any other episode before or since. That episode (Art, Entertainment and SpongeBob SquarePants) is also the most popular on my current podcast platform, though it is not even in the top 150 of the blog. The second most popular episode is the Harry Potter/Hangover which has even fewer views on the blog than SpongeBob. I guess this says to me that in podcasts, people like popular things that are already popular, especially when they are things Millennials grew up with. (Pssst – Millennials, what else are you into? Maybe I should do more podcasts about stuff you like!)

I’m on all the podcast apps now. I’m available on the podcast apps you’ve heard of and many, around the world, that I’m guessing you have not. I love increasing the possibility that something I say, or sing, might speak to someone thousands of miles away.

When people say “Everyone has a podcast these days,” it can really make me feel like these three hundred episodes are not such a big deal. This isn’t really horn tooting material when any old schmo can record a podcast! But it’s more than Reply All! And recording something once a week like this does add up to something eventually. It adds up to three hundred!

Maybe I should get a uniform like this for my horn tootin.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me make another hundred episodes?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a “coffee” (or several!) on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



Tell an Artist You Saw/Heard/Experienced Their Art

Because I come from theatre, I am used to immediate feedback. I am used to people who attended the show, waiting to talk to me after, so I know they were there. When the houses are small and I’m onstage, I know who was there because, I can see every single face in the crowd. Even if only a handful of people actually say something nice, they, at least, all give us some applause. They came, they saw, they clapped. We know they were there and if we’re lucky someone will tell us something they liked about it.

But when you make something that is not live, you have no idea who took the time to engage with your work. You don’t know who’s heard it, read it, seen it, whatever. There is no applause. It can feel a little bit like throwing a handful of glitter into outer space.

Just like – uh…wheeee!

The first episode of the audio drama podcast I made in 2020 has been listened to 250 times but I don’t know who those 250 people are. More importantly, I don’t know who the 138 people who stuck with it to the finale are. A handful of people have let me know that they listened, and a smaller percentage let me know that they enjoyed it. We got some delightful reviews on Apple podcasts but I don’t know who wrote them.

It’s such an odd experience to have heard a couple of people call me a genius (thank you, yes, I know!) and experience nothing but silence from everyone else.

In the theatre, if someone doesn’t say anything, if they just leave and don’t let you know they were there, it usually means they hated the show so much they couldn’t find the strength to see you. I’ve had this done to me and I have done it, I’m ashamed to say. Though I do usually try to find something to appreciate and say when a bunch of people have worked so hard to put something on stage.

I’ll give you an example that I probably think about more often than I should. A friend I hadn’t seen in a couple of decades apparently came to see my show when we were performing in his city. He emailed to tell he that he’d been there but that was it. Nothing else. “We were there” was about the sense of it. This was the worst of all worlds. It was clear to me that a person I hadn’t seen in almost twenty years hated this show so much, he couldn’t even do a reminiscing backstage visit. This is a situation, which, by the way, would have precluded having to lie too much because it would be a lot of “I can’t believe it!” and “How have you been these last twenty years?” Like, there’s almost no situation where you’d have to talk about the show you just saw less. But it was clear, at least to my brain, that this guy hated it so hard, he couldn’t even say “hello.” And then couldn’t even find one thing to say in his “I was there” email.  Not even, like, “that was a lot of ribbon you guys used in that show!” We did use a lot of ribbon. Honestly, the bar is so low, folks. So…his silence on the subject has became so loud for me, I really cannot stop thinking about it even almost a decade later. Whereas, if he’d just managed a “cool ribbons” or whatever, I’d have instantly forgotten about it and continued to think fondly of the guy. Honestly, it would have been better if I hadn’t known he’d come.

Anyway – there are multiple varieties of silence and most of them lead to the worst case scenario. I wish it were not so – but it is.

So most of us, in theatre, hear silence as dislike.

But in a world where people are reading, watching, listening, seeing work at their own pace, there is no way to know if silence about something you’ve made is:

  1. Because they haven’t read/listened to/seen it (This is the most likely.)
  2. Because they just didn’t think to tell you that they’d read/listened to/seen it (the second most likely)
  3. Because they hated it (the most easily made assumption in an artist’s brain)

As a Tweet I read recently said “If you’re not haunted by the possibility that your writing sucks then guess what?” This is how artists’ brains tend to work. No matter how much I actively practice leaning into genius-hood, my brain will be quite sure that what I’ve made is actually terrible and no one wants to tell me. Even when a more sensible part of me has great confidence in something.

People who engage with works of art are under no obligation to tell the artists who made them anything, of course. I’d be very busy if I told every maker of every book, song, podcast, TV show, painting, sculpture, movie, collage, (etc, etc) I ever experienced that I experienced their work and how I experienced it. I’d be very busy if I emailed everyone whose work I enjoyed.

But for the subset of artists that I KNOW, that I have relationships with, I want to be a whole lot better about sharing my experience of their work. I have friends who made a really stellar audio drama podcast a few years ago and I binge listened to it, enjoyed every minute  and never told them. I meant to, of course. I meant to shoot them an email or something. But it just never happened. I think I thought I’d just run into them at a show and gush in person.

But I didn’t see them so it was probably years before I sent them the email and I am as guilty as anyone on this front.

And certainly, right now, no one’s running into anyone else at shows since there aren’t any.

Anyway – it is now my intention to be better about reaching out to makers who are creating the things I enjoy. I hate realizing that my silence on the matter makes it seem as if I didn’t bother to watch/listen to/see it or that I hated it and didn’t want to tell them. It is not easy to make things. It is not easy to receive no applause, especially when you are accustomed to receiving it after a show.

I don’t need much, honestly. It just occurred to me that I might be satisfied with the applause emoji on a post of something. Or an applause gif? Sometime that’s literally all I need. But it is weirdly quite rare.

Anyway – I intend to up my response game – though I give myself permission to just use gifs and emojis sometimes.

I know people worry about saying the wrong stuff to artists about their work, especially when they didn’t love every single second. If you need a guide, I wrote one (here). TLDR: Compliments are always welcome. Questions can be fun. Discussions about issues raised can be interesting.

In this New Year, I hope you’ll join me in giving more acknowledgement to the people who create, even if it’s only an increase in the use of the applause emoji.

Hey – you could just post this pic on stuff people make. This’ll do! Look at that smiling face on these clapping hands!

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to give me some support on top of the applause?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



Is There a Gen X Aesthetic?
December 19, 2020, 7:03 pm
Filed under: age, art, Gen X, podcasting, theatre | Tags: , , , , ,

Prior to my deep dive into Gen X-ery, I honestly didn’t think about our generation much at all. It was one of the last things I considered in my identity, particularly in my artistic identity. I have a very particular aesthetic and, I’m given to understand, an identifiable one, as well. I would have called that MY aesthetic, not a Gen X aesthetic.

Then the stats for my audio drama podcast (The Dragoning, listen wherever you get your podcasts) started to roll in and it was absolutely clear who my audience is for that. In case you can’t see this graphic, it’s a chart of listeners by age, where each column is a different collection of ages. To me, it looks like a hand with its middle finger extended and that middle finger represents people who are 45-59 – that is, most of Gen X. This has not shifted as time has gone by. The graphic looked the same when we had twenty listeners and now that we have 200. If I have a demographic for this podcast, it is clearly Gen X.

Meanwhile, on the podcast version of this blog, where I directly discuss matters pertinent to Gen X, my listeners actually skew quite a bit younger. The tallest column is people who are 28-34. They’re squarely Millennials. (Though surely not square, they’re my listeners, after all!) I have no idea why this is but it is so and has remained fairly consistent over the years.

This whole mystery of the Gen X middle fingers of taste has made me wonder if my artistic work is more Gen X than I thought and made me wonder, too, if there is, perhaps, an aesthetic that I’m a part of that I’m not even aware of. I mean, speaking generally, there are style choices that can be made that are obviously Gen X. If it’s got graffiti scrawled across it or if it looks like a John Hughes film or a video by Run DMC or Bananrama, or even if it just sounds loud and angry – those are some Gen X red flags right there. But I swear, as far as I know, I have inserted nary a Gen X cue in my podcast about women who turn into dragons. There isn’t a Nirvana or Digable Planets soundtrack. No one finds anything grody to the max. There is nothing obviously Gen X about it that I can see.

And yet. The middle finger of statistics suggest that it is a work for Gen X.

This makes me wonder if some of my struggles to find a foothold in many of my artistic exploits are a generational problem. Like, if my appeal is primarily to my generation and my generation is the smallest, and dwindling all the time, am I just dealing with a numbers problem? I have, historically, had a very hard time getting people to come to my shows. Gen X Theatre isn’t really a thing. Has never really been a thing. Yet here I am, a Gen X-er making theatre that maybe mostly appeals to Gen X and Gen X won’t come out of their apartments to see it. (In the times when there is theatre and we’re not supposed to be staying in our apartments, of course.) But it’s possible that Gen X WILL listen to a podcast, if they feel like it. If it’s for us.

I don’t know. Statistics are funny and could change at any moment – but I am so intrigued by this clear preference for this thing I made, among many things I’ve made. What about it specifically appeals to Gen X? Did I make an accidentally hyper Gen X world? Do we have an aesthetic? And is my aesthetic our aesthetic, too?

There are generational markers, for sure. Millennials have pink and the whoop. We have…I don’t know. Torn up black clothes? And Mix Tapes?
And maybe a dragon dystopic/utopian world I made up.

I find myself both baffled and interested.

Is there a Gen X aesthetic?

What is it?

Do I have it?

Do you?

Stats for The Dragoning

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help support my aesthetic?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



And Then the Internet Went Out

While I was polishing up my blog about the power outage, I googled Tropical Storm Isaias to double check I was spelling it correctly. The request timed out but I figured it was just this thing the wifi does in our apartment where it gets moody about the distance between my computer and the router. After bringing it closer and then plugging in the ethernet cable and switching everything off and on again a million times, I had to accept that there was no internet. I found it ironic that I was trying to post a blog about the power of power, in which the power of the internet played a role, and could not because, while I did have electricity, I had no internet access.

The next day, the company said it would be fixed by 5pm, and then within 24hrs and then by 5pm the following day. Concurrent to all this, my phone had begun to switch itself off at every opportunity and would only rarely turn back on for a moment or two. My access to the world, beyond my physical presence, was largely cut off.

I didn’t know what to do. Every task I thought about tackling seemed to require the internet. I spent the first couple decades of my life living in a world without internet. It was fine! There were a lot of great things about those times! Why was it so impossible now?

Late Monday night, in order to maintain my weekly podcast posting, I realized I could potentially access the internet via these LinkNYC things – the structures we call “propaganda sticks.” I was 100% sure they were a privacy nightmare, in addition to being corporate tools – but I had a deadline – so I took my laptop and a little stool I’d bought for a cowboy clown show I made a few years ago and went to sit next to the LinkNYC column.

Just as soon as I’d gotten the blog posted, I saw this stream of liquid emerge from the other side of the column. Some guy was pissing right next to the thing, like it was a tree in the woods and his piss was flowing downstream right in front of me. The splash got very close to me and I scooted quickly away, swearing loudly. I found a new spot closer to the closed-up Greek travel agency office behind me. Later, as I got the two podcasts uploaded, the guy from the Mexican restaurant next door brought me some chips and salsa because he liked my “set up.”

There’s a way that having to go out into the street to reach the wider world really put me in touch with the immediate world in ways both pleasant and unpleasant. When the real physical world was all I had, it all got very physical very fast.

In wrestling with my world without internet, in addition to pushing me out into the street, I found myself really noticing how blended my creativity and the sharing of it had become. I could practice a song. I could even record a song and podcasts but without the internet, all of that could go no further than the room they were made in.

We finally got a little green light suggesting our internet was back but in various computer tests, the signal could go no further than the internet company itself. It’s as if we could communicate a tiny bit but we could only reach one person and even then, it was just to wave. There could be no meaningful discourse.

There’s something about this limited signal that I found poignant. It felt a bit like my entire artistic career. I make something and put it out but only a few people have the tech to receive it.

We have these internet connected light bulbs, for example, which I was astonished to discover could still work, even with the area outages preventing us from interneting. It turns out it’s because they’re local. They communicate just within our apartment. But we cannot reach beyond our local network. Our internet problem is a communication problem.

It cannot take us beyond our apartment. And a lot of my struggles as an artist are similarly about an inability to get beyond my apartment. The work makes it around the apartment, no problem – and even to a few points beyond – but the signal always seems to run into an obstacle somewhere. Out there in the physical world, I do alright. I might get pissed on occasionally but I also get free food and warm greetings.

In the internet world, which, more and more, given the lockdowns, seems just as real, there are many places I can’t reach.

And like, power, when someone is without the internet, their lack is invisible. To the one who has been cut off, it feels as though they are cut off from the bulk of the world – but the world will never notice their absence.

The local is the only bit that remains. It can involve piss and salsa – but it is real and where the action actually is.

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This post was brought to you by my wise patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

Want to help me expand beyond my local connection?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis

 



Holding Contradictory Truths Is the Work

CW: Sexual Assault and Rape

It’s not often that I listen to Alec Baldwin’s podcast but something compelled me to listen to his interview with Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor. I suppose, after listening to Ronan Farrow’s podcast about breaking his Weinstein story, I was hungry to hear about their experience.

I suppose I knew that Alec Baldwin would fumble this particular ball a little. After all, he’s a part of this Hollywood world they were talking about and surely his hands are not entirely clean. I expected it to get uncomfortable at times. But I did not expect him to recognize his own fumbles. It is actually weirdly refreshing to hear a celebrity say that he’s fumbled the ball spectacularly. And he did. But his struggle on this topic was actually fascinating.

The interview began to get tense when Baldwin brought up his friend, James Toback, about whom there are a great many stories about how he exploited his power as a director. Baldwin was clearly having trouble reconciling his affection for his friend with the myriad of stories about him. Twohey and Kantor were artful in riding that roller coaster with him and in pointing out things Baldwin was skating over or denying. They even pointed out patterns in his speech. Baldwin veered between “he was my friend” to “he is my friend” back to “He WAS my friend.” Several times. It’s an uncomfortable but compelling listen. What struck me about the whole exchange, though, is how hard it was for Baldwin to imagine that the good guy he knows, his buddy, could do the things of which he is accused. I imagine it would be hard for any of us to reconcile a person who is kind to us but cruel to others. We all only see the person the way they are with us. But I think many women are more experienced at negotiating this contradiction.

I mean, of course, Toback is nice and fun with Alec Baldwin. Baldwin is a successful powerful man. But women who auditioned for Toback experienced a whole other person. He was not nice and fun with them. But I don’t think those women would be surprised to learn that other men find Toback nice and fun. This sort of behavior lives in corners. Men miss it all the time. They’ve been missing it for centuries. It was only when #MeToo hit that most men seemed to pay attention to the way other men treat women. I was struck by this conflict in Baldwin, by the struggle to feel both the affection for his friend and the truth of his friend’s behavior. It’s a conflict that feels like the sort many women have been negotiating for years. It’s the, “I’ve heard Harvey Weinstein is a pig with women but he’s also one of the most powerful men in the movie business so maybe lunch with him isn’t as terrible an idea as it seems.” It’s the, “I heard that guy was a dick to his previous girlfriend but he’s been a real sweetheart with me. Maybe he’s changed?”

But it’s also the less obviously problematic stuff. It’s the “that guy makes sexist jokes at meetings but he’s great at mentoring, so I’ll live with the sexist jokes.” It’s the “Many men are trash so we’ll deal.” We’ll be friends with even the trashy ones. Some will even marry them – because problematic men are the norm and reconciling the good with the bad is something women have always done. In listening to Baldwin try to reconcile Toback, I felt like I was listening to a more complex interesting future where men aren’t just good guys and bad guys anymore.

Throughout #MeToo, I feel like I’ve seen a lot of men try to separate out the bad eggs – to say, “Oh yes, Weinstein and Cosby are clearly awful. Once they’re out of the picture, we’ll just all be good guys here again.” Mmmm. Sure.

I listened to the Chasing Cosby podcast, which follows the story of the trial that sent Cosby to prison – and the thing that shook me the most were the stories about how kind and generous Cosby was to those women before he raped them. He gave them jobs and mentoring. He opened up opportunities. He met their parents and took them to dinner. Many of these women (some of whom were girls at the time) considered him a mentor and father figure. Until the moment he drugged them, they too would never have believed such a kind man could do such a thing. Then he did. And the people around him who had never been drugged by him could not imagine the person who could do that. The divide is simply between who got the pills and who didn’t. The kid who played Rudy on The Cosby Show felt sure that Cosby was innocent because Cosby was so kind to her. But both things are true.

Cosby was kind to Keshia Knight Pulliam and did not rape her. He was also kind to Lili Bernard who played Mrs. Minifield on the Cosby Show and he DID rape her. Even a rapist can do kindnesses.

Understanding that even generous, helpful men might still be rapists is the work. It’s not pleasant work – but that’s the work.

I’m not even sure you can’t be friends with someone like Toback. I mean, I wouldn’t want to be. But if I were already his friend and then found out about what he did, I’d hope I’d show up for him to say, “Wow, man, you really fucked up. What can I do to get you some help to rehab yourself?”

I appreciate that it’s a difficult position to be in. A lot of women have been in it for a mighty long time.

I think Baldwin is standing in an interesting spot and I’ll be curious about what happens for him next. Is it possible that digging into his friend’s stories will lead to realizing he may have exploited his own power at some point? I think it’s very possible and if that reckoning happens, I will be right by my podcast feed ready to witness. That will be the most compelling listening of all.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me reconcile good and bad?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis

 



The Podcast Drama that No One Is Talking About

Last year, one of my favorite podcasts stopped updating. I didn’t worry too much about it. Many podcasts are uneven in their production. They stop and start. I’m used to it.

But then, while trying to decide if I should go to Werk It Women’s Podcasting Convention, I looked at the list of speakers and saw the host of that missing podcast (Note to Self) was listed as the host of something else entirely (Zig Zag).

The Case of the Missing Podcast was both solved and begun, both in that moment.

I googled. I searched. I listened to the new podcast and read the few news articles I could find on the mysterious movements of podcaster, Manoush Zomorodi.

It felt like a scandal to me. The host of a popular public radio show abandoned it for the wilds of a startup corporation and/or business podcast! Isn’t this news?

I really thought there would be talk about it somewhere. But no one seemed to care.

Zig Zag was not nearly as good show as the show Zomorodi left. I listened to a few episodes and even though it was made by the same people as Note to Self, it just wasn’t interesting to me at all. The central premise of it seemed to be “Look at us crazy people leaving our secure public radio jobs to go out on our own, experiment with cryptocurrency and make something for money!”

They seemed to suggest that there was some #MeToo action going on over at their former job but they never came out and explained anything about what was actually happening there. It was all super vague for a couple of journalists with mad storytelling skills so it mostly felt like they left because they thought they could cash in elsewhere.

As a person who has never had a secure job, much less a public radio one, I couldn’t help shaking my head at the surprise these women seemed to constantly be experiencing out in the big bad freelance world. While I listened to Zig Zag, my brain just kept responding to it with, “No shit, Sherlock.” Newsflash! Starting a business is hard! Freelancing isn’t easy!

I felt like I should have been their target demographic. I was after all, a loyal listener to their previous podcast, a big supporter of women and advocate for creative life choices – but I found their new podcast ridiculous. And it made me a little mad, too.

Because the promise of public radio is that it is for the public. It is funded by the public. I myself contributed to Manoush Zomorodi’s public radio show. I wasn’t a regular donor. I couldn’t afford to be. But I really believed in what they were doing.

So when Zomorodi and Poyant went off to try the wilds of the crypto currency corporate world, I felt a bit betrayed. I put my trust in public radio and it just up and sold out. And weirdly, despite all of this happening within the news media, there was no news about it. Are podcasts still so niche? I don’t know. I’m not sure the millions and millions of dollars going to podcast companies now suggests a genre no one cares about.

Anyway – the cryptocurrency that Zig Zig focused on went nowhere and I guess the podcast did too. Next thing I knew, Zomorodi was hosting another show (IRL) that was very similar to Note to Self. Previously, I’d started listening to IRL – a show sponsored by Mozilla (a non-profit) and then all of a sudden the old host was gone and Manoush Zomorodi was hosting it. Turns out Mozilla had fired the previous host, (Veronica Belmont) and brought in Zomorodi, who had recently been a guest on the show. IRL basically became Note to Self for that season. So much drama! That no one was acknowledging!

So the body count thus far for this adventure included one public radio podcast and one non-profit podcast host. And maybe even a non-profit podcast? But this saga was not over, friends. No it was not. Because a few weeks ago, an announcement showed up in the Note to Self podcast feed. Note to Self was coming back. It had been bought by the podcast start up, Luminary, and it would be producing the show on its platform in association with WNYC Studios and Stable Genius Productions (That’s Zomorodi and Poyant’s media company created for the Zig Zag podcast.) Manoush is hosting. I don’t know what’s happened to the IRL podcast. Will Veronica Belmont get her job back?

Luminary is a private podcasting company that is putting all of its exclusive content behind a paywall. It’s spending lots of money to produce shows like Note to Self in the hopes that people will pay a subscription fee to listen to them.

So. A show that was developed with public money is now no longer public. It is still co-produced by WNYC Studios, which, if not the actual public radio station, is a part of it.

This has happened with multiple public radio shows. Gimlet Media (which Spotify purchased for over $200 million) was created by two former podcasters from WNYC public radio. I don’t feel great about public funds being the on ramp for corporate podcasting. I don’t begrudge radio folk making their money – but I’m starting to feel used and betrayed by this flight from public radio. I’m a lot less inclined to support it if it’s going to just disappear into the corporate stratosphere.

And while the one Note to Self episode that Luminary has released into the old feed is interesting and worth listening to, I’ll be damned if I’m going to pony up cash to a mega million start up company after being jerked around like this by the host over the last year.

As an indie podcaster myself I am concerned about the way the field is evolving. Are corporations gutting public radio?

Are they thinking public radio doesn’t matter anymore? Think again. In a Facebook group I’m in, someone asked for podcast recommendations and nearly every recommendation in the hundreds of comments was actually an NPR show. I hope all these mega mega corporate podcast companies realize and understand the debt that they owe to pubic radio and find ways to funnel a little something back to them. I mean, this indie one woman podcast maker would happily take a deal at Gimlet or Luminary or Wondry or wherever – but even I, who have never been on the radio, recognize that I owe a debt to the public radio that I listened to and from which I learned by example.

 

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find this episode on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. It features a Nanci Griffith song!

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me make my indie podcast?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



35 Cents

Hey all my good people who have worried about me and my financial security – worry no more! I have signed up to do advertising on my podcast and after a week with the service, I have made 35 cents. The little “pending” next to the number disappeared and I now have 35 cents. 35 cents! I sold out to the man (The Anchor Man. Ha! – Anchor’s the name of my host/distributor – so that’s the joke. Anchor. The Man. Anyway…) and I made 35 cents. Woot! Let’s throw a 35 cent party!

I joke, of course. No one can throw a party for under a dollar. But – I do have to say, while the number is currently very small, it is, in fact, much larger than any of the other digital platforms I pour “content” on to. WordPress (the home of this blog) has ads, but that revenue goes to them, not me. Pretty much everything else I do on the web (besides the podcast) costs me money – it doesn’t make me any. Spotify, for example, recently upped their payments to .02 per song play – but that music doesn’t stream every day and at the current rate, I have spent vastly more money to put songs on the digital platforms than I can ever hope to recoup from the payments for them.

Just last week, when I cross-posted a blog on Medium (I post them on WordPress then import them to Medium) it asked me if I wanted to opt in to their recommendation service, which could potentially offer me money through a porous paywall (it’s complicated.) I said yes. So – this, at some point, may also turn into a small income stream. As much as I want to joke about my 35 cents via Anchor this week, I do actually think it’s a step in the right direction. Combined with Medium’s new policy, it’s starting to feel like the incremental payments that Jaron Lanier proposed in You Are Not a Gadget may actually happen. (Lanier suggested that instead of the total free and open internet that its creators thought they were making, we should have some way to tag creations with their creators that would send them micropayments.) If more of these digital platforms begin to follow suit, to pay creators for their content, I might start to feel a little hopeful about the digital world again.

Now – am I ready to throw a 35 cent parade? No. Anchor is now owned by Spotify. It could all just blend into an underpaid nightmare at some point but for now, 35 cents is actually a step in the right direction. And a little hope is pretty good deal for 35 cents.

At the moment, it’s breaking down to a little more than one cent per listener. And if more people started to listen to the podcast, it could become even more and then it’ll be a real Blue Apron/Casper mattress/advertising world. (For those of you who don’t listen to the baskets upon baskets of American podcasts the way I do, for a while these two companies were doing the bulk of podcast advertising.) If that world comes to be for me, I’m bound to have some complicated feelings about it. But I’ll be comforting myself with my baskets of 35 cents.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

The digital distribution is expiring at the end of the month, so I’m also raising funds to keep them up. If you’d like to contribute, feel free to donate anywhere but I’m tracking them on Kofi – here: ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis

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Want to help me earn more than 35 cents a week?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist




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