Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A letter to Matt Nathanson, regarding the money I surely owe him

Dear Matt Nathanson,

A friend RT'd about your upcoming show at Amoeba, and I thought, "Sweet! A free Matt Nathanson gig?! In my neighborhood?! Heck yeah!"

Then it occurred to me that every interaction I've had with your music so far has been "free"... and that made me pretty sad and also a bit embarrassed. 

You see, back in 2004 I went to see The Darkness perform in Atlanta. On the way out of the venue, a slightly aggressive college kid (presumably on a street team) gave me a swag-bag from Tower Records (RIP), which contained your single, "Suspended." Though I'd seen your name on some adverts for The Cotton Club (RIP) I had never heard your music until I got home and put that CD in my computer.

Holycow! I wore that single OUT! I listened to it so many times that I could name-that-tune as soon as I heard that first snare note.

A year later, I went work at a music magazine and discovered even more of your music, like At the Point, in the CD library and, well, borrowed it for long periods of time. When this thing called Pandora happened shortly thereafter, your music was all over my stations. I wasn't surprised when a Pandora exec told me that "Curve of the Earth" was surfaced more than any other song at the time. I probably contributed to a lot of those Thumbs-Up votes myself.

So back to the Amoeba thing, because this isn't meant to be a gushing fan letter...

I realized when I read your tweet that I've never paid you a single cent for all the music I've consumed. Not a penny.

You know how much money I've given The Darkness? $60.00, give-or-take... and I'm not even a fan!

I still work in the industry and know that there's a prevailing argument that, by listening to your music and recommending it to my friends, fans like me have had some kind of pass-along economic impact. Yet in my case, I don't think that's anecdotally true. In fact, I asked my four closest friends, "How did you find out about Matt Nathanson?" hoping they would say, "Because of you! Because you teach me everything I need to know about music!" Instead, two cited Pandora, one thought it was because of the radio, and the fourth said she covered one of your early concerts for a college paper and was probably the one who introduced ME to your music...

Maybe the radio royalties have added up, and maybe every fan who feels like she discovered your music has made an impact, but the fact remains that I've never consciously paid you for your work and I know I've consumed my fair share of it. So, I'd like to remedy that -- not by buying merch or sending money through a long chain of middlemen who will take a cut... no, I'd like to write you a personal check. 

Even for that original copy of "Suspended" I'd owe you, like, $3.40 if we considered interest and inflation. That's almost enough to get a good cup of pour over coffee in the Mission. But, heck, I've listened to a lot more than that single: let's one-up The Darkness with $61.00.

Should we arrange a hand-off at Amoeba? Do you prefer PayPal? Square? Venmo? I'm serious about this. It'll be like supporting a retroactive Kickstarter campaign. And maybe that's where this industry is heading.