Brace yourself for the least interesting ends-in-zero-or-five anniversary post you’ll read this year … or at least until September, when Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert reaches the big four-five.
The Great Kurt Blumenau Musical Experiment has reached its fifth birthday, and I think that calls for a formal accounting and report to the public.
Five years ago I reserved a Bandcamp page, as a means to put out the “solo album” I’d long joked and daydreamed about but never acted on. There were noises in my head, and I wanted to get them out.
(The album — more of an EP — followed about two weeks later; that’s the cover at right. If you’re new here and missed the full explanation the first time around, it may be worth reading.)
We’re now up to nine releases, and more will be coming. They tend to alternate between unlistenable noise and equally unlistenable conventional songs. The former is supposed to come next, but I might mix things up. We’ll see.
Anyway, I decided to lift the hood and give the world a five-year progress report on My Life as a Basement Rock Star.
How many hits does one get when one tries something like this? How many plays? How many downloads? Any response at all?
Well, if you do it like I do it, things go like this:
Plays: The songs of Kurt Blumenau have been played 1,047 times in five years. That’s about one play every other day, or about four per week. Of course, they’re not evenly spaced; the plays tend to be tightly clustered around release dates, with periods of silence in the middle.
About 23 percent of the plays were “complete” plays (at least 90 percent of the song played) while another 23 percent were “skips,” or stopped before the 10 percent mark.
The remaining 50-odd percent were stopped somewhere between 10 and 90 percent, which is a pretty broad range — imagine the difference between listening to 10 percent of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and listening to 90 percent of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” But, there you go.
Page visits: Officially I have 3,205 site visits in five years — about one-and-three-quarters per day, or a little more than 12 per week.
The difference between the number of visits and the number of plays makes me think most of my “visits” come from bots. If a real person bothered to find my page, one would imagine they’d play at least one song while there. But, many are the stretches of time when I get page visits without plays.
Sales and downloads: A little back-of-the-envelope math suggests that I’ve moved as many copies in five years as Taylor Swift moves in 20 seconds.
The grand total thus far: 34 downloads, in 19 of which money changed hands. (I’ve made almost all my recordings available for free, on the grounds that that’s really what they’re worth. Bandcamp says you move more if you charge people for them, but I can’t bring myself.)
My dad, my brother and the old friend/drummer who sometimes works with me account for the largest percentage of the downloads and sales.
There are still at least a couple downloads I’ve never been able to account for, which is probably the coolest part of the whole endeavor — the knowledge that there’s someone a step or two removed from me, or maybe even a total stranger, who decided they wanted a copy of Night Train to Sideways or The Midnight Loneliness of the Sunflower.
(The “commercial” high point of the whole trip came a couple of releases ago, when some guy in Britain with an Internet radio show devoted to experimental music came across one of my recordings and included a song in his show. It didn’t bring people flocking, but it was cool enough.)
My inability to get my crap into people’s hands on a permanent basis does not especially bother me, as I like it on the down-low.
I don’t promote my music very actively; I acknowledge it’s not very good; and I know there’s a wide gap between “hmm, I’ll go check this out” and “I must possess my own copy of this.”
And maybe, like Duke Ellington, fate doesn’t want me to be too famous too young.
The greatest hits: So, which albums and songs have been favored with the most public attention? (We all know the biggest hits aren’t always the best ones, of course.)
Among the albums, Hope’s Treat – the official soundtrack of my other blog – leads with eight downloads, followed by the diddley-bow showcases Night Train to Sideways and In The City of Churches and Cannons with six apiece. I really ought to get back to the diddley bow sometime.
The least popular, meanwhile, is We Have Succeeded in Nothing Anywhere, whose combination of theremin solos with the speeches of Gerald Ford drew exactly one download. (My dad, bless him, will download anything I put out.)
In terms of purchases, the particularly difficult-to-love Films About Airplanes is the current clubhouse leader: It’s one of three releases that’s been bought three times, and the $32 it’s brought in is more than any other release. I am powerless to explain this.
Among the individual songs, the most-played tunes tend to be the featured songs for each album — the songs that are cued up to play when you go to each album’s home page. (These are not necessarily the first song from the album – you can set any track as the featured song.)
The current Kurt Blumenau Top Five at Five is as follows:
- “Part I: Fingers Grow Back,” the featured track from Things We Burned, 69 plays.
- “Art Thief,” the lead track from Summer Games, 52 plays.
- “La Valse du Auto-Stoppeur (The Hitchhiker’s Waltz),” featured track from The Midnight Loneliness of the Sunflower, 48 plays.
- “April 23, 1975: New Orleans,” the featured track from We Have Succeeded in Nothing Anywhere, 48 plays.
- “Search for the Tropical Puddingbeak,” the lead track from Night Train to Sideways, 46 plays.
My favorite: Of the nine releases so far, which do I like the best?
It’s a tough choice, but if I had to listen to one, it would probably be Things We Burned, a chopped-and-sliced fever dream based on a locally pressed high school concert band album from the Seventies. My dad, without nudge or provocation, said parts of it reminded him of Charles Ives; I’ve rarely been so thrilled in my life.
That said, I happen to like all of them; there’s nothing I’ve put out that I wouldn’t listen to for my own pleasure. When (if) I get to that point, it’s probably time to stop.
For better or worse, I’m not there yet.