Todd Durrant’s Random Thoughts
Follow the efforts of a creative, crazed entrepreneur.

OK, I’m Broke and Looking for Work

“The first step is admitting you have a problem.”

As I have heard the headlines about the bad economy and job losses over and over for the past year, I’ve nodded my head thinking, “yes, the economy is bad, and I can feel it.”   But at the same time I’ve felt lucky because even though my business has taken a dive along with so many others (purhaps worse in this particular industry than in others), at least I haven’t thought of myself as one of the jobless people.   I do still have a job.  But now I wonder, even if a person is working, and in fact working long hours, does it no longer quality as a “job” once it no longer generates the necessary income?   If that is the case, then maybe I am one of the technically unemployed.

No, my career is not one that benefits from a government stimulus package, so there is no help coming, and looking at the current situation, I’m not alone in that regard.  Heck, there were 12.5 million Americans out of work before the US government stimulus package, and now there are 14.5 million Americans out of work after the stimulus, and yet the news reports talk about how the government has somehow helped to “create or save” so many tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs since the stimulus.  Now that’s a head-scratcher.   I don’t want their money anyway.  I’m not GM.  I’ll go down with the boat rather than claim a right to be saved by the tax money of others.

Wow…I sure got side-tracked with that last paragraph.    Let’s get back to the point…

To set the mood, here is the no-budget music video that Dylan and I made yesterday.  It is for the song “Thunder” by my own music project, Saudade.   It’s funny, but I didn’t set out to make a big statement with our usual silly setup, but this morning I found myself saying, “Wow, I nailed my situation on the head with that one!”

Just so you don’t think I’ve been completely lazy during the entire recession, I have used my time to be as creative and productive as possible.  I’ve tried a lot of new things for promotion.   I’ve kept contact with customers and tried to find ways to stimulate sales.  But most of all, I’ve used the slower times to employ my talents, which is something I love immensely.     I’d rather spend every minute of every day using creativity to write songs, record music, make silly videos, and write books and even these blogs.   Yes, that would be the ultimate “job” for me, but alas, it does not pay.   I’ve never received a cent for a goofy video, and I haven’t been paid for a remix for more than 6 years, at least.   My digital sales for Saudade so far amount to $34.74 (woohoo!) and physical sales are of course only a break-even proposition at best.   My book “Trigger” has been out for a few weeks and I haven’t seen a sales report there yet, but I can guarantee it won’t amount to even the lowest-paying of part-time jobs.

Nope, I haven’t been lazy.   Oh, and I have also applied to several outside jobs, both part-time and full-time, though only occasionally as I would see a job that would be a potential career in something I might enjoy.   I’ve not been called back or even interviewed for a single one.  I believe there is something inherently odd and possibly negative about a resume for a guy who has run a small business for 18 years, with no other employment since graduating from college.   There aren’t any supervisors are bosses with whom the employer can check for a solid reference.   They barely understand what it even means to run a record label and online music store.   So, I believe they default to the fresh-out-of-college person with a clean resume and low pay expectations, who can say “I studied this subject and I know that particular software package, yadda yadda.”

But now it is serious.  I don’t have any real income.  Sure, I get a few sales on weekends, of which over 50% are from overseas.  I get wholesale orders from the couple of other mail-orders still in business overseas, but it is not enough to pay the bills.  It is not enough to keep buying new releases, keep releasing new bands as I’ve always enjoyed, catch up on old bills, and pay my own family.   It hasn’t been enough for quite some time, and thus the situation is truly becoming more dire.

So, I shall begin the process in earnest.   First of all, to all of you friendly readers out there, I’m available!  Well, I may not be able to relocate or anything like that right now…only under certain circumstances (I like where I live, and it tends to be one of the only places I can afford to live).    Have you written a poem or song that you would like to hear recorded?  For the right price, I’ll put it together for you (assuming you wouldn’t mind my quirky style).   Do you want a remix of a song by your own band or your project?  I’m cheap!  I’ll make you a club mix!   I can’t do it for free anymore, but I’ll spend hours on your stuff for a small price!   Heck, Dylan and I will go out and make a silly music video for you in less than a week (or less than a day in some cases) for a great price!   If you want a song about your special loved-one, or about yourself or your friend, or your cat, I’m working with Marcus Fellechner of RENAME (I’m part of that project now) to make that song for you and put it on an album!   Heck, if you want a Saudade song instead, I’ll do that too, though I can’t promise it will be heard very much, compared to Rename.   What else can I offer?   I’m for sale!

**expecting moment of uncomfortable silence**

OK, OK, I’m moving on.  Let’s jump to jobs.utah.gov and take a look at what I could do in my home county:

Here is a new opening for full-time, swing shift in a call center taking inbound customer service calls for Qwest (phone company).   It pays $9.25 and hour, which isn’t bad, and offers a health care package (something I haven’t had since 2000).  I could probably walk into that, since I do have some customer service experience.  I’d probably lose my mind after about a month, but I could do it.

Hmm, AC and heating servicing.  Don’t know how to do that.     Oh, here is one for a bank teller, 30 hours per week (no benefits).  It doesn’t say the pay amount, but says that I would need basic computer skills (got ’em), and customer service experience (got it).   It’s at Wells Fargo (I bank there).  D’oh!  I just clicked to apply and the listing has been removed and marked “inactive” since yesterday.   Well, I’ll go straight to the bank’s homepage and look at their job listings.   Well, the “find jobs” link isn’t loading at the moment, so I’ll leave it loading as I continue looking at other listings.

Computer programmer, nope.  Automotive service technician, nope.   Ah, here is a part-time food sampler job for $10 per hour.  Those are the folks that stand in the Walmart grocery department, or at other grocery stores and give you bites of different products.  You know…when you take the family to Sam’s Club for a Saturday samples lunch (don’t pretend you haven’t done it before).   I suppose I could hand people bits of new breakfast burritos and vegetarian sausages, etc. for $10 an hour.   With song writing being a “10” on the “fun scale”, this would probably land around a “1”, but I don’t get paid $10 per hour to write songs.   Maybe I should apply.

Wells Fargo jobs page still not loading…

Wow!  Check this one out!   Business Development Manager.  That sounds impressive, and the pay is $70,000 – $110,000 per year salary.  I’ve never made that much before!    Well, as I look over the requirements, I’m at first hopeful, and then I see why I haven’t earned that much before.  Here it is:

“This full time position involves a wide variety of activities including: interfacing with potential customers and teaming partners, attending trade shows and conferences, developing new business contacts and capture strategies, performing market analysis, analyzing financial aspects of new business, and proposal and cost development. · Eligible candidates must possess a BA/BS degree w/6+ years experience or an MA/MS degree w/4+ years experience. Degrees in Engineering or Energy Disciplines are preferred and an MBA in addition will also be considered. · Eligible candidates must have a significant familiarity with the US energy and environmental industry, state and federal funding agencies, and an understanding of the procurement processes. · Demonstrated success in building large-scale industry/academia R&D partnerships responding to state and federal program opportunities preferred. · Candidates must possess exceptional inter-personal and communication skills, be able to represent EDL in a professional manner, and be willing to travel frequently. · Because of the international trade in arms regulations we are limited to consider only those applicants who can supply proof of US citizenship or permanent residency. Wish list: Advanced degrees, either technical or business related, experience in energy and renewable energy engineering and environmental systems, business development in the energy and environmental industry, the development of proposals, and experience in business strategy development and market analysis. · The demonstrated ability to participate as part of the engineering or science team in customer development will also be considered. · International experience is a plus.”

Once I start reading requirements that I don’t understand, I know I’m in trouble.   Here’s a job for a Master Esthetician.   OK, I have to look up the word esthetician because I don’t know what it means…might make a good band name though:   The Esthetician

Wells Fargo job list is still not loading.

How about a licensed Massage Therapist.     I’m not licensed, and I don’t know what I could promise in terms of “therapy”, but I can give a decent back rub.  Somehow, I don’t think that will count.   Moving on…

Administrative Assistant.   I’ve seen this one listed A LOT, in every newspaper classified section multiple times.  It’s $8 and hour, and that’s the fancy way of saying “secretary”.   I’d probably make an OK secretary.  I can answer phones, smile across a desk at people, use a word processor, and complete other filing tasks, etc.  No problem.   Pay is pretty bad though.

There are also a couple of job openings for nurses.   That is a job in high demand lately.  If I were to go back to school for a couple of years to become a nurse, I could probably walk right into a job because the demand is only going to go up.

Here’s a Branch Manager for a temp work agency.    OK.  I’m starting to fizzle on my enthusiasm.  See how short my attention span is?  I’ve even closed the Wells Fargo page with the endless spinning icon that indicates the page is not loaded.    I have to apply for something, so from today’s search, the winner is…wow, hard choice.   The bank sounded the best, but since it isn’t listed anymore, I’ll have to go with the phone center, even though I don’t know how I could fit a full-time job into my schedule and keep A Different Drum running even part-time.  So, the winner may be the phone center, but the loser is…me!

Don’t worry, I’ll keep looking.  Oh, and in the search for meaningful employment, I’ve heard that it is extremely hip to use http://www.linkedin.com where people network together on a professional level.   I’ve just created my profile and have a couple of “linked” people so far.  Feel free to link to me!   I don’t know what it actually does, but go for it!   Here’s my profile:

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/todd-durrant/13/98b/782

Yep, is features the same Facebook profile pic.  I guess I need to get a more business-like mug-shot.

I’ll report back as the search for income goes forward.

-Todd

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13 Responses to “OK, I’m Broke and Looking for Work”

  1. I suppose we knew it would come to this, considering basically NOBODY makes a living these days on music sales. I seriously thing you’d be perfect working for Jango, OurStage, Grooveshark, ReverbNation – any place where music meets the web. You could probably even do it from home!

  2. Spoken like a true Utah Republican. The stimulus is helping but even with all that money the effect will not put the economy back where it was before it all went wrong: it will take a little time.

    • Yeah, I admit, I’m not a big believer in the government stimulus. If you use the “give it some time” argument, I believe the same would apply even without govt. stimulus. Give it some time, add better regulation and rules where there were abuses, and it would have bounced back anyway. Maybe it would have taken longer, but hey, we’re in the “NOW” generation, and people want it to be fixed in 6 months or they give up hope.

      My beef with the stimulus is that even if it does help in the near future, I believe it will be quite painful in the further future. But that’s just me, speaking like a “Utah Republican” (and probably tens of millions of other citizens in other states and in other parties). I’m no expert in these things, but one opinion is as valid as another, I suppose.

      -Todd

  3. The shake-out has only begun for real now I fear. Add to that bands that still expect to sell thousands and that often do not understand the position of labelowners who are all considered to be thieves nowadays. Oh well, I work in an insurance company during the day and can live from that. Good luck in the hunt Todd, and yes, I think that the new economy companies, such as Last FM etc might be your target industry to contact for work.

  4. I can only repeat it again and again : the bad word is “illegal dowloading” ! Since then, music has become worthless. Itunes or other platforms won´t change it as it all came too late ! Even the big names and lables are suffering, but they still have a lot of money left to pay 80 million USD for three forthcoming BIG STARS albums – forgive me if the sum is wrong or even higher 😉 Everything must be a bargain or even better “for free” ! Todd´s idea of releasing small editions of 500 units was a great and realistic concept, but what has become of the business or of the people, if you can´t even sell 500 units ?

    Don´t tell me that “Intuition” or “The Echoing Green” for example aren´t good enough to be sold in much higher numbers ? As I said, people pay a lot of money for the hardware (iPod, Golden-Hugo Boss-Design MP3 stick) because the music comes for free ! For free, yes, you just need to google it and nobody cares or will find out when you start the download. Todd´s situation makes me sad and it makes me angry.

  5. Please, don’t give up Todd! If you go away, where am I supposed to get my synthpop? Amazon? Lord knows my local music shops don’t have anything.

    I often wondered about those 500-unit releases. I’m proud to say that I have a few of them, but I have to wonder just how underground the scene really is if they’re still available.

    I would absolutely hate having to go with digital distribution, but I’m open to cheaper media. The album-on-USB concept is definitely neat, if that could be cost effective.

    If you want more sales, the eBay route might be helpful. You might not get the profit margin that you want, but it’s better than having stock just sit.

    If you REALLY want to boost business and build the synthpop scene, start an internet radio station, with ads direct listeners to the site to buy what they hear. I haven’t found a synthpop station I like since Sloth Radio went to a modern rock format. Live365 has low rates, from what I understand, and they offer a trial.

  6. Synthpop is even a hard sell on live365 because they have no category for it. We have to compete with new wave, of which many are just 80’s stations. I fluctuate from 400-600 listening hours a month, a discouragingly low amount and I was about to close up shop until I thought about how it would effect me if this was someone else’s station and they shut it down. I’d be sincerely bummed.

    The problem in my eyes is a lack of interesting new music coming out. My whole brand is dedicated to vintage synthpop, everytime I try and give a new band a chance, they tank in the ratings and get rotated out. Minimal Wave has an interesting brand, they dig up old forgotten classics and release them.

    But I think this is just what synthpop needs, it needs to get broke, dirty and pissed off in order for it to reclaim it’s innovative birthright.

  7. I think the lack of sales numbers (less than 500 units these days) is not so much a statement of the genre’s “underground” nature (though it has been underground for a couple decades). It’s more a statement of today’s slow sales. Even a good band has a hard time selling CD’s.

    As for radio. Internet radio is extremely noisy– I mean there are a LOT of stations, and there may be some playing what you want, but good luck finding them because with tens of thousands to try out, it’s a lot of work. What is more popular these days when it comes to streaming online radio, is to use something like LastFM, Jango.com, or Pandora to create one’s own “station”. You simply tell the player what you DO like, and it starts to feed you a stream of that kind of music. Your continued ratings and input help to transform the station into whatever you want it to be, only playing the stuff you want to hear.

    The downside is that Pandora or Jango or whoever often has little in the way of modern synthpop, so you have to dig a bit, and then once you’ve got a good playlist, you may not hear new songs very often.

    I know from experience on Jango that you can type in names like Elegant Machinery, Rename, Saudade (that’s me), Color Theory, etc. and find their songs, thus building a station with more recent stuff. I know on Pandora, they have a lot of Mesh, Wolfsheim, And One, Covenant, etc. to help you get going on the that side of the spectrum. You just tell it what you want and keep playing with it. If you don’t find what you like, then let them know and maybe they’ll add more.

    -Todd

  8. Oh yeah, I wanted to say something about the comment of “synthpop needs to get broke and pissed”. I liked that. I don’t like being broke (it sucks). Getting pissed won’t necessarily help. But this kind of thing MIGHT help to thin the crowd a bit? Who knows. “Love it or be good at it, or you’re gone!” Maybe that’s the message? Money is no longer a motivation, so we see what comes of that. Interesting thought.

    -Todd

  9. I’ve used Pandora and Last.FM a lot, but they’re automated. I’d rather listen to a playlist put together by a person than a script that learns from my taste. Sure, I can discover similar artists without any trouble, but it doesn’t help me find different artists.

    Maybe the future isn’t in music sales. Maybe it’s in licensing. Have you thought about looking into things like movies and television? Nothing makes me dislike a movie more than hearing the same old pop music used in every other film. Also, as Guitar Hero has taught us, games are a wonderful vehicle for music licensing. I’m not saying to start calling Chinese manufacturers about making a one-octave keyboard for Xbox, but confronting some development studios and offering some alternative soundtrack choices might be a good idea.

    • The economy, the climate, the quality of music. It all comes in cycles. When things have been very good, they must become bad, and when they’re very bad, they must become good again.

      Consider the climate the synthpop scene was born out of. A bunch of Sheffield kids, so sick of the samey drivel that rock had become. They wanted to do something….nay, ANYTHING that was different. They were too weird to be commercial, they just wanted to change the world by provoking questions.

      Human League? Cabaret Voltaire? That was really weird far out stuff.

      Today’s top 40 has become samey drivel again, and thus the wheel of time keeps turning.

      Every musical revolution has been rebellion and/or technology. Synthpop had WWII, we have the War-On-Terror. Both events suffered dramatic financial ramifications. They had the microchip, we have the internet. Social security, unemployment, pollution….the kids are gonna be real pissed off when they find out what they’ve been left with and they’re gonna have something musical and aggressive to say about it.

      Music piracy is an expression of that anger. Unfortunate that there will be a calm before the storm where people won’t be making money with music. Much like the time inbetween planting a seed and waiting to harvest.

      As far as capitalizing, I think shows are the best thing we got right now because you can’t very well illegally download a rockin show experience.

  10. Man, I really hate seeing stuff like this happen. There’s already been several labels that had to close up shop over recent years (Dependent being among one of my personal favorites that had to shut their doors), and the thought of ADD suffering the same fate is a very sad one indeed. Hopefully it never comes to that, but I know that the economy has forced me to be VERY frugal in what I buy. I do not obtain any music illegally, no matter how easy and tempting it is, because I know that was the first nail in the coffin — everyone downloading music and not supporting the artists as a result. I just wait for the releases that I cannot live without, and then buy those. Sadly, I know this makes it difficult for labels to stay running long enough to put out those releases, so it’s a no-win situation for all involved. There are still shining stars out there, and I was unbelievably impressed personally with “Gentle Touch,” who I hope will continue to make more music and be carried by ADD in the future.

    Long story short, I discovered ADD many years ago, before the Internet was even used that much for music, and even remember getting mail-order catalogs and having Todd playing samples of music over the telephone order line so that I could actually hear the music before making the decision to buy it. THAT is salesmanship and dedication to the craft, my friends! I discovered The Northern Territories through that method, after Todd recommended them to me based on what music I stated I really enjoyed, and after having Todd take the time to literally play some song samples by them over the telephone.

    There have been many good synthpop/industrial releases since that time, and the Internet was orignally a huge benefit, as it made it so much easier to listen to new bands and discover them, and even place orders easier for that music once it was discovered. I hate that something that was once so good for music, has now become so bad — although blame cannot really be made toward the Internet, as that blame really lies squarely at the feet of the people that use the Internet to download music illegally, essentially killing the thing they love.

    So yeah, this is really sad that it is getting to this point. ADD has always been my go-to label for this type of music, and has clearly been a labor of love for Todd, so Todd — I hope that things turn around sooner than later, and that there continue to be enough die-hard supporters out there to help make that happen.

    2 more final thoughts — the current Ebay specials are RIDICULOUSLY good deals. I already bought one of those sets in the past, and it was a great deal even then (I think I paid maybe around $70 or so for mine?). For anyone that doesn’t already own all those albums, you’ll not beat this deal. If you get 3 or 4 CD’s out of it that you enjoy, it’s worth it; anything more is just a bonus!

    Also, as far as new ideas or ways to stimulate sales — I think the USB flash drive idea is brilliant, such as Red Flag’s recent releases on USB drives. It’s such a new idea, for one, but I also like the compactness of it, and the fact that you place so much music on one flash drive. For those bands that are able/willing to place an entire music catalogue (in mp3 format) on a limited edition USB flash drive, and do so for a selling price that is less than what a buyer would pay to buy that catalog otherwise — that seems like a real win-win to me. Also, any new or exclusive songs added onto the flash drive would be a nice bonus. Unfortunately, the reality is that even those songs will hit the Internet with lightning speed for download, so my last suggestion would be to continue, as much as possible, to release albums in custom packaging, or at least with neat artwork, lyrics, etc. You can always download mp3’s (legally or illegally), but there will always be something special to actually holding the product in your hand, having something that you can’t get by downloading it off the Internet, whether it be signed copies of the album; special packaging, extra liner notes, etc. I know costs go up if the packaging is too exquisite, but maybe just adding something small to make it collectible and unique would add value to the customer, and encourage them to buy the entire album, rather than just buying one or two tracks, or downloading the mp3’s illegally.

    In the end, we need ADD, and more than ever, ADD needs us. I’m going to dig deep and try to find some things over the weekend that I don’t already have from ADD, and place an order to get some great music and do my part to keep a good thing alive.

    • Todd played samples for you over the phone? I wonder if we could update that idea. Maybe Todd could put together a weekly playlist of new stuff and play it live over Skype.

      I think that a more community-focused approach would be helpful. This blog is good for getting the fans to talk, but a forum would be more helpful.

      As for the Internet changing everything, I can see where you’re coming from. Way back, if you heard something good, you would probably buy it. Nowadays, with the Internet, you have that “I can get it later on ADD or Amazon” to fall back on, so you don’t rush out to buy every release you want. I used to just put on some Internet radio for an hour and write down all the artists that I liked, but I haven’t done that forever because “I know it’ll be there when I come back.” Internet mentality has really changed everything.


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