A couple of years ago I came to the end of a chapter in my career: I was in the middle of being released from my 3rd major label record deal (the last 2 of which were a complete bust), yet I was writing more music than ever before with what seemed to be increasingly fewer places for those songs to go. The current model for most “professional” songwriters is that we write & co-write anywhere from 40 to 200 songs a year (I usually write around 80), find some means to record most if not all of these songs (I produce about 2/3rds of the songs I write while other producers I work with record the others, which usually takes about twice as long as the writing process), & then submit these songs to managers & record labels for different projects.
In the last 10 years, record sales have dramatically decreased (less than half of what it used to be, even with the advent of digital downloading). This has led to a couple of things: 1) record labels don’t put out as many albums as they used to, 2) because of the long tail of e-business, platinum albums are almost extinct – in 2000 there were sixty three albums that went platinum (selling 1,000,000 copies in the US), in 2011 there were seven, 3) because of the desire to be more involved with the creative process (and supplement a loss in record sales through publishing), the majority of artists that used to be open to cutting outside songs (songs that they didn’t have a hand in writing) are now co-writing most if not every song on their album. These & other factors simply mean that to make a living as a songwriter, there are far fewer opportunities than there have been in the past to get the music we write & love to an audience.
I have been very blessed by the opportunities that i’ve had as a writer, but only about 20% of the songs I write a year ever get released. With the exception of only a handful of writers, the vast majority of us get less than 25% of the songs we write cut. I’m not complaining from a business sense – being able to make music for a living and having any of it be heard by people outside of my living room is amazing. But from a creative standpoint, that’s a lot of stories & songs that I care deeply about that will never see the light of day. Now I don’t think that every song I write is amazing; let’s say that the bottom 20% are not worth ever being heard again. And the “top” 20% (I’m often surprised by which songs make it on the album or which songs are successful at radio – they are just as often as not songs that I wouldn’t have picked over others) is already out there; but that leaves this middle 60%. It was these 40+ songs a year that were keeping me up at night. Surely there’s got to be some way outside of the current model that these songs can be heard. And it was out of this dilemma that Sleepwalker Records was formed.
In the past 18 months we’ve put out (including The December Sessions, Vol. 1, which will be released in early 2012) 4 full length albums, and this project is at the heart of what Sleepwalker Records is all about: every year I plan on making an acoustic album in December of 8 songs that for whatever reason haven’t been heard. I hope you like them, because I love these songs & love where they’ve come from. An affirming side note – while I was putting the songs together I emailed all the co-writers to see if they were ok with me releasing the songs (part of the hangup with this idea is that record labels tend to think once a song is released in any form to the public, it can’t be recorded by their artists), to the last one all of them were very excited about the songs being heard & couldn’t wait to hear how the album turned out. So I’m not alone in this. More details soon, but I just wanted to give you guys a heads up on what’s coming.