A Reflection on Numbers: 1,000 plays on Sound Cloud!


This week my Sound Cloud website page crested the 1,000 mark!

That’s over 1,000 plays of the songs and compositions I have there! I’m pretty excited about it. I want to first thank you, if you are reading this and you have ever listened to something I put up at Sound Cloud. Thank you! I also want to thank Jamie Weems for telling me about Sound Cloud several years ago. It’s a great way to get music into the world. To have my music heard.

Sound Cloud allows me, via analytics, to track the source of the people listening to my music. For instance, one week last year, I had 26 plays of my music tracks from someone in India. Pretty amazing! The website allows me to tag each music track with words like “folk,” or “guitar,” or “violins,” so that users around the world who search for those terms can find my music and give it a listen.

While I’m on the subject of numbers, I have a few more for you:

Amount of money I still have to recoup to pay back the investment in my 2005 CD Nona Mae’s Wishes: $1200
Amount of money I get paid when someone buys one of my tracks digitally on iTunes: $0.637
Amount of money I get paid for one song stream on Spotify: $0.00780000 (that’s not a typo!)

That’s the thing. Numbers can boost you up, and numbers can bring you down. And while I’ve had three successful small businesses in my life, there is one small business that I can’t ever seem to make money on and that is the business of recording and selling music. With such dismal prospects you might think that I’d give up. You know, let go of the dream. Try knitting or hockey, or cake decorating or something.

The truth is, I’ve tried! Twice in the past decade I came to the point of giving up. Once in 2008 I had a gig where I did the exact same amount of publicity (a lot) I always did, only – this is embarrassing – a total of 4 people turned up. Four people. Nice people, yes, very nice people.

Number of CDs sold that night: 0.

After that show, I felt so down that as I was driving to work the next day, I thought to myself – enough! Why put yourself through this anymore! Screw it, we’re giving up! And just at that moment, I heard my own voice coming out of the radio!

You see, I was listening to WLEZ, a local Jackson, MS radio station, and a year or so prior I had gone there to make a promo bit. You know, the, “This is singer-songwriter Laurel Isbister and you are listening to WLEZ” type promo. Edward St. Pe, who at the time was running that place, had invited me in to do the promo. The coincidence of this timing was not lost on me. It reminded me of how much fun I’d had at WLEZ, and also how far I’ve come, whether or not the financial numbers add up.

In 2014 I had another of these “giving up” moments. I started a new day job last year, one with pretty intense hours. I was feeling tired, very tired. I was in a bookstore, gazing longingly at some fiction. I thought, what if I gave up trying to always have two careers – a day job and music. What if I just had one? I’d have so much more time to read…maybe to wander in the woods and read a book all day. Oooh, yeah that sounded so good. And just at that moment, I received a text message from my friend, a web designer, letting me know she had just finished up with the new website we had been building!

By the way, the website, http://www.laurelirby.com, is up and you are most welcome to visit!

Once again, I felt the mystic pull of music tugging at me…reminding me to look beyond the typical numbers of “success.” I have a gift that not everyone gets…and I have 30+ years of training, learning, writing, gigging, scoring, arranging, tracking, mixing, you name it! I have had total strangers stop me as I was singing randomly in the airport and say, “You sing like an angel!” or “I thought I was listening to the radio – but that was you!” I can honestly say I feel thankful and blessed beyond belief to have this gift.

At the end of the day,  I measure life, music, and success by more than numbers. Can I live with myself if I don’t make music? Nope. Can I look back at projects I’ve done, whether or not they made money, and feel proud and fulfilled? Yep. That I can.

Enjoy life, my friends. And celebrate today, with me, for topping that 1,000 milestone! Hell, I didn’t even get paid for those Sound Cloud listens, but they make me feel good – people all over this country and all over the world get to hear what I make, what I create! And do me a favor – encourage the people in your life who create music.

For without music, how much would we enjoy life? The answer for many of us: zilch!


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