You’re Still Doing This? 2015 in Review

Another year has come and gone, and once again I write a big incoherent review of how things went. For what it’s worth, this was 2015.

The stats and stuff collected in this were current around January 3rd 2016.

As usual, first the easy stuff. Poopular blog posts:

Post Views
A Minimal Arduino Library for Processing Serial Commands (2011) 8,673
Modify an Arduino for DebugWIRE (2010) 7,850
Hardware Debugging the Arduino using Eclipse and the AVR Dragon (2012) 6,734
Changing the Pickups in an Ibanez S420 Guitar (2014) 5,484

It seems, at last, that the articles I wrote in 2010 are finally in decline. Total views were 44,563 in 2015 (43,574 in 2014). My most poopular single thing mysteriously remains that picture of removing a capacitor, which has twice as many views as the next thing on the list.

Most email still revolves around “Your library doesn’t work” (it works for me, it works for lots of others), and “Make it do this thing” (it already does).

Face the Music

Here’s my usual full disclosure transparency report on music.

In 2015 I did not release a new album(*). I put out one new xmas song, Xmas Due to Time Dilation, that I put out as a free download and got exactly one download. Good job.

The last new release was 2014’s Crap Chute’s Box of Devils. Here’s how things went.

First up, the primary outlet for my music is still Bandcamp, so this data is from Bandcamp only:

Album 2015 Sales 2015 Downloads All Time Sales All Time Downloads
Blast from the Ass (2009) 3 2 4 9
Sluice Juice (2010) 2 1 4 7
Something or Other (2011) 2 1 3 6
Lagrange Point (2012) 2 1 4 5
Pinched Loaf (2013) 1 0 4 8
Box of Devils (2014) 3 8 7 20

Here, how about a chart to go with that:

Sales 2015

In terms of “plays” from the bandcamp site, in 2015 I got 912 “plays.” 204 of those were for “Arduweeny”, which is the joke piece of music on one of my more poopular articles. People hit that article from a google search hoping it will do their homework for them, and so they click every link in the article. Next is “Nice Day” (21 plays) which is also at the top of another article I wrote.

Of the 708 non-Arduweeny plays for the year, 128 (18%) are “complete”, 240 (33%) are “partial” and 340 (48%) “skips”. As bandcamp itself says: A “complete” play means the track was played past the 90% mark. A “partial” play means the track was played past the 10% mark, but stopped before the 90% mark. A “skip” means the track was stopped before the 10% mark..

I got a lot of free downloads for Box of Devils because I was aggressive about giving out free codes. Principally to listeners of Night Attack. What I have found is that lots of people will complain about price, but if you give them a free download code they won’t actually use it. Also, some people use up a download code but don’t actually download anything, wtf people.

In 2015 Bandcamp introduced the “full discography” option, meaning that for a discount you can get all my albums for 50% off, and even more if you somehow find the secret discount code. Yes, you even get the free albums as part of that, and they’re still free.

Here’s some of the pricing variations I tried in 2015: $5 for the current album. $3.14 for the current album. $2.50 for the current album with discount code. $2.50 for the complete discography (six albums). Forty-seven cents for the complete discography with discount code (yes, really). Free track. Free track without even requiring an email address. Honestly, nothing was effective, and that’s been consistent for years since most of my albums are “name your price”, and “zero” counts as a price.

Box of Devils is the only album I charged a minimum amount of money for, the previous five albums were always available for free.

I also use Distrokid to put Pinched Loaf / Box of Devils on iTunes/Amazon/Google Play etc.

Album iTunes Sales (all time)
Pinched Loaf (2013) 5
Box of Devils (2014) 1

iTunes is the only platform other than bandcamp I’ve had a sale on. Never had a sale on Google Play or Amazon. I’m not surprised at the iTunes results. I have zero discoverability on big stores, and for the music consumer it’s cheaper to buy from Bandcamp. It’s more of a vanity thing at this point. If you’re like me and you use iTunes Match you get the equivalent service if you’d bought it from iTunes anyway.

Distrokid also pushes stuff out to Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services. Since 2013 I’ve got 211 plays on Spotify and 102 on Apple Music. For the record, so far in my career I’ve made $0.56 from Spotify.

But What About All the Moneyyyyyyyyy

Here’s what you really want to know. I made CAD$127.50 from Bandcamp in 2015, that’s before Bandcamp takes their cut (15% + paypal fees), and what I pay to use bandcamp (USD$120/year). By the time you subtract the paypal fees and Bandcamp’s weird-ass “revenue share” accounting I received CAD$95.54 from Bandcamp. A wrinkle was that at one point I refunded someone who bought an album twice by mistake. Bandcamp doesn’t have any refund capability, so to be a nice guy I ended up paying them back myself. Then Bandcamp kept all the funds from the actual sale for the revenue share and I still get to pay all the fees.

Thank goodness Bandcamp got rid of that revenue share stuff and now they just take a straight 15% on every sale. After the USD to CAD conversion I end up with a loss of CAD$70.70 for the year with Bandcamp.

In 2015 I made USD$20.35 from Distrokid (after the Stores take their cut, usually 30%), of which USD$19.58 was from three iTunes sales. Distrokid costs a measly USD$19.99 a year, so at least I kinda come out ahead with Distrokid (Net +USD$0.36). Ironically, because Distrokid messed up some of the paypal fee charges I actually still owe Distrokid USD$0.24, so really my profit is USD$0.12.

I didn’t bother to spend any money on advertising this year, given that in the past I’ve found it to be just a big money sink for clickfarms that generates no interest. I did buy a sponsor spot on an episode of The Morning Stream, another show that I like. It got zero, and I mean zero traction (no sales, no downloads, and near as I can figure no visits). At least the ads are inxpensive and support the show.

I didn’t have any big equipment expenditures in 2015. Other than incidentals like guitar strings, I bought a Midi Expression USB Interface, which ironically I bought to replace one I made myself. The midi expression uses the usb interface directly, while the one I made uses the old-style 5-pin DIN plug that I interface though my presonus firestudio. The midi expression has a more convenient hookup.

I bought a whole bunch of guitar picks at one point, because hey the only reason I’m not better at guitar must be the picks, right? There can’t be any other reason. I bought a variety pack from Gravity Picks (because of Rob Chapman), a variety pack from Swiss Picks (because of Ben Eller), a Howling Monkey pick (because how the hell can a single pick cost so much?), and a variety of dunlops (jazz III, tortex, nylon, stubby) from the local music store.

guitar picks 2015

I used the thinnest picks I could get (dunlop nylon 0.38 mm) for decades. Now I’ve apparently transitioned up to using thicker things. I keep alternating between the gravity striker, swiss 1.50, and that stupid expensive howling monkey pick, but I do still use the 0.38 mm for some things. I don’t really have a favourite.

The Night Attacks

Something I just kind of fell into doing in 2015 was making songs for Night Attack. I’d actually been taking audio from Night Attack since 2014 and making stuff around it, but 2015 was the first any of it got played on the show. Longtime readers will recognize I’ve been doing this “take audio from some show and make something out of it” thing since 2009.

Some backstory might be in order. Night Attack is a show hosted by Brian Brushwood and Justin Robert Young which you could describe as comedy, or just general horseshit. I enjoy it a lot. They occasionally do improv-style bits which are either songs made-up-on-the-spot or – with guests like Mike TV – actual musical numbers. If I listen to the show and see a bit that can be turned into a good musical piece, I try to make it into something. I send the finished bit along to the show and if they don’t disapprove, I make it publicly available on this lame-ass blawg. That’s the “<>” symbol in the menus at the top, since it’s the symbol for the Night Attack Diamond Club.

So I actually did do bunch of songs for Night Attack that actually made it into the show, with varying degrees of acceptance by the crowd. As I said, I make these things unprompted by anyone, so I’m ultimately responsible for them.

In chronological order, this is what I made for Night Attack in 2015:

If I go from page views, A Night Attack Christmas was the most popular. If I go from “clicks” (possibly downloads) it’s Mike TV Wars. I don’t get any play stats from the wordpress audio player, which is one of the reasons I stopped using it for my own music.

As you would surmise, the Night Attack songs are more poopular than any regular music I’ve ever done. I think almost any one song for Night Attack is more poopular than all my other music combined. Also I get fewer threats and hate mail from the diamond club than I have from others. We know what people really want to listen to anyway.

One of the Night Attack pieces was enshrined in a Spearmint Nitrate cold open video.

It takes quite a bit of time to assemble a Night Attack song. Usually between five and nine hours per track, because I have a lot of work to do fixing the timing and pitch correction of the audio. I think it’s worth it though, because I want to make tracks that people enjoy and get a laugh from, not make tracks to make fun of people. Laugh with people, not at people. I had an episode dedicated to the MC Allergy Country Song where I talk about some of the things I do to make audio bits into finished tracks. Comedy is hard. Also, I had to do things like learn how to play that Adele song.

With my regular stuff I probably spend as much time per track as Night Attack stuff, I just don’t do it all at once. For my own stuff usually I record an idea, and go back to it over time and add to it and eventually abandon finalize it. “We plan for the future, that way we don’t have to do anything today.”

I publish all the Night Attack songs here on this lame-ass blawg, despite the fact that I hate the wordpress audio player, because that keeps them 100% absolutely free. I always include a download link so people can save it if they want to. Sure, I could put them on bandcamp and charge nothing, but I don’t have explicit rights from the people who appear in them to do so, and I don’t want to ruffle any grouses. I could probably have put them on soundcloud but I’m not a big fan of soundcloud.

Is that it?

I had a very, very short theme I made for Robot or Not get used on one episode. I’m astounded at a show that can be a minute long and still have an ad.

I did actually revive my old plodcast under a new site, where I talk about my music bs.

Venerable show Starbase 66 finally closed down this past year. For the finale I made a special finale theme. I also recorded an episode that talked about all the Starbase themes I’ve made.

Other than that I put out a new album.

Wait, You Actually Did Put Out a New Album?

Yeah, I guess I did. Technically I didn’t get it finished in time to release in 2015, so the publishing was in the first couple of days of 2016. It doesn’t count in any of the discussion above. (Back to top)

Yes, it’s my shortest album ever (only twenty tracks, only 83 minutes). I thought I had hard time getting motivated to make Box of Devils, and I had even less desire to make Concentrated. But hey, I did actually agonize over the mixing and finalized it, so enjoy.