One thing I learned early: you don’t get a big career if you tell stories few people want to hear. Those are my specialty.
That does not mean you can’t have a career, of course. Especially in the internet age. (Tom Waits, for instance, famously described his work as “beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.”) But the tininess of what I’ve come to call my “micro-cult” has puzzled a number of my musician friends and fans. It is assumed I’ve been doing something wrong.
But I may have figured out one of the reasons.
For no good reason, I found that iTunes has a Dudley Saunders Radio Station (almost everybody does, don’t get excited). I decided to listen. Guess what it played next to me?
Broadway Show Tunes. EDM (Dance) Music. Cabaret Singers. Diva Pop Singers. Diva Gay Singers. Some gay novelty songs.
I checked a bunch of other internet services, and it was the same thing.
In other words, for years now all the internet algorithms have been playing my music for the audience most likely to hate it. Because I’m gay and they’re gay and all gay is the same thing, right?
Then today I found Spotify’s “Dudley Saunders Radio”. Guess what I heard on it?
Sufjan Stevens. Beck. Devendra Banhart. Songs: Ohia. Tom Waits. Damien Jurado. Andrew Bird.
In other words, while Spotify has been starving me of income from my music, they appear to be the only internet service that understands what kind of music I actually make. And what audience might actually respond to it.
Maybe I’m giving them too much credit. If you have any idea why they’re getting it right when everyone else has gotten it so wildly wrong, clue me in. All I know is that, 20 years in, this is the first hope that the right listeners might actually hear me.
Now if only Spotify will tell me who and where my new listeners are …