I’m writing this post two weeks before the projected release date of my second studio EP, “Sun Also Sets.” I’ve been releasing music for over ten years now but for some reason, I feel more nervous than ever about this one. I think it’s a mix of factors: (a) I’ve never invested as much of a marketing effort into any previous release, (b) some of the momentum from Fargone has brought new eyes and ears onto my music, and (c) the societal shift that’s taken place over the last five months has me questioning if I should even be doing this.
At the time I wrote Sun Also Sets (March and April 2020), the world looked a little different than it does today. When George Floyd’s murder happened on Memorial Day, and the protests and movements formed in the following weeks, I was forced to face a reality that I sometimes ignore. I’m a white dude operating in a genre that was created by black musicians. Also, I’m pretty ignorant (less now than I was two months ago) in regards to the black experience in America.
I’m not a very outspoken individual. My music is my primary platform through which I vocalize my opinions, but even then I’m much more likely to discuss internal strife than things going on in the world around me. I steer clear of talking politics, I’m not the type to frequent protests or demonstrations, and my social media wouldn’t tell you a lot about my beliefs. When everything unfolded in late May and early June, I felt great discomfort related to how I should respond to what I was witnessing.
I made a few social media posts. I shared a few Instagram stories. I had some conversations with my friends and family. I watched some TV series and listened to some podcasts that were recommended. I delayed my album release (originally set for early July). I thought about tabling it entirely… maybe I should have.
I don’t have all of the answers, and I still struggle daily with what is happening in the world around me. What I do know:
- Black Lives Matter.
- I have a responsibility to amplify black voices, acknowledge my privilege, and do more to combat instances of racism (whether subtle or blatant) that I experience in my world.
- Black culture has shaped me, and it’s imperative that I increase my knowledge on all parts of that culture – including the ugly realities of the way people of color have been treated in America.
So, insert the problematic nature of me (a white rapper) putting together an album and releasing it this summer. I don’t know what I’m doing. But I do know that right now I have some positive momentum with my music, and if there’s ever a time to leverage a “platform” to provide some greater good to society (for me, anyways), it’s probably right now. To wait too long and lose some of my platform, the potential impact I could make might be lessened.
I spent time looking into merchandise. Why? It’s really about the only way that I can monetize my music in a significant way right now. To this point in time, I’ve made $185 off music. $50 off of a show I did in college, and $135 off stream royalties from Fargone. With merchandise sales, I can make $185 by selling 3 sweatshirts and 1 t-shirt. People have asked me for a while about making merchandise, so this feels like the best way to bring in revenue.
I researched ways to get merch live on my website, and found a platform that could make it work. I’ll be selling merchandise and donating the profits from sales that come in by or before August 9th. I’m donating these proceeds to the #RestoreNorth campaign, aimed at supporting businesses in North Minneapolis that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 and recent uprisings. My hope is to make a thousand or more dollars in profit and donate all of that back to this fund.
Some people may still have feelings about how I’m choosing to release this music in this time. I’m sorry if that’s the case, and I’m open to the conversation. However, as I’ve analyzed the pros and cons of releasing and not releasing, this plan at hand is what’s left me feeling the greatest level of assurance that I’m using a platform to do good. Which is why I create music in the first place – to try to insert some good into the world.
I love you. All of you. I hope you’re finding peace in these trying times.