Saturday, December 07, 2013

If You Play It, They Will Come

Ask almost any musician why they do what they do, and they will tell you that they aren't out to make money. That's not to say it's not nice to sell a few tracks or CD's, or give a performance for a paying audience. But the fact is that there are very few Justin Timberlakes or Beyonces compared to the number of talented people performing and recording. For most it's a calling, and the goal is simply to get people to hear what they sing or play. And if they are lucky enough to combine the two, to find a receptive audience and make a living doing it, well, that's as good as hitting the lottery.

Dan O'Connor is one such case. By his own admission, he was "an unknown New York singer songwriter." A jazz guitarist, he wrote and recorded any number of his own tracks, gigging locally and picking up some nice reviews here and there. Back in 2008 he created a one page website to help spread his music, and put 7 songs on it. He got a few hits, but nothing major to speak of. Then he had an idea: "One day I updated the page to say that people could include the music in their videos. Well, the response was overwhelmingly positive. It turned out that small business owners, game developers, video producers, independent artists and online entrepreneurs needed cheap, quick music they could use for commercial purposes." Word got out, and usage started to take off.

He took a two-pronged approach. For those willing to give him credit, Dan offered his tracks for free. All you had to do to use the bluesy "Flying While Weeping" under your travel montage, or the Coldplay-esque "Sunspark" in your video game, was to place a graphic somewhere within the work that said "Music by Dan-O" along with a link to his website. Or if you couldn't do that, you could pay him $10 and then use it as you saw fit. No pun intended, but it struck a chord: "Commercial YouTube videos and Danosongs turned out to be a killer combination." And more and more visual artists of all kinds looking for tracks to back their work found their way to his site.

I asked him why he didn't just charge for his music to all comers. He said that while he does sell it, the exposure he gets from the free uses results in far more listeners than he might get otherwise. And since he maintains a web of availability, with his tracks on iTunes, Amazon and the like, people who see his credit click around and buy the tracks they hear or are led to his other efforts. The net result is that "when anyone searches danosongs or a song name they like, I am one click away on their favorite music service. So it turns out that this one basic idea, to give people a practical use of my music, has created all kinds of income opportunities. It pays a lot more of my bills that I ever thought it would!"

Dan has continued to expand his offerings, and now posts nearly 100 tracks on his site. The basic deal is still in place, along with an option to buy unlimited access to all his tracks for $49, a bargain if ever there was one. Now, some five years after he started the project, many have found his stuff perfect for their efforts. Search "danosongs" on YouTube, and you can find his tracks backing everything from "Intermediate Yoga for a Beach Bod" to "Blue Sparkle Galore Nail Art Design Tutorial" to "St. John Fischer College Countdown to Commencement." At last check, there were over half a million videos that feature his music.

Dan continues to write and record new efforts and post them to the site. When I asked him how he promotes it, he said that he doesn't have to: "The community and word of mouth around Danosongs does 90% of the work. I mainly just create the music and share it. The rest is up to the amazing creative folks who use my music." And that drives him to write and record even more: "It's a real blessing, which offers an incredible artistic freedom that I truly appreciate."


Marc Wollin of Bedford would have loved to have the talent to be a musician. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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