Well, this took a lot longer to write than I had initially wanted. Last week, I overhauled the site to include a new tab for “Articles” where I could share my comedic posts, stories of folklore and the unexplained, and reviews of obscure and/or hilariously bad music. This included an entire rebranding of these sections with new names, more organization and the culling of pieces that did not quite fit in or just were not up to snuff. A lot better than having these works scattered throughout a single blog and only discoverable by chance or via the “Categories” sidebar that did little to explain just what these articles were about. This new layout allows for better SEO and page descriptions over the chaotic cacophony of updates, comedy shorts and critiques dotted about the battlefield of my previous blog.
Also, I decided to remove The Pillager, a series of satirical posts in the style of a newspaper, over personal safety concerns as many posts poked fun at US politics and, after the FBI revealed several plots to kidnap or even kill the governors of Michigan and Virginia over mask mandates and lockdown orders to prevent the spread of a deadly virus, I did not feel like becoming a target to some of these terrorist groups. I already get enough guff for selling masks even from friends who still, after months into the pandemic and over one million fatalities worldwide, believe that COVID-19 is a hoax concocted by a cabal of devil worshipping celebrities. I do not need armed strangers coming after me because I made a joke about a particular president or senator on top of all that.
I was preparing to write this update to discuss the changes and the new direction in which I wanted to take my writing, when a little “oopsie” occurred on behalf of my host. Shortly after publishing the website with the new layout I discovered that, out of the blue, my host’s branding had been lathered all over my pages alongside adverts for Square (that little gizmo for scanning credit cards on a smartphone or tablet). This is normal for free accounts on the platform, but I have been a paying member since 2014 and have had my own domain name since 2015. My subscriptions renewed in August, so just what was going on here?
That is where the nightmare began. I have spent the past eight days sending emails, sitting in chats, and on the phone with tech support trying to find what had transpired. To bypass the ads covering my website, alongside the sudden removal of my footer containing my copyright information and my favicon, I purchased a new “plan” for my account. Previously, I have always had a Pro Account, but now it seemed that I would also be required to have a Pro Plan and pay twice for the same services. After several unproductive messages, it was revealed that I did not need to have a Pro Plan at all and it was removed from my subscriptions. All was well, until 22 minutes later when the host branding and Square ads returned.
This meant going back on the line with tech support for hours on end over the course of several days while waiting in a queue for other callers or messenger clients. It was not until last night that it was finally determined that this issue was a bug that was preventing my old Pro Account from being grandfathered into the new payment structure. I was told that there may not be a way to fix this bug but if there is, I will be notified by email when it is corrected in a few months, or even a year’s time.
I have several articles in the making and no way of uploading them without turning a site that I proudly proclaim to be ad-free into a wasteland of adverts for service that I do not use, nor that I think are safe to use. Looking at you, Square. Every time I’ve run my debit card through one of those little buggers I end up getting a call from my bank about a week later regarding fraudulent charges in overseas shops. Not keen on your security there.
There was a problem, however. I had paid for a new Pro Plan to eliminate the ads, yet tech support had deleted that plan and never issued a refund and the only way they would refund me was by providing them with my entire debit card number over email. Yes, and a Nigerian prince wants to send me a few billion dollars if I help him make an initial transfer fee.
The only solution was to purchase a new plan, again, eat the cost of the now cancelled plan (thank you, shortsighted tech support) and go into my site’s settings and delete the old Pro Account subscription, meaning that I would have to absorb the cost of the renewal from back in August as well.
So here I sit, writing an overdue update with less articles than before and behind in my schedule. I guess it will be okay as I have one more record coming out in a bit, and will make another update when that is released. For now, I have to get cracking on some more spooky true stories before Halloween fades into the darkness that is 2020 and hoping that we are still going to get that vaccine sooner than later without it turning us all into oozing mutants.
It’s time for another update. You may be wondering; “didn’t you already post an update titled The Future pt. 2?” and yes, I did. However, certain issues have arisen that negated much of the information that I had shared and I will get that all of that soon. Firstly, I wish to announce my latest single, Sketches from the Summerhouse:
This is a small selection of three bass guitar tracks I had written over the past four years that were originally going to be a series of twenty-four for each major and minor key in the vein of classical piano preludes. I had hoped to use that to bring the electric bass into the classical world with more of a serious approach, but lost interest in constantly writing out my music amidst a growing desire to return to my improvisational roots in Irish, klezmer and jazz music. There is one track in particular with an interesting history going back to mid-2008, but that will be yet another amusing update.
So, onto news over that seemingly never ending coronavirus. Since May I have been selling face masks on my fine art storefront. These are made from polyester and are hand washable for multiple uses. There is also a small pocket where a filter can be inserted for added protection. All masks are one size fits all.
Advertising has been difficult given the politicization of masks in the US where most of my customers are based (so I’ve been called a “beta cuck” more times than I can count just for selling masks), and the US is experiencing a suspicious slowing of mail services that is currently under federal investigation that has dramatically reduced delivery times on all items.
I am also happy to announce a new Patreon page to help support this website and the music, art, film and especially the writings that I routinely post. I am offering so much for free in the form of this comedy blog, and I want to expand into areas such as investigating folklore and sharing spooky stories of allegedly haunted locations. You know, something that would put my history degree to good use. However, I often feel guilty asking for money when money is hard to come by in every conceivable career field other than CEO, so it has been difficult for me to get the courage to share it. But if you enjoy the content I am creating, whether it be the music and art, or the creative writing and satire, please consider subscribing if you have the means.
I have been slow to update the Patreon page as of late due to family emergencies, finishing multiple back catalogue projects and looking ahead to new endeavours in all mediums, but mostly in composing music in Live and Reason over painstakingly writing out scores and parts and playing them to the note. Livestreaming is something that I am having difficulty getting the confidence to pursue at the moment, and security is still an issue as I fear SWATting pranks that haunt many platforms even with a VPN. What I want to do instead is create music videos for many of the recordings that I have already made and share them here via Vimeo (that site does not hit me with frivolous copyright claims like YouTube and I prefer the service and community over YT’s). I started off as a poet and filmmaker all the way back in the 3rd grade, so it would be fun to go back to my roots in everything, as well as getting to use my camcorder more often.
So no matter where in the world you are, or what you are going through; stay safe, keep washing your hands and avoid the evil robot dogs that enforce social distancing! Those are straight out of Half-Life 2 and are only working for The Combine. Heck, modern cops look like the Combine Overwatch now! When all this corona is over, I’ll be the first one to get yelled at to pick up that can.
So, this is the post I have been procrastinating on writing for months now. As I am sure you are aware, things are not well in the world right now. I have waited to write this update while looking at what I would need to do in order for my business to survive the pandemic and simultaneously looking ahead on when I may possibly be able to return services.
As of this moment all live concerts are cancelled until June of 2022, at the earliest.
Photography as a service may not be returning at all. Given that I have lost the entirety of 2020’s workload, with special consideration to the loss of an entire year’s wedding season (which provides the majority of my income), the cost of maintaining business as an event photographer in a world where there are no longer events is simply too much. As a result, I have made the painful decision to go out of business as a photographer for the foreseeable future. As of today, the earliest I can possibly (and safely) restore photography services would be roughly 2023 or even 2024.
Performances in 2022 are likely to be a strange thing as well. Many of the venues that I have relied on for the past 20 years have either permanently closed as a result of prolonged lockdowns ravaging their revenue, or will no longer be hosting live entertainment when they come back, even years down the line, out of the fear that crowds could spread disease. Many of these venues are looking at permanent distancing measures and a massive reduction of capacity born from the trauma we are all enduring, and the additional groups that come from live entertainment would not be conducive to these new environments. What concerts two years from now will be like, or where they will even be held, is just as mysterious to me as it is to all of you.
While on the subject of setbacks, I must also make note of CD Baby’s changes that have had a negative impact on myself and many other artists. I have used CD Baby for years now as both a major storefront and for digital distribution on all your favourite apps like Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music. About 90% of all my music sales came from the CD Baby store. It was at the end of this past March, when the company was trying to help artists through this time of cancellations and fear, that CD Baby abruptly retired their storefront with only 48 hours’ notice to the artists using it in order to focus entirely on digital distribution (which makes only about 5% of my annual income for sales). The notice came by way of a post to social media that I saw randomly in my chaotic Facebook news feed. Not an email to long time artists, no warning, just kaput.
Despite taking a larger percentage out of sales, I have had a preference for Bandcamp for several years now given that there is no cost to release new music, no UPC codes required and I can re-upload new master tracks or edit audio without having to remove a record and pay for it all over again. The only downside is the lack of digital distribution, but as that makes such a pitiful amount by comparison it is far from the end of the world. My entire discography is, and always has been, on Bandcamp principally and that platform is the only place to find new music from my studio. I will eventually digitally distribute my back catalogue, but due to the debacle with CD Baby, I have changed my decision to wait six months between the Bandcamp and CD Baby versions to a year (or more, given the financial hardships that I am experiencing).
So, what happens now?
Like every other artist, I am turning to live streaming and will host all concerts online until at least 2022, barring any sudden changes to the world situation for the better. Right now, I am working on how to do that for the best possible quality in private sessions on Facebook. I am looking for a solid platform for public streaming and will announce where those will be taking place. YouTube seems like a good option, but given their history of attacking content where an artist is performing public domain classical music on behalf of major labels that will never forfeit their algorithmic claims, I am hesitant. Right now I am just weighing my options between accessibility, cost, partnerships, security, etc.
I am also re-launching online private lessons on the piano and electric bass. I had offered online lessons for years, but students always had a preference to come to me (or ask me to drive three hours away to them) for in-person instruction. This current situation means that virtual lessons are pretty much the only lessons you can get at the moment. Personally, I have always preferred lessons online as it means not having strangers come to my home, younger pupils coming in with the flu and spreading it in the winter months, and it’s much easier for me to move from student to student by switching Skype or Facetime calls versus figuring out where people should park on the road and if it impedes traffic on a narrow, dead-end street.
In order to separate some of the heavier stuff on this website (political satire, dark poetry, curse words, horror fiction, etc.) from the learning environment, I have already created a second website just for lessons and will make it a clickable link in the menu here to provide easy navigation when the time comes. I plan on launching that this summer, and hopefully we’ll all have a little more disposable income to spend on personal education, which is not really an option here in May of 2020.
If you enjoy what I offer already, please consider supporting me with that nifty little Tip Jar link to my PayPal.me or consider purchasing my music and artwork. Even a little bit helps right now.
Stay safe, wash your hands, and never leave the house without a biosuit. It’s so good to know what we now live in the world of Half-Life 2.