I always hold my breath when reviews of one of my new albums are about to hit the internet and the news stands, don't you? Of course, I hope that they're going to be good, but it's all up to the critics. My new album, APPALACHIA: AMERICAN STORIES was officially released a week ago. The reviews are starting to come in, and I wanted to share them with you. I also wanted to let you know about my new strategy for distribution. It's a whole new world in the music business, and we have to adapt ... or perish.
“If you took a few ounces of Willie Nelson and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, mixed them carefully Grant Maloy Smith would appear ... One day we’ll be talking about how Grant Maloy Smith is a national treasure – like John Prine. I’d be the first to say it’s so.” ~ John Apice, Americana Highways
“Appalachia: American Stories comes across with such absolute authenticity. …the arrangements shine with such craft and consistency…the honest sentiment so evident in each of the album’s entries...” ~Lee Zimmerman, Bluegrass Today
“Fine picking, vibrant vocals, and a lyrical emphasis on values of the past…songs like “We Got Mountains,” rich in the humanity that animates the album’s intriguing Appalachian landscape. The 40-page glossy booklet that accompanies the album is a bonus with its photos, lyrics, sociological and historical perspectives.” ~ Joe Ross, Roots Music Report
And there were other good reviews, from magazines like MusicRow, and a wide variety of blogs, and some great blurbs like these:
“Grant Maloy Smith has delivered a musical tapestry with his new album, APPALACHIA: AMERICAN STORIES. His strong, heartfelt vocals and guitar work speak of a different time when music rang freely from through the mountains and from old porches! Smith is keeping this tradition alive for future generations.” ~ Eric Dahl, Host of Fox 17 Rock and Review, Nashville, and writer for Maverick Magazine.
"In a time when Appalachia is still commonly presented in a negative light, Grant Maloy Smith’s album APPALACHIA: AMERICAN STORIES is a welcome and very well-performed recompense." ~ Dale Farmer, writer-director of the award-winning motion picture THE MOUNTAIN MINOR
The album was released just about a week ago. But I started selling the album long ago - even before it was made. I reached out to my fan base to help fund the album by pre-ordering it, in 2019. A bunch of people did that, which helped. I was close to being able to start when COVID-19 hit. My show income went to zero overnight, and studios were closed anyway.
But by August I decided to get started to matter what, but we had to do it remotely. So that's how we did it... the players recorded from their homes and we got it done. We used ZOOM and our phones to hear and see each other, and talk about each take as soon as it happened. It was not easy, and I don't want to do it that way again.... but it worked! It was done before the end of 2020.
I decided not to release it until midway through 2021, however, because I wanted to be able to promote it with live shows, and I was hoping things would be opened up by then. I used the time in-between to create the physical package. Why? Isn't that pouring good money after bad, since fewer and fewer CDs are sold each day.
CDs have no perceived value anymore
Most people regard them as worthless. But what if I created something much more than a CD? What if I wrote a book to accompany the album? What if I made vinyl LPs, and put the whole thing into a beautiful container and make a "boxed set?"
So that's what I did, and I started offering them for pre-sale. The very early pre-sale orders were just for CDs, so I filled those orders early this year. Then the books arrived. Then the fancy boxes. Finally the LPs came in. I turned my office into an order fulfillment center. I was taking orders now for the boxed sets. They cost more because they cost a lot more to make. But people are willing to pay more for something of value, aren't they? I ordered shipping boxes just the right size, and a tape machine so I could seal them professionally.
It was an exciting day when I assembled the first batch of boxed sets and shipped them out. Half of the shipment of 25 were to the critics and reviewers mentioned above. Some critics said "Nah, just send me a link to listen," but I insisted on sending them the boxed set.
Above: A fan sent me this picture of my boxed set among his records
The reason is simple: it looks and feels like it's worth something. Because it really is worth something. When you hold it in your hands and go through the large book and the heavy LP you feel it. That's how people are wired. Unfortunately, streaming has made songs feel like they should be free. After all, a song is just abstract bits and bytes. It can be copied infinitely. It's not worth anything, right? Music is free, right?
Well, WRONG, of course. The songs contained in those bits and bytes are the culmination of a lifetime of work writing, playing, performing. Experience. Talent. Endless hours of practice. Not to mention thousands of dollars spent recording them, paying musicians and engineers what they deserve for their work and talents. Then add on the cost of promotion, and it's real money that frankly most independent artists don't even have. Sadly, streaming has made all of this very hard for most people to understand.
You need to get a million streams on Spotify to earn $4,000 - but by the time the album was released a week ago I had already sold $6,000 worth of physical albums. Who needs Spotify? Unless you're getting millions and millions of streams, it doesn't pay and you're just giving your music away for virtually nothing.
In my production studio with the first LP off the presses
I made a video in a Kentucky coal mine, and released it as the first single. Everyone told me I could save money by singing in front of a green screen, and then using some stock coal mine pictures or video. Not for me. I got in my truck and drove 800 miles to Harlan County, and shot the video at Portal 31 in Lynch, Kentucky. It was a lot more difficult and costly, but it's real. It's authentic. People know when you're real and when you're not. Have a look...
Please like and share, and leave a comment so that I know you saw it!
I plan now to make more videos to support album sales, and to do as much promotion in social media that I can afford. I will also run some ads on the websites of the magazines that reviewed the album... those aren't too expensive. So I think there's a lesson here about creating something "bigger" than a normal release.
Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it! I hope that some of my experiences will help you think about how to do your own releases and promotion.
If you'd like to know more about the album, please visit my website at www.grant-maloy-smith.com/appalachia
I would love the chance to send you a copy of my album, and I will be happy to sign and dedicate it to the name(s) of your choice.