Frequently Asked Questions
…FROM ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS
I got thinking about the hundreds of Q & A sessions I’ve given after school concerts and realized that I could easily come up with a long FAQ page. Kids want to know more about how we artists do it, from writing to publishing to recording to making a living. So, here are a few answers from my perspective. If you have questions that aren’t answered somewhere on my site, please e-mail me. I’d like to start another section that features your queries and comments.
FAQ: Do you like making CDs?
I love it! To quote the Bare Naked Ladies, “if I had a million dollars” I’d most certainly blow a good portion of it in the studio. Recording is an exciting, creative process, but for a solo act like me who doesn’t work in a band, it ain’t exactly cheap. I hire everyone: the musicians, the producer, the engineer, the designer, the photographer, and then the studio time and manufacturing.
FAQ: What did it cost to make your CDs?
Lots. It’s different for every solo artist and every band, and it depends how big a name you are. Well known artists who are signed to big record labels will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, hoping to make millions. In my case, I hope to sell enough CDs to break even, or even to make some money for all the otherwise unpaid time I put into the project.
I like to tell students what each CD cost to produce:
- Megamunch: $13,0000
- Looking For Grandma’s Teeth: $25,000
- The Old Elephant’s Christmas: $22,000
plus my CDs for adults:
- Self-titled: $25,000
- Daughter of Double-Dare: $30,000
for a grand total of $115,000!!!
And, of course, when you have to manufacture more, which is a good thing because it means you’re actually selling them, there’s additional expense. So, that’s what it cost me to make CDs. Thankfully, thousands of people have bought them, and yes, surprise, surprise, I have actually made a reasonable profit as an indie artist.
FAQ: Where do you sell your kids’ CDs?
You can order them through my web site, but in Saskatchewan I like to recommend the stores that have carried them FOREVER it seems. I’m ever-so-happy to have you pick them up there because I’m extremely grateful for all the sales these places give me.
Saskatoon: McNally Robinson Book Sellers
Regina: Royal Saskatchewan Museum Gift Shop, Bach and Beyond
FAQ: How’d you get started as a recording artist?
I began writing songs (for adults) when I was fifteen. By age 20 I was singing them at open mike events at Cafe Domingo, a Saskatoon folk club of the day. Somewhere around 1984 (age 25) I played the Regina Folk Festival for the first of many times. By 1988 I made my first of two appearances at the internationally renowned Winnipeg Folk Festival. Emboldened by the positive audience response to my political, satirical, and socially conscious material, I headed into a Regina studio with producer Rob Bryanton, who would become an incredible mentor and friend. I learned so much from him through the process of producing my self-titled 1989 release. Five years later he also produced my huge conceptual project, Daughter of Double-Dare.
FAQ: Why’d you stop making CDs for adults?
It wasn’t really a conscious decision. It’s just the way things went because I was given more opportunities in the children’s music marketplace. With the potential of a children’s TV show in the wings (the pilot for Prairie Berry Pie being shot in ’95), and the fact that in Saskatchewan I could actually make a decent living as a children’s performer, I decided to focus my energies on that. I somehow thought I’d still be able to carry on with music for adults, but in fact I just didn’t have enough time or energy to be able to tour and promote the adult CDs the way you need to. Still, I had a good ten years of great performing experiences in the adult market, and there are days I really, really miss it! If I didn’t need to sleep I’d head straight back to song writing and playing for a much older audience!
FAQ: How long does it take to write a story?
It really depends on the story. The two projects written for very young children are good examples for comparison. I wrote Tiny Teresa Twiddle off and on for about three months. In hours, it probably took me 50 or so. That includes all the revisions. If I ever get it published I’ll likely have to do more revisions for the publishing company.
The Old Elephant’s Christmas (OEC) took me much, much longer. I worked on it off and on for about a year. With all the songs and revisions and testing it live in front of an audience and doing more revisions, it probably took me 400 hours, which is approximately three months of full-time work. That doesn’t include the time to make the CD.
FAQ: Did someone pay you money to write The Old Elephant’s Christmas and Tiny Teresa Twiddle?
No. But I did win a prize of $100 for Tiny Teresa Twiddle, and maybe one day I will sell the story. But maybe not. You just never know in this business!
With OEC I hope to one day make some money from selling the CDs (once I break even) and I also make money by performing the show live, so that’s why I invested 400 hours of time to write the story and songs.