With decades of experience. Lucky Doug shares the secret of how to keep your passion when the odds are against you.
I’m Lucky Doug Fergus. I was a late bloomer to music. I liked music as I was growing up, but I wasn’t really into it. I heard pop music on my sister's radio and I liked it, but I didn’t buy records and had no interest in playing an instrument. When I was in the US Air Force after high school at age 18, I suddenly became passionate about listening to music. Within six months I had an awakening and decided I had to be a rock and roll lead guitarist! I stopped my other interests, (motorcycling, bicycling and bodybuilding) and threw myself 24/7 into learning guitar/bass guitar, writing songs and buying as many records as I could afford. Within 2 years I was a bassist in a Los Angeles area original pop/rock band. I learned quickly and became not only a co-writer but the bands booking agent and manager. The highlight from that time period is that we got signed to Allied Artists Records. Nothing came of it, they didn’t release any product, but it was a great experience.
Today I’m in my tenth year of self-releasing my original songs. Currently, I have over 75 songs out on all digital platforms. I only play live occasionally. I love doing it and I’m told, I’m a fun/funny interesting performer, but I have focused my energy on promoting online. I’m not naturally good with computers, (I was 37 years old when I saw my first ‘home computer’) It’s a real struggle for me to comprehend and try to keep up with changes in the industry, so I just do what I can and not get too caught up in the feeling that I’m not doing enough, or that I’m not getting enough streams, etc.
Where I’d like to be: Being realistic, (I’m 60 years old) My goal is always to just get my songs out there and get more streams. For the last year, and currently, I see about 25 organic streams a day. Sounds pitiful, but I’ve tried for 10 years to promote and that’s all I’ve been able to do.
The music is quirky, fun, energetic indie rock. I don’t have the time or the desire to spend hours figuring out all these promotional schemes we are bombarded with online every day. I’m not “young and hip and cool” etc. So I keep just doing what I do. I’ve spent tons of money on other forms of promotion and it will work for a while, then drop off.
I Love To Hear Her Laugh is a song I wrote about a friend because she was a serious person most of the time, but on occasion, she would laugh and it would be so cool to hear her! Like, wow… “you have a great laugh. You should do that more often!”. She was one of those people who had a lot of little things go wrong, like running out of gas in her car, being late for work for various reasons, having crappy dates with a loser guy, etc. So I fabricated the lyrics to be about the common struggles of a young woman making her way through life, but after all, she has a great attitude and laughs about her misfortunes, knowing she’ll be ok.
Recorded with multi-gold and platinum producer, Sylvia Massy at her Ashland, Oregon studio. I developed a wonderful working relationship with her about 10 years ago and she is simply, truly awesome! (Google her to find her incredible track record).
She takes my basic demo songs that I record myself in Garageband and we discuss how I want it to sound and then she puts in her ideas. We used a local drummer and guitarist. (I’m the bassist) and then she sang the backup vocals along with super talented California based singer, Makenna Smith, and added the talking ad-lib parts. Sylvia mixed it then we sent it to Steve Turnidge in Seattle to master it. He is fantastic and knows how to get the sound I want so that it will sound great on various speaker systems.
I had used CD Baby as my exclusive distributor for about seven years and loved them, had no issues with them. One day I was at my local Ace Hardware store (a chain store in the US) and I heard classic alternative rock coming out of the sound system. I asked the manager what kind of streaming service he used. He told me it was Rockbot.
I researched and found that only Tunecore artists can submit to Rockbot. Since then my releases have been through Tunecore and now I have some songs playing in Ace Hardware stores!
Well, for one thing, at the time of this interview, the song is just out today, Christmas day 2020.
But after ten years I still don’t know very well how to promote. Everything I’ve tried has resulted in many many people saying the songs are great and cool and fun and quirky, but I have not been able to build a fan base of more than about 10 people! I simply don’t have that natural gift to comprehend how to do that; no natural computer/internet skills or comprehension that may be very easy for someone born in the computer age (I was born in 1960).
We all have different natural talents. I’m gifted mechanically, with writing lyrics and stories, with athletics, with cooking, with creating original quirky songs and I started and built a heating and air conditioning business that grew to a 6 figure per year business, and then I sold it. But, I’m just not going to be able to make people stream my songs! As I learned in my heat and air business, we sometimes need to delegate tasks to others who are better than we are. But regarding music, there is no ‘real’ income to pay someone to do it for me. I made $550.00 last year with streaming royalties. Wow! Right?!! But I spent over $1000.00 in promotion costs! Not a good business plan!
Services like Sirius XM seem to be very popular and any type of streaming seems like it’s going to stay for a long time. It’s just so easy for the listener. Everyone listens in their car, or on their phone. Hardly anyone has a ‘home speaker system’ like the old days. Why would anyone want a physical product or even a download when they can have every song that’s ever been recorded at the click of a mouse or tap on their phone from a streaming service?
I can’t think of anything missing right now. It’s cool and magical, super easy and fast!
I look up to artists such as Talking Heads/David Byrne, Frank Zappa, Devo, Primus, B-52’s, and Weird Al Yankovic for taking the big risk of making unusual music. I’m in a weird place (because of my age, 60) where all the artists that I admire got their start in the pre-digital age. I actually don't have/make time to listen to music. I don’t follow new music makers and don’t know any names unless they are huge names. I’m extremely busy with many life projects. My music time every day is super limited and focused, dedicated to music, instrument practice, songwriting, and online promotion. Time is very precious and limited. I don’t feel I’m in competition with anyone, I just do what I do and don’t compare how I’m doing against other, more successful artists.
No Brainer: distribution services! CD Baby and Tunecore are the services I can’t do without.
I can’t give advice on how to “help fund their work”… um…sell your body on Sunset Blvd? HA! The way you fund your music goals is to have a decent-paying day job!
I’ve met many full-time musicians in my life and most of them have told me “You are lucky that you have a job that is stable and doesn’t require you to travel constantly” (My career is in the heating and air conditioning industry), so the grass is always greener on the other side, as the saying goes.
I have a good friend in the heat and air business who used to be high up in the music industry. He was an “A” list guitarist who toured with Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Jermaine Jackson, Minnie Riperton, Al Jarreau, Average White Band, etc.
He actually quit the music business and went into heating and air because he was either gone 300 days of the year or was with no income for months at a time between gigs, scrambling to find studio work or lessons to fill the gaps. He said it was a ‘grind’ and was not fun. He is best friends with Carole King’s music director (legendary songwriter/artist, one of the most successful songwriters in history). This music director told my friend that he was envious of him! He said he wished he could quit the music business and have a regular job, and he felt trapped in the music business!
But I do have one bit of advice: Go ahead and take action on your plans! Don’t wait for a perfect scenario because no one gets that. Do something instead of hesitating.
In this new music business where there’s something like 40,000 new songs being released every day, you aren’t going to “make it” the way artists did in the 1970’s/80s. You have to be doing this for the love of it. No one downloads anymore, so all you have is streaming, which pays on average $.004 per stream. If you got 100,000 streams, that’s $400.00. If you wanted to make an average middle-class income from streaming, ($45,000 per year) you’d have to get over 11 million streams! So do what you can, when you can - with your music goals, but don’t think you’ve got to make it big or get suicidal because you aren’t achieving society’s example of ‘fame’.
If you like the music of Talking Heads/David Byrne, Frank Zappa, Devo, Primus, B-52’s, Flight of the Conchords, Weird Al Yankovic, etc. Then I think you’ll like my music, look me up on Songwhip, or visit my website.