(Updated on July 15th, 2019)
O n Tuesday, June 25th, 2019, my wife Jenn and I were driving to Orlando. Having spent the better part of a day and a half driving from Massachusettes, I noticed that my car was overheating as I pulled onto I-4 about an hour away from our destination. After rolling down the windows, killing the AC, turning on the heat, and pulling over as soon as I was able to safely, we got out of the car to assess the damage.
Long story short, both the engine and radiator were completely fucked. After a somewhat reasonable repair option fell through the cracks because of an unexpected parts delay, I came to terms with the fact that I had to pay off the thousands of dollars remaining on my car loan, sell my car for next to nothing, and leave it in Florida. It goes without saying that this was not an ideal financial situation for us. And, as is often the case with such things, it was completely unexpected.
That’s life though. Car issues suck, but there are so many people out there enduring far worse. It isn’t the end of the world, I just need to deal with it and move on. In the process of moving on, however, I’ve had to take stock of this whole trying to be a writer for a living (at least part-time) thing.
In short, it’s not working.
Sure, I’ve had some exciting wins recently. Red Bull Music Academy paid me to write a 2500-word feature about pause tape production. Amir Said, his son Amir Ali Said, and the guest editors behind Best Damn Hip Hop Writing: 2018 selected my Madvillainy article for inclusion in their book. And over the past 10 months, the Micro-Chop Twitter community ballooned from 1,7000 to almost 5,000 people. Each of these moments was humbling and greatly appreciated.
That said, after three years of consistent writing — both self-publishing through Micro-Chop and pitching/publishing with other outlets — I haven’t been able to convince enough paying clients and/or readers to give me even close to enough money to make a sustainable partial living.
For a while, I believed that if I gave people several hundred quality Micro-Chop articles and playlists for free, they would feel compelled to make a small financial contribution at some point. I told myself that all these contributions combined would generate a somewhat significant sum of money.
Turns out I was really wrong about this. Like many things in the internet economy, if people can read a bunch of articles for free, there isn’t much incentive for them to pay money to read other articles they like.
I’ve had very modest success generating money through Patreon and Paypal donations, but it’s extremely hard for a writer like me to move the needle in a meaningful way with these platforms. Because of this I’ll likely shut down my Patreon account in the very near future.
As a result of always stressing about money and having to think of new ways to make it, I often find myself struggling to balance my personal life, my teaching work, Micro-Chop and the related social media accounts, the Micro-Chop Patreon account, and the freelancing I do for other websites. When I put the necessary energy into one or two of these areas, the other ones suffer and I feel like a gigantic loser for not being able to balance it all.
Anyone reading this who does any kind of creative work probably knows this struggle and balancing act all too well and isn’t overly impressed by my story, but I’m putting this all in writing to say I need to rethink the future of Micro-Chop.
As much as I hate putting my writing behind paywalls, I can’t continue to maintain my sanity and give away so much of my hard work for free. I’m going to start putting some of my older work behind Medium’s paywall to see if this helps generate revenue. I’m thinking about doing this with articles that are one year old or older, but that could change depending on how successful the paywall experiment is.
It’s also likely that after I finish writing up this next round of producer interviews I’ve conducted, I’ll be writing and posting stories on Medium with much less frequency. This was already sort of the case, as freelance projects took up a lot of my time in the first half of 2019. I won’t abandon Medium completely, but I won’t be on here as much as I have been in the past.
Moving forward, I’ll likely put almost all of my writing energy into maintaining my new Micro-Chop Substack newsletter and pitching/writing for paid gigs.
To give a brief overview of the my Substack newsletter, if you sign up for the free version you receive one Micro-Chop article each week sent directly to your inbox. If you sign up for the paid version you receive an article on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Paid members will also have access to many exclusive articles and interviews you won’t be able to read anywhere else.
The goal here is the create a more direct, intimate, and meaningful connection with my most dedicated readers while also building a base of people who are willing to pay to read my work.
I will also continue to make daily playlists until I hit #365 and I’ll keep using the Micro-Chop Twitter feed to share my articles and the work of other talented writers. It’s also possible that Micro-Chop could morph into some other form/s of media down the road, but for the time being, I’m going to experiment with the Medium member paywall, put a ton of energy into my new Substack newsletter, and put my remaining writing energy into paid gigs.
I hope this doesn’t come off as overly bitter or ungrateful. I truly appreciate anyone and everyone who helped Micro-Chop get to where it is today. But at this point in my life, I think I deserve to be paid more for my work. And it’s obvious to me that I need to make some changes in order for that to happen.
Thanks for reading and listening, I’ll keep you posted as new developments in this journey happen.
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