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Dear Music, You’ve Changed

Celebrated prairie songwriter Romi Mayes makes a plea for new avenues of funding and support, calling for help from her fans.

by Romi Mayes

Remember when being a musician was an easy path? No? Me neither. But do you remember when, with talent and some hard work, you would be able to achieve your goals as a musician? Me neither again. But… Do you remember thinking that if you made great music, you could record it, tour it, and maybe even try to make a small living, fulfilling your passions as a professional musician? I do. And maybe you do, too. 

I think most musicians have felt that way at some point in their careers, and really worked towards that goal with undying commitment to their art. I recall a time when all that blood, sweat, and tears paid off; when we had the printed hard copy of our album in our hands after opening a shipping box. There it was — our album. Living, timeless proof of our creativity right there in our hands. And then what? Then we had to get our asses out on the road to play the shows, make fans, and sell the albums. Seemed like an easy enough plan. 

I’m in my 40s now and I’ve been a professional musician for about 30 years. I’ve had the luxury of touring the world with six albums under my belt, signing CDs for hours after my shows and shipping out CDs by the thousands to fans across the globe.

Things have changed so much, as they will. There is no point being frustrated with the state of the music industry and opting to give up, though. There is only learning what has changed and what one can do to make it work the best way possible, adapting to the change. After all, as Dylan said: ‘better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone’.

Three major things have changed: 

  1. THE MUSIC: Let’s face it. Music is free. For $9.99 a month, a company will allow you access to absolutely every song and every album you can think of while offering the artist a fraction of a penny for each stream or download. 
  1. THE GIGS: The economy. It has changed so much that the venues that used to be able to pay you a decent amount of compensation for your travel, performance and night’s stay can no longer afford to do so. 
  1. THE INDUSTRY SUPPORT: There are no labels giving you a contract with an upfront pay and a promise to make you money as they sell and promote you. 

So what do we do as musicians who, regardless of the dream of making a living from our music, can no longer come close to breaking even? When the bass player’s mother is giving her credit card number to the band to help them get enough gas in the van to get home? When the band ate Subway for the 8th day in a row and slept on a stranger’s couch and floor… again? 

I think the answer is to accept, adapt and keep a sprinkle of hope somewhere in the mix. 

It’s been nine years since my last album, Devil On Both Shoulders. In the past, I’ve garnered a Juno nomination, six Western Canadian Music Awards, and multiple other accolades. I’ve got distribution in Canada and the US, and worked with a label briefly in Europe. I have a publishing company working for me, and I’ve headlined festivals all around the world. Now, here I sit with a question mark on how to capitalize on that success, appease the fans hoping for more music and touring from me, and create an album I can be proud of and want to share with the world. 

I still believe in my music. I don’t think that has changed. I still believe that the fans I’ve earned one at a time will still enjoy the music I create, and that the radio stations that have spun my songs would be eager to do so again. So what am I going to do? I’ll tell you what I’m doing — I’m fundraising. 

Humbly and hesitantly asking everyone that gives even a little shit about hearing more music from me to help me put forward the money for the studio, the musicians, the mixing, the mastering, the manufacturing, the photography, and the album design.  You may be asking yourself, ‘How much does something like this cost?’ Great question. 

For me, even excluding the costs of a publicist (because what’s an album without anyone knowing about it?) and touring (because what is the point of making new music if you can’t perform and share it?) – both of which I will pay for myself – I have broken down the costs to $28,500.



Someone who doesn’t know much about making an album may think that is a ludicrous number. And I understand that. As we head into a third world war, and hunger and homelessness is at an all-time high, it may seem foolish for someone who is blessed with health and a roof over her head to be asking for that much money from others. And in a way, it is. But I had to allow myself to not compare apples and oranges. 

Instead of asking anyone to support the artist (which would usually be by purchasing albums, which I know now is an impossible feat to recoup album costs), I’m asking my fans and friends who want to support a new album from me to help in the MAKING of the album instead. It feels fair to me to inquire and the prerogative of a yes or a no lies within each inquired. I have no expectations and hold zero resentment to anyone who can’t or simply isn’t interested. I’m not here to break anyone’s bank. I’m only suggesting that if you were usually going to buy an album—which you now won’t need to in order to access the music—that you replace that financial intention with the making of the album so the music can be recorded. 

Is it difficult to ask? Yes. 

Does it feel demeaning to the art? Yes. 

But is it the only way I see it possible? Yes. 

The music industry has changed. It was always a tricky little bitch to navigate, especially as an independent artist, but now it has castle walls and dragon-filled moats to conquer in order to get your music out. I’m no longer doing this for fame, and I’ve made it very clear that I’d be foolish if I was trying to do this for the money, but all of us have art to make and music to be heard and that costs money. Let’s support each other, and let’s not allow what has been taken away by digital streaming companies to be the end of independent music creation, release, and performance. Let’s give each other a chance to get our sounds heard. We all love music and we all love each other, so we just gotta stick together. 

It takes a village. And we are that village. 

Romi Mayes is a singer-songwriter and recording artist currently living in Winnipeg, MB.

You can support the recording of her new album via her GoFundMe page here