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Roxy Coss: Standing Out

Paul Rauch By

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AAJ: You have released two recordings over the past two years. Various factors, including streaming services biting into CD and download sales have made profitability a difficult task in releasing an album. Streaming services are paying artists very little for their work. What has been your approach to releasing your work in the current environment?

RC: The first album I released I made the most money from because I did not use a label. Even though the quality is not as good, I recorded it at home, it makes me more money still than the other two combined.

I lost so much money on Restless Idealism. These days, CD's are an investment in your career. My friend Nick Finzer says they're advertising cost. I went all in on it, and I said this is an investment, let's see what happens, and it worked. It made an impression with people. I realized something about the industry when I did that, which is that almost every single person that you see that is a star, successful, is paying for that success. Not that they don't deserve it musically, but the ones you're seeing are being seen because they're paying money to be seen. That was a little frustrating to realize, but if that's what it takes, that's what it is. Now I know at least.

Once you have momentum, other people do more work for you. Once you become known for certain things, having played for Jeremy Pelt helped, people had a context for who I was, and he was on the record. It's a strange thing. We need for writers, publications and radio people to find a way to work more together with artists. Like, this is great.

AAJ: Yes, it's all about community, that's why we're here. The music should inspire us to work together.

RC: We will help each other. I appreciate that, a lot of people don't understand that. You want this too, it's the same concept as between men and women, we need to help each other here.

So yes, I lost a lot of money. Posi-Tone is a different structure, less cost to the artist out of pocket. They pay for a lot, but they own it. You don't make as much from selling CD's, but you don't go out of pocket as much. So the expense is much less, which is what is affording me to release more regularly now, which is great. My hope is just that with each release, it reaches more people, the profile is raised, it allows me to do more.

AAJ: We have to figure out a way for streaming services to pay the artist appropriately. Nobody wants to hear it, but the market dictates the behavior. People aren't going to pay musicians based on principal. That's not how capitalism works. Four major companies created a corporate monopoly of the world's music, and left the artist on the outside begging for crumbs.

RC: The steaming thing is frustrating, because if I don't provide it, then people do it illegally. If you do provide it, you can at least see what's going on. I don't have a choice with the labels what I provide. My first CD I did through CD Baby for distribution, so every once in awhile, I'll get $10, which is amazing after all this time. But it shows me Spotify, two cents, Rhapsody, four cents, If it sells on iTunes, I'll get a check.

People will actually come up to me and ask where they can stream my album. I look at them and think, 'How disrespectful, I don't think you know what you're saying right now. You don't have to say anything, but don't say that.'

AAJ: Younger people don't know any other way. They assume music is free. It amazes me people will spend $5 on a cup of coffee that is gone in fifteen minutes, but not $1 on a song they can have forever.

RC: Embarrassingly, Lucas and I have been trying out Apple Music recently, for $15 a month, we can listen to whatever we want,which is amazing for a musician.

AAJ: The concept is great, but the artists supplying the product need to be compensated justly.

RC: Yes, it needs to change, in the meantime Lucas and I have been researching how to set up a patronage system. If you're going to download my music for free, why don't you give me a dollar, or five dollars.

AAJ: I have a friend here in Seattle, the pianist Marina Albero who is doing that. You subscribe, and in her case, receive live videos, recordings, all of her content. She adds a very personal touch. She does live feeds as well.

RC: Something big needs to change, because the music suffers, the quality of the music suffers because people don't have as much time to put into it. People have to have jobs, and they don't have time to focus on music.

AAJ: You have had the opportunity to tour extensively as a side musician with some amazing artists. Talk about the influence of playing with impact musicians like Jeremy Pelt, Clark Terry, and Louis Hayes , and the experience of the road.

RC: Most of my touring has been with Jeremy Pelt. Touring is incredible and challenging. It looks very glamorous from the outside, but it's not, and more and more so as the industry is changing. Jeremy has been touring for years and years. He told me that this was not the way he came up when he was running the tour. It's become very do it yourself. Just having connections with individual promoters out on the road.

When I toured with Jeremy, he did everything himself. He had recently fired his manager, and did all the booking. He booked all the tickets himself, drove the van from gig to gig, on seven hour trips between European countries. It's not glamorous. 7 AM lobby calls, seven hour drives, hit traffic, sound check, play the gig, entertain the promoter, have dinner with the people who are hosting you, have a drink, and go to bed. Then get up and do it again.

That being said, it is super fun. I think it's an experience that is necessary for musicians, and needs to happen more. A lot of my peers don't get the opportunity, and it's invaluable. There's something that happens to your playing on the road.

Even just the opportunity to play the same music night after night, we don't get that opportunity in New York. It's different people, different music every night. That develops certain skills as well, but my playing would just jump, even after a one week tour. We talked about taking risks, but you can't get to the next level until you push yourself. When you're playing the same music, you're forced to try something new. Playing with the same people is a trust. That's a big thing too. Playing with different people, there is not that built in expectation of trust, you have to earn it through your playing. If they don't trust you it forces you to be more straight down the middle in your playing.

When you tour with musicians, you become a family, and that's important to the music too. Being a woman, it was really challenging being on the road with four men. But when I see those guys on the scene, and we haven't seen each other for a year, it's like family. It's like siblings, we don't have to say much, just give each other a hug.

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