It’s about keeping music alive and supporting the musicians who record and release the tunes we sing and dance to – certainly something Don Richmond knows a bit about. For Teri McCartney, it’s finding those like-minded souls who appreciate music and how it’s made, and building a community around them and their love for music and those who make it.
That’s the mission of Howlin’ Dog Music Group, a new nonprofit and business model that Richmond and McCartney have launched to support musicians with their recording costs and release of music. The motive in creating the nonprofit is to counter the trends of a modern world, where the sale of physical records and compact discs is virtually a thing of the past as streaming services like Spotify and Apple dominate but pay pennies to the artist who made the music.
“There is no reason for an artist to record music anymore. You can’t make money at it,” said Richmond during a recording of The Valley Pod, a podcast produced by Alamosa Citizen. “Without physical media there is no way for an artist to recoup whatever investment he might have put out in creating a recording, and no way for a record company to recoup that investment either.”
In the old days an artist cut a record or a single and made money off the sale of it. The eight-track tape, cassette tape and compact disc accomplished the same result – each format helped artists and their recording companies earn a living through the sale and mass distribution of songs.
Then came digital music and streaming and now artificial intelligence. Algorithms, social media, streaming radio – all of it has disrupted the music and entertainment industry while cutting out the creator and producer from the financial windfall that comes through digital music subscriptions and deals with the streaming services that help an artist reach larger audiences than ever before.
“It’s a real dichotomy because if you had told me when I was 20 years old in 1974 that someday in your lifetime, you’re going to be able to get your music out to the entire globe … I would have said, ‘Wow.’ I wouldn’t have believed you, for starters. But the other side of it is, you can’t make any money,” Richmond said.
It’s the cold realization by artists and producers that the music industry is cutting them out and leaving them behind that pushed Richmond and McCartney to launch Howlin’ Dog Music Group. They announced the formation of the nonprofit at the recent Big Barn Dance Music Festival in Taos, which is filled with artists Richmond works with and will produce under the nonprofit.
It’s not a model they’ve seen anywhere when it comes to supporting musicians and helping them get their music recorded. Richmond’s oldest daughter, Heather, who recently moved back to Colorado and spent a lifetime with nonprofits, was a guiding influence behind the structure and getting the nonprofit registered to where it can now accept monthly patrons and begin the hunt for grant support.
“We’re just trying to make it possible for people to continue to do what they do. To be singer-songwriters.”– Don Richmond
Richmond started his own career more than 50 years ago, growing up in Alamosa and bringing friends along to form bands that would create the tunes Valley residents and neighboring New Mexico music lovers would come to follow and dance the night away to.
When he talks about the nonprofit, his passion is elevated as he articulates the struggle of achieving excellence as a songwriter and wanting to tell stories through the music that comes with the lyrics.
“It’s never been easy, but at least it should be doable. It should be possible, and anymore, it’s like, I can’t see that it is,” he said.
In addition to helping musicians cover the cost of recording a song, Howlin’ Dog Music Group will teach them the business-side of making music, from accounting to music licensing.
“We’re just trying to make it possible for people to continue to do what they do. To be singer-songwriters,” Richmond said.
“And help younger singer-songwriters who don’t see it as a viable career path,” McCartney said.
The reception at the Big Barn Dance got Howlin’ Dog Music Group an initial sign up of patrons who are paying $25 per month to support the work. As part of the membership, monthly patrons will receive notices of new music releases from Howlin’ Dog recordings and selected behind-the-scenes views of the artist at work.
“The purpose of signing up is to support artists,” Richmond said.
To support the work of the nonprofit visit its website: HowlinDogMusicGroup.org.