02024-04-29 | Music | 13 comments

Last night I asked Siri to play some music while I was cooking. It played an interesting mix of music from my library and stuff it decided I should hear, I guess. 

At on point Siri decided to play this piece by Oscar Lopez:

I wasn’t paying much attention as I was chopping up onion and garlic – always important to keep the attention on the knife – and so only a few musical phrases entered my consciousness. Like the phrase about 50 seconds into the piece, which sounded like something Jon and I might have played. I checked my phone and noticed the name of the artist.

This morning I looked him up and discovered this article:

After a three-decade music career that established him around the world for exceptional guitar playing, Oscar Lopez has recently been living out of his car in Calgary.

Former band mate James Keelaghan said many artists often don’t have funds for mental health counselling or medication.

Keelaghan and Lopez have been performing off and on in a joint project called The Compadres since 1993.

Keelaghan, who will be performing in Edmonton in March, said finances for musicians were bad during the pandemic and got worse when revenue from CD sales dropped off.

All that revenue has now gone. Streaming services have completely destroyed a huge swath of our income,” the folk singer-songwriter said.

(I added the emphasis.)

I wish him well and contributed to a Go Fund Me for Oscar Lopez. You can check out the fundraiser here: LINK



  1. anne

    synchronicity at work – good one.

  2. Ali

    I didn’t know that Oscar was having these difficulties, and I’m really sorry to hear about this. I have been enjoying his music for years.

    I’ll contribute to the fund, and thank you for setting it up.

    A have a question for you, Ottmar, so that I can better understand what musicians are going through.

    Here is what I think I know about how musicians make money:

    – CD/LP sales
    – Touring
    – Record label contract
    – Radio play
    – Streaming play
    – Merchandising
    – What am I missing from above?

    Is the current problem facing independent musicians specifically, where there is no record label contract, and along with the fact that CD/LPs have been replaced by streaming?

    • ottmar

      I didn’t set up the Go Fund Me. I merely gave a little money.

      Radio play – because of constant lobbying by the super powerful broadcast corporations performers still do not get paid for radio play. Only the composer is paid. That means every time you hear a classic Motown tune, the singers get nothing, zero! This was true for greats like The Temptations, and many others. Marvin Gaye changed that, of course, because he wrote his own material. The broadcast lobby is so powerful that at this very moment a law is being drawn up to force all car manufacturers to build cars with AM-radio! To make it easier to get people to listen to AM talk radio. I do not ever listen to AM but I may be forced to have an AM radio in a car… Again, if you are a performer and not a composer you get NOTHING from radio.

      Streaming – I was communicating with another artist just last night… 50,000-60,000 streams per month translate to $500. I do better than that but it’s not enough to pay rent or mortgage. And definitely not enough to float a musician if they are sick and can’t tour.

      Record label contract – record labels are now doing all inclusive deals where they get money from records AND from merchandising and from touring. Less than 1% of artists are on a label. And even when musicians do have a recording contract they may not make any money. The record company gets to recoup their investment into record producers, studio cost, radio promoters, a video or two, advertising budget, PR etc. etc…. they used to only be able to recoup from album sales – which meant musicians could live on merch and touring – but with the new 360º deals they can recoup from touring and merchandise as well. It’s quite possible to have a major recording deal and be broke because every source of income goes to paying back the initial investment of the record company.

      Merchandising – some people do well with it. To do merch well one has to have a bus with a trailer to move everything from venue to venue. We decided we didn’t want to tour with the bus anymore and stopped doing merch during Covid.

      CD/LP sales – LPs are expensive to make. Music has to be especially mastered for vinyl. Not everyone can afford to have them made. CD sales have tanked over the last decade. Most people stream. I remember selling CDs after a show 15 years ago and one of the people in line wanted to buy one but I heard his friend say to him “you don’t need a CD…just download it from the internet where you can get it for free….”

      That leaves touring. Because it’s the only real source of income the highway is full of musicians touring. Venues have their pick of artists because everyone is out there hustling.

      • ottmar

        From SoundExchange:

        Just weeks after iHeart was caught paying Ted Cruz’s PAC $630,000 for his podcast, iHeart is going back to Congress to cash in on its investment…

        Today (April 30), Congress will hold a hearing to force car companies to put AM radio in every new car without paying artists for their work!

        Every year, corporate radio giants, like iHeart spend millions of dollars on Washington lobbyists and campaign contributions to stop Congress from passing the American Music Fairness Act to pay artists for their songs.

        AM radio plays more than 240 million songs every year and artists don’t get paid when their songs are played!

        iHeart says Congress shouldn’t mandate that they pay artists for their music, but they have no problem demanding Congress pass a mandate to force car companies to keep AM radio.

        When it comes to protecting their profits from AM/FM radio a mandate is critical, but not when it comes to paying YOU for your music!

        Tell Congress before they give another handout to Big Radio that they should make sure artists get paid for their songs on AM/FM radio.

      • Ali

        Thank you very much for the education here, Ottmar.

        • ottmar

          You are welcome.
          As Bruce Sterling said a decade ago:
          “Whatever Happens to Musicians Happens to Everybody”
          In 2014 Sterling gave a talk that ended with:
          “A hint of what awaits us is to be found in the music industry, because ‘in the end’, Sterling argues, ‘everything that happens to musicians will happen to everyone’.”

          We are culture’s canaries… :-)

  3. Robin

    I knew that song sounded familiar! It is on Gypsy Passion New Flamenco (as are you!). He also has as song on Gypsy Soul New Flamenco (as do you!). In fact, he is listed right below you on that one. First one was out in 1997 and the second in 1998. I used to listen to those all the time…great mix.

    • PS Pattison

      When it comes to artist payments, are all the streaming services more or less the same? I signed on to Tidal partly because of technical preferences, but equally important, that they portrayed themselves as “artist-friendly” on payday. How does that *really* play out from your side?

      • ottmar

        I pulled this list off the web. These numbers are from last year. As you can see Tidal is indeed a good choice, followed by Apple.
        Spotify and YouTube are awful and I don’t know what to call Pandora and Deezer.
        Tidal $0.01284
        Apple Music $0.008
        Amazon Music $0.00402
        Spotify $0.00318
        YouTube Music $0.002
        Pandora $0.00133
        Deezer $0.0011

        To make things worse I know less known artists who were contacted by Pandora with an offer to play their music BUT ONLY if the artist would sign a waiver so that Pandora could pay them even less than that rate. “and you will get exposure!!” Ha!

        • PS Pattison

          Thank you — it’s good information. CD’s and vinyl are still very much in my world as an intentional listener, but I have enjoyed the serendpity and discovery side of streaming. It’s more of a two-edged sword than I imagined!

          • ottmar

            I hear you. Radio (mostly) became unlistenable years ago. Around the turn of the century for me. Computers and accountants took over programming. Accountants demanded market testing… the infamous “listen to 30 seconds of a song and give it thumbs up or down”…
            Streaming is a decent way to explore new music, but really only in conjunction with having a decent RSS feed of people who recommend new music.

  4. Roland

    Ottmar – thank you for informing us about Oscar. I love his stuff too and bought Seduction when it came out in ’98. Nice to see how much his GoFundMe has raised; I’ll go kick in a little more.
    A couple of months ago, “Loco por Ti” came up in my lab’s music server (NO streaming for me!) and one of my engineer mates swiveled his head around at the sound (he loves your stuff) and said WHO IS THAT?!? Always fun to turn someone else onto Oscar Lopez. :)

  5. Donald Copp

    So sad to hear this about Oscar Lopez; in my journey in finding music through your introduction to Nuevo Flamenco, so many years ago, Lopez was one of the artists I happened upon and listened to regularly. I shall follow the link. Thank you for the heads up.


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