3 on Thursday – 1/12/23

Read time: 4 min

Today’s issue is brought to you by my Paper Route watercolor art prints. Available sizes inclued 8×10, 11×14, or 16×20.

I hope you’ve been having a good week. Here’s this week’s 3 on Thursday where I

  1. answer a question no one’s ever asked me, which is, “Should I get a paper route or a dairy cow?” 
  2. check in on how my new album Up North is doing on Spotify
  3. and talk to my fellow songwriters about whether they should move to Nashville. 

All right, here we go…

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“Should I get a paper route or a dairy cow?” – (No one, ever.)

I like to tell people I used to be in the newspaper business. It sounds respectable and it’s true. Yes, ok, fine, it’s also true that I only delivered the paper, but still…I technically was in the biz.

Besides, if the Grand Forks Herald didn’t have me and my mountain bike, how would Mr. Johnson have kept up-to-date on the latest world news? What would accompany Mrs. Queen and her morning coffee?

“Should I get a paper route?” This is a question nobody has ever asked me. But if one day I get the pleasure, I’ll have something to say because I have thought about it quite a bit.

The first thing I’d do is ask this person whether they’ve ever thought about owning a dairy cow instead of getting a paper route. I know that might seem like an odd thing to ask, but really it makes a lot of sense.

Because the business hours of both a paper route and a dairy cow are about the same: up before the devil, seven days a week. Want to know another thing they have in common? The news cycle and a cow’s milk supply don’t take vacations.

(Mountain bike I bought from Scheels in Grand Forks for my route.)

Now let’s just imagine for a minute that you absolutely have to miss a day. Well, it’s going to have to be a very serious excuse. Nothing like weddings and funerals (except your own funeral) will do. Maybe you break both your legs. That’ll work. So while you’re waiting for your legs to heal, you need to have a friend who owes you a big-time favor cover your route. This friend needs to owe you big time because your paper route doesn’t pay so hot. It’s also extremely complicated to know all the details of each person’s delivery (e.g., Mrs. Olmsted – leave a paper on back step. Mr. Anderson – leave paper on porch. Mrs. Dahl – leave on table in kitchen, start coffee maker, and feed cat.) So the learning curve is steep and the ROI pathetic. So, Step 1: have a friend. Step 2: make sure this friend is fairly intelligent. Step 3: make sure this friend is in your debt.

(A few times I did the route on my rollerblades, which I don’t recommend.)

Something else to consider. One morning as I was peddling to my last house, I realized that my pack felt a little light. Sure enough, I was one tiny little paper short. It could’ve been my fault. It probably was. I must have dropped it. But in the name of journalism (and also because it was company protocol) what did I do? I rode my bike to the Holiday gas station and bought a paper with my very own, hard-earned 75 cents, got back on my horse, and delivered that news like I was Paul Revere.

Was I late for school? Yes. But a more important question is, did I get the message to the people?

I absolutely did.

Anyway, back to whether you should get a paper route. I think it should be clear by now that you should definitely get a dairy cow.

(The last mode of transportation I used.)

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Up North

Let’s Do the (Spotify) Numbers

I thought it’d be fun to do a segment kind of like NPR’s Marketplace, only it’d be about my Spotify streaming numbers. What if we looked at my artist dashboard together and looked at the status of Up North? Kind of sounds fun (possibly depressing). So, in the words of Kai Ryssdal, “let’s do the numbers.”

Since December 1, 2022, songs from Up North have been streamed a total 26,276 times on Spotify. 

As you can see, unfortunately the album is trending downward. (Boo!)

The last 7 days saw 1,813 streams. 

Which is 18.9% lower than the prior week. 

What does all this mean in terms of cash

While writing this, Spotify’s current royalty rate is around $.00437 USD/stream. 

26,276 total streams 

$.00437 USD/stream 

Now, what are the key take aways here? 


  • I think the first one is pretty clear: Do NOT become a singer-songwriter. At least not if you want to make more than $114 for three years of work! 😂


  • If you do become a singer-songwriter and find yourself in this situation, hope that your listening community has forked over some dough prior to the release of the album so you don’t have to sell your wife’s wedding ring and your children’s iPads. (Hey, community––let me just say thanks again for helping me raise money for the album!)


  • This is most important (and I’m actually being pretty serious now) — realize these numbers don’t match their emotional equivalent. For each album, I create a “Testimonials” doc. so I can turn to it when I feel like giving up. Here is Up North’s so far…

I made this album because I believed in it. It’s unrealistic to think a love letter to a small town in northern Minnesota would be a commercial smash. But it was meaningful to me and I hoped it would be meaningful to many of you. The testimonials confirm it was, and that the emotional value of the album far surpasses the dollar value the market places on these songs.

So we can be proud. You all helped make this album possible and I think it was worth it. I hope you do too.


  • Remember that this just the beginning. Keep listening, like and save the album, and share it with your friends!

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On Songwriting

Should You Move to Nashville?

I’m often asked by songwriters whether or not they should move to Nashville. I remember asking my Nashville songwriter friends the same question when I lived in Denver. What they (and I) were really asking was, “Do you think I have what it takes?”

As I’m writing this, I’ve lived in Nashville for ten years. I’ve watched people come and go. Dreams realized; dreams crushed. 

The thing about both cases is each person became a better songwriter by being here. Any writer who’s been here for a while will tell you the same.

If you want to become a better songwriter, I recommend moving to Nashville. You might already be incredibly talented. If so, your talent will likely be recognized and you’ll become an even stronger force by being here.

But like most of us, you might find out how bad at writing you really are, and moving here will be a wakeup call. The bar is higher. The stakes are higher. It’s like an Olympic training ground for songwriters. You can’t be around that environment and not improve.

If you love songwriting, then becoming a better writer is its own reward. Moving to Nashville will be worth it. If you’re moving to become rich and famous, odds are you’ll be disappointed.

A note of caution: If you move here, you will constantly deal with comparison syndrome. Especially at the beginning. It won’t be easy. There are so many great writers. But once you learn to glean from them instead of compare yourself to them, it will get easier. You’ll find yourself loving the culture instead of resenting it.  

Ok, that’s it for this week. Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to reach out to me for any reason.


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