San Juan County musician Sheldon Pickering hits 1 million downloads on Spotify

San Juan County musician reaches 1 million downloads on Spotify

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • Pickering said he has approximately 85 songs available for streaming on Spotify, 30 of which are original tunes.
  • He also plans to release 20 new original songs soon.
  • Pickering's music also can be found on iTunes and Pandora or via his website at sheldonpickering.com.

FARMINGTON — He may not be getting rich doing it, but one San Juan County musician recently hit a significant achievement when it comes to marketing his tunes on a digital streaming service.

Pianist, composer and arranger Sheldon Pickering began offering his music on Spotify three or four years ago, and earlier this month, he reached 1 million downloads on that streaming service.

"It was pretty exciting," Pickering said. "It's a pretty big milestone."

Pickering said he has approximately 85 songs available for streaming on Spotify, 30 of which are original tunes. He also plans to release 20 new original songs soon.

Pianist Sheldon Pickering says marketing his music via streaming services has allowed him to make new fans all over the world.

More:San Juan County pianist, composer releases contemporary jazz disc

Despite that high volume of downloads, Pickering said it would be a mistake for anyone to assume he is getting rich from his music. Streaming services commonly pay much less than a penny to an artist or group each time a song is downloaded.

Pickering said he has reached the point where he is making $5,000 to $6,000 a year from Spotify and other streaming services where his music is featured — not an insignificant amount, but not enough to leave him rolling in cash. He said the real reward for him is the exposure he gains from being able to get his music in front of such a wide audience.

"Prior to the streaming services, you were selling CDs out of your garage or at shows," he said, noting that most of those CDs tended to wind up relegated to a dusty shelf or being offered at garage sales. "Now, I've got fans from Singapore to Maine. You know that somebody random in the world is listening to your music who never would have listened to that before."

San Juan County pianist, composer and arranger Sheldon Pickering recently surpassed 1 million downloads of his music on the streaming service Spotify.

From 2019:Pianist Sheldon Pickering in midst of creative bonanza

More than a desire to get rich, most musicians have an innate desire to share their art, Pickering said, so, in that respect, streaming services are the best avenue for marketing new music. He recounted how a woman reached out to him online earlier this year to explain that her late husband had been a big fan of one of Pickering's songs, "Wicked Game," he had found through a streaming service.

"It really meant a lot to me," Pickering said of that message.

Having his music available to a worldwide audience via streaming services has helped Pickering make new fans — and new friends — far beyond his base in the Four Corners area, he said.

"I've been able to meet friends in California and other places in the country that I wouldn't have met otherwise," he said. "And now I've got really good relationships with three or four of them."

Pickering said folks like that can help him build an even larger audience. The more enthusiastic a listener tends to be, he said, the more likely they are to recommending Pickering's music to someone else.

That doesn't necessarily happen with CDs, he said, noting music marketed in that format isn't nearly as easy to share. Pickering said he advises all musicians to offer their music in the digital realm. While it isn't likely they'll make significant money from that enterprise, he said, it's by far the best way to build a base of listeners.

Sheldon Pickering recently released his seventh album, "Genshai."

Pickering said technological advances also have brought down the cost and difficulty of making a recording in recent years, and that means there isn't a sizable investment required upfront to produce new music. He said he recorded his new album, "Genshai," in his living room with just his piano during the pandemic.

Pickering chose the name after stumbling across it in a book he was reading. He said it is an ancient term that means, "Never treat another person in a manner that would make them feel small, including yourself."

"That's something I'm trying really hard to work on in my life," he said. "I think if we all of us would do that, it would really enhance our community."

The disc features simple, sparse arrangements, and that sound matches the scaled-back approach Pickering has taken to his music and his life in recent years. Though he once performed across the country, even internationally, he said the last year and a half have been a time of regaining his focus and spending time with his family.

"I used to be all about the dream of making it big," said Pickering, who now has seven albums to his credit. "But I really found a joy in just making and music and being in the moment with it. It's interesting that with that shift, I feel like it's going further. I'm more focused on the music and where it takes me. It's become more meaningful to me."

Pickering's music also can be found on iTunes and Pandora or via his website at sheldonpickering.com.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.