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A Cappella Singer Defends Proliferation Of Music Online


PETER HOLLENS: (Singing) Time and tide will sweep all away.


That's the voice of Peter Hollens, an a cappella singer from Oregon who likes the current system. In fact, he credits his success as a performer to the proliferation of his music online. Welcome to the program, Peter.

HOLLENS: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

CORNISH: So how are you seeing this differently from artists who are feeling like this is out of my control and I can't really profit from it?

HOLLENS: Yeah. It's so interesting. I think this entire thing comes down to education. So I'm able to make my entire living without having to go on tour, without having to go play any bars or clubs, just in the comfort of my own home. And I've been able to do this as a 36-year-old, dorky dad doing a cappella music in his garage, mostly in his underwear. And, you know, I make a great six-figure living because of my amazing community online and I - I'm able to do it because I believe that the future of music is one in which it goes hand-in-hand with technology.

CORNISH: How do you combat the online piracy of your work or does it not bother you at all?

HOLLENS: I think I have relinquished that fight, I think, for a long time. In the beginning of my solo career, I really tried to go after each one of those links and send them into Google and get them to take it down. But it's literally impossible. You would need an army. I think you can't fight that, and I think the better mindset is that you want your music to be out there, and you want it to be as accessible as possible. So if people are going to steal it, they're going to steal it. And I truthfully believe this with all my heart.

CORNISH: Help us understand this, though. You said a six-figure income. What are the income streams?

HOLLENS: Gosh, yeah. So I need to make sure that I am having my hand in every cookie jar possible, right? So whether that is ad revenue from YouTube as - is the big hot topic right now, digital streams from Spotify, you know, Apple, you know, purchases of, you know, physical sales or brand deals because I'm an influencer online. And so I can work with companies like Disney and Royal Caribbean and funding from my supporters. So it's basically like I almost have my own salary that, you know, 1,600 people are giving me for every single video I upload.

CORNISH: You basically said that, you know, all those pennies and fractions of a penny in terms of streaming, they start to add up. That's one way you make money. Also, you work with brands like Disney, you mentioned, so companies say can you make a video where you, you know, mention us? And then also people just pay you directly - right? - a kind of modern patronage system.

HOLLENS: Exactly. And I think if you want to make a living doing music now that the best way to do it is to kind of treat yourself like a Silicon Valley startup, and I think this is the future.

CORNISH: Peter Hollens is a singer and songwriter from Oregon. He joined us via Skype. Thank you so much for talking with us.

HOLLENS: Absolutely. My pleasure.


HOLLENS: (Singing, in foreign language). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.