I have to be honest, I do get discouraged at times,
about where the music industry is heading. As I got older I wanted to become the best songwriter I could. I was burned out of living on tour. I have worked my entire life to become a good songwriters @leejohnsonsongs

Live Interview 
Episode #382

Jacqueline Jax logo photoGETTING TO KNOW LEE JOHNSON 
by Jacqueline Jax host of A.V.A Live Radio

Lee Johnson

I have to be honest, I do get discouraged at times,
about where the music industry is heading. As I got older I wanted to become the best songwriter I could. I was burned out of living on tour. I have worked my entire life to become a good songwriter. I started writing songs when I was about 13 or 14 yrs old. The most fun part for me, is starting a new song, a blank page and an idea that could become a “Game Changer”. In today’s modern world, people don’t seem to appreciate that it can take 20 years of hard work and practice to learn an instrument, or become a proficient songwriter. My goals as a songwriter seem to be fading because there is no way to earn a living anymore with streaming rates and various factors stacking up the way they are. Our nation’s songwriting heritage is at stake with Google and other tech giants obliterating copyright laws, to make billions off the backs of creators. The end result will be that no one can afford to be a full time songwriter. Their greed is beyond ridiculous. Therefore the quality will go down. Songwriters do not get compensated anymore. When I hear stories from friends about their royalty checks from streaming it’s pathetic. There were child labor laws, and minimum wage created to avoid exploitation of people. Songwriters are in need of similar laws to prevent being unfairly exploited by the tech giants and streaming companies. They pay the artist an ok amount. However they do not pay songwriters. Not every songwriter is a 22 yr old artist. Our nation’s heritage was written by great artists, AND great songwriters. Most big name artists don’t have time to write 200 songs a year. But FT songwriters do and that is how they get really good at it. I’ve been and artist on tour. However, I am aging. I am going to be 47 yrs old next month. I have goals of writing songs so good, other artists want to record and release my songs. The streaming royalty portion for Pharrell’s song “Happy” which got 43 million streams, was $2700.00. For a songwriter to survive you’d have to write 10 songs that big per year to make a meager 27 k per year. What do you think the chances of writing 10 songs a year as big as “Happy”? The writer of Meghan Trainor’s song “All about that Bass” which received 78 million streams, received a check for about 5k for the streaming portion. In the next couple years, there will only be streaming as terrestrial radio fades away. New cars don’t have terrestrial radios. They have satellite and wifi and will be set up for streaming only. Pandora and Spotify have taken the statutory rate of 9.1 cents per play and moved the decimal place over about 4 places. So now new get .00091 cents. The 9.1 cents was set in 1940. It has not been adjusted for inflation. To move it back to .00091 cents is like taking minimum wage and saying, ok, instead of $8.68 per hour, we will pay workers .000868 per hour. It’s in-humane. When Google appoints their own people in US Govt positions, it shows us how corrupt our system is. Google now owns the US Govt? yep, that part is discouraging. However, I am optimistic that there are some easy solutions to give consumers the freedom they deserve to get the songs they want, easy, fast and cheap, but STILL pay the creators a decent amount! We just need to get the corruption out of the equation. People are used to paying $4 for a Starbucks Coffee. Coffee takes pennies worth of material, and you enjoy it for a few minutes and its gone forever. A song takes many years to make, costs hundreds of thousands of $ of equipment to produce, you can buy it for .99 and enjoy it the rest of your life. However, people have been trained that music is now free, so who will buy a song for .99 when they can stream it for free? It’s disgusting. Imaginer if a song was the same cost as a starbucks cup of coffee. Would that be fair? Again look at what goes into making a cup of coffee, vs what goes into writing a hit song. Think about it!

I love being a musician and songwriter!
There are many pros and cons, just like any industry. However one of the cons is, it is a hard way to try to make a living. I need health insurance. I need dental work. I need to pay for my 13 yr old son’s new sneakers. I can not afford these things. I have a torn bicep tendon and rotator cuff in my right arm. This makes it excruciating to play 3 hour gigs solo or teach 8 hour days of music lessons. However, playing and teaching are what I have done for a living for over 20 years now. I don’t have a resume, or other job experience. This summer I played about 50 shows, solo acoustic, regardless of needing to rest my shoulder. Talk about “paying dues” I was majorly sucking it up. I could barely move, I can’t tie my shoes, or lift an 8 oz glass of water, and I have to ice my shoulder several times a day. I need surgery but can’t afford it and rotator cuff surgery requires a long period of rest. What will I do for work when my right arm is in a sling for 6 months? The pros however, for me, still outweigh the cons and so I continue. I have had people email me to tell me they played one of my songs at their loved one who recently deceased funeral, or their son or daughter’s wedding. They loved my song so much they chose it over all the zillions of options, because they were inspired by what my song had to say. That is reward beyond $. No amount of $ can make you feel so good. That is why we do what we do. We do it to share this gift with other people. Its our way of communicating with the world. A great song can make someone’s day, help them through tough times and inspire them to go on. I write for the guy working at 7-11 blasting his boombox to get thru the day, or the people working in kitchens, mechanic shops, anyone stuck in their job, who listens to music to make it thru the day. I want to help inspire them to go on.

I am a survivor. I was raised by parents who lived through WWII.
When my parents were young, their Dads were off fighting the war, until they were about 6 yrs old. They both lived in constant terror as Germans were bombing Great Britain. They had to run to bomb shelters in the middle of the night. My Dad says “bloody hell” or “it’s a bloody nightmare” about 20 x a day still! I am finally understanding why. My mom would share one egg a week with her older brother. How does this affect me? I do not quit, I do not give up, I am a fighter, and a survivor. I take my pain and put it into my songs. I want to share with the world the inspiration to never give up, never to settle for less than we deserve. Any moment, could be a turn around, when your biggest dreams start coming true. Any moment can be YOUR “Game Changer”!!! This is how I turn my struggles into triumphs. Hope. Pray. Spread love and joy thru Music!

Paul McArtney, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Neil Young,
Stevie Ray Vaughn, Carlos Santana, are some of my biggest heros. I also have songwriting heroes in Nashville. Guys like Jeffery Steele for example. Not all great songwriters are artists in the way the public and the media portray artists. I would love to hear their advice. Eric Clapton’s life was extremely painful. He was 9 yrs old when he found out the girl he thought was his older sister, was his mom. We all suffer, so we can endure. God is bringing us closer. If life was easy, we would not need to come to Him humbly on our knees. I am on my knees in life now. I have been beat down, and I surrender. I am thankful. I know my spirit. I love myself despite of being bullied, terrorized as a young kid, being scared and lonely, feeling overwhelmed and struggling with anxiety. I love myself despite past struggles with addictions. I love myself even with my right arm dangling off by a thread because my rotator cuff is torn and my body is giving up from overuse. Even when a club owner doesn’t pay me. I don’t mean I give up when I say I surrender. Stevie Ray Vaughn said something like “Sometimes the way to win is to give up” and I know what he meant. A surrender is a peaceful acceptance of all that is. Surrender is winning, not losing. Giving up is quitting. That is losing. I don’t quit, but I do surrender. I’m ready for a “Game Changer”!

I started piano lessons when I was about 8.
This would be about 1977. We lived in Branford CT at the time. I switched to guitar when I was about 10 or 11. I stared writing songs in my bedroom when I was about 13 or 14. My family was from England, we moved to new towns all over the US and Canada every few years. I was an easy target for bullies. I didn’t have many friends. I was terrorized at school, and was terrorized at home too with issues I won’t mention. It was not a happy childhood. I was lonely and scared and I turned to music, which became my best friend. I didn’t choose music, music chose me. I found peace and joy in music. Not so much in real life.

“Game Changer”

Any moment in our lives can become a “Game Changer” if we are paying attention.
If we are not paying attention, we might miss the opportunity. It was written with my buddy Scott Miller. I had the title, main idea/concept and some melody parts. Scott helped me put together the best version we could create, after several rounds of revisions. We get feedback and mentoring by hit songwriters, at organizations like NSAI, SONGU, and others.

I would like to release an album soon.
I am broke and my crowd funding efforts in the past, have not worked out.


I live in Longmont CO. There is a decent indie music scene in nearby Denver.
Boulder used to be good in 80’s and early 90’s but now there are no mid sized venues that nurture up and coming acts and have built in crowds for new bands to get exposure. Its empty coffee shops for a tip jar, or the Fox and Boulder Theaters where you need to draw 500+ crowds. It used to be easier to get a following as there were mid sized venues like “JJ McCabes” where I saw bands like “Big head Todd” for @4 on Saturday nights in the early 90’s. My previous band “Ruanway Truck Ramp” was a bluegrass/jam band and we toured nationally, headlined Boulder Theatre, had sold out shows, and many festivals, opened for bands like String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mnt String Band, Leftoever Salmon, Moe, Derek Trucks and many more.


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