In the Hands
Paul Cantrell’s music
blog & podcast
Piano music old and new from a devoted amateur,
all free to listen to, download, and share.

How can I keep this project afloat?

As any of you who have ever learned a piece of music or made a recording know, what I’m doing here is a lot of work. It’s amazing how much time it takes to post two recordings a week. Just the mechanics of recording, editing and mastering are a chore for single person — even a simple improv ends up taking at least an hour or two of work to record, prepare and post. The compositions of others often take many dozens, hundreds of hours to learn, polish, and get a good take; my own compositions take many hundreds of hours more to write before I even start learning to play them in earnest.

This is not meant as a sob story — it’s work I love doing! — but it does raise the question, “How on earth do you find all that time, Paul?” My secret is that I’m jobless: I quit my last job in May, and have been living off savings since. (I also do a little freelance writing for MPR, but it doesn’t pay much.) The months since May have been some of the most enjoyable I’ve ever had, but all good things must end: my savings are running out.

This means that, as things stand now, there there are only a few months of In the Hands left. When I’m finally “down to me last few coppers,” as Wallace puts it, I’ll have to get a job. When I get a job, I’ll have very little time for the piano.

It’s too bad. I’m having fun with this! (I hope you are too.) So I’m wondering: what can I do to keep this project going?

I am interested in your ideas: how can I raise money? Would you be interested, for example, in buying CDs? Classy “In the Hands” T-shirts? Having body parts signed? (I would draw lines with that one.) I want to keep the recordings themselves free to download — that’s part of my unwritten mission statement for this site — but perhaps there are other creative things I could do. Or perhaps not enough people are genuinely interested enough in what I’m doing to keep it going. I really don’t know, and I’m open to opinions. What do you think?

As a first step, I’m now accepting donations. The era of wealthy patrons is gone, but I wonder: can an online audience of ordinary people do today as well as the nobility did in the 18th century? Can all of you together be a patron? I don’t know. You might at least help stretch the lifespan of In the Hands: by my estimate, if every single regular reader / listener contributed a mere $10 right now, it would pay for another month of music; if some people went beyond that, In the Hands could almost be sustainable. If you have been enjoying following along with my experiments, if there was one recording you found particularly moving, please think about what the music is worth to you and consider a contribution.



Hi and sorry for the tardy response. I’ve been thinking about your post and not staring at my shoes uncomfortably as suggested in your next post. Part of the delay has come from a fairly busy past several days, including a great concert of New Music from around Connecticut (sponsored partially by an insurance company), and some music film watching with your brother Andy!

This is one of the toughest questions for me personally and I’m sure many of your artistically inclined readership. You know I’ve been working as a graphic designer and trying to keep my experimental films going at the same time, but one usually suffers because of the other. Actually, it’s usually the films that get neglected for the (paying) graphic design jobs.

In today’s equivalent to finding a wealty benefactor, you could try getting grants from various organizations. I’ve done it and so far I haven’t gotten anything close to a MacArthur grant, but it’s a start.

You could also find a corporate sponsor. Maybe General Mills or Pillsbury would like a corporate piano anthem.

There was an article in the NY Times recently about regular people paying composers to write pieces for special occasions in their or their families’ lives. I’m sure there are people out there who would enjoy receiving a specially commissioned piano piece as a birthday present or to mark some other special occasion.

And, as you mentioned, there are the t-shirts. Apparently rock bands that tour make more money off the t-shirts and tchotchkes than they do from ticket sales. If you had a cool t-shirt you could sell it and not only would it provide you with some income, it would be free publicity. Then other people might find out about your site and be inspired by your music and moved to make a donation!


I would buy CD’s.

Actually, I have already tried to buy Keys Please 2. The main problem is that I’m not from the US. I was going to email you about this issue, but I have been busy lately.

So, if you ever consider to sell more CD’s, take into account that there are possible buyers in europe.


I’ve just made a donation because I think what you’re doing is incredibly worthwhile. I stumbled upon In the Hands after reading about podcasting and iPodder in the NY Times a few week ago. Yours was one of the podcasts I decided to give a listen to. I was immediately impressed by your playing, your compositions, your writing, and the simplicty and clarity of your Web site. Now that I know more about what it takes for you to do all this, I am happy to make a small contribution. Of course, I wouldn’t even have read or cared about the podcast article if I hadn’t gotten an iPod recently. So maybe we should all raise our glasses to Apple for what is truly an amazing product for music lovers!


Thanks to all for the donations and encouragement!

Jordà — I’m not sure exactly what it takes to ship a CD abroad, but please do email me and I’m sure we can figure it out!

John Lansdale

I just thought of an idea for you to make money. It’s inspired by the way my dad played the piano for us as kids. He was good, to us at least. Never formal and we could all join in, sing, try to play, laugh and feel creative ourselves. Follow.

A) Music has been stolen from us.

Big music today (since the 1960’s) has left us out. It’s all the best star playing the best music. Stand back and bow. We own it, not you. Send your money in.

I think it’s time to get back. Play and use music ourselves. Your drive to play (and play well) is an inspiration. Not the music music (it’s great though), but the idea, and take part.

With the web and inexpensive podcasting I think that is now possible.

B) My creative use

I’m just now starting a special intrest group for a Connecticut PC users group (DACS - see my web site, I added a link to your site). Please don’t judge it on artwork, it’s intended more to teach than show off. Here’s the idea though. I’t like to read the announcement as a little podcast introduction. Accompinied by a little music. I might consider asking my dad (89 and still playing) to compose/play something. But not every one has a Dad, and this is an idea. I wonder if I could use a little of your music (about 5 minutes) in the background? I should pay a small royalty. Not much, maybe another little $10 or something.

C. Now think bigger.

For more money, depending on how long it takes you, there could be a custom composition, or you could study the announcement yourself and play/compose the best background music. (Not read the announcment aloud- but maybe that’s another option. A voice.) This could be part of your web site. Give away some free stuff as you do now, but add a little background music for pay section. It could be really big as demand from other podcasts takes off. How about for corporate announcements? Store and web site openings? The PR/Adverising people would love it too. It’s the convenience and customization that counts. You could also consider teaching others to do the same. It’s the beginning of a new career.

Someone’s probably already thought of it. It’s the gutsy, down and dirty DO IT YOURSELF podcast additude, like when my Dad plays the piano that would make the difference.

I’m sure there would be other variations of bringing music back to the people. For example my family is now spread out all over the US. How about the same podcast music, just for our family downloaded, we all sing, karokte style, combine it back as a family memory. To be played at a wedding, in a hospital .. all the employees at a company ..

Think small.

:John Lansdale