South Jordan pianist tells stories through musicFeb 06, 2023 01:06PM ● By Rachel Aubrey
Solo piano artist Michele McLaughlin quit her job in 2007 in order to pursue a music career full-time. (Photo courtesy of Michele McLaughlin)
Her genre: contemporary, new age, solo piano, but according to long-time fan Holly Potter, it’s not your typical “elevator music.”
Pianist and composer Michele McLaughlin describes her music as a diary of her life. Unlike most full-time musicians, McLaughlin is 100% in charge. A true independent artist, without a music label attached, McLaughlin has been able to create freely and authentically since 2007, telling stories through her music of things that inspire her on a daily basis, from trips to foreign countries to the purchase of a home. Born and raised in Utah, McLaughlin started playing piano at age five, and recalled being drawn to piano above all other instruments.
“If there was a piano around, I was always tinkering around on it,” McLaughlin said.
A self-taught pianist and composer, she released her first album in 2000 called “Beginnings.” She has produced an album every year since. In 2003, she took advantage of the online platforms for music sharing and streaming. The streaming turned lucrative in 2007, when she was finally able to earn enough revenue to quit her full-time job, thanks a loyal fanbase.
“It was always my dream to play and write music,” McLaughlin said. “To have it actually become a career and this is what I do for my life, that happened by accident.”
With 22 albums to her credit, and more in the works, McLaughlin’s music producing pursuits began as simple cassette tapes of recorded Christmas music which she gave to family and friends during the holidays as gifts.
Thanks to digital streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, she was able to quit her job as a project manager to do music full-time. According to her website, she has received 67 million spins on Spotify, 14 million spins on Apple Music, 13 million spins on Amazon Music and 1.8 billion spins on Pandora. A spin means someone has listened to the track for 30 seconds or more. While those numbers seem like they would have big money signs attached, musicians streamed on Spotify, for example, earn $0.002 per spin. Because McLaughlin is 100% in control of her music, she doesn’t have to share those profits with other writers, producers or a business manager.
McLaughlin, who once toured the country performing her music, did a tour with fellow Utah native and pianist Ryan Stewart. Stewart mentioned that there is a place for the type of music McLaughlin produces. Stewart has also been in her home and heard her perform, and recalled being amazed by the quality of sound she was able to produce on her Fazioli piano.
“It’s a heartfelt story,” Stewart said of McLaughlin’s music. “It’s peaceful, yet full of energy.”
Prior to the worldwide pandemic, McLaughlin performed in front of audiences via house concerts, where attendees would pay for a ticket to hear her play the piano in a private residence. Although the house concerts stopped during the height of the pandemic, McLaughlin is set to once again perform at a house concert in Boise, Idaho on Feb. 26, her first performance since 2019.
In 2018, McLaughlin was featured in “Rolling Stone Magazine,” and has been nominated for several awards from Solopiano.com as well as featured on the New Age Billboard charts.
All this success didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen without a high amount of dedication and determination. Both McLaughlin and Stewart mentioned the need for perseverance and patience for those looking to become an independent artist.
“You have to be really patient in this music business,” McLaughlin said. “Something you release right now may take 3-5 years for it to start earning you an income.”
Despite not working with a label, McLaughlin said she is open to that in the future provided she remain in control of her content.
Those wanting to purchase an album or individual sheet music, or for more information about upcoming concerts can visit michelemclaughlin.com/.