» LATEST FEATURES
LITERATURE» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
MUSIC» The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
MUSIC» Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
A cash-strapped music industry, unable to rely on record label financing, is positioning its own quid pro quo: fan dollars to fund projects in exchange for exclusive material and a sense of involvement. This backwards engineering model, in which consumers front the production money, might not be the future of the industry, but it is certainly proving to be more and more of a viable option for indie artists.
One of the first artists to draw headlines from utilizing this outlandish method, Jill Sobule (of pre-Katy Perry-"I Kissed a Girl" fame) took to fundraising for 2009's California Years. Tiered levels of support granted backers merchandise and personalized songs while a few plunked down $2,500 for the title of "Executive Producer"; for a cool $10,000, one exceptionally generous supporter earned a duet on the album with Sobule herself.
Similarly, recently reunited post-punks Swans sold out of their 1,000 copies of signed and numbered CD/DVD packages, I Am Not Insane. Here, the executive producer title cost a mere $100. Proceeds from the fundraising are going towards a new full-length album set for the end of the year.
To initiate and foster these fundraising networks, artists turn to blogs, MySpace music pages, Facebook profiles, and last year's "it" site, Twitter. It seems the next frontier has already been discovered. Kickstarter, the fundraising-social networking hybrid, is giving publicists and executive producers a run for their money. Essentially, the Brooklyn based Kickstarter links those with artistic endeavors to consumers-cum-financiers who are encouraged to contribute at scalable levels. In an interview with the New York Times in August, co-founder Perry Chen likened it to a "sustainable marketplace where people exchange goods for services or some other benefit and receive some value." Think of Kickstarter as a venue for elevated grassroots campaigning, with more reciprocity than the usual consumerist model.
Last November, hip-hop group Get Busy Committee sold out the first run of their uzi-shaped flash drive formatted album, Uzi Does It. Currently, the crew has elected Kickstarter in sell their latest LP; $5 provides a digital download of the album and one enthusiastic pledge, fan Damon Black, took GBC up on their $1,000 package: his very own song. The results surprised even the group.
Projects often take on greater objectives. Josh Dibb, better known as Deacon of Animal Collective, sought to put the spotlight on Mali, the developmentally stunted African nation where he was invited to perform at this year's Festival in the Desert. Using the Kickstarter site, Dibb reached his $25,000 fundraising goal in only a few months through a program of offerings that began at $1 for a subscription to his email updates. The support system scaled up from there, and for those wanting a larger piece of the journey, $200 meant a limited edition photo book and CD Dibb created while abroad.
User generated funding could very well shake-up the precarious structure of the music industry. In the case of Kickstarter (which funds not just music projects, but anything from an "Ethical Butcher" to Jason Bitner's film adaptation of his LaPorte, Indiana book), part of the platform's success has been the low risk, both for artists and potential fan investors; according to the company, the process is "powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands." That approach means that artists can calculate what startup money they need--to accomplish the desired level of profit or to just break even--and hold off on production until their overhead is covered. For fans, there's no chance of fronting cash for a doomed project; investments are made in terms of pledges, not up-front donations, and "if the project does not reach its funding goal, your card is never charged." Most variations on the artist/fan investment relationship follow a similar, low-risk model.
If artists already create and distribute their own music from their bedrooms, finding financial backers for their projects seems the next step in the spirit of indie music. One implication that can't be stressed enough is the breaking down of the wall that once held musicians back from their audience. While Kickstarter and like ventures aren't expected to make record labels obsolete, the interaction, participation, and creativity they cultivate seem the early start of a powerful system. SEE ALSO: www.kickstarter.com
Lara Longo is a writer and photographer from Brooklyn, NY. In 1989, Lara received her first CD player and album, Appetite for Destruction; ever since, music is something she has fawned over, hated on, and played loudly. Her work has also appeared in Relix and New York Cool. Lara’s interests include sharks, European television, and the Hammond B3 organ.
See other articles by Lara Longo.
» MEDIA DOWNLOADS
» GOT STICKERS?
--> Send an with $2 in PayPal funds to cover postage. Don't worry, we'll load you up with enough to cover your town. Then just be patient. They will arrive soon.