Came across a really interesting article here about how artists are using their fanbases to come up with artwork, record songs and even fund their next album.
As CD sales decline, advances from record labels dwindle and audience demographics break up into smaller niches, more and more artists from all levels of popularity are seeking to retain fans by including them in the creative process.
•Nine Inch Nails has a new DVD project called Another Version of the Truth: This One’s on Us that includes a version of the band’s 2008 Las Vegas concert edited together from dozens of fan-created video and audio recordings.
I mean, how cool is that? Taylor decided that he needed to ban recordings in case *gasp* some of the new stuff leaked out. Hell, at this point it probably would have been better to do that. Since some of the recordings required a little “getting used to”, it would have hastened the acceptance period.
Here, take some advice from Rascal Flatts. They know a thing or two about hits.
“Many times when we’re putting together a new tour, I’ll get online and ask about what the fans want to hear, what songs they wish we would do live that we haven’t done in a while,” says Rascal Flatts bassist Jay DeMarcus. “Their input and their advice is invaluable to us. It’s the main source of research for us whenever we start out to do a piece of business.”
Oh, but I know, I know the sad story. Taylor can’t afford to tour. He has to do Grease for the money. He had to do Grease to cut a new album. Funny, other people can do it without losing their artistic integrity.
Instead of outsourcing work to fans, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Jill Sobule went to them for backing. When she saw her usual sources of funding — record-company advances — dry up, she knew she’d have to get creative if she wanted to record again.
“The idea of trying to get a record deal and go have meetings seemed completely horrible,” says Sobule, who had a top 20 modern-rock hit in 1995 with I Kissed a Girl (not the Katy Perry song) but hadn’t released an album in five years. “The second thing was, no one’s giving advances, so why would I do it, anyway? I’ve never made a penny off of records.”
Sobule made plenty off the promise of a new record, though, by creating a website (jillsnextrecord.com), where fans could contribute money to finance the recording. She raised $88,969, enough to hire Grammy-winner Don Was to produce California Years, out next week on Sobule’s Pinko Records label.
Sobule ran her website much like a public-television pledge drive, offering increasingly enticing perks for greater gifts. A $10 donation served essentially as an advance order, with donors receiving a free digital download of California Years upon its release. The most popular level, $50, got donors an advance copy of the CD and a “thank you” mention in the liner notes. For $500, fans got their names incorporated into the album’s final track, appropriately titled The Donor Song.
Sobule, who kept fans informed with an online tote board tallying donations, also recorded personalized theme songs for 11 $1,000 donors, among them Dancing With the Stars host Tom Bergeron. One $10,000 donor got to sing background vocals on the album.
Um, wait. The Soul Patrol forever enshrined within a song? I’m not sure the world is ready for that one. Here’s another example of inguenity required in order to live out a dream.
Other artists, such as Nashville singer/songwriter Jeff Black, engage the community on the road. Kiss may bill its 2009 North American run as the “first-ever fan-routed tour,” but Black takes the concept a step further. Not only do fans help schedule his dates, they often serve as booking agents, promoters and hosts.
Black wrote a couple of moderately successful country hits for other artists during the ’90s and briefly had a deal with Arista Records. Royalties from those days still trickle in, but the prolific artist largely has replaced those income streams with money from fan-sponsored shows, sales of independently produced CDs, even a subscription-based weekly podcast called Black Tuesday.
“I’m closer to the people who like to listen to my music than I’ve ever been,” he says. Organizers of the fan-sponsored concerts, which often are held at houses, will print event-specific programs and tickets and take the word of Black’s shows out into the street.
A subscription podcast? That sounds like a fantastic idea. Oh, but that’s weekly blogging. That just ain’t gonna happen. We all know how those “weekly” blogs went.
So, here (once again, it seems), we have artists who have much less going for them than an American Idol winner. And yet, these folks are still getting their music out there. Still touring. Still gaining appeal, even in this bad economy. Given the chance, fans will spend money on their favorite artists. Question is, what are you going to do with it? Buy more butterfly tanks and tees? How about those shot glasses? Or will you put their money where it counts, back into a quality production, something the entire fanbase can enjoy and rally around? Or will you dilute your “product” by branching out in so many directions that even your most ardent fans don’t know who you are or what you stand for?
Choose your path: waste your resources on multiple ventures, or focus on a known commodity, that ALL your fans will support.
Your choice, go the distance.