Jill Sobule The Latest Musician To Embrace New Music Business Models

from the good-for-her dept

Last month we wrote about musician Kristin Hersh embracing a version of the new business model we suggested for musicians way back in 2003. It’s a model where the musician can actually embrace file sharing and do better because of it, by focusing on using the file sharing to sell more scarce goods, such as specific songs or access to the musician. One of my favorite ideas in that discussion was that the musician could offer up that he or she would play a backyard concert for a supporter. I’ve yet to see anyone else pick up on that suggestion… until now. Well-known singer-songwriter Jill Sobule has just announced her plans for a new album and it involves a website that allows people to buy in at different levels from $25 (you get the CD before it’s released) all the way up to $10,000 (you actually get to sing or participate on the CD). At the $5,000 level, Jill will come and perform at your home. I still think the lowest level ($25) is a bit too high, but the various levels and the rewards at each level do seem about right for the model. It’s not clear how Sobule feels about file sharing on top of this, but it’s clear that she’s really embraced this new business model — so I’m hopeful that it works out for her. So here’s a question: will all the folks who say that taking an idea without giving someone credit for it is “theft” claim that Sobule “stole” this idea from me or will they recognize how ridiculous that is and how we’re all better off when infinite goods are spread freely?

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Comments on “Jill Sobule The Latest Musician To Embrace New Music Business Models”

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24 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

Nice idea and, though I do agree that the entry level’s a bit high, this gets her free advertising (I hadn’t heard of her before, now I’ll have a look). The layered contribution model’s not completely unique by the way – numerous independent movies have financed themselves by offering DVDs, producer credits or even roles as extras or small speaking parts to those willing to put up some cash.

Jake Zebell (user link) says:

Business Model

I have been struck with a business model idea and am unsure of who to go to with it. I was reading this and other articles on the current state of the music industry this morning and it had me asking the question, “How can the industry sell a creative work without holding post creation rights to a piece of work while still being paid decently/predictably?”

This is where I was hit with the ages old idea of commissioned work! Set up a user base of literally 10’s of millions who bid/commission pennies to dollars on each artist for each new song that the artist releases. Real time commissioning of individual works. The artist would hold no rights to the creative work once released via the system. The system would release the work under a creative commons type of license. All commissions minus a small set (non-percentage unless commission was under a certain amount) fee would go directly to the artist/creator. The creative work would automatically be added to any and all users automatic download queue who set a commissioning fee bid on that particular artist.

The artists would be able to view information on user base, real time price for a new commissioned work and more.

Users would be able to set how many songs per day, dollars/cents per day, songs per artist per day/week/month, etc they would be willing to commission. Each user would have to seed their account with some monies before they would be allowed to start commissioning works. Think of the bidding and commissioner selectable criteria along the Ad Sense style model.

After the release and commission payout of a work, it would be available free to any and all for download.

1.) Think of the artist making $75,000 per song based on 500,000 users bidding an average of .15 for that new unheard song. If an artist/creator releases one song a month at that rate… the artist makes $900k while the consumers pay out $1.80. Both the artist/creator and the consumer feel like they are on the greener side of the fence.

2.) Artists could collaborate on songs and still be each paid well! (this may also be one of the quagmires, may need to work out a percentage of individual commission based on popularity (commission fee current average) of each artist)

If you are a company or team that could pull this off contact me.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Business Model


This is where I was hit with the ages old idea of commissioned work! Set up a user base of literally 10’s of millions who bid/commission pennies to dollars on each artist for each new song that the artist releases. Real time commissioning of individual works.

That sounds like Sellaband… which already exists and apparently is doing pretty well.

Anonymous Coward says:

People have been hiring artists for private showings for years, this is nothing new. A friend of mine hired a band for a tail gate party (of course, from what I remember, it was a pretty big tail gate.)

What you talk about is the difference between beautiful love making and rape. What is given away is beautiful, what is taken is a crime.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

People have been hiring artists for private showings for years, this is nothing new. A friend of mine hired a band for a tail gate party (of course, from what I remember, it was a pretty big tail gate.)

This is quite different. This isn’t just hiring the artist for a private showing — this is about specifically having that as a way to finance a new album.

matt says:

here's what I'd like to see

honestly, how about the reverse? How about if the album makes above X amount of dollars all the people who purchased before that get X amount refund? Like once the album peaks above 4 mil anyone who spent 5$ or more in the first mil gets 5$ back off the album?

Also, I think 25$ is a bit high. I wonder if she charges 5025$ and/or that a CD is not included in her offer, lol. However, I agree that its a new business model and hope it works for her/she embraces it. I know of plenty of independent artists who make well over 100/150 grand a year and they are hardly well known.

VIincent Blackwood says:

Re: Re:

Love the honesty, “Who the hell is Jill Sobule?”

She’s most like Warren Zevon (who she toured with) and Randy Newman. In other words, a really funny musical satirist. Here are some sample lyrics from “Hall of Fame”;

If Hitler had been a great painter,
hung out with Pablo in France
There would be no history channel,
and I’d have a lot more great aunts

If George had stayed in baseball,
and really lived his dream
Became the great commissioner;
we wouldn’t be in this mess
God bless the old US,

She has free songs and a free concert to download at
http://www.jillsobule.com/showandtell.html

Free is good.

Christopher Bingham (user link) says:

Adopt-A-Song

I’ve been doing this since 1994. We’ve raised over $70,000 to record six cds. It’s nothing new. Some of our friends have picked up on the fund raising model and had it work well for them. You can see our mist recent iteration at http://www.gaiaconsort.com/adopt.html (Though we’re done withe projact and no longer takling donations.)

I took the idea from the tile project at Pike Place Market and the adopt-a-child in another country idea. We figured we make cds instead of having children…

I think it’s great that musicians at Jill Sobule’s level or Kristen Hersh are coming around to our methods, but it’s kind of galling to see them lauded for being on the edge and using a “new” idea. Oh well, what else is new. All our music is available for free on website too – have a listen and decide for yourself whether you like it or not at http://www.gaiaconsort.com/lyrics.html

Most of the mainstream radio world seems to think if you’re not major lable you’re not “real” (I heard a dj refer to an artist 6th record as hos first “real” one – since the others were not released on a maojr lable) which makes sense since indies aren’t writing those honkin’ payola checks. Gaia Consort has sold about 8,000 units since 1999, playing about one show a month. With eight people in the band, scheduling is crazy and flying to festivals is just too expensive. They really like the music, but $4,000 worth of plane tickets is too much for most presenters at our level.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Adopt-A-Song

I think it’s great that musicians at Jill Sobule’s level or Kristen Hersh are coming around to our methods, but it’s kind of galling to see them lauded for being on the edge and using a “new” idea.

I didn’t say it was a “new,” idea, just that we hadn’t seen many recognizable names in the recording industry adopt it. What’s nice to see is that this is changing. It’s great that you were ahead of the curve (by a long way), but it’s still important to note when the idea is spreading.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Audience commissioning

Yes Jake, audience funding is one of those ideas that’s destined to be “so bloody obvious why didn’t anyone do it sooner?”.

However, until it’s implemented it remains consigned to receive quips of “If it’s such a good idea why hasn’t anyone done it yet then?” and “It’ll never fly.”

I’ve been working on it on and off for a few years – as have many others.

Anonymous Coward says:

“That is a horrible analogy. Rape isn’t a victimless crime, and file sharing can be leveraged to the advantage of those who’d like to think themselves ‘victims’. It’s worse than the ‘theft’ misconception. Do try not to be an idiot.”

You say its a victimless crime, but some artists don’t. I guess the rapist might consider he is doing the recipient a favor too, but that doesn’t make it right.

Oh, and FU, I don’t have to try to be an idiot.

Jack Ward-Bolton (user link) says:

Yes, charge for time you've not yet used!

Time is only spent in the present
And time that has passed is in the past
So share what you’ve made
Don’t worry about getting paid
It’s a surefire way to make some money fast!

Stuff you’ve *already done* might as well be given away for the price of the scarce goods it costs to supply it. In the case of digital music, it should be near free. You use this to build a reputation.

Once you are seen as valuable, you then charge for your future time. “Want us to make a new album? Then donate here!” Alternatively, give all recorded music away for free digitally but sell your time for gigs, interviews, appearances, commissions. Or build a brand around yourself and sell t-shirts etc.

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