Jill Sobule Shows She Can Create A 'Professional' Fan-Financed Album

from the and-it-works dept

We've written a few times about Jill Sobule's business model experiment last year, where she was able to get fans to pre-finance her album, by offering tiered levels of support that all provided something extra (usually something scarce) that created a real reason to buy. Back at MidemNet, Sobule talked about the success of the experiment, but now, as that album is getting close to actually being released, more details are coming out about how the experiment worked (via Nancy Baym). It covers some of the familiar territory, but one key interesting point: she raised over $75,000 in less than two months and used it to produce an album just as if she were with a record label. That is, she didn't want to cut corners. So she hired famed producer Don Was and a bunch of top notch studio musicians.

I bring this up because one of the critiques that some readers have had whenever we talk about these business models is that under the business models we discuss, the "quality" of the music would surely decline. These commenters insist that such a model would focus on people recording crappy songs in their living rooms, rather than doing a full professional setup. While that may be true of some, it would seem that this is pretty clear evidence that it certainly doesn't need to be the case:
"I wanted to show the labels that I could do what they're supposed to be doing at a fraction of the cost, and do it better. I spent a couple of weeks in a studio in Los Angeles where Joni Mitchell and the Carpenters and Poison --- let's not forget Poison -- recorded. I wanted to make an album that could've come from a big-label artist, and at the same time was totally grassroots."
She does note, of course, that the process of "connecting with fans" is time consuming, and admits that there are times when her writing suffers because she's spending so much time online, communicating with fans. Indeed, that is an issue, and I think that artists who are adopting these models are definitely going to have spend some time finding the right balance -- or getting to a point where they can work with someone (the role that a good label should be playing) to help manage the "marketing" side of things. Still, can we kill off the myth that these new models mean that quality of new recordings suffers?

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  1. identicon
    RD, 22 Mar 2009 @ 8:30pm

    yes, but...

    "The radio argument is one of the most laughable things I have ever read. You have to be a fool not to realize all of the reasons why radio works - from the fact that the songs are NOT high enough fidelity to trade, to the voice overs, to the fact that they are effectively giving SAMPLES, not the whole meal."

    Amazing. You are so blind and dogmatic that you cant see that this is EXACTLY what is happening with all these other "free" (FREE TO THE CUSTOMER moron) methods that we are discussing. And how is playing a song in its entirely a SAMPLE? Are you REALLY that ignorant? And dont tell me "people dont buy singles, they buy overpriced albums on plastic shiny discs" because iTunes has proven that to be wrong too. To the tune of billions of "singles."

    "Just as importantly, radio stations pay artist royalties when they play the songs. It isn't just a give away, it's a key part of the business model. No one station pays enough to make it worth while, but hundreds or thousands of stations playing your song is a living, a way that authors and composers make a living."

    Um, wrong wrong and wrong. The artist sees almost nothing from this. Once again, it goes to the LABELS. Your big industry pals. And they dont pay the artist anything from this, as has been proven time and again. They get very little from CD sales too, unless they sell 10's of millions of CD's. Not millions, thats been proven to make a band only a few thousand (see: TLC, Tom Petty in the early days, and numerous others). So, this system doesnt work either, yet you are holding it up as the gold standard by which artists can justify tackling a music career, and yet it pays the artist almost nothing unless they are a mega-hit.

    And since you cant unhook your value from price cart, lets throw another example out there. Guitar Hero. Care to explain the failure of GH to sell songs? Oh wait, thats right, a lot of the songs featured on GH (and the other games) had a big RESURGENCE IN SALES due to using music in a creative, fun and different way! How is that not value? How about using them in TV shows or movies? Again, adding VALUE increased SALES. Then after this gift of a license fee AND many many extra sales, the greedy labels wanted EVEN MORE money for people to use these songs. Then there is the whole Universal/Warner/YouTube debacle). The PRS in Britain demanded so much in fees to use their music, it was MORE THAN YOUTUBE MAKES IN TOTAL (not just music, ALL of youtube) in advertising. So youtube pulled them and they went crying to the govt to make a law to MAKE them carry the content AND then pay. Yes, I know full well how the music "business" works. It works like the mafia. Shakedown followed by extortion followed by "protection."

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