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. icon
    PaulT (profile), 23 Mar 2009 @ 3:43am

    Re: Re: Re: garage band

    You see, you're missing the point yet again.

    Things *used* to work that way because people needed the recording industry gatekeepers at one point. A normal band didn't have access to professional studio facilities and producers without signing to a label. They didn't have access to marketing avenues like TV and radio. They didn't get to make a "hit" record because the corporations controlled everything (well, apart from a few new waves of music like punk, grunge, hip-hop and house music, all of which were very much self-produced up until the corporate buyouts...)

    Today, that's not true. Marketing can be done via numerous online channels. A professional mastering job can be done with a laptop. The entire point of the story you're trying to argue with above is that if an artist can raise a reasonable amount of money up front, they can produce a piece of work identical to a major label job, but without the heavily biased contracts, creative label interference, etc. The caveat here, of course, is that bands may find it difficult to make a fortune while depending on selling a single recording of their work - they actually have to work for a living now. Not a problem, as very few bands actually made any money from CD sales alone in the old model either. The major labels are becoming increasing irrelevant.

    Again, the only problem is that you seem to be obsessed with "big", that bands somehow have to make $10 billion through new business models for them to be worthwhile (even though no current model makes the ridiculous amount you keep quoting), the people have to become millionaires for this to be "real". That is utterly idiotic and at odds with what most real musicians are actually trying to do.

    "My brother in law has a blues band and they play because they like it, record if they feel like it, and don't give a damn. But they all have day jobs, and just like most people here adding comments on this blog, this is a hobby, not a job."

    If you're the guy giving him business advice, I'm not surprised he hasn't managed to go pro if he wants to... You do realise that this contradicts everything you've been claiming above - that nobody will write songs or play in "real" bands if they're not paid obscene amounts of money?

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