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 @ 4:11am

    Re: Re: Oh COME ON NOW, you are just being oblique to be a troll...

    "First off, yes, there will always be "music". But instead of Beyonce or Fall Out Boy, it will be Jill at the coffee bar down the street and your nephew's trash metal band in the garage."

    Some people would argue that the Beyonces of this world are what have destroyed the music industry creatively, and that what we need is a proper new metal wave to cleanse the world's palate...

    "Music doesn't die, but music as we know it goes way when the money leaves the room."

    Again, good. It would be nice to turn on the radio and hear some good music, rather than yet another crappy cover version by some American Idol "winner". "Music as we know it", in terms of major label output, is 90% soulless crap that's been focus-grouped and overproduced to remove anything resembling what music used to be about.

    Thankfully, the independent labels that are starting to follow new business models are putting out some great music - and making a decent profit.

    "As noted, the last 2 NIN albums haven't charted anywhere near as good the previous ones"

    IIRC, they have been ineligible for some chart entries because there's no reliable way for a 3rd party to track their sales, so chart positions are the red herring you're thinking of. There's also the small fact that because there's no middlemen involved, they don't have to sell anywhere near as many copies to turn decent profits.

    "What it means is that this group of middle men called record labels gets replaced with "artist mangement" (see Live Nation), because the middlemen are needed to make it work."

    Why are you so obsessed with LiveNation? You keep bringing them up, but neither the article nor any other posters here are mentioning them...

    "My eyes are wide open, which is why I can understand that the poster children for the "new business model" are just riding on the wave of the old business model, nothing more."

    Sadly, no. NIN, Prince and Radiohead get mentioned because they're the biggest names. They're far from being the only bands to have made money through new business models, they just happen to be the most recognisable.

    Here's the thing: this isn't going to change for a while. The thing about the new business models is that they don't depend on #1 chart hits or multi-million advertising investments for them to work. This means that it's quite possible for an artist you've never heard of in your area to make a large amount of money. People may not necessarily become household names through these new models, but that's no longer necessary to make a very comfortable living from music.

    That does not invalidate the models themselves, nor does it mean that it's not possible for lesser-known bands to make money. It just means that until someone becomes a massive hit unexpectedly from these models (e.g. think of what the Arctic Monkeys did, only self-releasing the final album rather than releasing through a label), those names will keep popping up.

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