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), 22 Mar 2009 @ 6:16am

    Re: Re: Dear Clueless Moron

    "It sucks because it takes a profitable industry (music, example) and tosses it out the window, turns music into a freebie promotional tool, with the hope and desire to sell stuff as a result of the promotion."

    *facepalm*

    Yeah, you really, really don't get it, do you?

    The whole point is that music (at least the recording on a shiny plastic disc) is less and less profitable. Fighting the phantom evil of "piracy" is not working. It's becoming less and less profitable to make money solely by selling CDs, and the only people who were making real money from CD sales alone were the labels, anyway.

    So, rather than sitting around crying about how things are getting worse, the solution is to use the situation to your advantage. Change your business model to one where "piracy" does not lose you money, and in fact leverage it to your advantage. Otherwise, you're in the oft-cited buggy whip industry.

    "I am all for the evolution of music, Itunes is a darn good idea, similar services are good and useful."

    For you, maybe. For the rest of us, they're a monopoly that has been allowed to exist too long thanks to the artificial restrictions of DRM. It's only recently that they're been able to have actual competition, and the industry still enforces pointless regional restrictions and other barriers to make the services universally useful (hence the fact that despite buying 30 Euros of music per month digitally, I've never used iTunes or any similar mainstream service).

    "The apparent shift away from singles towards more complex sets (EPs and albums) at a higher price is good for everyone involved"

    Except the customer of course, but you've already shown that the end user is the least of your concerns (and then act surprised when said users want to find a way to circumvent restrictions).

    "shows that you can have your easy distribution without trashing the recording industry or undoing copyright"

    "Undoing copyright" has nothing to do with any of free models, of course. As for "trashing the recording industry", that's been a necessary thing for a long, long time - 4 corporations should not be the gatekeepers to our culture. Thankfully, artists like Radiohead, Jill Sobule, Prince and NIN are showing that these corporations are no longer necessary for success.

    "How many banners around that Youtube video goes to the band, how many try to sell other stuff, from poker to car insurance?"

    You have a problem with the fact that while helping a band promote itself, YouTube's platform is allowed to make money for itself and its advertisers at the same time? That makes no sense. There's nothing to stop the band having links to buy its album and make money from those videos as well, its just that if they're using it free-of-charge and aren't paying to have large ads on the site, the running costs have to come from somewhere.

    I have to wonder how you can possibly run a business as you claim to, given you woeful knowledge of business models and bizarre ideas of how they should work...

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