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
    Booger, 22 Mar 2009 @ 9:08am

    @Wierd Harold. Another has pointed this out, but I wanted to ask about it anyway.

    Do you think that all the lawuits, the stronger copyright, the insanely high financial and criminal penalties, and the DRM is going to stop file sharing? Do you think these are going to keep it from continuing to grow? Do you think you can turn back the clock and slow, or even stop, legitimate digital distribution either?

    If you're honest and intelligent then the answer to all three is no. If the answer is no then what to you think is going to happen to the companies making money from sales of CDs and, eventually, digital media? Is money going to magically appear in their bank accounts? No! They're going to lose their shirts and go out of business. It's only a matter of time before they can't make money directly off of music sales. Period. End of story. They cannot avoid it.

    What can they do? They can recognize that change is coming whether they want it or not and they can DIVERSIFY. They can recognize that change is coming and they can ALTER THEIR BUSINESS OR THEIR BUSINESS MODEL. They can spend years fighting a losing battle, and finally fail, or they can recognize the changes ahead and leverage them to their advantage to stay alive, or even grow, during the transition.

    If the recording industry stays on its current path it will go the way of the buggy-whip makers. It doesn't matter whether the change comes overnight or over a decade. It doesn't matter whether the new business models are here or they're just developing. What matters is that change is starting and it is inevitable. They can fight a losing battle against it or they can embrace it and help define the direction it goes in. One way they fail, guaranteed. One way they have a chance of winning.

    You're shooting for failure as they are. Don't be stupid. Shoot for a chance at success.

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