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
    Weird Harold, 22 Mar 2009 @ 12:16pm

    ...and so you continue to ignore the points actually raised by people here. The CD arm of the music recording industry is the ONLY thing dying. EVERY other part of the industry, including paid music downloads and even vinyl are INCREASING sales. There are more albums being sold, more gigs being played, even more instruments being sold. We fixate on the CD market because nobody else seems to be having problems.

    It's actually an important point here. When you stop selling $15 cds and start selling 99 cent songs, guess what? You make less money. The real issue is that by killing the CD or album based business, you are trading dollars for pennies. It kills much of the financial stability of the music business.

    I was addressing the "higher prices", which you claimed were "good for everyone involved". I was merely pointing out that higher prices aren't good for the customers

    Again, the higher prices are good for everyone. Consumers are getting more for less per track, and the demand is there because the singles are also sold and people are buying the EP products without being forced, and good for the music business because the singles market isn't enough to make things work.

    What many people don't understand about the music business is that albums are records as albums for a bunch of reasons. One reasons is that it is difficult to predict what would be single material. You record a bunch of songs, and put them together on a record. First single comes out, people buy the album, and discover the other tracks. The second and third singles often come not from choice but rather what the public has chosen to hear. It isn't a coincidence that the 2nd and 3rd singles on an album are often tracks right next to the first hit (it got most exposure as people jumped to the single).

    If the industry sinks to a "singles only" mentality, the economics get worse.

    Apple had the ONLY store that was allowed to sell major label content to iPod owners because the labels insisted on DRM.

    If you choose to buy an Ipod, you bought into one business model, not a monopoly. You could have bought a Zune or a Creative or any one of a huge bunch of other MP3 players and not been part of the "monopoly", which means it isn't a monopoly.

    But, who are these people? Are they the 50 year olds who buy 1 album every couple of months? Or are they the music fans who buy 5 albums a week?

    Actually the numbers show that they are buying CDs and attending concerts at very similar levels to downloaders. So they are buying stuff. What is really concerning is that the apparent music fans (those who download are likely more interested in music) are not buying and not attending concerts in numbers that merit a change in business model. In fact, they appear to be buying less than what true fans would buy, only a few percentage points higher than all other internet users combined. If you eliminated the very occassional buyers and non buyers from the bottom of those numbers, the people in the middle would be buying more and attending more than the file traders. Oops, file trading isn't getting people to concerts? Oh noes! There goes a business model out the window.

    Okay, now, tell me exactly, what business model can piracy not touch? I am sure that the independant music you are buying could just as easily be downloaded for free. Merchandise can be counterfeited. So who is making the money?

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