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 @ 3:16pm

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

    Geez, It's nice to see you flail, but you still flail fail.

    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. Music doesn't die, but music as we know it goes way when the money leaves the room. It's a question of size of the world, amount of people to contact, radio stations, and all that stuff that a single artist can never do by themselves.

    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. Those middlemen will do the same thing, attempting to make the most money possible. That's business.

    NIN and Radiohead come up all the time. They are a Red Herring, the products of the massive machine they attempt to distance themselves from. As noted, the last 2 NIN albums haven't charted anywhere near as good the previous ones, and both NIN and Radiohead signed deals with record companies for distribution of their products, again unable to get actual sales without middlemen. Apparently these artists still value the income from those "shiny plastic discs" enough not to cut their noses off to spite their faces.

    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.

    @Anonymous Coward: As a side note about the Korean business, I would suggest you might want to get a better understanding of the asian market before using it as an example. Asian culture generally is a "go out and do things" culture, in part because most of them live in fairly small houses / apartments. The music world also benefits from the small physical size of the countries involved, Korea as an example shows about 120 radio stations, but out of that 120, about 90 - 100 are the same few networks. What this means for music producers is that getting on a playlist immediately gets you countrywide coverage. So potential exposure to all 50 million or so people with a single phone call. Hong Kong is simple because of size, and Japan's market is very similar to Korea. Shelf life for music in these countries is often days, if not hours. Japanese J-pop is an endless cycle of quickly replaced artists, one hit wonder factories generating looks and not music, but still selling tons of music (shiny little discs again).

    The market doesn't scale up to US size, or world size. People live differently in different places, and different type of marketing applies. Most of what works in the Japan fails in the US, because Americans don't go out 5 or 6 nights a week, most stay home and go out on Saturday. It's just a different market.

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