Crowdfunding Makes Sense... But Does Crowd Creative Decision Making?

from the ick dept

I'm all for interesting experiments involving compelling ways to connect with fans and give them a reason to buy, and I love finding out about platforms that enable such things. However, I have to admit that I'm pretty skeptical about the basic concept behind Crowdbands, which not only lets you "fund" an artist, but also vote on the creative decisions they make. The platform does lots of similar (and useful things) that other platforms do: allowing you to support an artist via a "membership fee" of sorts, in exchange for which you get access to the musicians, the artist's music at no extra charge... and a chance to vote on the creative decisions the artist makes.

I understand why they did this, in terms of getting greater fan buy-in, and trying to differentiate from the competitors out there. However, as much as I like crowdfunding of things, that doesn't mean creative decisions should all be crowd decided. I can see it work in some cases, but making creative decision by committee is difficult enough. In this case, the creative decisions are being made based on the popular vote, with apparently little actual input from the artist.

Years ago, in discussing "crowdsourced" efforts, I noted that they were especially good at digging out factual information. When it comes to things that involve insight, analysis or opinion, crowdsourcing tends not to work that well. This isn't all that surprising. However, moving the fans directly into the decision making process seems like a disaster waiting to happen. I should be clear: I'm all for fans having ways to participate, and have their voices heard, but that doesn't mean that artists should have to follow their suggestions. It seems likely that the design-by-mass-internet-committee will serve mainly to make weaker, less inspired decisions.


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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 7:16pm

    I agree...

    You know, Mike, I am often amazed at the fact that people find ways to describe the future using language which sounds like utter nonsense today.

     

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    Analmouse Coward, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 7:28pm

    Shit!

     

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      Hephaestus (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:32pm

      Re:

      "Shit!"

      Agreed. Would someone e-mail me when christina aguilera does this. I have several acts I would like to see her perform ... and get your minds out of the gutter, she has a great set of pipes.

       

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    btr1701 (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 7:29pm

    Resistance is Futile

    > ... But Does Crowd Creative Decision Making?

    Oh, I don't know... depends on the size of your crowd, I suppose...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyenRCJ_4Ww&feature=related

     

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    Jay (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 7:37pm

    Making creative decisions by committee work ... For my next trick I will end world hunger, bring about everlasting world peace, turn water into wine and make this flock of pigs land gracefully on the tip of the empire state building; all with merely a wiggle of my rose coloured glasses.

     

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    Nick Coghlan (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 8:06pm

    Artists create the poll options

    I think you misread this one Mike: the artist gets to choose the *options* that go into the polls.

    Appropriately crafted polls, where the artists themselves don't have strong feelings either way and hence will be happy regardless of the crowd's choice, sound like an *excellent* way to make people feel involved.

    To use the Donnas example: "classic cover or new song" is a good question to ask their fans. Asking their fans which *specific* song to cover (if the decision goes that way) would likely be a bad question - better for the Donnas to pick one they particularly like and can play well.

     

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      Tony Baldus (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:22pm

      Re: Artists create the poll options

      I kind of agree but I can see coming up with a list of cover songs the band likes and asking the fans to vote on which one they like best. Or putting out samples of several new songs and asking which one the fans like better to include on a new album.

       

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    Kaden (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 8:22pm

    Kinda tame, actually...

    The examples cited concern (from the a creativity context) fairly staid options like choice of producer and album song count. Were the band in the clutches of Big Music they'd have no real input into these decisions either. The key advantage to crowdsourcing is the fanbase decisions are based on what they want to hear, as opposed to what would move the most units.

    Toss a coin on which is the best path to follow. Either one is a compromise away from creative purity, but at least they're not putting the chord progressions up to a web poll, or accreting the lyrics from their Tweet stream.

    ...which is stuff I've actually done. Crowbarring that kinda non-Euclidean hivemuse input into a coherent form is actually a good creative workout.

     

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    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 8:23pm

    Yeah, um, LCD is never the way to go on anything you're going to put your name on. At least not if you have any pride whatsoever.

     

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    Beta (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 8:27pm

    "I hate it when they start to interfere..."

    Creativity from a mob sounds impossible, but...

    Look at Wikipedia, StackOverflow and... I can't think of a third. I would never have thought that such systems could work, it's easy to argue that they couldn't work, and yet they do-- and thousands of others didn't. The "sweet spot" is small, but it does exist and the right combination of technology, culture, crafty design and iterative refinement found it. So maybe crowdsourced creativity is possible, if you do it just right. I realize that this is almost non-disprovable, but it's an intriguing thought.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 3:35am

      Re: "I hate it when they start to interfere..."

      I can think of a third: TVTropes (warning: very addictive). And of a fourth: Open Source software (programming can be very creative sometimes, but it can be hard to see for non-programmers).

       

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    BBT, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:27pm

    Geez. I would have thought getting your fans involved in your creative decisions was about as much "connecting with fans" as a band could possibly do. I guess all things, even connecting with fans, in moderation.

     

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    scarr (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:56pm

    50% disappointment

    This seems like the worst of all ways to handle a record label. The band is ceding (a certain amount of) creative control to the "label"/fans still, which isn't good for creativity.

    On top of that, the funding is provided by your fan base, so they're financially invested in the choices being made. The problem is, you're going to disappoint whoever is in the minority of the decisions made. In the past, the label had a say because it's their money. Now, it's you have a say, provided you have the popular opinion.

    I foresee lots of fans who pay their share and then don't get anything for it. I see lots of them being upset with the band as a result.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 11:21pm

    It works for TV and movies it just may work for music.

    TV shows have armies of writers, the best shows today use more then one writer to write things and probably is because one man tends to be repetitive in his creations when he has no other inputs, look at old TV shows and see how episode after episode they all got the same feeling when it was only one writer responsible for them, today they have a group of writers seat down and brainstorm, with the responsible one taking from the others all the good ideas he sees and implementing them.

    So I can see this working, you can crowdsource the ideas and elect one to make the final decisions he gets all the resources and choose witch ones will be put in place.

    But I agree that putting a crowd to be responsible for the final decision of what the final product will be is a risk, crowds tend to have a uniform view of the world and that may not be the best way to innovate or get things done creatively which is the point Mike's post.

    Still it can work and could be an enabler for the individual expression of that individual. He gives to the crowd what they want and they in turn give him support to produce things he wants.

     

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    Richard (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 2:03am

    "Trad" and "Anon"

    Two of my favourite composers - and their work is mostly crowdsourced. It is evolved and passed down over the centuries via a kind of chinese whispers process. Some of the best tunes ever came about this way.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 2:20am

    The peoples band...

    I think with an artist controlled poll, you could easily get awesome results. If you handed over complete controll then I see this as being a conflict for an established artist, tho I wonder if a band could possibly form for the sole purpose of fulfilling whims of a decentralized management base...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 3:06am

    When it comes to things that involve insight, analysis or opinion, crowdsourcing tends not to work that well.

    Hey, it's the new tagline for the "insight community."

     

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    Michael (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 8:51am

    They're also making the fans compete against each other. That isnt' a good feeling. To have paid into something, and then be reminded that there's this other group of people who already paid into the same thing, but they disagree with you... and there's MORE of them...

     

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    Stephen, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 10:46am

    crowdsourced creativity

    There is a precedent in sports for crowdsourced creativity. In 1951 Bill Veeck once let the crowd vote on what his St. Louis Browns should do in a game, a ploy that's been repeated since:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2486187

    And recently there was a chess match pitting Magnus Carlson versus the world, the world being repped by three grand masters who offered options for the world to vote on. The world lost, but only because the world, playing black, voted on the sixth move to block in our c-pawn with our queen's knight; the knight should have been moved to defend our already deployed king's knight. Here's a commentary on the match:

    http://susanpolgar.blogspot.com/2010/09/magnus-carlsen-vs-world-live-commentary.html

     

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    Ben, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 12:03pm

    Not everything requires a vote

    Sure this could work, it just requires the bands to make decisions on exactly what parts of the creative process needs voting on. For instance, a rock band shouldn't let people vote if they should now be a rap band. Likely their creative skills wouldn't mesh well and the band would go under, but they could vote on a concept for a song. This would leave the band with the creative space to write a song, yet the song would target the audience. Also the band could turn down ideas if they offered reasoning as too why the felt the decision wouldn't work.

     

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    Jesse Townley (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 2:45pm

    Interesting...

    As a band member & label manager, I agree that it's all in the details. I'm a Donnas fan too, as it happens, but I'm still kind of puzzled about what decisions fans would be voting on.

    Very curious about how this will turn out... Jesse

     

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    Nina Kessner, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 3:10pm

    Creativity is an elemental process which involves idea-making and sorting, development, and evolution. It has nothing at all to do with committee input unless it is a think-tank where a like-minded group of individuals follows the primal process to achieve and end-result. Let's not confuse the creative process with cliche and lame attempts to make people think they are actually participating in the creative endeavor. Better idea: create an actual thinktank to pull off something wonderful and significant.

     

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      Richard (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 3:25pm

      Re:

      I don't think a vote would work too well - but passing an idea around a community so that each can add to or refine it is a different matter - it has worked well in the past - but takes time - maybe the internet could speed things up?

       

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    Nina Kessner, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 3:11pm

    Creativity is an elemental process which involves idea-making and sorting, development, and evolution. It has nothing at all to do with committee input unless it is a think-tank where a like-minded group of individuals follows the primal process to achieve and end-result. Let's not confuse the creative process with cliche and lame attempts to make people think they are actually participating in the creative endeavor. Better idea: create an actual thinktank to pull off something wonderful and significant.

     

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    Tom Sarig, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 10:06am

    I appreciate all of your insightful comments since Techdirt ran this original post. Many of you seem to have completely missed the point. Go to our website www.crowdbands.com and join for a year or at least do the free trial. Look at the incredible comminity we have begun to build around The Donnas. We are going to impact their careers and lives for the better according to all of us (including the Donnas) who are involved.

    That doesn't mean creative decisions should all be crowd-decided, and they are NOT with Crowdbands. All decisions which are Members eventually vote on, creative or not, are vetted with the artist first. We are first and foremost an organization with the goal of promoting artists and achieving success. We simply believe that their is power in bringing artists and their fans closer together, and in fans helping their favorite bands in crucial decisions relating to their respective careers and their record label operations. We do not interfere with any creative endeavor which our artist does not want our Members involved in.

    And we don't think that moving fans into the roll of decision-making is a disaster waiting to hapen. After all the fans intimately know their favortie bands every nuance and have their best interests at heart, which is a hell of a lot more than we can say about the lion's share of current record labels!

    Tom Sarig
    Crowdbands Co-Founder
    ts@crowdbands.com

     

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