Kickstarting The Artist
Self-Funding and How It Can Revive The Underground
It is about time that the digital revolution gave us an interesting, artistic concept beyond piracy. For the last ten years the incessant battle between illegal and legal music downloads has taken center stage while production of physical formats has been kept on the backburner. Artists are facing up to the fact that their releases will be heard in a predominantly digital framework. Label backing is decreasing as sales of physical formats continue to fall and smaller underground acts with exciting ideas struggle to make their music heard.
The reality of the record industry is fast becoming divergent and incompatible with the experimental music underground. Small, independent labels are struggling to break even as internet piracy soars. Artist support is beginning to wane. Lizzie Powell of Saddle Creek pop rock group Land Of Talk recently made the message abundantly clear through Facebook: “I live in a rented apartment, have no car and my two visas are maxed out so I can float the band until we start making money. Not very glamorous.” The band released a new album, Cloak and Cipher, on August the 24th. Illegal rips have already made rounds across the internet, nowhere more apparent than on the bands last.fm page.
All negative points about internet communities aside, an unusual trend has been developing. Bands are using the international community to spark and drive interest in their projects, free from the shackles of suffering labels. We become a step removed where the fans are paying for the artist to create the music, making piracy a mute point. This puts the artist in the driving seat with free reign to decide how to record, produce and package the music.
Speaking to Norwegian avant-garde pedallers of the bizarre Virus, who recently left larger label Season of Mist to pursue a completely fan funded affair, revealed their reasons for taking a step of artistic independence. “It seemed we were the only ones not making any money from our music. We don’t do this to get rich, obviously, but when what little you make falls straight into the pocket of someone else it’s very frustrating to say the least. Our ideology is to believe in ourselves and not leave things up to others.”
The band is offering pre-order packages for their as yet unrecorded sophomore album. Recorded, released, printed and distributed solely by the band. Pre-orders have been overwhelming, the intrigue and support of fans the world over has given Virus enough to record and print the release just weeks after the project was announced.
Brooklyn based get up and go site Kickstarter aims to bring the artist in direct contact with fans. Artists set up donation pages where fans can contribute as much or as little as they can spare. Donations provide the fans with artist updates and gifts that give you, as a supporter, a unique sense of reward that you are supporting the music directly. Updates, news and unique gifts are only the tip of the iceberg. The artist decides what gifts to give, what form the media, production, packaging and aesthetics will take.
Take Toby Driver and his ever growing ensemble of musical outfits. 2009 saw success for Maudlin Of The Well who self recorded an album on the back of fan-funded donations (entitled Part The Second) and is available online digitally, to everyone, for free. In 2010 Mr. Driver has successfully raised over $6000 of funding for the niche neoclassicalism of Tartar Lamb II. The latter of these two fundraisers provides the artist with studio, CD, vinyl and media printing costs. Your reward could be anything from a digital download to signed CDs, vinyl, shirts, and even original pieces of artwork depending on how much of your hard earned cash you donated.
Another recent success story was made of Extra Life, who took to Kickstarter early July 2010 looking to fund their upcoming Ripped Heart EP. Set for release through UK based LOAF label who could not afford to give the band a recording/production budget. They tried their luck on Kickstarter. Pledge $10 and receive a digital download or a theoretical essay by musicologist Charlie Looker. Pledge $1000 or more and have a song written specifically for you. It took less than one month for the project to reach its goal, thanks to a mix of social media based promotions and genuine love for the band.
Kickstarter is not the only avenue musicians are exploring. The very nature of the internet allows artists to instantly connect with million of users on a daily basis. The range of artistic endeavours Kickstarter supports, and the DIY ethic bands are beginning to embrace in order to continue making music available in whatever form, media or voice they so choose is a creative, refreshing venture. Stay away from the digital marketplace. Support experimental and underground projects. Support the creation and not the proliferation of music.
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