Online Fundraising for Bands

There was an interesting article in the NY Times a few days ago about web 2.0 sites that allow bands to raise money for tours, albums, etc. by coordinating donations from their listeners. These websites hit my radar screen a few years back with the advent of Sellaband, which attempts to raise $50,000 for its artists, at which point they are entitled to a pro recording session with a “real” producer, and some other stuff. Along the way, donors are thanked for their level of generosity with special merchandise and access to the musicians.

I never wrote about Sellaband because it wasn’t something I was personally interested in trying. It only works if you have enough fans to generate a ton of donation money, and judging from my sales to date that just wasn’t gonna happen for me. In the meantime, Sellaband has gone bankrupt and gotten new investors.

This article in the NYTimes highlights some depressing facts not only about Sellaband but the difficulty of creating something unique, and inspiring enough to gather the support you may be wanting for your music:

  • “Four years in, the SellaBand model has not helped many groups. More than 15,000 artists have set up projects at the site, but fewer than 50 have been fully financed”
  • There are 13 million music profiles on MySpace, and 4,000 artists on the rosters of the major music labels

While these may be discouraging, the MySpace figure at least is deceptive, since I’m guessing many of those profiles are dead carcasses of former music projects that no longer exist. I’m sure that a couple of them are from my own projects…

To sum it all up: More bands => more competition for the pocketbooks and wallets.

Not that there’s anything surprising about this, really. The other site that the article features is called KickStarter, which bills itself as a “A FUNDING PLATFORM FOR ARTISTS, DESIGNERS, FILMMAKERS, MUSICIANS, JOURNALISTS, INVENTORS, EXPLORERS…” Check it out. I like how it’s targeted not just at musicians but anyone that wants to raise money for any sort of project. I can think of several crazy ideas that would be fun to solicit some funds for. I’ll leave that to your imaginations…

Paid Music Downloads Increased in 2008

There’s an encouraging article at WebProNews entitled Online Music Purchases Increase. It appears that digital music consumers were willing to pay for music in 2008. So while we can all lament the demise of giant record labels and massive blockbuster releases, the independent artist may be better off. Here are some interesting points from the article:

  • The number of people buying music online increased by 8 million people, for a total of 36 million, in 2008
  • 13 million fewer buyers of music in the US last year
  • Online social networks are playing an increasingly important role in shaping music listening. (duh)

Check it out if you feel like it…

Ha ha ha. Or, I like your style…

This brief post is just a late-night acknowledgment. I noticed an email I’d gotten a long time ago back when I was trying to actively review other people’s music but ended up having very little time to actually do so. This guy had sent me a review of one of his band’s songs and it rubbed me the right way as I read over it tonight. Here it is:

Song: Wasted Time by The Dead Letters

Listen, motherf*ckers, prepare to have your shit rocked. Oh damn, is that a quietly building loop? Fuck that is genius, IS THAT REVERSED? Hold on to your seathole, because that’s not weak-ass Chan Marshall, that’s f*cking Ashley Bullock, aka BullROCK. Listen to those lyrics! Thoughtful as a motherf*cker. 

OH SNAP! Is that a guitar/bass break? Yes, you pussy, that is. We don’t fuck around with weak ass shit, we go straight – BUILDING, SLOWLY BUILDING. I AM SO PUMPED RIGHT NOW! – to the ROCK OOOOH WA AH AH AH.

Now that you’ve been skullf*cked by this masterpiece, you best be snifflin. You’re right, that WAS the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard in your life!

Tell your friends. If they can handle it.

The Greatest Song In The World

My comments:

What got my attention before I’d even listened to the song was the line: “Is that a guitar/bass break? Yes, you pussy, that is.” I just love how direct and antagonistic it’s trying to be, given how asburd the use of “p*ssy” here is in the context of someone’s reaction to a bridge in a song. 

The “marketing” of the song is probably the most interesting thing about it here. From the writer’s tone you’d think the song was this over-the-top melodrama that tries to destroy the listener. I was pretty surprised that it turned out to be a melancholic, introspective haze, because that’s pretty much the opposite of the review’s attitude. So that was disappointing.

The song is thoughtful and captures a mood of youthful indie rock revery, but I wouldn’t consider it for “greatest song in the world”, as the writer refers to it, because I don’t really think of it as a song, more of a state of mind or something. The words are not entirely intelligible and I couldn’t find lyrics on their website. That doesn’t bother me, really. Production a little too sparse on the build, meaning the orchestration wasn’t full enough to back the force it was striving for.

I like the vocals, makes me think of the film character Juno, but a kind of deteriorated version of her that got detentions and practiced harmless forms of vandalism. Or Mazzy Starr in high school, getting pissed at boys who can’t hear how beautiful her voice is because she won’t sing to them, and she just walks past them in the hallways in a dark-colored hoodie with a silver metallic zipper down the middle. 

The intro section is very Godspeed You Black Emperor, which I like too.

Anyway, thanks to the Dead Letters for their song. Best of luck!

Music Licensing and Corrupt Music – A New Way to Sell Out

Yesterday’s New York Times has an interesting discussion on the detrimental effects of music licensing on the creation of music itself.

The question is: What happens to the music itself when the way to build a career shifts from recording songs that ordinary listeners want to buy to making music that marketers can use? That creates pressure, subtle but genuine, for music to recede: to embrace the element of vacancy that makes a good soundtrack so unobtrusive, to edit a lyric to be less specific or private, to leave blanks for the image or message the music now serves. Perhaps the song will still make that essential, head-turning first impression, but it won’t be as memorable or independent.

There are plenty of good points brought up over the tricky relationship between commerce and art. It’s a perennial problem that’s manifesting itself in new ways given the shifts in the music industry.

Licensing hasn’t changed how or why I write music, but I have never made any money from licensing.

It seems to me that anything that can be corrupted will be corrupted, but that’s not necessarily terrible. There will always be a new generation of uncorrupted artists, ready to throw themselves off the cliff. I am generally concerned, though, about the increased branding and marketing of everything in this life.

As we seek a perpetually higher standard of living, how can people make more money without increasing the amount of things they sell to other people?

What do you think? Check out the article.

Music in the Dominican Republic

Right now The Music Snob is in the Dominican Republic, working as a translator on a medical mission.  I’ve brought my guitar, and am providing night time entertainment for the group of doctors and nurses by playing Beatles songs and other well-known stuff. Lots of fun. The locals have such a joy for music. Last year when here I borrowed someone’s guitar on the street and played an impromptu concert. This year, one of the local kids remembered me as the guy with the guitar and was asking me to bring it back to the hospital. So maybe I’ll do that again this year. 

I have no idea what’s been going on with the “music industry” or music marketing lately. And I missed CMJ in NYC entirely. 

Good luck to everyone out there playing and singing and writing. I did score a beautiful electric piano for a fraction of its cost recently, so I have a new compositional tool. 

This site has been quiet for the past several weeks, as I’ve been busy launching a new ecommerce site for One Pearl. One Pearl sells beautiful pearl and semiprecious stone jewelry, and gives away most of their profits to fund organizations that benefit children. They do great work and I’m proud to be part of it. So put down your guitars momentarily and surf the site.

Selling Product Placements in Songs

It appears that a serious hack has infiltrated the upper (or lower, depending on how you see it) echelons of music marketing, and recently conducting an email campaign offering companies product placements in songs by the likes of the Pussycat Dolls, among others. One of the people he unwittingly sent the email to writes a blog for the Anti-Advertising Agency, a group of ad professionals(?) that lament the influence of ad professionals on the world.

There’s an article at Wired about this mis-sent email and the idiotic attempts by its author to have his good deeds de-publicized. Here’s one of his winning defenses of selling product placements in songs:

We are just financially taking care of the people that should be taken care of…If an artist like Sheryl Crow has the same target audience as XZY brand, we feel it’s nothing but a strong and strategic way to pinpoint a market.”

I was thinking of starting a non-profit recently to “take care of” Sheryl Crow, but I’m glad a for-profit got to it first and is looking out for her. She seems to really be suffering.

That said, I also disagree with the Anti-Advertising people, who seem to advocate a disabling “integrity” that would shame every artist into giving away his last pieces of property and living under a tree in a public park:

Unfortunately, it does seem that some truly independent artists actually DO need the money provided by a momentary advertising fix.”

So they’re saying that some people, even though they have no corporate sources of income, may actually need money to survive like the rest of us? Who could imagine?! 

Get off your high horse. And take a writing class: their mission statement does everything but lay out a mission, getting lost in the satisfaction of using words that obscure and make uninteresting any actual point they may have.

But that’s just me, a broke independent musician, bitter that Coca-Cola hasn’t called yet asking me to write a song about Diet Sprite.

To subvert the subversion, I’ve decided to place this icon above my Google ads:

Maybe if they institute a pay-per-click program I can offset the loss of giving my music away for free.

Inner Rhythm – New eBook on Building a Successful Music Biz

On the other side of the pond, Kavit Haria is busy in England helping musicians attend to the nuts and bolts of building a music career. You should check out his new ebook:

How To Design a Winning and Profitable Music Business.

I checked the guide out and wrote a review for him. Here’s what I had to say:

“Kavit Haria’s ebook outlines some essential business practices that musicians interested in building a career should consider. Instead of taking the ad hoc and uncoordinated approach, musicians should carefully consider their goals and the concrete steps to get them there. If you are in the process of turning music creation into a music business, you should check out Kavit’s summary of a music business framework and his analysis of the artist-fan relationship.”

Another aspect to the book that I thought was important is his distinction between opportunistic and strategic thinking. Most of us move forward without a clear plan, taking the opportunities that present themselves, but not moving towards a concrete goal. If you define your goals first and then work backwards, your actions should be much more effective.

I hear that.

Free Publicity – Get Interviewed Here!

Since I’m no expert, I started this site to document my process of learning about music marketing. A big part of that is talking to people that are experts, and some of our strongest articles have been with successful musicians or tech company people. 

If you want to share your perspective on the music industry, your career, or any marketing strategies and tools, let me know…

Things Heard this Weekend…

“Everyone is a musician these days…”

“You should write some songs with three chords and make a shitload of money. Sell out.”


Today on the bus ride back to Manhattan I was digging up some old classics on the iPod, and spent some time admiring the brilliant counterpoint at the end of “Coma” from GNR’s Use Your Illusions I. Slash’s guitar line interacts beautifully with Axl’s vocal melody for the last couple of minutes of the song.