Wow, two posts in row pointing out friends who are asking for money. I guess such is the world in which we live. The truth of the matter is that the old system of media/entertainment/art/whatever is dying. It no longer does any sort of good job at producing interesting and fulfilling material. The job of producing good stuff has fallen to the artists themselves, and other people who are personally vested in quality. That is why we have artists making and funding their own records now, and that is why some of our best music journalism is done by independent bloggers and podcasters.
This stuff has to be paid for in one way or another. With artists making CDs, the answer is fairly easy: buy their CDs. Jason Crane, who produces the fabulous music interview podcast called The Jazz Session, has adopted a somewhat public radio style way of trying to make his show economically feasible. He is seeking members, people who will make an ongoing commitment to financially support the show. We do these things (produce podcasts, run music series, etc) because we love to do them, but it does cost money to make them happen. Sometimes we can subsidize it from our personal lives, and sometimes we have to ask the people who enjoy this work to step up and help pay for it.
I love Jason’s show. I listen to it regularly and have learned a lot from the interviews. Jason has a wide ranging aesthetic and does a great job of giving exposure and forum to artists whose work falls left of the mainstream. I am a member.
I would recommend that you go to the website and listen to a show or two. There is a long list of artists from which to choose. I particularly enjoyed the Ken Filiano and David Weiss interviews. If you like what you hear and feel it deserves your support, you can join here: http://thejazzsession.com/join/
The show needs about 15 more members by the end of Thursday August 11 for it to continue.
I have produced a few CDs over the years that were solely funded by me, and had no chance of being big sellers. This situation makes budgeting the project difficult, especially when it comes to paying the musicians. In some instances, I have just built a modest (but hopefully respectful) amount of money for each musician into the budget, and paid them for the recording. This makes the gamble mine alone, and makes the bookkeeping much easier, in the unlikely event that the CD actually makes money. We did do the first Lucky 7s CD with the understanding that once the initial investment was made back, we would share equally in the proceeds. No one was paid for the recording on the front end. Happily that CD has made a little money, and every once in a while I get to send each of the guys a check (a small check, but a check none the less).
Recently Kickstarter, and similar sites, have become a popular way of trying to finance recording projects. It is not difficult to see how this could seem more appealing than the personal savings method of financing. There has been a good bit of reaction to this trend, both positive and negative, and some insight as well.
All of this brings me to a new Kickstarter project I was recently asked to support. It is Steve Swell’s Nation of We. Steve has taken the curious angle of running the campaign to pay his band. It is not uncommon for artists to make a recording on their own, and then have a label pick it up. It is also not uncommon for the label to pay the musicians in product, i.e. the musicians provide the master, the label pays for pressing and distribution, and the musicians get paid in product (CDs they can sell themselves to make their money). Unless the CD really sells a lot, there is often no exchange of cash between the label and the musicians. NB: I don’t know that this is Steve’s deal on this CD, I just know it is common practice.
Part of me wants to complain about what a shame it is that we have to resort to organized begging to pay musicians for their creative work. The other part of me thinks it is cool that Steve wants to do right by his band, and that using Kickstarter to offer what amounts to CD pre-orders is a great idea. I’ll save the long form rant for a time when my thoughts on the matter or better organized.
I supported this project, and recommend that you check it out and see if it is something you would like to support as well.