Music is All about Money

Behold my favorite April fools post (so far) from Swedish independent label Hybris:

Due to illegal filesharing Hybris will have to shut down it’s business.

There are simply no economic incentive for our artists to create when copyright laws are not respected.

Hybris is one of several Swedish indie labels that have banded forces to create The Swedish Model. They share a commitment to celebrating file sharing as a means of music distribution and to building dialogue about creative ways to conduct the business of music.

In The Swedish Model’s statement they say wise things like:

We like computer nerds who put their souls into building protocols that efficiently spreads the music that we love. We are modern you know. We don’t want to have appeals against laws or pirates. We don’t want to have appeals against the appeals either. We want to have a creative discussion about how we can refine the distribution forms and how we further can refine the art form of music.

It is impossible to say yes or no to file sharing. It is something that exists and can’t be removed. Get started and put the energy towards driving the development instead of trying to slow it down. It’s not possible to slow it down – the force in great changeovers that are good for humanity is much too strong for special interest organizations and laws to stop it. That’s it. Stop whining. If you are creative and the music you make is good then there will always be space for you.

It hurts when old business models break. New models will however always take their place. Right now we’re at the end of one epoch and in the beginning of another. The key to moving on is to let the old epoch die and the new germinate. That can only happen if one accepts the new conditions the internet has brought. And it is really time to try new ideas instead of clinging to the old.

Read an interview about the Swedish Model Avi Roig conducted on Its A Trap!.

Read another post where Hybris talk about “the trap of the file sharing debate” here. Find some select quotes from interviews I did with Hybris and others where they elaborate some of these ideas here.

I approve!




Kurt Cobain Converses: Cool or Creepy?

From the Internet Nirvana Fan Club comes exclusive news that Converse will launch a Courtney-sanctioned Kurt Cobain sneaker. This is not part of its forthcoming Dead Alternative Guys Converse Century Icons line:

While the Converse Century campaign is also using images of several other artists, such as Ian Curtis, M.I.A. and Hunter S. Thompson, who they are calling Converse Century Icons, the Cobain is not one of these “icons.”

If there is one thing I have learned about fandom that I didn’t know before starting this blog it’s how rich and serious the world of sneaker fandom is. My posts about the effort to get Nike to make the sneakers from Back to the Future II seem to have the most longevity of them all.

So I get the appeal, and yes, Cobain was totally identified with his Converse shoes.

But am I the only one who so vividly remembers the photograph of the suicide site where all of him that you could see was the bottom of his legs and his Converse sneakers? Part of the reason he’s so identified with those shoes is that he killed himself in them and in that iconic picture those shoes were all that was left.

It just seems a little sick to exploit it with targeted niche marketing for the “punk rock means freedom” demographic. But maybe that demographic doesn’t remember what a punch in the gut it was to first see that photograph.

Update: Quick scan o’ the web shows a lot of moral indignation and outrage from Nirvana fans and other observers. Not sure what the sneaker fan perspectives are.

Quick Richard Thompson Followup

The other day I wrote a post praising Richard Thompson for encouraging the voices of his fans rather than just steamrolling them with his own. The post was inspired by the performance I’d seen him give the night before. [and two Davids left really interesting thoughts about how it plays out in academia]

Within 48 hours, I was getting incoming hits from his official website, where someone had found my post and added it to the list of concert reviews posted on the site. For the last week it’s been the top source of incoming traffic to this blog.

I was awfully impressed that someone behind the scenes at an official site was actively scouring the web for fan responses (I assume it’s automated, but still) and updating the website that quickly. Exemplary behavior! How neat to be brought into his dialogue without even targeting a message directly to him. It makes me want to say everything I said in that post all over again.

Kind of funny though since it wasn’t really meant to be a “concert review.”


p.s. sorry about the flaky site performance. My web hosting service, Dreamhost, has been misbehaving these last few days. I’d change providers but am not convinced others are better for a small scale operation such as this. Opinions?

The Wonders of Dialogue

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Richard Thompson perform. He played a solo acoustic show — just him and a well-worn guitar. No fancy nothings to fall back on but his amazing artistry and the beauty of his songs.

And his talent for communicating with his audience.

He’s got a fan base that goes back almost 40 years now, and there were a lot of people there who looked like they’d been listening to him for that long. A woman behind me sang along to every old song he did. People up front cheered when he mentioned a town several hours away, indicating that was where they’d driven from to be at this show.

So many performers do the shows they planned at the outset to do. They’ve got their set list, same set list as the night before. Thompson, in contrast, came out with set list, but every single time the audience yelled for a song he stopped, thought about it, and then either played it or explained why it wouldn’t work and then, usually, played it anyway. When he said he was going to do a Fairport Convention song he asked the audience which one they wanted then held a poll amongst the top 4 choices. When they called out for obscure songs, he laughed at their choices, said they were fringe, and then played them.

It struck me watching this that his flexibility offers a powerful lesson for everyone who has fans. He is not about control. He does what he does. He’s brilliant at it. And he’s totally comfortable with letting his shows be a dialogue with the audience. This means that sometimes he’s going to end up doing weird stuff that doesn’t quite work out (like when he yelled for a third of the audience to sing the saxophone part but they only giggled), that he’s going to occasionally forget the words or which riff comes next. It means he has to think on his feet.

But it also means that his audience leaves feeling like he was there for THEM.

Though this has nothing to do with the internet, it speaks to me of the power of the internet to allow that kind of individualized engagement with your audience even when they aren’t in the same room, but also of how so many artists try to make their online presence a monologue in which they set the terms of engagement.

On his website he has both a “Tourspeak” section in which he posts fan comments on his performances and a “Viewpoint” section in which he offers his own takes. The link to the former is before the link to the latter. That kind of says it all. Dialogue beats monologue every time.

Another Great Patronage Example

I wrote last week about Jill Sobule’s successful campaign to raise $75,000 direct from fans in order to finance her new album (she got more than that, and quickly). Now I hear, via David Jennings, via Billboard, that UK band Marillion have been doing this for some time and have just raised ten times that from more than 12,000 fans to record their 15th album.

The Marillion website has an extensive page describing the venture. They offered many of the same incentives as Sobule (name in liner notes) and some of what she did for anyone who paid the price, they did in contest form. In fact, they offered lots of prizes for people who paid up before the deadline. As a fan (though not of them), I read their list of prizes and thought “wow, they’ve really nailed what fans want” [forgive the funky formatting]:

GRAND PRIZE – The Golden Ticket (1 Winner)

An all-expenses-paid* trip from anywhere in the world for 2 to the Marillion Weekend 2009, including VIP and backstage passes for the entire Weekend.

* All necessary travel and accommodation will be booked by economy/coach class and paid for by Marillion/Racket Records in consultation with the prize winners. Food & drink outside of the pre-booked meals at Marillion Weekend 2009 is the responsibility of the winner.


Perform on Album 15 (1 Winner)

Visit Marillion’s Racket Club Studio and perform* on Album 15, and be credited for your performance in the artwork.

* Performance of a specific instrument cannot be guaranteed, and may be limited to various percussion (tambourines, shakers, hand-claps) and/or backing vocals. Final performance recording will be arranged upon arrival to the Racket Club studio. No performance fee and/or other royalties will be payable to the winner.

Appear in the Artwork for Album 15 (1 Winner)

Have your photo appear* in the album artwork of the pre-order Deluxe Campaign 2CD Edition

* Winner will be contacted with full details of how to submit photos; final artistic usage will be at the discretion of the graphic designer and/or Marillion.

Watch a Gig from the Stage (1 Winner)

Stand on stage in “Guitar World” with our guitar tech for a prime view of the show at any choice of gig on the Snow-where Else Christmas Tour 2007 (2 tickets included)

Watch a Gig from the Stage (1 Winner)

Stand on stage in “Guitar World” with our guitar tech for a prime view of the show at any choice of gig on the Album 15 Tour 2008 (2 tickets included)

Hand-written Autographed Lyrics (1 Winner)

A Marillion lyric of your choice hand-written by Steve Hogarth and signed by all 5 band members.

Autographed Album 15 Artwork Print (1 Winner)

A one-off 12″x12″ print of the Album 15 cover, signed by all 5 band members.

Your Own Private Marillion Gig (5 Winners)

Visit Marillion’s Racket Club Studio with 3 other friends/family to meet the band and hear them play a short gig at the studio especially for you.

A Phone Call from the Band (5 Winners)

Have a chat with Marillion! Each band member will select a winner, and give you a phone call to talk about whatever you’d like.

Sound-check and Front Row Passes (10 Winners)

Admission for 2 to sound check at any choice of gig on the Snow-where Else Christmas Tour 2007 (2 tickets included), plus passes to remain in the venue and/or early admission passes to guarantee yourself a front-row view of the gig.

Sound-check and Front Row Passes (10 Winners)

Admission for 2 to sound check at any choice of gig on the Album 15 Tour 2008 (2 tickets included), plus passes to remain in the venue and/or early admission passes to guarantee yourself a front-row view of the gig.

A ‘Special Thanks’ Credit on Album 15 (10 Winners)

Your name listed not only in the pre-order list of names, but also in the main album credits under the “Special Thanks” section.

Marillion Plectrums and Sticks (10 Winners)

A pair of Ian Mosley’s drum sticks, plus plectrums from Steve Rothery, Pete Trewavas, and Steve Hogarth – all used for a Marillion show.

Racket Records Gift Vouchers (25 Winners)

25 winners will receive £25 each to spend on anything they like at the Racket Records online store.


Signed Albums (50 Winners)

Have your Album 15 pre-order Deluxe Campaign 2CD Edition signed by all 5 band members.

It’s apparent from Marillion’s site that they’ve got this process down, though it’s also apparent that their strategy relies entirely on the fact that they already have a large, loyal fanbase and that some of this would not work with a new band. Still, it’s another example of a well-done and extremely successful patronage model.

The patronage model really resonates with me simply because I have often had the thought that some of the music I have bought is worth so much more to me than I was able to pay for it. I can think of at least two bands off the top of my head I would send hundreds of dollars if they just gave me a way to do it. And many others I’d gladly send ten or twenty.