More Creative Musicians Working the Web

Jill Sobule is the latest in a string of musicians figuring out innovative ways to involve fans in their pricing and production processes.* She’s out to get $75,000 in donations from fans to help her record her next record and she’s quasi-mocking the Public Radio/TV pledge process in doing it:

  • $10 – Unpolished Rock (but with potential) Level: A free digital download of the album, when it’s released.

  • $25 – Polished Rock Level: An advance copy of the CD. Weeks before the masses.

  • $50 – Pewter Level: An advance copy and a “Thank You” on the CD.

  • $100 – Copper Level: All the above, plus a T-shirt saying you’re a junior executive producer on the album.

  • $200 – Bronze Level: Free admission to my shows for 2008.

  • $250 – Silver Level: All the above, plus a membership to the “Secret Society Producer’s Club,” which means you’ll get a secret password to a website where I’ll post some rough tracks, or… something worthwhile.

  • $500 – Gold Level: This is where it gets good! At the end of my CD, I’ll do a fun instrumental track where I’ll mention your name and maybe rhyme with it. And if you don’t want your name used, you can give me a loved one’s instead. What a great gift!

  • $750 – Gold Doubloons Level: Exactly like the gold level, but you give me more money.

  • $1,000 – Platinum Level: How would you like to have a theme song written for you? I’ll have a song you can put on your answering machine and show off. Again, this could be a gift.

  • $2,500 – Emerald Level: Mentioned as an executive producer of the album — whoop-di-doo!

  • $5,000 — Diamond Level: I will come and do a house concert for you. Invite your friends, serve some drinks, bring me out and I sing. Actually, this level is a smart choice economically. I’ve played many house concerts where the host has charged his guests and made his money back. I’d go for this if I were you.

  • $10,000 – Weapons-Grade Plutonium Level: You get to come and sing on my CD. Don’t worry if you can’t sing – we can fix that on our end. Also, you can always play the cowbell.

As of this writing she’s less than $9,000 shy of her goal, which I for one find pretty impressive.

Rob Walker expresses some doubt, he disapproves of the name-mentioning in a song (me, I wonder how a song can both be “instrumental” and “mention your name”). I don’t mind it at all. I think she’s being clever and playful and I can think of lots of ways to incorporate fans’ names in song without losing one’s artistry or being creepy. Indeed, I think a lot of songwriters might find it an interesting challenge to create a song with a set of names at hand (it reminds me a bit of R.E.M.’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It supposedly based on a dream Michael Stipe had where he was at a party where everyone but him had the initials LB — “Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs!” Birthday party, cheesecake, jellybean BOOM!)

On a related front, Trent Reznor, who’s always good for some innovative web stuff, has released a new Nine Inch Nails record online available in a variety of forms depending on how much you want to pay. The big news is that the $300 deluxe limited to 2500 copies has SOLD OUT. Someone wrote me this morning asking my opinion on whether album art and packaging is dying out in the age of downloading. This suggests that it may be a fantastic means of generating extra revenue from hardcore fans — 2500 x 300 = not too shabby.

* If you caught me on the Agenda last night, I apologize for spacing and confusing her with Jane Sibbery — those J.S. women doing cool net stuff, yikes.

Update: See here for another good patronage example, only with $750,000 vs. $75,000.

Comments (4) to “More Creative Musicians Working the Web”

  1. Kevin Kelly has a blog entry ( suggesting that artists might be able to tap into “1,000 true fans” in this manner to make a living.

  2. Momus actually did something awfully similar back in 1999 with his “Patronage Pop” concept album “Stars Forever”. Amazingly, the price of having a song written just for you doesn’t seem to have gone up in value since then.

  3. Beyond the stunning financial success of the campaign, it also means that Sobule’s going to have an incredibly motivated street team when the album comes out.

    That is, those contributors will probably e-mail every person in their address books, urging them to buy the new disc, see her in concert, etc. So she’s getting a benefit far beyond the actual cash windfall…

  4. I like the NPR humor. I do. I do. But a grass roots approach to make a $75,000 album? I don’t understand.

    The good news is that $75,000 worth of people will get paid to help her make the record. That’s great news.

    And I’ll admit, I have no clue how much it costs to do a record. In my little world, $10,000 to pay for a producer seems outlandish.

    Still, why use a grass roots method to raise what seems like a commercially-colossal cost?