Is Music Pledging The Way Forward?

Is Music Pledging The Way Forward?

The music industry is changing, and it has been for a long time. With the closure of the nearly-century-old mass music chain HMV in the UK last month, the end of music consumerism as we once knew it has drawn closer and Simon Cowell is practically quaking in his boots. OK, the last part is a lie; we all know he wears stacked heels. But it is undeniable that over a decade ago iTunes waltzed in, leaving tangible hold it in your hand music products outdated. But while everyone lamented the loss of a practical use for their Walkman, other changes in the industry appear to have gone relatively unnoticed.

Over the past few weeks, I have been mulling over the notion of music pledging. Pledging sees musicians soliciting funds directly from fans, pledges in exchange for gifts via projects on host websites. This initiative, also known as fan or crowd funding, has led to the success of a variety of projects. Artists have ranged from independent bands seeking that big break through to failed X-Factor contestants, to pledges hosted by music giants. Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls fame, managed to raise a whopping 1.2 million via the music pledging host site, Kickstarter. But as the website itself suggests 54% of music based projects fail, resulting in a loss of all pledged funding. Maybe it’s time to mull some more.

Although relatively new in the public consciousness, fan funding has been around since the early noughties. It all began when Marillion, a UK eighties rock band, unhappy with their record label made the radical decision to ask their fans to pre-order their album before they had even begun recording it. This resulted in 12,000 pre-orders and in return, fans received a special Double CD version, and those who ordered before the set date, even had the privilege of being named in the CD booklet.

Integrally, as PledgeMusic CEO, Benji Rogers suggests, “The beauty of pledging is that fans can be engaged at every point along the journey

Is this the future of music? The phenomenon of music pledging has not come without its critics. If you are a little known band, is anyone going to pay $100 dollars to have their knickers signed and used as the tour mascot?

Is it really appropriate for commercially successful bands to generate additional revenue from fans that already pay for downloads, merchandise and gigs? Or, with this in mind, should artists funded by pledges, as some already have, lead the way in radicalising the music industry by rewarding their fans with special gigs and pre-releases…

Amanda Palmer, who raised $1m more than her original goal of $100,000 for her album, Theatre is Evil, allowed fans to download it for ‘as much as they thought it was worth’. Should her mass funding therefore be praised as a mark of excellent self-promotion and envied for her loyal money wielding fan-base? In her itemised description of where the funds would have been spent, Palmer lists items such as loans, high end CDs and thank you cards. Understandable, but she additionally suggests, “If we keep our expenses down, and keep the tour pretty practical… I could probably put $100k of this in the bank personally. Which would be great”.

Oh yes, that does sound ‘great’. But isn’t Palmer’s glib admittance, that she will restrict the costs of a tour that her FANS funded while banking $60k more than the average American’s annual income, actually exactly the opposite of what music pledging is about? The arguments in favour are bolstered by Palmer’s later request for skilled musicians to play on her tour, for remuneration paid in merchandise, gratitude, beer, high-fives and hugs. No man, woman or musician can live on these five things alone and surely that was the point of Palmer’s Kickstarter project in the first place?

Perhaps fans pledging for the music they love is only going to inspire the creation of music that will in turn be much loved, or at least appreciated. To refer - once more - to Mr. Rogers, “The sooner we can leave the one size fits all consumer experience behind us the better. Not just for artists… but for the fans who are the people who the traditional music business has simply ignored.”

Pledging may not be the all-encompassing “future of music”, but it may just be the beginning of the big rethink of the music industry.

And to be honest, if it is the future, I’m much more comfortable with the image of Amanda ‘Fucking’ Palmer performing in a brand new gold encrusted brassiere, if it’s all in the name of pleasing the fans she loves, rather than the CEO of a music machine, chomping on a cigar and raking in the proverbial pennies of busked-out and bankrupt bands.

Anything's Pozible For The Delta Riggs

Having just successfully wrapped up a Pozible campaign of their own, psychedelic 'jump and shout' rock'n'rollers The Delta Riggs are putting their fans' pledges toward their debut album. Here's what the groups' front man Elliott Hammond had to say about crowd-funding...

The Dwarf: How do you think Music Pledging has/will change the industry?

Elliott Hammond: I think it is a sound option for getting the funds together to make art, an option that is refreshing because it solely relies on the momentum of the project. The Industry, I don't know how it works so I don't know how it will change, and I don't care.

How has it enabled you to progress in your career?

It has enabled us to no longer seek the financial security of a Record label. It allows us to put the proposition to our fan-base: If they want a record, give us some bread and we can make it for you. It's pretty cool like that.

How far would you go for a big pledge that would help you achieve your final goal e.g. fund the completion of an album or national tour?

What, like the whole way? Like, sleep with someone? No, probably not. Depends on the figure

Do you agree that pledging is a tool to be used by all artists, even those who are already incredibly successful? For example, The Beach Boys using Pledge Music to fund their 50th Anniversary DVD. Does this send the right message to fans?

I think that is incredibly silly. If we had the money to make a record we wouldn't need to do this. Brian Wilson, although I am a huge fan and adore what he did with Pet Sounds, I mean I'm sure I'm not the first person to say this but... he's losing it right?

Gay Paris – Keeping It Weird

Here were some of the 'rewards' that were up for grabs just for putting some pennies toward Gay Paris' The Last Good Party...

- $99 reward: personalised phone calls from each of the band members on your birthday for the next five years (my personal favourite).

- $100 reward: band members to re-enact ‘The Fake Orgasm’ scene from ‘When Harry met Sally’ in a Macca’s and send you the catastrophe on film.

- $102 reward: Slim will interpretive dance to Meshuggah in Pitt Street Mall at lunchtime on a weekday in a rainbow spandex onesie

- $103 reward: Ol' Blacktooth wil re-enact any film (or trailer) in 10 mins using only cutlery from the kitchen. Suggested titles: Sleepless in Seattle, Hellrazor and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze

- $104 reward: Slim will gain an understanding of the Global Financial Crisis and present the key elements to you in an in-depth video

- $105 reward: WH will do your next assignment for you

- $505 reward: WH will be the celebrant at your wedding/same sex ceremony (not legally binding)

- $750 reward: WH will get your name/face tattooed on him

Follow The Dwarf on Facebook

Comments ()