On New Year's Eve, I had a thought-provoking conversation with a friend, another independent songwriter/touring musician whose career & ideas I respect and admire, about all the pitfalls and dangers of crowd-sourcing/funding "the arts."
Everything he said, I agreed with, and have wrestled with on the way here: it's a very fine line between inelegant pandering & respectfully offering your audience an opportunity to act as de facto financiers helping produce a project.
It opens up a philosophical tangle about how the audience's expectations can change through this kind of interaction, whether or not it could impact the music you make as a result.
It's a really easy thing to do badly, or cheesily, or in a way that can feel ... compromised, hacky, undignified.
Fairly or unfairly, it can even smack of desperation and create a reactionary perception issue when an established artist (two very subjective words) launches a campaign: "I thought (insert band here) was doing better than that. Yikes," and so on.
Potentially most troubling: it's also a one-bullet gun, something you can really only do once and not rely on as a repeated, sustainable business model moving forward.
I looked at all that, and I listened to my friend, and I ultimately decided right now was the perfect time in what's been an unpredictable & wildly rewarding career to launch my own Kickstarter to record, release, and tour my 7th & 8th studio albums.
I see this moment as a pivot. In some respects, I'm "bigger" than I have ever been, and my career continues its stubborn and deliberate turtle's march (souffle rise? take your pick), gaining ground each year - which, I've been made aware, is a rare & precious experience in this industry & moment.
I'm also very much a "free agent" after my most recent unsatisfying (soul-stripping? again, the choice is yours) experience with the industrial side of being a musician, this time connected to releasing my last album, Between The Concrete & Clouds.
I chose to go through the label system with Concrete as a kind of last ditch effort to see if I could figure out a way to make music & conduct a career my way while also trying to maintain a sort of "sliding door" relationship with the music industry (really, record labels/publishing companies/etc.).
And it turns out, I can't, at least in most significant ways.
None of which is the "fault" of the music business - that would be an insanely misguided & egotistical claim to make; the music business is exactly what it is and doesn't necessarily misrepresent itself as anything else, at least not if you look at & listen to it closely enough. We just want different things, and have different definitions of success and achievement, different metrics, different timetables. So why force a match where it doesn't exist?
When I clear away all that other crap, all that uncertainty & projected expectation about how things "should" be done, here's what's left, what I definitely know does exist: our relationship, the one between myself & you guys, my hard-won & greatly appreciated support structure.
I truly believe I have one of the most committed, connected, respectful, intelligent, and generous audiences of any musician working today.
Literally all the best things about my career to this point have been made possible by you. I believe your engagement and encouragement and advocacy carried me through the dissolution of the Capitol experience into what's been the most fertile, creative, exciting, and successful chapter in my career.
You helped turn my life in music into something singular & special & undeniable.
So, in deciding to lean into that relationship to build our own "thing," this single shot pivot looks to me as follows:
- I am going to make two records in the first half of 2013. I've already started writing both.
- The first will be a solo record (not necessarily all solo acoustic performances, just meaning I will perform the majority of what is heard on the record), produced by Rob Schnapf (produced Put Your Ghost To Rest, the "Luxembourg"/"Part Of The Whole" single, and the original "Another Bag Of Bones" single; mixed Between The Concrete & Clouds & Bad Books II; produced Elliott Smith, Beck, Booker T. Washington, Guided By Voices, The Vines, The Whigs, Dr. Dog, and many more).
- The second will be a record with the Goddamn Band, produced by Jesse Lacey, a friend & collaborator who plays in an excellent band called Brand New.
- We will self-release both records (a new & super exciting step for us) in the fall of 2013.
- I will tour both records throughout the end of 2013 into 2014, any & everywhere possible, most likely several times over.
- Where you come in: you pledge to support this project, you receive the incentives listed to the right of this piece of writing. Your money will directly finance the recording, production, and touring of these two albums. If the campaign is successful enough, you will enable us to establish ourselves moving forward as our own self-contained indie-label presence, ensuring we can exist at this level on our own.
And that's that.
I'm in love with the music that's being written and have total faith in how these albums are taking shape. I can't promise every one of you will love everything on them; I never can, and I genuinely don't think that's what you'd want from me, anyway. I always got the sense that you respect & understand me enough to let me figure out that side of things, to grow my own weird way, to have faith that whatever the finished product, it will never be half-assed, never be arrived at without dedication, without passion.
Thank you all in advance, one way or the other, for the gift of your attention & your time all these years. Here's to Phase 2. Upward & onward.
Risks and challenges
We will have a team, including myself, management, interns, and volunteers to get your rewards and gifts to you in a timely manner. We will also be easily accessible to answer any questions you may have throughout the process.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (45 days)