AMERICAN VOICES - The Televised Journey of 150 New Songs!
AMERICAN VOICES - The Televised Journey of 150 New Songs!
"American Voices" Season 1 -150 songs brought to life by performers and fans supporting this Kickstarter! A revolution in music and TV!
"American Voices" Season 1 -150 songs brought to life by performers and fans supporting this Kickstarter! A revolution in music and TV! Read more
About this project
Epigram Records has 150 new, excellent, unrecorded songs that we want to record over the course of the next year and we've decided to use Kickstarter, as a new, unique way, to find the vocalists and musicians that will record the release version of these 150 songs.
Vocalists and musicians, that pledge as performers, can record up to three versions of each of the 150 songs. Fans, from across the country, will then vote on their favorite versions of the songs, on YouTube playlists dedicated to each song. The top five vote getters, for each song, then get to perform a final version of the song, that can only be viewed and voted on by people (no bots or Russian hackers please) that pledged as super voting fans. The winners of the super fan vote for each song will then record the release version of that song. Each song will be recorded at the recording studio Epigram Records feels is best suited for that particular song.
All along the way, we will have television crews out interviewing interesting performers, as well as, critics, songwriters, recording engineers, producers and Epigram Records staffers. Again, while some of the television programming produced by these crews will be available on YouTube and other social media, only people pledging as super voting fans will have access to super-premium, exclusive-channel shows, like our flagship show American Voices.
Digital downloads of the 150 songs will be continuously released throughout the year, as they are completed in the recording studio (so fans will constantly have something to look forward to). At the end of the year the songs will be appropriately grouped together and released in a variety of audio formats along with a DVD documentary of the whole wonderful journey.
Whether, as a fan or performer, it should be a great year and next summer we'll start it all over again. For more information, look at the video above, read the copy or click on the song buttons below, or just go right to the pledges/rewards.
How Our Kickstarter Works
You, along with other fans and performers, go to epigramrecords.com to check out the opening lyrics to a 150 songs we have there for everybody's informed consideration, or simply click on the quick check buttons for 30 songs below. The songs, both here and at our website, range from innocent and guileless to dark and deeply cynical, but they are all basically good at heart.
Quick Check Song Buttons
How Our Kickstarter Works (continued)
Satisfied that there are definitely songs that you would like to perform, either as a vocalist or musician, or follow as a fan from mass auditions to on stage performance by a wondrously talented band, you come back to Kickstarter and sign up for the appropriate pledge package.
Those that sign up as performers receive access to basic charts (chords, tabs, and Nashville notation) for the first verse and chorus of each song. Epigram will also release demos of songs where it appears necessary to get things going in the right direction. Vocalists and musicians, can then perform up to three (about 45 sec each) versions of any songs they'd like.
Fans then go on a frenzy of liking and disliking the thousands of audition videos posted on 150 different playlists on YouTube. There is a big give and take on all forms of social media. Fans and Epigram staffers give performers advice about improving their next version of a song. Performers take or leave advice.
Epigram Records forms a television network ML9. The flagship show of ML9 is American Voices based on documenting the entire event from auditions to studio production of 1st release version to live performances out around the country. There will also be music industry stories, news, interviews (about songwriting, the recording of songs, venues across the country etc.) and a lot more.
After fans on YouTube narrow down the five most popular performers for each song, the final vote is given over to those individuals who pledged as super fans. The super fans do a wonderful job choosing the right performer(s) for each song. The chosen performers do a spectacular job recording the release version of their respective songs. The result is 150 tremendous singles and a large number of careers given a powerful shot in the arm. ML9 produces a year of engaging music based television that has everybody collectively saying "Wow, American Voices is the most entertaining, interesting and profound program on musicians, music, and the creative process I've ever seen on television."
After an entertaining year of engagement on social media, learning a lot about how music is made, and collecting 150 great recordings and going to a small intimate concert or two, everybody can hardly wait for next year. Neither can we. But we've got to get this year done first. So sign up today as either a fan or performer and let's get this bold musical experiment going.
A Deeper Look At Our Kickstarter
Sure, thousands of projects have been funded here on Kickstarter over the last few years, but we want to raise the bar, challenge the existing paradigm, take a bold step forward, think outside the box, shift the social conversation, you know all that game changing stuff. So we decided to not only get our funding here at Kickstarter, but our talent and energy as well.
The thought is, we here at Epigram Records will provide the big focusing idea, the songs, the technical infrastructure, organization and the t-shirts. You, the Kickstarter community, provide the talent, the funding, and the emotional and intellectual fuel necessary to lift this musical rocket into orbit. OK, we'll stop the with the hyperbole ( but we thought a little hyperbole was warranted ).
Our project consists of matching 150 songs in our music library (go to epigramrecords.com to see the opening lyrics to the 150 songs) with vocalists and musicians we find here on Kickstarter, so that we can produce 150 singles over the course of the next year while creating daily television programming based around the struggles of performers and Epigram staffers to get these 150 very different songs produced.
In the end, fans will have not only have 150 singles, in a variety of musical genres, plus a year of television programming, they will have had an opportunity to have genuine interactions with performers (perhaps even conversations that change the course of music history). But most importantly they will have been there for the start of the complete integration of music, television, social media, and live performance in a way that makes each medium more than they were before.
We think it is safe to say, fans are either going to witness an epic change in the music industry or an epic train wreck of monumental proportions, but either way it’s going to be epic. So we highly recommend you get involved because it’s going to be something to see. Sure, you can subscribe later, but it won't be as good a deal as we are offering Kickstarter supporters right now. In fact, everything will be 50% more after the Kickstarter and hey, you really ought to be here from minute one anyhow.
For their part, performers will have been exposed to thousands of fans and received feedback from hundreds of them. So even if a band or individual artist doesn't get the chance to produce a single with us this time around, they will end up with a lot more fans (and perhaps music industry people) knowing what they are about and what they are capable of than before this whole thing started.
More than that, musicians will have networked with other musicians, they can work with in the future, so that they can come back and kill it next year. Yes, we totally believe there will be a next year and a year after that. But even beyond that, they will have participated in the first large scale experiential music Kickstarter ever.
A Broad Outline of What We Are Looking For
Through our quick calculations and the way we envision the songs, we need to find at least 75 unique female and 75 unique male vocalists (which we believe will take thousands of auditions to find). We can't emphasize the word unique enough and the need for a performer to be the personification of the song(s) they perform. This is the perfect opportunity for vocalists that know they really have something, but that something isn't exactly total virtuosity.
You can perform your audition recordings of the songs a cappella, with a scratch track provided by us, self-accompanied, with a talented friend or two, or your band (as long as you don’t already have a contract with somebody else). Just make sure we get a clear idea of your voice and persona.
As far as instrumentalists obviously we'll be on the look out for a lot of guitarists, keyboardists, bassists, percussionists. Of course, we'll also need strings, horns, steel guitars, harmonicas and anybody else that can convince us that they can add something to a song or songs. With instrumentalists a certain kind of genre specific virtuosity would probably be a good thing and we'll be keeping our eyes out for flat out musical virtuosos for studio work.
Some obvious genres we are looking for are indie rock, existential country, celtic punk, punk, rock, country, folk, pop, EDM, baroque pop, psychedelic folk, ... OK this is getting ridiculous, we really don't want to put labels on things, right now, or really ever. We'd just say go look at our lyrics and if you feel you can project the lyrics of a given song on to the music of your favorite genre go ahead and give it a try. However, we need to point out that all the songs on our website have a defined progression and melody. So, you'll have access to charts (and demo's where necessary) in order to give you a reference point. But hey, surprise us. We like pleasant surprises.
Why So Many Different Types of Performers and Songs?
We are looking for a wide variety of artists for a number of reasons. First, we have pretty eclectic tastes in music ourselves and we know that a lot of music lovers nowadays are fond of shuffle-mode listening, playlists, and a diverse array of artists and genres so we thought we’d oblige that demand right from the start. As an added bonus if some of these acts become successful we'd potentially like to encourage some cross-genre collaborations to take place and further expand musical boundaries for artists, ourselves and fans.
Second, we felt that it would make much more compelling television and draw a lot larger audience if we had a large number of personalities and cultural archetypes. But not only will we have human characters running through our television programming, the songs themselves will become characters. Yes, if you start watching American Voices and don't begin perceiving the songs as living breathing things, that are being abused by some performers and saved and resurrected by others, we will have failed in one our primary narrative objectives for our programming - to get the audience to see the world from the point of view of a song. A lot of different songs, with a lot of different personalities and points of view is going to make things a lot more interesting.
Thirdly, we know we have to make this a media event with a lot of people involved to achieve the critical mass needed to really launch all of the songs and performers in a way that gives them all a real chance at success. One of the only ways this can be done is by doing a big project in a new, different, interesting way, with a lot of different kinds of people invested in the final outcome of the project right from the start. We really believe this idea has the ability to go viral and if a few of the songs and performers go viral as well, we are almost all the way there as far as delivering both fans and performers everything they could reasonably expect in terms of both music, television, social media and live performances throughout the country.
Fourth, we know that wild, crazy success is in large part a statistical event. If anyone really knew what a hit was they would just sit around, writing hits all day, and end up dominating the music industry. However, it doesn’t really appear to work that way (even successful songwriters and performers strikeout a lot more than they hit it out of the park). So we are playing the odds by putting a lot of good songs together, with a lot of good performers, in front of the right audience while believing a few musical explosions are bound to occur here and there. We can only hope that one of these explosions happens for you and your bandmates.
Fifth, finally, and still speaking statistically, we kind of want to create a record company (music community really) of about 30,000 (we want this rather large number to insure that we have a statistically relevant sample of music lovers available to us at all times) so that we can test songs and performers, before launching them out into the world. While 30,000 seems like a lot of people, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the size of the music listening public. This process has tremendous advantages for both fans and performers. Fans get to be the first to hear some great music and voice their opinion. Performers can tweak their final performances based on feedback they receive from the community. Then together we can spring some huge surprises on the larger musical world.
Beliefs Driving This Project
Beliefs Regarding Performers
1) We believe, there are a lot of talented people out there that can sing or play an instrument tremendously well, but aren’t inclined to spend years traveling from dive bar to dive bar in a van with two or three malodorous bandmates waiting to see how it all turns out, but are willing to give everything they’ve got to a couple of songs, for a couple of weeks and wait and see how things turn out.
2) We believe, there are a lot of talented people out there that can sing or play an instrument tremendously well, but have never gotten themselves in front of the right people or a large audience because they have been too preoccupied traveling from dive bar to dive bar in a van with two or three malodorous bandmates waiting to see how it all turns out.
3) We believe, there are a lot of talented people out there that can sing or play an instrument tremendously well, but writing songs isn’t their thing, they are actors not playwrights. However, a lot of actors eventually write a play or two (which is the equivalent of quite a few songs).
4) We believe, there are a lot of talented people that can sing or play an instrument tremendously well, but need somebody to direct them towards a goal, give them focus and provide them with the morale boost that can only be achieved when working with other people that are working as hard as you are to make something happen.
5) We here at Epigram believe that the level of connectivity in the world has finally reached a point that makes this approach to making music a truly viable option. Tribes are no longer so much geographical as virtual and for a lot of us the only way we are going to find our tribe (musical and otherwise) is reaching out into the cyber world.
6) We love and believe in our songs so much that we don’t want them to be just another song performed by a “you name them” famous artist. We would much rather that our songs are sung by somebody that ends up saying “wow that song really changed my life”. You have to admit that would be a super good feeling and we’re sure quite a few of you are going provide us with that feeling.
7) We believe that a year of 24/7 music television and the music itself, is a great value for both fans and performers, worth at least as much as say a Tough Mudder run, a jump out of an airplane, a ticket to a major concert, or some other of a long list of experiential events marketed out in the world today (and this is the only one that realistically has any chance of changing the course of your life).
8) We believe that there is a significant subset of vocalists and musicians that would rather try to launch their career by covering edgier, grittier material like the songs “American Girl”, “Perfect Lover” and “Take Me To The Water” than the typical fair offered up to the winners of competitions like the Voice and American Idol. But not to worry we’re not totally crazy we also have plenty of the usual songs that American and, in some cases, European markets crave.
9) We believe, there are a lot of vocalists that would rather try to launch their career by covering more innocent, sincere, and less sexualized material like our songs “So Far”, “Gift” and “Hiding” than the kind of songs usually used to launched female vocal careers in this day in age. Honestly, we love this kind talent just as much or more than any bad attitude, drug crazed punk. Plus there is the bonus that this type of talent is usually much easier to work with than drug crazed punks with bad attitudes.
10) This isn’t a belief, this is something we know-we’ve got a lot more great songs than we have artists to sing them and a lot more good ideas than money to fund them and doing a Kickstarter campaign is absolutely the best way to bring the pieces of this puzzle together. The big up side is to build a community that lasts for years after this Kickstarter.
11) We here at Epigram really want to focus on the humans involved in making music, as much as we can, before that day when “perfect” music is performed on stage by bigger than life holograms, controlled by algorithms generated by data that is being collected on Spotify, Pandora and iTunes at this very moment. Let’s keep it as real and human as we can, for as long as we can.
12) Finally, we believe, that even though we have a lot more beliefs and thoughts about why this Kickstarter is an excellent opportunity for performers, it just seems like bad form and potentially bad luck to go to reason thirteen and beyond on our maiden Kickstarter voyage. But if you have some further questions about our thoughts and beliefs go ahead and ask. We’ll be glad to respond.
Beliefs Regarding Fans
1) We believe, fans would give almost anything to have intimate glimpses into the daily activities (gigs at bars, coffee shops, and weddings; busking out on the streets; traveling cross-country between gigs; giving YouTube performances in their bedroom, etc.) of performers they are really into right from the very start of their careers. The added bonus of being able to give those performers advice, that potentially changes their entire career trajectory, well that, is just over the edge. You are going to have the opportunity to do just that if you support this Kickstarter campaign.
2) We believe fans would love to witness the building process as songs go from humble demos performed by acts with questionable talent and little understanding of what the song is about, to hits of Earth shattering consequence performed by individuals that appear to be breathing fire. Sometimes we believe this evolution could occur within the same band. Let’s find out together.
3) We believe, some fans would like to have their music judgements, predictive abilities, writing talents, and social media come to the attention of record company executives who might be impressed enough to hire them as A and R people or in some other capacity. Yeah, of course we are going to be looking for people whose talents are other than musical.
4) We believe, that fans will love to be able to see different performers covering the same material and how they interact and learn from each other through repeated iterations of a given song. We think fans are going to find the process unique and engaging. It will almost make you feel like you’re in the music industry sorting through all these versions, of all these songs and trying to pick the ones to fully produce in the studio and then send out into the universe from our little Epigram/Kickstarter world.
5) We believe, fans like yourself are going to love this first time ever opportunity to ask the actual songwriter what they were thinking when they wrote a song they love, artists what was going on as they put together the winning take of a song, and producers what they did to get the final sound that you either loved or hated in the release version.
6) We believe, that while a lot of performers are going to have a clear idea of where they are going and what their goals are, others are going to welcome input from fans like yourself on everything from their look to the name of their band. Hey, this is a chance to make your strange take on the world useful.
7) We believe, fans are going to love their unprecedented power to vote on which performers, perform the release version of each song. In other words, fans have the opportunity to speak for the songs. To prevent them from coming to untimely ends by being performed by performers that can’t fully explore their depth and wonder. Yeah, it’s scary for us here at Epigram, but we’ve decided to put the fate of our songs in the hands of the fans and performers that support us here on Kickstarter.
8) We believe, fans are going to really like it when we start renting small venues across the country to perform intimate concerts and they as supporters of this Kickstarter receive advanced notifications of these concerts. That fans will also play a role in determining the line up of performers is just an added bonus. These events will also be recorded and streamed to those supporters across the country that can’t make it in person. You have to love that.
9) We believe, now with so many performers to follow on social media your life is about to be a lot more interesting and entertaining, with insider access on Facebook Live and captivating daily stories on Snapchat and Instagram. A lot of this content will be generated by us here at Epigram, but a lot more of it will be initiated by competing performers and bands trying to generate interest in what they are doing musically and otherwise.
10) We believe there is going to be a lot to dive into for fans; interviews (of songwriters, musicians, venue owners, music writers, producers, etc.), stories about famous songs and performers, music industry news, segments on vocal and instrumental techniques, discussions about songwriting and of course the always popular critics criticizing. In other words, we’ll have everything from rumors, innuendo and gossip (but only in the best possible way) to content so cerebral it will almost be brain breaking.
11) We believe, there are probably going to be some actual flesh and blood relationships that develop (for those of you that are still into that kind of thing) from all this online interaction. For all we know, this could all turn into a cyber Woodstock or Lollapalooza, because after this Kickstarter gets started it's going to be in the hands of the fans. Just be careful, kind and true with it.
12) Finally, we think that even though we have a lot more beliefs and thoughts about why this Kickstarter is an excellent opportunity for fans, it just seems like bad form and potentially bad luck to go to reason thirteen and beyond on our maiden Kickstarter voyage. See you on the road (which literally might happen).
* Well, as you probably realize by now, none of the stuff marked by an asterisk* actually happened, because nothing has actually happened yet. But since everybody signing up for this Kickstarter, whether as a fan or performer, is making a sacred vow to take charge of their own story, we know that over the course of the next year, we are all going to witness a lot of even more improbable, powerful, and poignant stories than the ones above. Only with real people, in real life. Hope we see you around.
Jeff Hildebrandt, Epigram Records
Risks and challenges
One of our biggest risks and challenges centers around making sure we get enough talented performers for each song. We're sure the Kickstarter community is going to be a great help in getting the word out and getting a lot of performers involved, but we realize that some songs are going to attract a lot more performers and fans than others. The real problem is, we don’t know which songs are which, at least for sure. All we have are educated guesses and we are very interested in finding just how accurate those guesses are, but we're just going to have to wait and see.
One of the things we thought would save us ultimately, however, is that performers would eventually make an effort to cover less initially popular songs as they realize there is less competition to record the release version of those songs. Also, since people signed up as Super Voting Fans, or any higher reward, can jump in as a performer anytime they’d like, we imagine some of them jumping in after they size up the competition. That'll give us a bigger pool of talent. Finally, if things become really desperate, we’ll throw all the coaching, encouragement and studio magic we can at “talent challenged” winners to make sure we get some worthy music out to the fans.
This all leads us to having to point out, that the more problems we have on the musical production end, the more entertaining and interesting things are probably going to be on the television end of things. Problems, and over coming them, is what the narrative form is all about. Sure, people will be blown away by some of the awesomely talented performers we are bound to attract, but we think it will be the improbable, initially troubled performers, who eventually pull it off, that will really stick in the memory of fans in the end.
Good, entertaining, exclusive television is also one of the reasons we have songs that range lyrically, from near total innocence to raunchy and almost depraved. We figured a lot of very different people, with very different approaches to life, would again make for much more interesting television and documentaries. We only wish we could of cast a wider net, but we thought that risked having things get totally out of control. And even though people talk about music bringing people together, we worried that if we went too extreme in terms of song types we’d alienate everybody. You have to start somewhere. Next year we’ll keep what worked and replace what didn’t with something new.
Ultimately, after weighing all the risks and challenges, of which we are aware, we ended up thinking that, even if there were substantially more problems on this initial effort than we anticipated, we should go forward with the project simply because the potential upside is so huge. Not just for us here at Epigram, but for performers and fans as well. We feel this is a much more honest, legitimate, and entertaining way of finding talent than shows like the Voice or American Idol and more value added (rather than value grabbing) and efficient, than the traditional record company model. It is even going to help, a lot of go it alone artists, that are too often lost on YouTube, SoundCloud, ReverbNation, etc., by getting their voice and other talents out in a high profile event.
The bottom line is, this project is worth all the potential risks and challenges and since we have been thinking about it for years, we feel, we are going to be able to pivot and go in whatever direction is necessary to insure success. After all, they are our songs and we want what’s best for them, which in turn means giving the fans and performers everything we’ve got. Let's all go ahead and blind side conventional thinking this year by really making this project work. Hope we see you around.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter