I heard a fascinating story on The Bob Edwards show on NPR about singer/songwriter Jill Sobule‘s fan-funded album. I’d love to give a link to the podcast, but it doesn’t seem to be up yet. I’ll add a link when it’s available, but until then, here’s a link to Jill’s website that gives info about her project. In a nutshell, Sobule decided to make her eighth studio album, California Years, on her own, because her last two record labels had gone out of business. She decided to seek funding from fans and friends through what she calls a “web-based telethon.” She describes it as similar to a pledge drive for a public TV or radio station (and since NPR is currently doing its fall pledge drive, this fits right into the theme). She even had special “thank you” gifts:
- $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.
Sobule’s goal was to raise $75,000. On March 7, 2008, 53 days after they began fund-raising, they had reached their goal. In the end, they ended up raising $88,969. The additional money was used for publicity and marketing.
This is yet another example of how the Internet has revolutionized the music business, allowing artists to free themselves from the tyranny of record labels. And Sobule isn’t the only one to have done this. As I mentioned before, there wasn’t any information about this story on Bob Edwards’ website this morning.
I googled “fan-funded album”, and I found a bunch of other artists who have done similar projects. Check out these musicians as well:
- Shane Hines and the Trance
- Guy-Michael Grande
- Jonah Smith
- Neil Carswell
- Amy Correia
- Latin Giants (formerly Tito Puente Orchestra)
- Public Enemy