Justin Williams / Ross Wilson (Bristol University): Music and Crowdfunded Websites: Digital Patronage and Artist-Fan Interactivity
This chapter investigates the economics of virtual bands—funding strategies and business frameworks that reflect virtual music business cultures in the Web 2.0 landscape. Most pertinent is the recent trend of fan-funded projects, also known as “crowdfunding” or “micro-patronage,” of which sites like Kickstarter, Pledgemusic, Sellaband and Rockethub provide a successful model. After an overview of terminology and online funding methods, the chapter focuses on three case studies that demonstrate the different ways groups and artists use crowdfunding for their projects: jazz orchestra composer Maria Schneider (on ArtistShare), canonical hip-hop group Public Enemy (on Sellaband) and singer-songwriter Amanda F. Palmer (on Kickstarter). The case studies raise important questions surrounding genre and ideology, new conditions of the digital music industry, artist-fan interactivity and the role of the internet in facilitating spaces for musical creativity and communication.
Justin begins with a discussion of his analysis of the crowdfunding work of Maria Schneider, whereby fans could choose a level of funding from $125 to $2500 for different levels of involvement with the project. Schneider is a composer of Big Band and jazz music, whose first album came out in 1994. Wikipedia page. Her working methods are discussed, including the way the author briefs the musicians in the Big Band. We look in detail at her track ‘Journey Home’ and Justin discusses its dynamic content, helpfully using a waveform rather than a score to demonstrate his point.
We now return to ArtistShare and crowdfunding, taking in a brief mention of Kickstarter, Sellaband and Slicethepie. The benefits (for the artist) of ArtistShare are noted, including an 80% revenue stream (as opposed to 10% for major label contracts). Different economic models are compared in detail. Public Enemy’s $75000 project is cited, as is the controversy over Amanda Palmer asking her fans to play on her recordings (for free) even though she had raised $1.2m.
Justin concludes that this is the extension of a long history of music patronage in context. Amanda Palmer reflects on Bjork’s right to use crowdfunding:
it doesn’t – shouldn’t – matter if [Byork has] a hundred gazillion icelandic rune-coins squirreled away in the bank or not a rune-coin to her name: she should – ANY artist should – be allowed to take advantage of the direct-to-audience tools that are available to us. i think this is sad: in a weird new twists of fate, the old guard of “celebrity” artists like her are now being attacked for using a platform that…what…should be reserved for starving musicians only?