Monday, September 29, 2008

"Fan-funded" recording: The next wave?

We've had the file sharing wars, the Radiohead experiment, and just lately the Mudvayne twist, where buying an album gets you the full fan-club-exclusives package as well. Another growing trend in the ever-evolving music industry business model is so-called "fan-funded" recording -- projects whose recording budget is funded not by a label, but by donations from a group's fans.

The model has proven viable enough that there are actually several Web sites devoted to it now -- think Sellaband and SliceThePie and ArtistShare and CASH Music -- but equally as intriguing are acts who choose to go directly to their fans. The Brian Travis Band of LA is $5,500 into a $7,000 fundraising effort to finish off the mastering and duplication of their latest record. And D.C.-based rock band Shane Hines and the Trance have raised $30,000 of a projected $40,000 recording budget for their new album via their TeamTrance site, including raising $13,000 in the first week of their fundraising drive.

Drummer/author Jake Slichter of Semisonic famously characterized the band as "rock and roll sharecroppers," making music as debt-burdened indentured servants to their label. In the future will we call them rock and roll panhandlers? Or is the better comparison to the PBS "viewer supported" model? Finally, is this progress, or just another odd twist along the road to a destination that isn't yet in sight?

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