The Internet, ALLEGEDLY, does have more to offer than just porn and “social networking.” The ’Net, for music fans, has been a total blessing, though it has its downside – there’s way more shit online to wade though than there is just skimming through racks at the record store.
The instant connection musicians now can have with fans has probably been one of the more interesting results of the music-online boom. The “pay what you want” (bka the “free album”) concept has given me about three albums I rarely listen to. But I’m particularly intrigued by the pre-order packages artists have been offering of late, in an attempt to fund their own self-released efforts. The basic concept is, you give me a set amount of money upfront, we take that money and record an album, then we give you lots of cool extra stuff for your pre-investment.
Though Jill Sobule and that hot, cat-eyed Canadian singer/songwriter whose name I can’t remember right now have used this model to finance albums, Josh Freese’s recent package offers have taken the whole concept to a fun new level. Freese, a legendary drummer (Vandals, Nine Inch Nails, Guns N Roses), offered fans things like foot rubs and golf outings with his famous friends as initiative to get people to pay a little more for his debut solo album, Since 1972. Some kid recently ponied up $20,000 for a chance to play Putt-Putt with the singer from Tool. And he was 19! A) Where does a kid get dough like that? and b) why would anyone spend that much for anything in this economically unsure time?
Cincinnati-based artists Peter Adams and Ellery represent the true benefits of this type of pricing scheme. Adams did the “pay what you want” thing with his latest album, I Woke With Planets in My Face, but offered cool, personalized extras for fans that wanted hard copies. At a price, of course.
Ellery, a Folk/Pop duo that has received attention nationally, is recording with big-time producer Malcolm Burn this summer and have allowed fans to help them by pre-paying for promised perks once the album is completed. For accelerated prices (at a variety of tiers), the band will variously autograph your CD, give you handwritten lyrics, play a show in your living room, write and record a song about you and/or wash your car (last one was a lie, though I bet it’s negotiable).
These local artists’ tactics will accomplish what is one of the main goals of any musician – draw more people’s ears to their music. Besides giving the fan a sense of connection with the artists and rewarding “true” followers, the most essential byproduct of the plans is that more people will hear your music.
It’s a role record companies once played, with ads and promo support. But, with computers, who needs auxiliary costs when you can go straight to the source, and vice versa?
With all of this in mind — and with my bank account often dwindling in the “cents” range (as in, I have 15 “cents” in my bank account) – I have devised a new model for my job. As a section editor at Cincinnati CityBeat, I get paid a salary. But it isn’t allowing me to live in the luxury — um, I mean, comfort — that I so richly deserve. I don’t think I’m “entitled” to anything. I just think I’m awesome.
So now I’d like to announce the new CityBeat music section pricing plans, made available to fans who like to read the section, but are always left feeling dirty and shamed after reading it, knowing how little money all of us writers and editors make.
$25 (a month; your credit card will re-bill monthly)
Prior to each issue of CityBeat, I will come to your house and ask you what you think of the bands we are writing about that week. We will Twitter your comments at no additional price.
I will allow you to enter club listings into CityBeat’s luxurious ZipScene listings system. For the online listings, I will also let you make snide comments in the listings about bands you hate. Limit: 12 bands you hate.
I will let you drive me to the CityBeat offices for an entire year. You will also be entitled to pay for my lunch and coffee (please keep your cell phone on at all times). Each trip to work will include an oral review of a CD, which you are free to choose (must have CD player in your car). The review will last as long as the car ride. (NOTE: Your opinion will not be tolerated. Keep it to yourself until the talent has left).
I will get drunk or high with you. (You pay taxi, drug and potential court costs.) The alcohol/drug is up to you! During this three-hour session (at your house), I will nitpick your CD collection, probably find a copy of a Beatles record, put it on and blather drunkenly about it and the band for the rest of the session. You will be responsible for calling my boss the next day as “Dr. Robinson” and telling him I won’t be in for the next week..
I will allow you to pay for a recording session for yourself. Upon completion I will review your project. Positive reviews are not guaranteed. Reviews can be as short as three words. I will also counsel you and tell you what you need to do to make my ears happy (advisory session limit 15 minutes).
I will officiate your wedding and work song quotes in from your favorite songs (excluding Shania Twain, Jimmy Buffett and Creed) throughout the ceremony. I will provide a bound, four-page review of your honeymoon night performance (full access, travel expenses, mimosas and breakfast are, as my rider points out, expected during the entire honeymoon trip).
You get to do my job for an entire month. As I leave on paid vacation to some crystalline beach somewhere, you will have full control of the music section! Say whatever you want! Do shout outs! Write nasty things about your enemies! Espouse your insane political and religious views! I don’t care! (Training not provided. Must never ask questions of me prior to or during my vacation. If I get fired during this time, you must provide me and my family a place to live for a few months until I “get my shit together.”).
I’ll probably blow you. Five grand!? Seriously, if you take a shower, I’ll think about it.
We will switch places, a la The Prince and the Pauper, for an entire year. (Exclusion: You cannot actually be a pauper and you must have an exceptionally hot wife/girlfriend or rich husband/boyfriend.) While you will be financially responsible for two households during this year, you will also get to experience what it is truly like to be me. (For legal purposes, I must add — if you touch my wife, I will, seriously, kill you.)
Your feet will not touch the ground for six months! That’s right — I will follow you around for six months and carry you whenever your feet might touch the ground. There is a weight limit (and, to be honest, I’d prefer women), but if you pay in cash, any body type is acceptable.
Slavery sucked. We shouldn’t have done that. And we should forever condemn it. But — c’mon! Haven’t you ever at least thought about not paying your gardener and housekeeper for a couple of months, while you “catch up on tax bills,” while threatening deportation?
Well wash that guilt right out of your hair because, for a measly sum, you can have me as your personal slave. (If that term makes you uncomfortable, you may also call me your butler, assistant or “main man.”) For 365 days, I will do whatever your want (within the restrictions of federal and state law).
I will tell your parents you are gay.
I will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Bigfoot, Kennedy’s “real” killer, Jimmy Hoffa, Osama Bin Laden AND Nicolas Cage’s soul. ($999,000 deposit required; non-refundable).