Thursday, May 24, 2012

Scaling Amanda Palmer


On 5/23/12 1:57 PM, my friend George Mokray sent me a link:

http://blog.amandapalmer.net/post/23551030051/where-all-this-kickstarter-money
Steve Provizer replies:

Thanks for sending that. I don't really think you can scale what Amanda Palmer has done down to the level at which almost everyone (especially a jazz musician) operates. At any level you try to implement it, creating the materials and doing all the things she talks about is a full time job with big expenses. In fact, it's more expensive per unit to produce fewer cd's, vinyl, printed material, etc., so your percentage costs on a smaller scale are higher. 

Palmer ends up with about $100,000 after getting a million, so 10%. A year's Kickstarter effort that brought in, say, $100,000 (a very high return for a jazz project) would result in $10,000 and, as I said, I think the higher percentage outlay per unit would reduce that amount; far from a living wage.

I suppose it is THE FUTURE OF MUSIC [insert reverb here, as you say], but its influence will always be subject to the differences between the bent of one person to be a lawyer, one to be an accountant and one to be a musician... Some people, like Palmer, have the head for more than one of those things, or the entrepreneurial skill and/or charisma to pull it together and essentially become their own label, as she has. 

The reason people want to be signed by a label is that they don't want to do or aren't good at doing that range of tasks and willingly give up the control that Palmer achieves. It's not realistic to think that most musicians-especially us senior jazz citizens-will undertake this serious entrepreneurial effort. On the other hand musicians, to their detriment, are often not proactive enough in this process, especially on the accounting side, and the result has been a real lack of fiscal accountability. Historically, this has drawn a certain amount of malfeasance and villainy into the industry and musicians have gotten screwed. 

If you'll pardon my French, this is not an easy bifurcation to try and rectify. On the one hand, you have the drive to create and listen to music, which is rooted in the need for transport, release, ecstasy, etc. On the other hand, you have number crunching, selling tickets, learning HTML, etc. 

It does take all kinds and perhaps what we need here, as my mentor Broadway Danny Rose says, is "Acceptance, forgiveness and love." To which, I might add: "And Musicians-keep one hand firmly on your wallet."

2 comments:

gmoke said...

Here are the current jazz Kickstarter projects:
http://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/jazz?ref=live

Most of them are to fund recording CDs (including one by Boston-based Yuhan Su at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1246009889/yuhan-su-debut-album-flying-alone?ref=category ) but also for the Red Hook Jazz Fest, Search and Restore which documents the "new jazz scene," a jazz workshop in Sitka, Alaska, a DC jazz loft series, a documentary on Jason Moran. There are a lot of different scales here and many of the over 400 projects which came up when I searched for "jazz" have been funded.

That's the start of a database from which some conclusions and strategies might be distilled.

gmoke said...

All of those products are premiums for the Kickstarter investors. The Kickstarter project is to fund the world tour with ancillary art shows. My friend Fred Griffeth partially supported his Fandango CD by charging admission to the two recording sessions. $30 each night with a copy of the CD when it came out. The venues he plays - Toad in Porter Square maybe 40 people, Plough and Stars maybe 70, Sally O'Brien's in Union Square maybe 100 people - are not gonna do anything but pocket money for the musicians but it's once a week at Toad and Plough and Stars and once a month at Sally O's with a consistent group of people coming to listen and dance and have a good time. Better than a kick in the head and a chance to play regularly.

She's created a community of interest that supports her music as she supports their art and their work - accounting, lawyering,,,

From my reading, labels have been pretty much hollowed out and don't provide the kinds of support they used to. And almost all of them took advantage of their artists when they could. In some of the comments, I see that Ben Folds is following this stuff very closely. I'm sure a lot of other musicians are too.
I suppose it's THE FUTURE OF MUSIC in a way, but its influence will always
be subject to the differences between the natural bent of one person to be a
lawyer, one to be an accountant, one to be a musician, etc. Some people,
like Palmer, have the head for more than one of those things, or the
entrepreneurial skill and/or charisma to pull it together. She's become her
own label.

She's created a community of interest that supports her music as she supports their art and their work - accounting, lawyering,,,

The reason people want to be signed by a label is that they don't want to
do/aren't good at doing all that stuff and willingly give up the control
that she wants to have. Unfortunately, musicians have often not been
proactive enough-especially on the accounting side-and the result has been a
real lack of fiscal accountability. This has drawn a certain number of
villains into the industry and musicians have gotten screwed.

From my reading, labels have been pretty much hollowed out and don't provide the kinds of support they used to. And almost all of them took advantage of their artists when they could. In some of the comments, I see that Ben Folds is following this stuff very closely. I'm sure a lot of other musicians are too.