For my next album with Steven Tyler…

Steven Tyler at the Canyon Country Store

Just kidding, but now that I have your attention, I’d love to get your thoughts on Kickstarter. I hear a lot of grumbling — frankly, mostly from artists — about the “established” artists/designers/filmmakers who launch their projects with crowd funding. Often these same voices (with considerably less financial resources) say they feel funny asking for money this way.

I funded my last album via Kickstarter and I know some of these struggles. I woefully under-asked for $1800 — enough so that combined with savings, favors and gear loans I could take a month off work to record. Luckily the campaign took off enough that I raised double my request and was able to actually manufacture the discs. (I initially thought after I’d finished the recording I’d shop for a deal of some sort — I guess I was living in the 90s.) So I question myself and grumble occasionally when I see my friends and associates ask for $20,000 to make an indie record. Though I’m proud of what I did, I know it would’ve felt pretty nice to pay a few great musicians and engineers to take the project up a notch.

Then this morning I was looking at an app with all the bands in town this week from my music library (granted, I live in Los Angeles) and I thought, “No wonder it’s so hard to get anyone out to a gig!” You’ve got Robert Glasper tonight, Steve Earle tomorrow, World Party at the Coach House competes with Jonathan Richman at El Rey on Friday, and Saturday they’re at the Troubadour while Brian Wilson is at the Greek and k.d. lang is at Royce Hall. I don’t have the time or money to get to all these gigs, but I can listen to all their albums with a $10 Spotify subscription. Somebody has to fund the music so the average listener can stream all this music for $10 a month and it’s not going to come from new t-shirt sales, door charges and CD purchases.

Yes, it would be great if artists got more than a fraction of a penny whenever someone streamed their music. But we have to live in the world we live in while we try to make it better. So it seems to me that the only way for new independent music to get made is through crowd funding.

Favors are nice. But paying creatives is much more gratifying than paying manufacturers. I guess capitalism has always prioritized paying those who own the machinery over the people who put in the hours crafting what is made. I believe music, however, is more about community and many of us have moderate or even extraordinary means to help support the artists we value even in a crowded marketplace.

Right now, I’m sitting on a good batch of tunes after a difficult drought. I’m thinking about the album and how to get it out there responsibly for myself and those who support my music. What are your thoughts on funding, Kickstarter or other options? What’s the sweet spot for a crowd funding ask/goal? What are your thoughts on the system in general?

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One comment on “For my next album with Steven Tyler…
  1. Betsy Burnam says:

    Jason, I think you know I’d be behind you 100% in any crowd funding campaign you do. I think you’re right, you “under-asked” last time; I see campaigns on KS now from indies asking for anywhere from 20-60K; I think the thing is to sit down and do a realistic budget that includes promotion, touring, PR, etc. besides recording, mastering, art, etc. I’ve backed many KS campaigns, but the thing to keep in mind is that there it’s “all or nothing” – if you fall $5 short of your goal you get nothing. People are most familiar with KS I think, but it might be a good idea to look at something like Indiegogo, where even if you fall short of your goal, you do get at least some. Or Pledgemusic…but whatever you decide I’m behind you 100%. I miss new “Jason” music! (I think we had a fall-out after your last one, can we forget about that now?)
    I’m also very glad to see you with Standing O Project, I love that whole concept and platform & support it 100%.
    Btw, I’m in your neck of the woods now, my office address is still in MN, but I’ve been battling cancer (still) since I moved to CA. I’ll be on a “gypsy-trip” for the next several weeks/months before starting chemo again, traveling a “bucket list” trip, but if and when you do launch a crowd-funding campaign, I always look at it as kind of a “co-creation” or “journey” thing…and yes, it’s the way to go, in my opinion, to do what you want and remain indie & true to yourself!
    Thanks for what you’re doing with those kids and best of luck with whatever you decide – I’m one of your No. 1 fans! Blessings, Betsy

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