Fansourcing: Although the textbook definition of the word applies more to having fans pitch in from a creative standpoint on a specific artistic endeavor, the term probably comes closest to describing this trend we're seeing revived lately -- employed previously by local groups like the Czars and, more recently, the Heyday -- in which bands appeal to their fans to help fund their art, before it's even made.
Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls (pictured above), who just penned a surprisingly gracious Dear John letter to her former record label Roadrunner (see her missive after the jump), is one of the more vocal proponents of this approach. The latest local example of this sort creative fund raising effort comes from the band Choke the Word, which reportedly just raised enough through its Kickstarter page to cover production costs on its new album.
Although the packages offered vary from artist to artist, ultimately, the impetus is the same, and that's asking fans to become benefactors helping facilitate the art. By covering costs in advance, the members have the luxury of focusing their efforts on creating art without the distraction of figuring out how they're going to pay for it all.
For their troubles, the fans get various incentives, from being thanked in the liner notes to, in the case of Choke the Word, being guest-listed for the life of the band. So far this effort has been fairly effective for a number of bands. What do you think of this approach? Is it presumptuous or ingenuous? More importantly, is it the wave of the future?
Amanda Palmer's letter to her label:
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Dear Roadrunner Records,
i would like to take this chance, as we part ways, to thank you for all you've done for me and for my band, The Dresden Dolls.
when we signed with you in 2004, i was a wreck of a human being because I was working too hard to juggle business-ing and musician-ing. i wasn't sleeping much and i was on the phone and at the post office and on the computer all day every day. it sucked.
technically it was good because it meant people liked my music, but it was also very bad, because it meant my life was consumed by wheeling and dealing. i tried running my own label and it was so, so hard, and finding time and energy to run a label AND a touring rock band proved impossible.
no other label in america would sign us, but you did. all the cool, hip, indie labels didn't think enough people would like us. they passed. you saw our potential. for a while you worked very hard for us. you spent money on us, and you helped people find and hear our music.
when we first toured in europe and australia, you made sure that the radio stations and the magazines in those countries got our record. now there are millions of people around the globe who know my band and my name. i am so, so grateful for that help. i don't know how far i would have gotten on my own steam in that same amount of time.
you stopped helping us when our second record came out in 2006. that made us really sad. since then we've needed to part ways, but i will never regret signing with you...and i will never take for granted what you did to help my life.
there are a few people i'd like to thank specifically:
i'd like to thank bob johnsen, who no longer works with you, and jeff chenault & charles dooher from the art department, who also left a few years ago.
i'd like to thank elias chios, who was always really nice to us. justin d'angelo and harlan frey have also been good to us over the years.
i'd like to thank the guys in france, like nora and sabine, who have always been kind, and hank and dirk and the guys in germany for their freundlichkeit. hell, thank ALL the folks in the UK & europe for spreading the love.
i'd like to thank bob stevenson and the handful of wonderful people at roadrunner australia, who always seemed to understand us and really want to help us. i'll miss you.
i'd also like to thank dave rath, even though you had the awful job of having to deliver the worst news (by the way, i still have my belly & we're doing great! see photograph below.)
really truly and most of all, i'd like to thank the wonderful mr. dave bason, the guy who signed us (and who was fired from roadrunner a few years ago.) thank you, dave. you changed our lives.
all you label folk: i know so many of you as people, and i have talked to many of you over beers and wines in bars and cafes across the world over the years. i know that the record business is not easy and that things are getting harder and harder by the day, and i know your jobs are not easy.
i hope that as the industry teeters you can all find safe harbor, jobs that you really love, and connections with art and people that feed you.
here's a nice photo that i took in your german office in 2007:
respect, xxx AFP