Kickstarter has been around for a few years but it feels like only in the past six months it has exploded as the default fundraising tool for bands and musicians. Amanda Palmer, Kevin Devine, Protest The Hero and Big D and the Kids Table are just a few success stories. And I completely get it. Kickstarter, along with several other similar crowd funding sites, has been a revelation for creative types looking for a means to generate non-traditional income from supporters.
This new model of “help me do X” hinges on the relationship of artist and fan and is built on incentives. Pledge $500 and the band will walk your dog for a week type stuff. These opportunities are fun, rare and inclusive. You are a part of the process. You are making a direct impact on the future of our band. That’s awesome. I’d love to have that connection with certain bands. But what isn’t always understood is that this model can only be successful for established artists that have a core audience of enthusiastic fans willing to make that connection. Anyone can launch a Kickstarter campaign. If you build it though, they don’t always come.
What is more interesting to me now is how bands have fully embraced the model of transparency. The notion that bands openly ask for money from the their fans because they are broke or can’t afford a certain studio or can’t tour is wild. The stigma and shame is gone. DIY is now “Do It For Me.” When a Kickstarter campaign is launched, you’re effectively giving up and admitting that you couldn’t do it on your own. And that’s probably true in most cases (and back to the fan connection and the starving artist transparency), but it also just feels lazy and easy. Why do the work ourselves when we know we have at least 5,000 fans willing to pony up $20? We hit our goal in seven days? Shit that was easy, let’s just do that again next time instead of losing money touring! Bands no longer want you to only buy their music, merchandise and concert tickets, but also fund the making of all those things. I understand if a crowd funded project is a one-time deal, but asking fans to repeat the process might be too much to ask. Time will tell.
The music industry is changing. While major labels die, independent artists are gaining more control over their careers. Not having the support or budget from a label can be hard to adjust to. The goal should be to achieve financial sustainability, not a paycheck-to-paycheck mentality. Kickstarter provides a great service, but what if that record all your fans help fund sucks and is a major disappointment? Ultimately, it comes down to the music. Make that good and the money will come.
For the past year and a half I have been writing and recording a new album for Parallel Bars called Bowling Alone. I think it’s probably the best music I’ve done on all levels. It’s a very personal record that is meant to be fun yet complex, thought-provoking yet mindless, different yet familiar.
Bowling Alone is now available (on Bandcamp, iTunes, & Spotify) and nothing would make me happier than if you just listened. I’m not begging you to buy or forcing you to like/follow me on social media. I believe that the music can and should stand on it’s own and that if you create something great, people will find it. So take a listen. If it’s not for you, then fine, but at least you gave it a shot. If you do like it, then how about sharing it will friend? I love music and believe that discovering new bands/albums is one of the most exciting aspects of being a fan.
One of the big themes of the record is being alone. The feeling of being alone can be depressing, scary and crippling. It can also be empowering. The album borrows it’s title from Robert Putnam’s excellent book from 2000. In it he lays out the devolution of our societal social fabric. His book was written thirteen years ago. Things have only gotten worse. And I don’t feel good about it.
Over the past several months I’ve also been fascinated with etiology — the study of causation or origin; the question of Why? Why do people care about certain issues? What motivates us? Why did I record this album? It’s a very gray area with no easy answers.
There’s a famous scene from Mad Men where Don Draper talks about nostalgia to pitch Kodak’s new “Carousel” slide projector. He says that in Greek nostalgia literally means “pain from an old wound” and that it’s far more powerful than memory. So why do we always glamorize the past? We remember experiences fondly and therefore they’re put on a pedestal for the rest of our lives. As Putnam’s evidence shows, we were far better off socially back in the 1950’s than we are today. Cultures evolve but there’s always nostalgia. Is that because the past was truly better or because we think it was better in reference to our current situations? I don’t know.
Bowling Alone opens with the song “First to Leave.” In it there’s the line: “We’re just a click away/never more connected/I feel isolated and alone now more than ever.” I think it speaks to the odd juxtaposition of our society today and serves as a pretty good mission statement for the record.
If you listen and have thoughts on some of these issues or others, please share them in the comments. You can stream Bowling Alone below or you can get it in various places. The Parallel Bars site is a good place to start.
Thank you for your time. I think I’ll go…
A few years ago I urged people to dig a little deeper for their holiday music choices. Well, now thanks too the magic of Spotify I’m able to expand on that list and deliver even more Christmas cheer. With over 50 tracks and two hours of tunes, this playlist has been expertly curated (with no repeats!) to get your party bumping. Let’s just hope it’s not an ugly sweater party. Those are so 2010.
View a glimpse of Andover’s music program and the many opportunities it provides for students to explore their passions and enhance their skills.
Executive Producer: Victoria Harnish
Producer: Neil Evans
Filmed and Edited by Michael T. Ebner & Neil Evans
Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
“A teenage symphony to God.” I think Brian Wilson nailed this one.
Rooms by the Hour – Rustic Overtones
The best indie band in New England. Their break-out album remains a classic.
ELVA – Unwritten Law
This record has everything from punk to hard rock to pop to acoustic ballads. It is Unwritten Law at their best (as a five-piece with original line-up) with swag for days.
New Found Glory – New Found Glory
The record that became the soundtrack to my teen years.
“Jesus of Suburbia” – Green Day
Before American Idiot, Green Day were dead. Then they swung for the fences and hit a grand slam. This song is the crowning achievement in their punk-rock opera.
“Surf’s Up (Solo 1967)” – The Beach Boys
This solo take unearthed in the 2011 Beach Boys Smile box set could be Brian Wilson’s greatest performance.
A non-traditonal “thank you” to non-sibi level donors, Rhythm & Blue is an album made up totally of Andover alumni and student music.
Executive Producer: Victoria Harnish
Associate Producer: Stacy Gillis
Sound Engineer: Neil Evans
Designer: Jeanne Abboud
The debut album from Parallel Bars. Sometimes letting go of your dreams is the easiest to achieve them… Continue reading