From Tip to Advance to Bribe

Everyone’s heard about the new Radiohead model of using tips to pay for music. Now Jill Sobule is offering another business model:

In January, she asked fans on her website, Jill’s Next Record, to donate money before the she makes her next album. In telethon-like fashion, she asked fans to help her reach a goal of $75,000, which would cover studio time, producers, additional musicians and post-production. By March, she had reached her goal and raised over $80,000.

Traditionally, a music label would pay for the recording upfront, but then get paid back from CD sales, and also get a large percentage of royalties. Instead of getting a share of sales, Sobule offers donors tiered prizes for different levels of donation, just like non-profits often do. For example, $10 gets you a digital download, $500 a mention on an instrumental track, $1000 your own theme song, and for $10,000 (which one fan paid) you get to sing on the record. Sobule assures us that post-production can fix being tone deaf.

Would our readers be upset if I offered to mention someone by name in an April post for, oh, I don’t know, ten dollars? (I’m sure I’ll be overrun by takers.) Would James Grimmelmann, who’s critiqued blogola here?

Whatever happens to blogs, it’s clear that musicians like Sobule are doing some important innovation in rethinking compensation for content. Consider the fate of rockers OK Go:

After the band’s first CD, OK Go was “struggling for every fan we could find, and, frankly, struggling to pay our bills as well,” [band member] Kulash said.

The band’s first homemadevideo, filmed in Kulash’s backyard, was viewed “several hundred thousand times” within a month, he said. “We realized that more people had actually clicked through to this video than had purchased our first record after 18 months of touring,” he said. “We now … sell real records.” Without neutral networks, this type of home-brewed promotional campaign would not be available, Kulash added.

I’ll be looking for the site for “OK Go’s next record;” hopefully they’ll include an ode to net neutrality. Their creative genius deserves support.

PS: Here’s OK Go’s breakout video:

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