I want my favorite musicians making music, not raising funds so that they can
Today I received an email from one of my favorite indie bands, Saucy Monky, announcing Part 2 of their Trophy Girl EP series and asking for support to raise funds for the effort via their fundraising page at the crowd-source funding site GoFundMe.com. Their pitch is straightforward, describing the project and the perks/rewards for each donation level. These days I’m sure there are dozens of indie musicians launching similar crowd-funding campaigns every day, but what really struck me about their email was this:
Here are a few things you may or may not know about today’s music business. The convenience of Spotify and Pandora are incredible. We personally LOVE these sites. However, for our entire catalogue, which everyone can listen to for free – anytime, we get paid a few cents a month. Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” garnered one million plays on Spotify and earned just $167!
Thankfully, people still buy digital downloads on iTunes, but this new movement isn’t the best news for self-financed acts. We used to sell tons of hard copy CD’s on CDBaby.com. Now, no-one buys CD’s online anymore. Only at shows. And that leads to touring costs… bla bla bla. You get the picture.
What we would love to do in return for any contribution, is give something back to you. We’d like to give you something for every penny we earn. All of the exclusives are listed on this site and also on our website
When I asked Annmarie for clarification on the comment “We personally LOVE these sites” [Spotify and Pandora] she explained:
I love them as a music lover (being able to listen to anything i want), I hate them as a musician coz i can’t make a dime!
Forgive me, but while crowd-source campaigns have their place, can’t we as fans (and consumers) hope for a system that provides musicians (and other creators) with the means to make a decent living from their work rather than have to resort to constant fundraising efforts in order to sustain it? I don’t need Saucy Monky to “give something back” to me….they’ve given me, and continue to give me, their music (which I’m happy to pay for). They, and all the other musicians out there, shouldn’t have to do cartwheels and promise me things every time they want to produce a new album. Their music is the only goody I want.
Somewhere along the way our system got so broken that the true value of the creations we enjoy got lost amid a squabble over whether it was valuable. Of course it’s valuable–and it’s valuable in ways that go far beyond dollars and cents. Unfortunately it’s not free–in terms of those same dollars and cents–to actually create most things we value.
Allow me to reference a fundamental concept I learned in my high school economics class–and that is that everything has cost associated with it–even our time. As such, is it too much for musicians to ask that their time be compensated in some fashion, or should we demand that creating quality music be an all-volunteer endeavor? Some seem to feel the latter option is A-OK, but I doubt those same individuals would be happy not being paid for the work that they do. Note that even a if one’s art is truly a “labor of love” it’s a love that does involve labor.
This discussion shouldn’t be framed as artist versus consumer. Doesn’t everyone share a common interest in providing a sustainable and robust eco-system that can support musicians and nurture their growth? Such a system could offer a greater diversity in choices as to how, and what, we creative products we enjoy. Why can’t the innovators in tech align with the innovators in music to offer the public and option where both sides profit? Can’t we develop distribution methods that satisfy the consumer and the artist? These aren’t goals that need be mutually exclusive. Step one is valuing the musicians who make the music.
As for Saucy Monky? Well, I’ll be making my donation to help ensure that there will be a Part 2 of Trophy Girl, but I won’t give up on the hope that someday in the near future, the band can just do what they do best–give up their full-time day jobs and their part-time work as fundraisers–and focus on making more music for everyone to enjoy.
Here’s their fundraising message in full: