Music and musicians have always relied on patronage, be it music that is commissioned or travelling minstrels who are hoping for food, drink and bed for the night.
The present structure of the music industry, controlled by a handful of greed-driven mega-corporations who criminalise music lovers is an aberration that is self-imploding.
Community supported agriculture: The community supports the farm. This is usually through shares or a subscription, then sharing the produce, possibly some of the work too.
Community supported art: The community supports an artist or artists and in return receives works of art.
Community supported music: The community supports the music.
What is a community?
A hamlet, is a clearly defined community. In urban settings, community is less well defined.
With the internet, community has become diffuse.
Music as the analogy of community supported agriculture, slow music as the analogy of slow food, all part of the slow movement where people, quality and sustainability matter.
Nancy Baym brought together three career performer/songwriters who all stumbled on the same analogy for how musicians can “make it” in the digital age: that of Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs). In a rethinking music podcast, Kristin Hersh, Zoe Keating, and Erin McKeown discuss what models have worked for them, and the unorthodox ways they’ve learned to make a living as artists.
Kristin Hersh used to be on a major record label. The label made all the money, she was left with nothing. She now has a subscription service, fans pay a subscription, this gives them CDs, concerts and other benefits
Zoe Keating makes her music available for download on bandcamp, for example her excellent album Into The Trees. She sets a minimum price, but you can pay more if you like. The average price paid is $4 more than the minimum. This seems to be a feature of bandcamp, fans downloading music will pay more than the asking price. If it is available for free, they still pay. Maybe it is because they know they are not being ripped off, maybe it is because they know the money they pay is going to the artist not into a corporate coffer.
On name-your-price albums, fans pay an average of 50% more than the minimum on bandcamp.
Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho makes his books available for free download on the internet. He finds by doing so he sells more books.
Maybe people are intrinsically honest, they like to be treated as adults. You play fair with them, they play fair with you.
The Sixteen are using crowd sourcing to raise the funding for their next recording. The Sixteen are though new to this and are making mistakes. There was no mention at their recent concert at Winchester Cathedral. It is important to engage with people.
We need music to be available for free to re-educate people as to what is good music. Some people can quite literally not afford music.
Do you want to eat junk food all your life or would you rather eat real food, food that has taste?
Do you want to listen to junk music all your life or would you rather listen to real music, music that has soul?
Do you want your tomatoes to all look the same, the same colour, the same shape and size to within a millimetre, no taste, but long shelf life? Or would you rather grow them in your garden, buy off a farmer’s market, different shapes and sizes and colours and they taste great?
It is the same with music. The same bland pop, the same moronic looped backing tracks? Or would you rather have real musicians, with a bit of edginess, that do not all sound the same, some you may not even like?
As junk food has destroyed our sense of taste, junk music has destroyed our ability to listen.
Music, like food, is at a cross roads, it is for us to determine the direction it takes. It is too important a decision to be left to greed-driven global mega-corporations.