Should an artist try and secure a recording contract with a music label in order to fund a recording project? How successful would a newly emerging artist be, trying to get credit from a bank in order to fund a recording?
The notion that fans, supportive fans, fans of the creative arts, or just good old fashioned supporters, seems like a great place to start. Crowdfunding seems to be one more way that the new digital economy has changed the playing field within the music industry. Previously, a musician / band who wished to get access to capital, or an advance in order to pay for the costs associated with recording music, would seek to be under contract with a music label. The usual issue with this avenue for securing capital, was that all the money advanced to the musician / band from the record company, would have to be paid back and everything was leveraged against the likelihood of that recording being successful. The prohibitive costs of recording studios left little option for a musician / band, wishing to record their songs, and recording contracts were music label were seen as the best way to cover the costs associated with recording and distributing music. What this means for the musician / band is that publishing rights to their music are often kept by music labels and royalties are usually withheld until all the money given to the band in advance, is paid back (AMCOS, 2017).
In the new digital economy, people are buying music less CDs, digital sales are down and music streaming subscriptions are up; not to mention music pirating (Thompson, 2017). The falling sales associated with recorded music and small returns associated with music streaming revenue, would mean that the margins record companies used to depend on, are fading fast. The practice of advancing money to musicians and bands in the expectation of recouping that money through the sale of recorded works, would seem to be an increasingly difficult task. As stated, the profits from recordings for both recording artist and record company would appear to be getting smaller and smaller. This could potentially mean that the possibility of winning a recording contract and obtaining an advance necessary to assist the musician / band in the process of writing and recording music will become harder and harder as record companies are less willing to take risks.
The answer to this issue for the musician / band that wishes to record their songs is to encourage their fans to crowdfund the recording, however, no crowdfunding campaign will be successful without a significant on-line presence and a community of contacts. These relationships are normally developed in person and online. The theory is that these fans, contacts, supporters, will then spread the news of your project and news of the project should then reach people outside of the network that has been established by the musician / band. When this happens, the number of fans or supporters, should grow exponentially and financial targets would then be met.
There is the example of Amanda Palmer who, won a recording contract with a major label, only to be dropped by the label after sales of the album didn’t meet with the expectations of the record company who were funding the project (“The art of asking | Amanda Palmer”, 2017). Her response to this situation was to start a crowdfunding campaign which greatly exceeded the anticipated target and obviously funded a new album of songs. Amanda Palmer has now gone on to be an advocate for not charging people for her music and has come into conflict with the record industry for doing so. What this could mean is a process of democratisation that is coming into play, in response to the changing nature of the way music is made, distributed and funded.
AMCOS, A. (2017). Understanding Publishing Contracts | APRA AMCOS Australia. Apraamcos.com.au. Retrieved 23 April 2017, from http://apraamcos.com.au/music-creators/music-publishing/understanding-publishing-contracts/
The art of asking, Amanda Palmer. (2017). YouTube. Retrieved 23 April 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMj_P_6H69g
Thompson, D. (2017). Buying Songs Is Over. The Atlantic. Retrieved 23 April 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/01/buying-music-is-so-over/384790/