Ever since peer-to-peer services like Napster first began cropping up, music industry professionals have trumpeted warnings about how file-sharing was not only directly harming musicians, but how it would ultimately lead to the collapse of the record industry. Beyond the legal issues arising from the music piracy aspects of P2P sharing, experts cautioned that we were raising a generation of listeners who no longer believed music was something that ought to be paid for.
A decade later, the digital music industry continues to grow and fans are proving in growing numbers that they are willing to financially support their favorite artists. Through crowd-funding sites like PledgeMusic and Kick Starter, fans are monetarily backing bands in more direct ways than simply buying their records.
When singer/songwriter Rachael Yamagata decided, after parting ways with her label, to make her next record, she knew she'd have to fund it herself, and soon after she got a surprising donation from her father.
Rachael Yamagata performs Sunday, December 4, at The Loft.
"He kind of offered it up like, 'Yeah, I had been saving this for your wedding. Do you want it now?' and I said, 'Yeah, that'd be great," Yamagata says. "Wherever I could figure out a way, I did."
Yamagata is talking about PledgeMusic, which allowed fans to directly donate money to the project and receive incentives like handwritten lyrics sheets, advance copies of the record updates on the record.
"Money for me is really just a means to paying musicians fairly and as well as possible and having the luxury of equipment and time to make the best record I possibly could, and I was pretty determined to figure out how to pull it off," Yamagata says.
And somehow three years after her last major-label full-length, Elephants ... Teeth Sinking Into Heart, was released, and with little radio support and publicity, Yamagata received nearly 200 percent of her financial goal, donated by more than 1,500 fans.
"You literally involve your fans from the get go, and they make it possible to do the project itself," Yamagata says. "It's almost people purchasing something that they would have purchased anyway, but they are fronting you the money so you can pull off the project in the first place."
Crowd-funded projects allow artists to have more control and freedom over their works.
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"[Crowd-funding] definitely empowers the artists," Yamagata says. "I think labels can serve some artists really well, and if it's a massive machine that you need in place, the right group at a label can provide that for somebody. I think if somebody like me, who is probably more left of center and less so-called mainstream, it can potentially do the opposite. For me it feels so good to work more on instinct and really plug in to what I think my fan base is looking for from me."
Rachael Yamagata Gets By With a Little Help
Crowd funding from fans frees her to create Chesapeake.