Even before Oso Closo landed its Tommy gig with the Dallas Theater Center last fall, the band was ready to record a follow up to 2007's debut album, Rest.
"We've been sitting on this record for a while," frontman Adrian Hulet says. "From the start, we knew we had pretty lofty goals for the next album."
Lofty is right. After a lengthy search for a studio that "felt right" and had the "right sound," the band settled on Bass Propulsion Laboratory in Dallas. But, by the time the band members tabulated the cost of the album from start to finish, recording to release, the cost was nearly $20,000.
"We started trying to come up with some ideas of how to raise the money," Hulet says. Finally, the band settled on an NPR-style pledge drive. "The idea evolved as a way to see if we could get people involved with us in the creation of the album. It's obviously a big thing to ask our fans for money, especially with the shape of the economy, but we thought that it would be a way for people to take part in a very big thing for a very small price."
The smallest price, a $25 donation, guarantees donors a signed copy of the finished album plus admission to a private pre-release show and listening party. A $1,000 donation gets a fan their own acoustic Oso Closo house show ("Held at their place or wherever—that's negotiable," Hulet says). The biggest asking price, meanwhile, a cool $10,000, guarantees donors a place on the album, singing background vocals on a song.
And the lucky fan won't just be cooing "Oohs-Ahhs" in the background either.
"We're not just gonna throw them on some toss-up song as an afterthought," Hulet says. "As a band, we don't cut any corners, and we're not gonna shortchange our fans." But the band isn't even sure yet which song the donor would be helping out on. "We're gonna wait until we're in the studio, so we can see what kind of voice we're dealing with. If they're donating that much, then we're gonna bring them right into the band for the whole experience. We'll work together and create together and find what works best for them and the band."
Hulet and the band realize, though, that it's highly unlikely that someone will actually opt to shell out the 10K needed to take part in making of Today Is Beauty's Birthday. Still, for as low as the price of an evening's bar tab, fans of Oso Closo can say they took part in the process of recording and releasing the album.
Will the band's fans, friends and families pony up enough cash? Dunno. But they're the only ones who will determine the outcome of this DIY socio-musical experiment. Stay tuned.