Thursday, December 13, 2007

No Label? No Problem.

A couple of indie-music veterans and their managers have come together to create a new music site that "will allow artists to release new music, and create deeper relationships with fans, who can create remixes and spend up to $5,000 to get an executive producer credit on an artist's album," according to an article in DigitalMediaWire.

Krstin Hersh (Throwing Muses) and Donita Sparks (L7) recently launched CASH: Coalition for Artists and Stake Holders. Apart from a new Hersh single, there's not too much on offer at the moment, but Hersh states on her blog that the site will "soon be open to any and all independent artists who want a set of tools to offer their music directly to their audience for collaboration as well as financial support."

There are a lot of digital-distribution services cropping up lately, but this one is interesting in a few different ways. Firstly, it aims to foster more dynamic connection between creator and consumer by providing the master tracks from songs, to be reinterpreted by fans and shared among the CASH community.

The concept of user-generated remixes isn't entirely new: Trent Reznor debuted a similar web-based project not long ago, only to have his ex-label, Universal Music, pull the plug over copyright worries. Reznor's response was to relaunch the site on his own servers.

As creator-owners, CASH artists aren't likely to run into that problem. The site is also offering a "pay-what-you-want" MP3 of Hersh's new single, administered under a Creative Commons license. Perhaps we haven't heard the last of the much-ballyhooed Radiohead pricing model.

And there's more "value-added" for CASH patrons:

. . .fans of Hersh's music can choose one of a number of "subscription" plans, ranging from $10 per quarter, for which they get a sticker, poster, CD and downloads; to $30, which includes a "Works in Progress" CD sampler, as well as guest list +1 to one of her shows.

For $500, fans will get a visit with Hersh in the recording studio, while $1,000 will earn them a "Featured Sponsor" credit, and $5,000 an "Executive Producer" credit on her next album.

This idea is certainly interesting. A similar dynamic exists at ArtistShare, where musicians can manage and develop a "tiered" relationship with fans. There are varying degrees of personalized access — including studio visits, executive producer credits and signed merch — depending on the level of donation. Progressive big band composer Maria Schneider is one of that site's finest talents and greatest success stories.

As many traditional labels continue to flounder, will we see more artist-fan patronage arrangements in the future?

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