There’s of course been plenty of head-scratching and brainstewing over the years about how to build new, viable business models for musicians. Plenty of fingers have been pointed at file sharing networks as the root of all profit-falling evil, but despite the bad press and expletives, several artists have embraced p2p and have started thinking creatively about how to tap into their wired fanbase.
During the Free Culture Workshop at the iSummit 08 in Sapporo, Yale’s Leah Belsky shared her research with Yochai Benkler and Byron Kahr on the success of voluntary contributions. Their study, Everything in its Right Place: Social Cooperation and the Production and Distribution of Creative Works (PDF abstract), argued that the online platforms interfacing between musicians and fans can strongly impact the artist’s bottom line. Ultimately, the study concluded that design features (particularly how well musicians pull on their fans’ heartstrings) can positively affect the frequency and size of donations.
Take stock in a band
Now there’s a new game in town. The Guardian reports that the music execs behind bands like the Kaiser Chiefs are offering up “bandstock” to fans. Just as filmmakers like A Swarm of Angels opened their production process up to paying community shareholders, musicians are applying the same logic and inviting their community invest in their work.
The Kaiser Chiefs, for example, let fans buy shares at £10 increments. Then, after achieving a certain agreed amount of funds, the band will tap into the money to record their next album. In return, investors are given credit on the CD sleeve, priority ticketing, a copy of the album, and a percentage of the CD’s profits.
This model definitely has some potential, but it seems to lack the extra feedback loop with its fans that A Swarm of Angels and music sites like Jonathancoulton.com offer, namely a chance to contribute to the creative process. If bands like the Kaiser Chiefs really want to get their community on board, they should think about involving them more in the area that fans care about the most: the music.