Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pledge and get perked!

As the entertainment industry continues to undergo evolutionary changes, I've become a huge fan of these new pledge-based funding platforms that have sprung up. In case you're not familiar with them and how they work, what happens is an artist who needs funding for a project launches a campaign where they explain to the public (and ideally, a target audience) what they want to do and how much it will cost. Individuals decide whether they want to support that effort and to what extent. In exchange, the artist offers "perks", in the form of exclusive rewards, for their pledges. If the campaign is a success, the patron is charged at that time while the artist receives the funds and goes on to complete their project. If for whatever reason the campaign falls short of it's expressed goal, the artist receives nothing and the patron pays nothing.
To me, this is ideally organic and democratic. It's truly grassroots and fan-friendly, elements that have traditionally been absent or, at best, artificially simulated in the entertainment industry. The market decides if it wants the product based on potential merit without the undue influence of a loud, obnoxious marketing campaign. I mean, the strength of the artist's appeal certainly plays a role but that's a one-time pitch direct from the source. It also allows the patron to determine at which level they want to contribute (some campaigns will accept as little as five bucks) and they're rewarded proportionately for going above and beyond with their support. Seriously, what's more democratic than that? Rebekah Pulley funded her latest album "Tra La La" this way via Kickstarter. Backers who pledged $5 got a sticker while those who pledged $250 or more to that campaign were treated to homemade eggplant parmesan from bassist Rob Pastore. Spike Lee has launched a Kickstarter to fund his next movie. A pledge of $5 to that project gets you a personal thank you and behind the scenes updates and $10,000 will put you in a front row seat next to the award-winning director at a New York Knicks game.

Another platform that operates the same way is Pledge Music, where fDeluxe (formerly known as The Family), a band that is near and dear to my heart personally, is trying to finance their next album. Here's some background for those of you who are not Purpleheads or Prince freaks or whatever it is we're being called these days:

  • In the mid-1980s, Prince was at the height of his commercial fame and was using his influence to spin off a number of new bands and side projects for his Paisley Park record label, most of whom produced little or no material. There are two artists and two eponymous albums that came out of that period that remain highly regarded all these years later. One was Jill Jones in 1987 and the other was The Family in 1985. The Family was a funk band with jazz influences and was comprised of Paul "St. Paul" Peterson, Susannah Melvoin, saxophonist Eric Leeds, drummer "Jellybean" Johnson and Jerome Benton. Their one and only album had only eight songs (including the first recorded version of "Nothing Compares 2 U") and the band never toured but they've been held in high regard by Prince fans for almost 30 years now. In 2003, they got together to perform at a charity function and in 2007, Peterson, Melvoin, Leeds and Johnson started making plans to work together again as a band. Reforming as "fDeluxe" and out out from under the control of Prince, they released the album "Gaslight" in 2011. 
Thanks to the access provided by the internet, fans were able to tune in to recording sessions and interact with the band via UStream feeds. Thanks to that accessibility, I've been able to interact and get to know Paul Peterson a little bit. In a weird, "it's-a-small-world" circumstance, he hooked me up with an interview with his daughter Taylor for a story I wrote for about Jack Jablonski and Jenna Privette that had nothing to do with music. It's connections like these that make me sad for people who don't see the positive aspects of participating in social media.

Anyway, I made my pledge and look forward to receiving and listening to my autographed CD, where my name will be listed in the "thank you"s in the liner notes. ,click here to contribute and get a nice juicy perk of your own. You can listen to the songs from "Gaslight" there too.

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