Musicians turn to fans, not labels, for support

Amanda Palmer has done something the entertainment industry has been struggling to do since the early days of Napster. She has found a way to effectively combat the piracy of her music.

In a 14-minute talk at a recent TED conference in the United Kingdom, Palmer talked about how she used crowd funding, or asking fans for help raising money, to gather over $1 million to fund her latest album and tour, and offering incentives to fans for donating. By asking the fans for money, Palmer claims it’s possible to actually encourage fans to download her music for free online.

The talk has spurred conversation across the industry about both crowd funding and internet piracy.

Crowd funding was an essential way of life for Daniel Ross, a WCU junior who played guitar and toured the country with the band Divided By Friday (Hopeless Records).

“We paid about $1,000 to get our CDs made,” Ross said “We would need to sell a lot of these to make it to the next show. We had to basically fund ourselves there and back.”

Ross said the cost was mostly handled by the band’s record label after getting signed, but he didn’t discount the value of relying on fans for support. He thinks the new wave of online fundraising is good for the industry, forcing bands who are serious about their music to develop a strong work ethic.

Kyle Lucas and his band Vonnegutt at The Masquerade in Atlanta. Photo used with permission.

“It’s kind of fascinating if you think about it,” said Kyle Lucas of Marietta, Ga., in support of online fundraising. He sings in the band Vonnegutt (Purple Ribbon) and is considering kickstarters to fund his next solo project and future tours.

The topic of fundraising has been generally well accepted throughout the entertainment industry. The topic of piracy, however, continues to be a point of contention.

Ross said that his time in a band caused him to never download music illegally, because of the negative effects it can have on the industry.

“There’s a level of mediocrity that has risen,” Ross said, “but on the other hand, a lot of really great bands haven’t made it because no one buys their record.”

Lucas disagrees. He supports music piracy.

“For me it’s all about the live show and touring and stuff,” Lucas said. “The music industry, I feel, did it to themselves. They got away with price gouging for years and years.”

Both Ross and Lucas agreed that artists giving away music for free and taking donations is a great way to have the best of both worlds.

“Word of mouth is more valuable than a $1 million ad on the Super Bowl,” Ross said. Lucas and his band have given away virtually all of their music for free, only charging for their debut album last year.

You can find Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk interview here.

You can find more info about Kyle Lucas and Vonnegut on the band’s website.

You can find Daniel Ross’ former band, Divided By Friday, on Facebook.