The Set-Up

I've discovered that a lot of my fans are creative types themselves. Many of you are, in some capacity, involved in creating intellectual property; things that can be experienced though sight and sound that can't always be touched or held. I'm talking about musicians, poets, authors, bloggers, web and software designers, screenwriters, photographers, editors, audio engineers, directors, marketers, illustrators...  

You get the idea. Professionals or amateurs, tons of you CREATE as part of your very beingness.

And the figures are in: while creative types are among the first to complain about how file-sharing is stealing their livelihood, they themselves are the most likely to illegally download music, books, movies, and software.

If that's true, then someone like me should be able to say that I have a large number of active, verbal fans who stay up to date with most of my releases and give me appreciative feedback; who rally to the public forums where i decry piracy; who seek my mutual support as they endeavor to make their own contributions, and some who go so far as to use their own social media to help promote my music to their own groups of friends...

...but who are only about 33% likely to have actually paid for the music of mine that they listen to, appreciate, and share.

And -- oh my god. That is exactly right.

These people aren’t evil.  After all, “these people” are quite a lot of YOU, and I don’t think that of you.  But so many outspoken would-be-consumers have summed up the file-sharing scenario rather succinctly: if it wasn’t so easy to do, we wouldn’t do it - if we want something, and we HAVE to pay for it, we will.  But if we don’t, we probably won’t.

So what to do about this?  How to keep people who want to be honest... honest?

Old Game vs. New Game

The current trend is to "crowd fund"; in every creative field, there's kickstarting, indie-gogo-ing, pledge-ing, rocket-hubbing, and probably more platforms I'm not aware of.  Everybody's doing it.  It's gone from being novel to being normal.

I considered starting one of these fund-raising campaigns myself, but I decided against it for two big reasons:  

1)  The "all or nothing"-model: on many of these sites, if an artist doesn't raise enough money to hit their intended goal within a certain time frame, the whole thing is called off, and no money gets collected, so after all the effort and hope the artist puts in to rallying fans and getting people excited, it can be for naught.  

2)  When an artist creates one of these things, they are required to offer all kinds of different "prize" levels based on however much somebody donates.  This isn't optional; it's required to make the whole campaign happen.

The "all or nothing" thing bugs me because I have a lot of experience with what it takes to get and keep the attention of a few thousand people... and it’s HARD.  No matter how hard you try, it's still really tough to get people's attention on YOUR schedule.  Even if you do, the idea that you could manage to get enough people to read your message, click your link, AND agree to donate money to your cause, all on the first try…  that's a lofty goal, and I know a few artists who have had their hearts broken when realizing this as they watch their fund raising campaigns slowly failing.  

The idea is to cultivate excitement; to build the energy it takes to support a project.  If you give people a deadline, yes; that will motivate some people to action quicker than usual, but it also forces a sense of urgency that can come across as disingenuous.  Many are turned off by this; they simply murmur "whatever", and click "delete".  If they had been given time to take in the project, to realize that the end result is something that's good for THEM, and to see the buzz building around it, the natural desire to be part of a success story would kick in, and be better for everyone in the long run.

(There's also the trend of people attempting to "pay with likes", as if that somehow counts.  Checking out a slew of musician's Kickstarter pages; successful or not, it doesn't seem to matter -- I’ve noticed the number of people who have pledged to support the endeavor, and then the number of Facebook "likes" the campaign has received.  Over and over again, there are five to ten times as many "likes" as people who've actually decided to dig in and support the project.  That means for every person who donated to the cause, there were at least five who thought that clicking a button to "show they were there" was somehow enough.  This is not an idea I want to give credence to.)

The second issue is the "prize" incentive.  I have no problem with this in theory -- in fact, I offered a similar exchange a few years ago when I made *Clang & Chime*.  But there was really only one "prize"; the opportunity to help produce the record as I made it, and it wasn't a thing I had to make happen in addition to the process of creating music -- it was a PART of that process.

These Kickstarter-style "incentives" have begun to look very similar. In ascending order, you usually see a thank you note, a download, a cd, a t-shirt, a combo pack of all of the above, some kind of Skype greeting or chat or outgoing voicemail message personalized by the artist, a hand-written note or lyric sheet, a 'song written just for you', a request for a cover song on YouTube, a house concert, a signed instrument or article of clothing, ostensibly belonging to or having great sentimental value to the artist…   any of this sound familiar?

It's become boilerplate, and (I think) a bit contrived.  And it forces the artist to spend their money, time, and energy becoming an order-fulfillment center instead of making the art they were trying to get the money for in the first place.  (Can we record this song now?  No… I have to personalize twenty lyric sheets and write a hundred postcards so that people will feel they got their fifteen dollars' worth…)

That energy is supposed to be going towards making a piece of art, and instead it gets misdirected and dispersed and ultimately… wasted.

I want more honesty.  

In keeping with that, let’s acknowledge a truth:

The reason crowd-funding became popular in the first place is because it has become the only way an artist can get PAID for the work...  by getting the money up front.

Again - people are generally weak in the ethics department when they think nobody's looking, and if you let them choose between paying and not paying, they will, more times than not, NOT pay.

Of course, if you just say "pay", a few will still do it.

But a few of those who do will upload the tracks so that anyone else can download them for free.

And then suddenly, everyone has the choice again.  And we've already covered what happens there.

So, the new plan works like this:


The Rules

The official phrase for what we're doing here would be, "fund-raising via crowd-sourcing with a minimum required goal",  but I think it's much easier to understand if you remember the plot to your favorite action movie.  

In so many words: I have a new record to release to the world.

A fresh batch of new Seth songs, just the way you like them...

And I'm holding them hostage.

I've decided how much I would like to make off of the release of this music. Once we raise that amount of money up front, I'm releasing the music to the world, and from that point forward,

no individual person will be required to pay me for a copy ever again.

The saving grace of this idea is that I will release the collection song by song; once the fundraising goal for one song has been met, that song will be released -- then once the goal has been met again, the second song will be released, then the third when the goal is met again, and so on.

The goal for each song is $2000.  If that seems like "too much" money, remember that once that goal is achieved, nobody has to buy it anymore.  Once I receive two thousand five hundred dollars, nobody ever has to pay to download that song again.  Even if a song is downloaded 500,000 times, I may not ever make more than this initial $2000.

My one sure shot at making some money from my art happens at the start; right now.  

I'm reaching out to you, my tried-and-true supporters, to help me do this so that I don't have fight the increasingly chaotic file-sharing world out there.


The Inevitable Questions, answered

So you're asking us to donate our money… but there's a chance we won't get any music back in return?

Funny -- that's actually the inverse of the risk a musician takes -- we release our music, though there's an ever-increasing chance we won't get any MONEY back in return.  Think of this as standing in my shoes, if it helps.

Really though, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you stop worrying about "what everyone else will do" and simply donate a few bucks… and I mean, if ALL of you do that… then it's a non-issue.  There are enough of you out there that there would be 8 songs released in no time at all. Heck... if everyone donated the equivalent of just one US Dollar, there’d be one song released and another on the verge.  So this is very, very doable.

It's when you start trying to outsmart the system that it ends up biting you in the ass.  "Oh, I'll wait and see…" is the phrase that kills things like this.  If everyone waits to see what everyone else does, nobody does anything.  

So what we're looking for here are forward-thinkers; risk-takes; pioneers…  and above all, FANS

How many songs will you release this way?

I have six songs ready to mix right now (which would require a total ransom of $12,000), and I have enough songs in the demo stage to ensure that the collection could ultimately contain as many as a dozen songs or more. 

So YES: if you crazy kids somehow raise twenty grand, I will deliver a 10-song collection.

Wait... you really expect over 3000 of us to give you seven dollars each?

I don’t “expect” anything.  But yes; I’m asking, and hoping, that you do something along those lines.

Maybe a thousand of you donate one dollar and then some wealthy philanthropist picks up the rest of the tab; I won't get involved in that. Feel free to come together as a community of like-minded fans and coordinate however you want to, but don't try to negotiate with the bad guy -- I mean, I’m holding HOSTAGES, remember?

What if I just wait for others to pay the ransom and download it for free anyway?

You could well do that.  But consider that a lot of other people might be thinking the same thing.  And so maybe the ransom doesn't get paid.  And the lot of you would wait, smug and righteous, and…  without any of my new music.  Boy, would you be proving your point then.  Or you could just pay the same amount of money you spend at Starbucks for a couple of lousy lattes, encourage others to do the same, and watch how fast the music comes into your life.

What if you get $1,900 and then the money stops flowing in?  How long would you wait before just releasing a song anyway?

Think of this as a way for you as a fan base to let me know you still think I'm valid.  If I can't make my living off of my work, I shouldn't consider myself a professional artist, and I should just retire from it and teach full time.  If you want me to do that, then allowing this scenario to happen would be just the thing I need to re-evaluate my life - you could really stick it to my sense of self-worth if you want to.   .

How will we know when we free a hostage?

I'll post updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Wordpress, and if we get a particularly exciting boost all at once, I'll definitely send out an email announcement.  This whole thing could take awhile to get rolling… or the goal could be reached in 24 hours.  It's entirely up to you.

How can I contribute?

There are a number of ways to contribute. I can take cash, checks, and credit/debit cards, and you should SEND ME AN EMAIL and we'll sort you out.

Will you ever press a CD version of this album?

This has crossed my mind, but it allows people to give “conditional support” (i.e. “I’ll only donate if you make a CD”) and that is not the point of this.

So what I’ll do is this: as they are released, all the songs will be added to the same download page (on Bandcamp, most likely) - and the liner notes & lyrics for each song will be included as downloadable PDFs.

Once we have released four (4) songs, I’ll update that to become an album booklet, complete with artwork, which I’ll keep updating as more songs are released.

Anyone can burn a CD, and anyone can print a PDF file, so it’s no longer a question of whether I will create a physical version of the album... the question is, will YOU?

How do we know we'll even like your new songs?

That's a fair point.  Whoever demanded a ransom without allowing the hostage a few seconds on the phone to let the world know they were okay?

It seems reasonable that you'd want to know what I'll be setting free into the world, so here's a sneak peek at rough mixes of a few tracks.  Once we build a little momentum, perhaps I'll cobble together another preview of some other songs, but this is the last you'll hear of these particular tunes until the ransom is met.


So that’s the situation. 

You know what to do.

EMAIL SETH DIRECTLY to pay by check, credit, or debit card


The first song has been released! Scroll down to the music at the bottom!