Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why the Ben Folds Five Crowdsourcing Project Makes Sense

One of my favourite bands from high school has reunited & is working on a new record.  This is exciting enough, but how they're going about it is what's causing the buzz right now.  Currently, they're not signed to a record label, so what to do about that pesky issue of distribution?  When you have a sizeable & dedicated fan base like BFF does, the answer is squished at the front of the stage, screaming "Rock this bitch!" & trying to buy you a beer.

Guys, I bet the "Rock this bitch" dude would totally pay for our album.

On May 7, Ben Folds posted a link online, leading to a pledgemusic page.  There, BFF fans can pledge to give a minimum amount of $10 to the making & distribution of this record.  With that minimum pledge, you get a download of the album, & status as a VP of Promotions, with your name in album/poster art.  VPs also have first access to updates, new songs, videos...basically anything BFF wants to share.  There are different levels of pledges all the way up to $62 for a signed Vinyl, a BFF t-shirt + the download.

A goal was set (the number amount isn't posted like the popular crowdsourcing site kickstarter), & less than 24 hours later, the goal had been reached.  It has been 3 weeks since the site went live, & there have been over 4500 pledges, reaching 222% of the original goal.  All from being shared via their fans.  Pretty incredible.

20 years from now, our fans will fund our album.  For really realz.

In 2007, Radiohead famously offered downloads of In Rainbows for whatever you deemed its worth to be.  Thought to be a huge gamble, it became a commercial success.  Progressive band Spock's Beard recently funded an album via pre-orders, & with the highest package came this exclusive: your name, included in a song.  And surprisingly, they did a fantastic job of something I thought would be a train wreck.  They managed to fit a list of names seamlessly into the lyrics & the feel of the song.  The whole opus is incredible, but you probably don't have 9 minutes to listen to one song (yay prog!), so you can skip to the 3:40 mark if you'd like to hear the names.  It will be out of context, but I won't tell.

*Update: BFF has just announced they will soon be offering limited editions of a customized song, featuring names in a verse written just for them.  They are the coolest.*

So, it's debatable that the process is nothing new to the music industry, but it is new for Ben Folds, who recently admitted in an interview, "One thing that I would like to get across in any article that comes out is that we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing.  We don’t know what we’re doing.  We’re not pretending like we know what we’re doing.  We can afford not to know what we’re doing.  A lot of bands are not going to be able to do that.  So, we’ll try it - maybe people will look at it, see what’s going on and it will be helpful in some way. We’ll learn something."

Will this collaboration actually influence the content of the album?  Will Ben, Darren & Robert listen to every twitter suggestion?  Probably not, but these are the guys who turned that drunken cry from the audience into a BFF concert staple.  A constantly-evolving song that became such a fan-favourite, Ben was urged to perform it during a show with an unprepared orchestra.

And Ben is a guy who performed a show made up entirely out of audience requests that were thrown at him via paper airplanes.

So, really, for a band that has always improvised, encouraged audience participation, & has always maintained a close relationship with their fans, this step couldn't be more logical for them.  And us.  To me, Ben Folds Five has always been equal parts fun & heart...whatever this album becomes, I'm sure it will be that, however it gets in my ears.

"That’s not really what you remember when you’re on your death bed: ‘Wow, I remember that record, the way it was distributed.  That was amazing…’  You remember the songs and how it affected you.  That’s going to be the real story.  So that will blow over - all this Kickstarter/pledge stuff will blow over in moments and it will be about the music." - Ben Folds

I can't wait to hear the results.

Leaving you with the newest track from Ben Folds Five, this is Lisa Ferreira, VP of Promotions.

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