Sunday, June 12, 2011

the big exciting news

Well, it's happened again. I've written a complete batch of shiny new songs, and I'm ready to make an album. I am more excited than a puppy in peanut-butter, and the prospect of making said album has got me obsessing over my work, my career, the industry, and the future of songs and albums. The schemes are commencing, and I'd like to share them with you.

The Album

In July, Joe and I will head to Atlanta for a week to make a record. It will be produced by the brilliant, talented, heart-squishingly soulful Oliver Wood. Oliver is one half of the Wood Brothers, a band who you may have seen me touring with/raving about on and off for just under three years. In addition to being my favorite living band, these guys have been my friends and advocates, and I feel completely humbled and honored to work with Oliver.

The record is slated to come out in October. As far as I can tell, it will be called 'Idiot Heart'.

The Release

One question that's been on my mind a bunch lately (as I've mentioned in the past) is this: what does a record label do? What did record labels do in their heyday? What do labels do that I can't?

The answer to that last one, I've decided, is this: very little, possibly nothing.

Thus, I will be releasing my next record with a bigger, bolder, more assertive approach. I will more or less be acting like a record label. I am investing my own money, and that of a few people who are inspired by the project, in not only making the best album I possibly can, but hiring a team of people to help me release it (the same sort of team a label would have in-house). There will be professional marketing, publicity, and radio campaign firms, merchandise, and music videos.

This is not cheap, and is thus not a common approach for an artist like myself. However, I am blessed to have people around to me who believe in the project and have a little cash on hand. After five years of working as an independent artist, my business generates a semi-predictable and growing income, and a few folks have taken notice and are willing to invest in the prospect that it will continue to do so. (If you are interested in being an investor, as opposed to a donor, send me an email.)

In short, I've decided that a little thing like money should not dictate the quality or the impact of my work, and I've made it my mission to act on that decision.

The Wacky Part

Speaking of money not dictating the impact of art, I've come to one more unusual conclusion in all of my scheming. I no longer want to sell my music like a commodity. Music is an activity and an experience; it is not a product, and thus, it's impossible to quantify its value. From here on out, my method of selling my music will reflect that. I am hereby transitioning my music sales from the traditional model to the pay-what-you-want model.

Many of you have seen the "Quidplayer" on my website, which allows you to download my music for any price you want. A few months ago, some friends (Mark Erelli and Red Molly) inspired me to try this approach with my physical CD at live shows. I have done so, and it's gone remarkably well.

This model is really inspiring to me, and here's the best way I can explain it: Songwriting and performing is not just my job. It's my life, my passion, and the work I was born to do. If I am being honest with myself, it doesn't matter to me how much money I make doing it. If I was literally starving, I might get a job, but I will never stop making music. My music is a gift to me from somewhere else, and I give it as a gift to anyone who is moved by it.

All of that to say this: whether you pay $5 or $500 for my CD is none of my concern. That is your decision, and whatever choice you make, I want you to have it. Music is made to be shared. A song is not worth $.99 any more than it's worth $99; it is either completely worthless (if it doesn't move you), or infinitely valuable (if it does). Who am I to decide what you should pay for it?

Therefore, I will be releasing 'Idiot Heart' under the pay-what-you-want model. The digital album will be made available on Quidplayer, and the hard copies will be made available at live shows and through my website in a way that allows you to set your own price. Additionally, I will be asking you to share it with anyone who might be moved by it. The more people hear it, the better it is serving its purpose.

All of the above applies to my three previous releases, as well. Go forth and burn them! If you feel so moved, send me some money via Quidplayer, or better yet, buy some tickets and come to a show.

The Take-Home

The shortest possible version of all this is as follows: I have twelve new songs, and a really exciting team of musicians to help me execute them. I am as committed to these songs as I could possibly be. I am putting my money where my mouth is (and any other money I come across for the next four months), and doing everything within my power to make a great record, and to help it reach a larger audience.

Part of what's within my power is this: I am giving it, as a gift, to anyone who wants it. If my audience feels so moved, they are free to return the favor by throwing some money my way.

In case you want to contribute to this project, the "ChipIn" widget below will be up on my various and sundry websites until the project is complete (October). Any time you feel moved, toss some cash in the proverbial bucket. Rest assured knowing that it will go directly towards making and promoting my next record, with the help of a way-more-experienced-than-me recording & promotion team.

Thank you for giving me the means to spend my every waking hour thinking, dreaming, obsessing, scheming, and feeling about music. I couldn't be more blessed.