Is Jamendo a Good Fan-Funded Example?

Getting money per “copy” of a piece of music is over. Per album, per song, download, stream, blah blah. Wasted energy. I am totally convinced per-copy distribution of music will be a tiny 100 year blip in the history of man. The thing that puts it over the top are the predictions that within 10-15 years (or sooner) personal storage devices (like your phone) will be able to hold all music ever recorded with or without the use of molecular switches (pdf). So a younger brother leans over the top bunk and says “Hey bro, can I get a copy of all music ever recorded?” and the older brother says “Yea, but it’ll take 15 minutes to copy” and the younger brother says “Really? Oh, OK, well, do it any way.”

Without listing out all the ways musicians can get paid, my favorite, as romantic as it is, is fan funded. Maybe it’s cyber busking at its lowest form but for all the sites that allow a musician to post music with a ‘donate’ button (hello Sound Cloud, Band Camp, join the party…) it strikes me that all of these have exactly the same model: the “free for all” – and by that I mean both “free as in beer” and “feel free to upload any piece of crap music.”

How many times can we prove that shit music does not inspire music appreciators to donate money?

The meme for the last week has been the number crunching on Jamendo done at torrentfreakand commented on by wilkox.

So in Jamendo’s case we confirm that great music, buried along side mountains of shit music also doesn’t yield decent donations.

Quite a while ago Brad commented on a PBS model. That post already seems dated to me as the “reward” he mentions for large donors includes a physical CD. I don’t know about you but at this point I would pay $30 for anybody to take the last few remaining CDs I have off my hands. But that’s besides the point: The thing missing from the discussion is how important the programming is at PBS. People don’t give them money because they air everything that’s ever been submitted. Somebody is seriously curating the air time.

They have to curate and parcel out the air time because it is a sliver thin resource. It’s just possible that all these sites have a serious flaw in that they assume that just because you can host every piece of crap that you must host every piece of crap.

I won’t link to all the discussions of the importance of a layer of taste-making required in ‘net music. Maybe podcasters or social playlist sites like the old WebJay are/were a step in that direction but I still don’t see a full court press on trying to make it work on a large scale, with real money which, again, I believe is there.

Extending the PBS analogy, don’t forget that PBS takes corporate donations (oh, how they take it) and spend concentrated air time periods begging for money (not-so-affectionately called “squirm week”). I would not exclude this kind of “extended under-writing” or concentrated fund raisers from a musician’s collective.

Maybe it exists, maybe 100 times and failed but I haven’t heard of a site like this:

– A collective ‘net label which is heavily curated by a small committee that has proven taste for picking music. No it is not democratic. Is anybody sorry the Tate Modern is not a popularity contest?

– An active corporate fund raising department that knows how to write a grant or otherwise suck money out of the corporates. I would propose zero advertising inside any of the “products.” Ads are bumpers, not interrupters. If getting noticed for supporting and funding public arts isn’t enough for the company being pitched then keep moving.

– An active public fund raising department that also focuses on donations as a public service with probably two all-out fund raisers per year.

– The money is distributed to operations, musicians and curators in that order.

Or something like that.

5 thoughts on “Is Jamendo a Good Fan-Funded Example?

  1. jp

    As part of the massive WPA project that will maybe better ought to unless it does we are hosed come along under our new leader.. to provide music, which goes to teaching and performing as well as distributing and curating. of course that would just be here..and the IK..and…

    and just what makes you think the Tate Modern is not a popularity contest? just kiddin..sort of.

    but I do agree on the give me 89 cents baby “retail model” being another failure.

  2. lkratz

    Salut Victor !

    I don’t think Jamendo is a good example of fan-funded website. At least for now. We added the donation feature without marketing it at all on the website or in the media.

    When I think about fan-funded, it’s probably sellaband or mymajorcompany that spring on my mind before Jamendo.


  3. gurdonark

    Good, thought-provoking post.

    I agree that if one analyzes Jamendo on the issue of “is its fan-funding feature a realistic revenue device”, then the answer must be either simply “no” or, if one is optimistic that ideas change, “not yet”.

    I consider Jamendo important for a different reason. I see Jamendo as an engine to create an “attribution culture” of musical social networking.

    Money is an important thing. Being heard is also an important thing–and a thing not to be underestimated. I estimate being heard as more important than being paid, because even if I made commercial music, I’d rather earn my money from a different day job than be beholden to the corporations that sell music.

    NIN is a great band, and so is Radiohead. But the reason that they can get download traffic is not only that they are talented.
    It also arises from having had the weight of corporate marketing efforts making them “teen sensations”. Had either released on Nonesuch or Matador or Philo, all great little labels, does anyone believe that they would have had the same level of commercial support for their download project?

    Although the idea is a bit offensive to me aesthetically, any glance at the top 100 charts shows that music that is of less quality than a lot of jamendo music can make money, through the miracle of marketing. When a great artist comes out on a major label, then it was a real win for the listener in the sense
    that the music was great AND one got to hear about it.

    Therefore, is the reason why a NIN or a Radiohead can get such donations a function alone of quality? I don’t think so. If the latest children’s tv prefab popster (I’ll hold back names out of courtesy) offered self-directed payment on a download, then she would get donations like hotcakes. It’s not just the quality–it’s the marketing heft, the past efforts to build a brand name, to build a fanatical fan base.

    What jamendo in essence does is say “free as in beer” can also be a way to build a base. What is the “price” for the listener of listening to Jamendo? The price is that one must wade through music not to one’s taste. Curation,in the long run, will reduce this price.

    What is the “payment” to the artist of listening to jamendo?
    A great review system, in which listeners appear to participate.
    What is this worth in money? Nothing. But what is this worth in personal satisfaction. I have not released on jamendo, but I suspect it is a valuable thing to know one is being heard there.

    Jamendo is another social network–a place for an exchange of ideas in song. To analyze it economically is a legitimate exercise, but,as you note, only one part of the puzzle.

    I am careful, though, to avoid thinking that quality attracts money or that economic success shows quality. I know you are, too. Even those of us more liberated from the construct of the idea of the corporate record label can get trapped by the notion that lack of effective fan-funding must reflect on the artist. Yet lack of effective fan funding need not reflect on the music so much as on the artist’s marketing heft, whether personal or through corporate affiliation.

    I believe that Kristin Hersh and CASH are on the right track for a commercial new way to go. Creative Commons releases, fan-funding based on the building of a “fan enthusiasm”, pay-as-you-go.

    But I am excited by the beginning jamendo has begun, and the suggestion of a way forward for “free as in beer” which can create a new way for fans to network about music.

  4. Universal Indie Records

    I also, don’t really look at Jamendo as a way to make money but see it as a way to be heard.

    When I released my first album on Jamendo I didn’t expect much from it. I just kind of uploaded it and forgot about it.

    That was until I started getting requests from people to use my music on dvds and I started finding a ton of videos on Daily Motion and YouTube utilizing music from my release.

    It was then that I really started paying attention to Jamendo and making it part of my marketing plan.

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