The music industry has been changed by the internet, there’s no doubt about that, and most money people would say that it’s in danger of being destroyed by piracy, though have seemingly spent more time trying to sue people than they have addressing the real problems. Luckily, there’s more to the music industry than rich men in suits and their lawyers, and the great PledgeMusic website is showing another way forward, with The Wildhearts frontman Ginger one of the most high profile rock stars to release music through it.
The concept is simple – get fans to fund the recording of new music by artists they like by pledging money before it gets recorded, in exchange for video diaries and updates during the process and then exclusive music when it’s done. If, like Ginger, an artist has worked hard to cultivate their fanbase by treating them well and using tools like the internet to interact with them, they’ll be rewarded with a load of pledges, and that was exactly how it turned out, with his Triple Album Project reaching its target faster than any other in the history of the site.
And it didn’t stop there, eventually reaching the remarkable sum of 555% of the original target, which resulted in the album being titled 555% (it’s since gone up to 568%). Along the way there were lots of entertaining updates and videos from Ginger and the musicians involved (including no less than three Wildhearts members past and present – four if you include Willie Dowling), but the interactivity and engagement with the fans didn’t end there. Last Friday, Ginger released the first disc of 10 songs from the album through the PledgeMusic website, encouraging Pledgers to have a ‘listening party’ with him, feeding back through the site what they thought of it and nominating their favourite tracks.
These will be used to make a single-disc retail version, called 100%, again giving the fans a vested interest in the music that Ginger releases. The project has been a huge success (and has raised money for Save The Children along the way), and the great news is the music from Disc One has been well worth the money I pledged already. Like his three other solo albums, it’s got lots of familiar Wildhearts-esque riffs and choruses, but with a few curveballs thrown in (and, from the sound of it, plenty more of those to come on Disc Two).
Immediate favourites for me are I-N-T-E-R-N-A-L R-adio (particularly for the reference to Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?, one of my favourite songs ever), Incidental Noises (wonderfully melodic parts), Deep In The Arms Of Morpheus (presumably not a song about having a relationship with Larry Fishburne’s character from The Matrix) and the wonderful closer Time. If that was all we were going to get, I’d be more than satisfied, but with two discs still to come, these are exciting times. And the success of this project should be a signpost for other artists. Fans will pay for your music, you just need to get them engaged and remind them that it’s their music too. 555% is my music. And this music rocks.
Nostalgia is a powerful sales tool. Just walk around somewhere like HMV and you'll see that, with old kids TV shows represented on DVDs and t-shirts alongside old football kits and compilation CDs along the lines of Dreamboats And Petticoats. It's human to yearn for 'the time when everything was simple and good' and it's easy to associate those times with the things that characterised them for us.