June 13th, 2011 | guest informant
Musician Kim Boekbinder has kindly dropped in to explain why she’s having to reinvent the concepts of the gig and the tour.
A few weeks ago I played a concert in Portland, Oregon which was attended by exactly 18 people. After everyone else got paid, I made exactly $12.50 USD. I know that independent musicians all over the world play to empty rooms all the time. I’ve played to quite a few myself. But the thing about me is that: I’m actually famous.
I’m not hugely famous, most people have never heard of me. But I have fans, amazingly supportive fans, all over the world. I raised $20,000 to record my album, then I raised $17,000 to make an animated music video with my collaborators Molly Crabapple and Jim Batt. So I know there are lots of people out there who like what I do. Which is why playing to an empty room on a Saturday in a town that knows who I am is just really sad. So I took my $12.50 USD and bought myself a few shots of whiskey. Luckily the price of whiskey in Portland is pretty low and I managed to get terrifically, yet lucidly, inebriated. In that state I had an epiphany, one that redefines the concept of touring.
The dilemma: I need to play live to have a real connection to an audience but the expense of touring is debilitating.
My solution: Pre-sell the shows before they are even booked. Get the fans as invested as I am in the creation of the art.
The old music paradigm had us musicians rolling around the world in cars and vans and busses, playing to whatever bar would have us on their dingy stages in the hopes that one day we would “Make It.” But the times have changed. “Making It” doesn’t mean what it used to mean.
The problem, as I see it, is that we’re living in THE FUTURE (cue theremin!) with ease of communication, downloadable gratification, large networks, and constant information at our disposal, but we’re still acting like it’s the 1990’s and being a musician driving around in circles is going to help you “Make It.”
There is no “Making It” or rather, this is making it. Right here, where I am, with my small but dedicated fan base holding me aloft while I drift through the detritus of an imploding music industry that never did a thing for me yet still manages to get in my way. I’m a modern musician with modern tools trying to navigate an old broken system; a system which declared that all musicians must work for free until picked up by a record label which would either make or destroy them; a system which drove a wedge between fans and their music, musicians and their audiences; a system that forgot that the entire reason it existed was to facilitate the experience of art.
I’m not blaming anybody. Or lamenting. Or complaining. I think labels can be great. I think industry (which is a word that means work) can be an amazing thing. I don’t really know if the old way was better or worse, I can only see what it leaves behind as it comes tumbling down.
What I do know is that I can start my own system. I can use the tools of communication, networking, and technology to help my fan base be part of my art. I pre-sold my album to fund the recording and now I’m pre-selling shows before I even book them so that I can come and play for my fans wherever they want me to play.
Since launching my first pre-sold show four days ago I’ve gotten letters from venues, fans, and musicians, all thanking me for such a great idea. I wasn’t sure it would work, but my first show got funded in 24 hours and I’m still selling tickets. And everyone is excited. Jill Tracy said it should have always been this way. Rosanne Cash called me a genius. I’m ecstatic that I get to put on an amazing concert in New York without worrying how many people will show up. I already know my audience size and can book the appropriate venue. My fans are excited because they get to help me make the show happen. Other musicians are excited because they see how this kind of innovation can work for themselves.
I don’t know if this is THE answer, but it is one answer, and so far it’s working really well for this pink haired Impossible Girl. I look forward to launching my whole tour this way. And I can’t wait to see it work for other musicians as well. It’s time for us all to redefine our careers and be successful at any level.
Kim Boekbinder is The Impossible Girl; a performer, composer, musician, and visual artist who defies genre. She has travelled the world, stealing hearts and changing paradigms with her indelible live performance and her unforgettable music. www.kimboekbinder.com
Me again. The above, I think, is today’s perfect example of the weird space we’re in. Too many of us assumed that the “traditional” artistic roads we were born into and grew up in are, in fact, the only way to do things. The idea of being paid by the public for making music via selling audio copies is barely a century old, after all. Things are still changing. In fact, the one thing you can say for sure about the future is that things will always be still changing. Thanks to Kim for stopping by.
- GUEST INFORMANT: Katelan Foisy (warrenellis.com)
- GUEST INFORMANT: Ian Hodgson (warrenellis.com)
- THREE PANELS: Molly Crabapple (warrenellis.com)
- GUEST INFORMANT: Kek-w (warrenellis.com)