Tag Archives: Ben Sollee

Publicly-Funded Music Projects: Thee Ultimate Fan Request

Big music names like Ben Folds and Amanda Palmer did it (although the latter is facing some legal complications because she didn’t do it correctly). My personal favorites Ben Sollee, PigPen Theatre Co., and Elizabeth & the Catapult did it. Crowdsourcing is music’s Next Big Thing. Websites like Pledgemusic, Kickstarter, and Crowdrise make fans donors and “producers” of their favorite artists’ music projects. While fans are usually left out of the loop during the album-making process, these websites break down the industry barrier between musicians and listeners.

The shape-shifting music industry is constantly exploring new ways to make a profit and battle music sharing, streaming and pirating. Some artists increase their tour time and offer more inclusive and preferential concert experiences to early buyers. Others take a less aggressive approach and simply give albums away, hoping listeners will show support through merchandise, concerts, or future releases.

In my opinion, it is a genius idea and perfect for the emerging role of new media sector in the music business. Fans feel inches closer to their favorite performers and are engaged in a very personal process. Musicians receive input, connect to listeners, and ultimately boost music sales (fans who feel part of the process will probably be more inclined to buy the album.) Have any of you every contributed to an album through these crowdsourcing websites? Did you feel more valued?

Take a look at Elizabeth Ziman, also known as Elizabeth & the Catapult.  The Brooklyn singer/songwriter has a small but dedicated fanbase, and was able to raise money for her album in about three weeks. During the recording process, donors gain access to exclusive videos and pre-released clips. There are also perks to funding, like dinner with Elizabeth, a piano lesson, and a knitted scarf. Ben Sollee started a similar initiative, which took only 4 days to fund. It’s a win-win situation. Albums are funded, artists gain support from their current fan base (an extremely important new media strategy), and fans are satiated with new music at a faster rate. Publicly funded music projects are an exceptionally great resource for lesser-known niche artists. Since their tours travel to small venues and don’t produce much revenue, these musicians can’t afford to tour at the same rate of artists who sell out large venues. Crowdsourcing helps them produce an album without sacrificing tours. And ultimately, it puts the interactive social world to use in a music business setting.

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Filed under Folk News, New Music

Ben Sollee: Political Music-vism

Ben Sollee @ The Brighton Music Hall (Taken by me)

I discovered Ben Sollee’s, “A Few Honest Words,” almost four years ago, and it has since become the soothing travel companion on many train rides from Boston to Philadelphia. However, seeing Sollee in concert last night at the Brighton Music Hall put the song in a completely different context. During this exciting election season, Sollee’s acoustic intro of, “if you’re going to lead my country/if you’re gonna say it’s free/I’m gonna need a little honesty,” conjures more than feelings of sleepy relaxation. After Sollee hinted at environmental efforts in his Kentucky Appalachia hometown and unique, community-building “bike tours,” this poignant song beautifully closed the show. His earnest call to action didn’t force the audience to sway left or right in a political way, but in a physical one.

Not only did Sollee poetically encourage the audience to participate in the election through the encore number, his new release Half-Made Man is another fan-based effort. Sollee’s fourth album was released through Tin Ear Records and Pledge Music, a socially-conscious and interactive new way for artists to produce and release albums (Like I said in my PigPen post…post on that coming soon).

After his environmentally-minded album collaboration with David Martin Moore Dear Companion in 2010 (and subsequent Ditch the Bike tour, which he recreated this year for the Newport Folk Festival, biking over 3,600 miles along the East Coast to further connect with each city), Sollee’s new release takes community involvement to a whole new level. He strays a bit from his original folky sound by adding more guitar and drums, but his iconic cello still rings above the fuller sound. Clearly I’m much more of a stripped-down, acoustic Ben Sollee fan, but these new songs fall short to his old stuff in my opinion. New songs like “Whole Lot to Give” and “DIY” sound much better and purposeful in person. Hey, maybe Sollee secretly agrees, for he still played many of his older, sweeter classics like “Prettiest Tree on the Mountain” and “Built for This.” With these, the tiny bar went silent and to let Sollee’s pure vocals linger even longer.

Ben Sollee @ The Brighton Music Hall (taken by me)

As if I haven’t fawned over Sollee enough already, here are two more selling points:

1. His live rendition of “How to See the Sun Rise” is the most PERFECT marriage of soul and folk. (video following this post)

2. He is touring with one of his role models, Darol Anger, of the Turtle Island String Quartet. Sollee was inspired by Turtle Island to take up the cello, and they riff together like two old friends on stage.

The combination of Ben Sollee’s warm music and positive message made this a feel-good concert in every way.

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Filed under Concert Review