When I started this blog in 2010, I had a lot of ideas in mind for how I wanted to run it and how I would cover music. One objective I’ve always strived for is to cover music with a high level of integrity.
Over the course of almost ten years as a music writer and critic, I’ve met and became friends with a lot of artists whose work I respect mightily. I never wanted to ignore the work of people I know and like personally because I know and like those artists personally, but I also never wanted to treat that as an advantage for what I chose to write about and cover here and always disclose any friendships or potential conflicts of interest.
I’ve also always felt more comfortable writing about something that I enjoy (or don’t) rather than something I think I might like while being made in the future. Unless it’s noteworthy and newsworthy (like a band I love on hiatus returning to the studio), I don’t often blog about things site unseen/unheard.
I mention these facts because I’ve developed a policy on how to cover crowd-source funded projects. I have gotten a handful of personal e-mails (and requests in person) to blog about Kickstarter projects, and it’s something I’ve declined to do so, and will continue to decline to do in the future. You won’t see any posts that say something like “Help so-and-so record their next album” on this website. As a critic, I am much more comfortable writing about why you should buy this record or go to that show next than I am with saying “this album will be good and you should part with your money to help it get completed.”
(Having said that, I did blog about the Best Music Writing project’s plan to become published independently. It was an exception that I made to help come closer to achieving a personal dream of my writing being included in a future edition of Best Music Writing someday.)
I am excited about the future where artists have more control over their art and don’t need to rely on labels to get music in the hands of their fans. Crowd-source funding like Kickstarter also gives fans an active stake in the art they like and can ensure art they like continues to be created. It’s an exciting time to be a music fan. Personally, I’ve backed nine Kickstarter projects to date.
A fascinating article about crowd-funding in last month’s issue of City Arts Magazine by Jonathan Zwickel explores a lot of concerns I have. He writes about the complications from Blue Scholars’ Cinematropolis album, which raised originally $62,000 (the goal was $25K). Production delays led to unhappy customers and the estimates for services they budgeted for had gone up considerably when they found out the project raised more than twice its goal.
It has felt, at times, overwhelming with the projects needing funding. One band from LA even went so far as to send me a link a to their Kickstarter page but no links to where I could actually listen to their music, which they presumably wanted me to write about.
That’s not to say I don’t support this trend, I do, but to choose to blog about Kickstarter (or similar) projects is not just to endorse an art project I haven’t seen or heard, but to also vouch for a certain credit-worthiness. There are some great projects and there are some that I think are stupid (like a Robocop statue in Detroit or an album of Journey covers from the guy in Clem Snide), but that’s why I didn’t participate in funding those.
I also suspect that if I wrote about one Kickstarter project, I’d have to write about a lot more and that would take away from the limited bandwidth I already have to cover music available now (or very soon) in this space.
I do hope fans continue to take an interest in their favorite artists and help perpetuate the creation of their art. I want to see great art continue to be made. Selfishly, I want to keep having interesting things to write about; I just want to wait until they are actually made.
Chris Burlingame is the editor of Another Rainy Saturday.