By Ben Scudder of Evolver.fm.
Today’s full-time musicians relies heavily upon touring revenue to make a living. Some even think they should forgo making money from recorded music entirely, and use it just to promote their tours.
Maybe there’s another avenue where they can make money — one that lies somewhere between selling recorded music and playing live shows. Merge.fm’s big idea: helping bands charge fans to participate in, or at least see and hear, the band’s creative process.
Merge.fm (no affiliation with Merge Records) lets fans subscribe to an artist to see progress that is posted, whether it’s raw tracks, video clips, or drafts of song lyrics. It’s an interactive event surrounding a song in progress. Fans can interact with the creative process, comment, and provide feedback on ideas in the works, as bands set the price for each interaction, keeping 85 percent of the resulting revenue.
For fans, participation in an artists’ creative work strengthens their bond with the band. For bands, it’s a way to make money while off tour, or working on an album, by offering an experience that cannot be downloaded for free.
In addition to basic interactions (like the ability to hear and comment on works in progress), Merge.fm also lets bands share song stems, so that users can remix and rework songs to create something new and unique — and, if the band wants, it can turn that into a remix contest, or maybe even a song that appears on the band’s next record.
Maybe some people don’t want to subscribe to all the music in the world, when they enjoy maybe one percent of it. Maybe they only want to subscribe to specific bands, from which they want much more than just the ability to listen. Merge.fm and services like it, which offer things the unconnected, analog world never could, represent a bright spot in music, which appears finally to have weathered the storm brought on by the digital music revolution.
Sure, the album art might be smaller, but then again, a vinyl record didn’t let you hear and comment on unreleased tracks from the band’s next album.