Last week Universal announced The Vinyl Project that will apparently be hosted or headquartered at their Uvinyl online vinyl store. Dubbed a "crowdfunding" approach, negative response came in two forms. Some people were upset with a list of albums that appeared to be considered for The Vinyl Project while others wondered why Universal needed fans to fund their releases. It all seemed a bit overblown in the manner we've grown accustomed to on the web.
On Monday news began to spread that Universal was planning to launch The Vinyl Project which was said to be an effort to "crowdfund" and release currently unavailable albums on vinyl.
This information was apparently posted at Uvinyl, Universal's online vinyl store, where those interested could sign up for future news. After signing up, respondents were taken to a related questionnaire posted on Uvinyl's Facebook page.
Depending on the source, a list of well-known albums that appeared to be candidates for the project was shown on the homepage (not sure if that was a separate page because all links now go to Uvinyl's homepage) or in the questionnaire.
In any case, some people apparently got upset at the list, I'm still not quite sure why, and Universal pulled it and then apologized.
Y U No Mean What I Mean When I Say "Crowdfunding"?
"Big corporation makes misstep, pulls info, apologizes" is a pretty common thing but there was another concern raised due to the use of the term "crowdfunding."
A variety of people seem disturbed by the fact that Universal would look to vinyl fans to "crowdfund" releases that these people feel Universal should simply fund. It's similar to the webrage that emerges whenever somebody famous says they're going to try to crowdfund something.
But, given what media sources are saying, Universal is basically gauging interest by asking fans to commit to buying the album ahead of time. It's not a presale because a presale is simply an early opportunity to place an order that sometimes includes an early digital download or the like as reward.
So they called it crowdfunding at least in part because there really isn't any other word for that process. Not that I can think of anyway.
Unfortunately for Universal, people now think of crowdfunding as way to bring projects into existence that have no other forms of funding. And that's a great thing. I think crowdfunding is a truly radical disruption in how music funding is accomplished.
The webrage surrounding Universal's use of the term crowdfunding, whose depth is difficult to gauge, seems to be a result of recently established stances related to definitions of crowdfunding.
Once a word has come to symbolize something meaningful to a large number of people, those people often get upset with the fact that words can have multiple meanings, as we've seen from the webrage over the term "indie".
But who own the term crowdfunding? And who decides what it means? It's new and we're still figuring out its parameters.
The fact that it's used in all sorts of ways doesn't help matters. Patreon, a patronage service is being described as "crowdfunding" though it doesn't fit the model that people seem to be basing their webrage upon. Music Love uses the term to describe their random donation model. But is anybody getting mad about their obvious misuse?
Crowdfunding As a Marketing Term
This brings us to the other reason Universal probably used crowdfunding to describe what The Vinyl Project will do. Crowdfunding has a warm and fuzzy vibe which makes it a great term for marketing purposes. So, yeah, it will be fucked as a meaningful word before long.
That means people will need to start defining their terms or else web discussions of crowdfunding, inasmuch as they can be considered discussions, will be dominated by people talking past each other just as were recent web discussions of indie.
Maybe that's just the human condition.
Be that as it may, as Percy Thrillington wrote:
"At the very least (and indeed, most) The Vinyl Project sounds like a moderately new way to shop for records that might allow a smaller audience to get its hands on something they love, which is hard to argue too strongly against—though count on the internet to find a way."
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.