A Gentle Tirade. (An open letter to a disgruntled fan)

 

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I got an email this morning from a friend who’d just gotten off the phone with a “rabid Peter Himmelman fan.”

During the conversation this fan mentioned how opposed he was to pledging on Kickstarter. www.peterhimmelman.com/kickstarter “It actually made him angry,” my friend said. My first thought was that -anger- seemed highly appropriate for someone who describes himself as a rabid anything.

But to be fair, it’s not the first time I’ve heard objections about the preponderance of fund raising efforts. I’ve had to wrestle with the idea myself. I did however, eventually come to the conclusion that it just makes sense, given the way things work these days.

And here I truly hesitate to invoke him as an example at this time —but take Prince…

We all love Prince and we all agree that he was one of the greatest musicians on the face of the planet, perhaps THE greatest. But here’s my question, and understand that it’s asked simply to illustrate a point:

I know none of you purchased even one of Prince’s last four albums, that’s basically a given, but can anyone even name one of his last four records?

I didn’t think so.

Even for someone like Prince, someone who set the world on fire with his talent, someone who we all claim to mourn the loss of —that no one can even name (let alone say they purchased) one of his last four records speaks volumes about how bad the music business is.

So in answer to my Rabid Fan, I say this on behalf of myself, (and music creators everywhere):

Please understand that to make this record I’m flying a band of highly skilled musicians across the country, putting them up, feeding them, paying them, providing for their transportation, paying for cartage for their instruments, paying a studio, renting a piano, paying an engineer, paying a producer, paying for mixing, mastering, pressing, album art, photography, and shipping —all just to bring a new record into the world.

The sixteen grand that I’m trying to raise on Kickstarter won’t even cover these costs. And notice, Rabid Fan, that there’s not a dime allocated for me – and I assure you, neither the musicians nor the producer is gettin’ rich… We’re all pooling in here to make this record happen. I’m not grousing about this, I’m just explaining the situation you see. I love making records, as does any songwriter.

But if no one’s buying Prince’s records, you can be damn sure no one’s gonna be buying mine. And why should they, it’ll be everywhere for free the week it’s released. So you still ask: Why pledge when you can get at the music for free? Fair question.

Well, I don’t like the word “pledge,” it sounds lame to me somehow. I prefer to call it a pre-buy. But you pre-buy the record (or whatever it is that people are making, assuming you like what they do), because soon no one will make things if they have to pay ungodly sums to make them, let alone, not profit at all from them.

And all the rewards on Kickstarter, they’re simply inducements to “buy” what you could otherwise take for free.

But hey Rabid Fan, I’m not sure what you do for a living, but I can pretty much guarantee that if people were taking your service or product without your getting paid, I’ll bet you’d have a far easier time understanding why I’m doing a Kickstarter campaign for my new record.

Thanks, and sorry I got a little huffy…

Peter

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2 thoughts on “A Gentle Tirade. (An open letter to a disgruntled fan)

  1. I would like to state that I’m not a fan of downloading (I’m bad at it, as it happens): the music is literally compressed, meaning the sound can get mangled; and often the artist gets little or nothing from the sale or distribution of such. I don’t believe in getting music for free, because that’s not fair to those who produce it.

    (Full disclosure: I do use streaming services to prevent workplace boredom, but I usually already have many of the songs I listen to, that I paid for, at home.)

    Thank you for continuing to produce amazing music, and I’m looking forward to my pledge vinyl.

  2. It is axiomatic – what you can have at no cost, begins with a diminished transient value . . . and can only go down from there.

    In the old USSR, they lined up around the block for a roll of toilet paper – it became a treasure . . . because it couldn’t be taken for granted. And that was for something with which you wipe your ass. Toilet paper here is so cheap and accessible we don’t give its value another thought . . . and I fear in a culture amusing itself to death, we are now pissing on diamonds.

    The *transcendent* value of good music remains – but the *transient* value has suffered because instinctively we assume that if it had *real* value it would cost me something. This why when you buy music you make a point of carefully listening to it – because it cost you something, so you’re willing to spend even more on it (your time) to discover it’s transcendent value . . . and by doing so-you’ve been made richer.

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