Now that major record labels have become the sole province of mega-stars, local musicians are coming up with creative ways to release new music. For example, instead of putting out an album per year or less frequently, the roots-rocking Hanna Barbarians have begun cutting a series a EPs, mainly to stay on everyone’s news-hungry radar, and Americana singer-songwriter Jody Jones is toying with the idea of releasing live-in-studio recordings of a large chunk of his oeuvre (about 50 songs) via his website –– listeners will be able to buy single tracks or bundle them into albums.
Badass Fort Worth pop-jazz-blues singer-songwriter D. Anson Brody has come up with another method, perhaps the most novel of all: to release a song a week for a year.
His Open Source Year also is different from other nontraditional production avenues in a few ways. He also will release the source files for every song under Creative Commons, allowing musicians all over the globe to mix, remix, reinterpret, and in other ways build upon his work at no charge.
The Open Source Year is influenced by a couple of different variables, including Jonathan Coulton’s Thing a Week, in which the Brooklyn folk-pop singer-songwriter wrote, performed, recorded, and released a song a week for a year in 2006. Brody’s project also is perfectly suited for his shape-shifting muse. “My music jumps genres,” he said. “I thought putting my 12 best songs on a record would be a little schizo. It goes from slap-bass to ukulele to baritone guitar.”
Every week, quill-painter Angie Walters will produce an original postcard-sized artwork inspired by Brody’s lyrics.
In the spirit of Kickstarter, Brody is seeking $10,000 to accomplish his mission. There are various levels of participation, including Signature Level ($15 or more for a signed CD of “the best material delivered before the end of the project”), Learn ($75 or more for music lessons via Facetime or Skype, a two-or-three-song performance, a “chit chat,” digital copies of the songs e-mailed directly to the donor, and a signed CD), Private Show ($500 or more for everything above plus a private concert in the donor’s home/backyard), Your Own Song ($1,500 or more for everything above plus a song written for the donor or a loved one), or An Instrument Built for You ($5,000 or more for everything above plus a one-of-a-kind “piece of functioning artwork,” an electric ukulele built by Brody by hand).
Brody’s costs include production (mastering, collaborators, art), merchandize (reward fulfillment, CD replication, jacket printing, screened shirts), and promotion (internet and otherwise).
Brody gave himself a month to generate the needed funds. At the moment, he has achieved about 20 percent of his goal. “Crowd-funding is the perfect platform for the next generation of music,” he writes on his project’s page, “because it isn’t asking for charity (you get the goods), and it doesn’t require the artist to give up his rights to a corporation.”
Brody plans to go forward with the project even if he doesn’t raise another cent. He won’t be jumping for joy, but he will keep performing, recording, and releasing a song a week via his assorted websites –– most of the material is already written. “If there’s no support for [the project], I won’t be able to afford the merch or print the CDs or some of the other products,” he said. “It’ll be lackluster. I won’t have any money to promote. It’ll be a lot more hard work.”
His goal is to start producing music six weeks after the crowd-funding wraps up. (The scheduled end is 22 days from now.)
Brody has been getting the word out mainly through social media and by engaging the open-source community. A rap artist has already begun work on a remix of one of Brody’s songs.
One of the most skilled musicians and singers in town, Brody is primarily a solo artist, and his songs, he said, will be sparse. “I found over the years that when I add drums and other things [the song] is either just as good or not as good,” he said. Brody also feels the bare-bones arrangements will lend themselves nicely to open-source remixing. Only “about 30 to 40 percent” of his material, he said, will feature a collaborator, Fort Worth violinist and composer Zuriel Merek (The Skin & Bones Drum Cult, KatsüK, Paco Estrada).
Leaking songs, he said, also gives them better opportunities to be heard. “If someone posts 12 songs at once, you might listen to one,” he said, “but if you leak songs out slowly, you might have a better chance of someone hearing all of them.”