When it comes to music, the old adage ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ doesn’t always apply.
Online fan funded music platforms such as PledgeMusic have already found that enough is never enough when artists and bands reach out to their fan base to underwrite musical projects.
The Jam’s bassist Bruce Foxton recently turned to crowd-funding to ensure his solo album Back In The Room, featuring former bandmate Paul Weller, saw the light of day earlier this month. The promise of backstage access enticed Foxton’s fans, no doubt eagerly awaiting the November release of a super deluxe edition of The Jam’s The Gift, to cough up the necessary funds.
Famously, Radiohead asked for fan input on album pricing when the band explored the pay-what-you-like model for the release of In Rainbows in 2007. Fans were told to stump up only what they thought the album was worth. Notably, the band ditched that approach for 2011 follow-up The King Of Limbs.
Fans have also had a hand in the A&R process. Last year Fiction/B-Unique band Kaiser Chiefs explored the future of track sequencing and music distribution by handing fans a say in what tracks should be included on their The Future Is Medieval album.
Launched from the band’s own website fans were invited to choose from a pool of 20 tracks to create their own personal album. This put fans in control of the tracklisting, artwork and distribution via a mechanism to sell the album on to friends.
Now the door has been opened to fans, they have become a key element in the music experience and are helping music companies chart increasingly interesting waters.
Mercury Records managing director Clive Cawley said the more personal the experience created the more successful fan engagement can become. Cawley added his label now plans fan interaction across a whole raft of levels - asking fans for everything from artwork to gig reviews
Much of the engagement is online with games built into media such as Facebook and twitter. “I like to do it on every artist and of course new bands get it - any young artist exists online. Fans go to gigs, take photos, then upload them to Facebook and tag them. It is interactive for the fans, who can say ‘I’m at this gig in Leeds.’ We are engaging fans throughout the concert.”
Recently, Cawley worked on fan interaction projects for The Killers, helping to promote latest album Battle Born. UK fans were encouraged to hook onto trending topic BattleBornInLeeds and review a Leeds warm-up gig by the band.
Similarly, in London fans were asked to spot The Killers Battle Born bolt on the roof of The Monarch pub in Camden Town and tweet a picture of it to win tickets. In the US fans of the band were asked at one show on the tour - being filmed by acclaimed director Werner Herzog - to submit photos of themselves, which were then screened up on stage.
One happy result of the increasing nature of fan engagement is that record labels are being stretched to match fans’ expectations. According to Cawley, this has meant the best videos produced are now interactive with an “entirely personal user experience.”
He cites Arcade Fire’s interactive film The Wilderness Downtown project featuring the band’s track We Used To Wait from 2010’s The Suburbs as the perfect example because every single user experience is unique. “When we are pitching out for videos now we are leading with digital rather than TV,” said Cawley. “There is definitely competition between labels to do things first to come up with original ideas.”