This is far from a “battle of who could care less” — the other day, the recently reunited Ben Folds Five launched a crowdfunding campaign on PledgeMusic to raise funds for their first album since 1999′s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, and they’ve already surpassed their fundraising goal — with nearly two months left to go.
PledgeMusic, like Kickstarter, helps artists raise money for projects via fans, but focuses specifically on musicians (Kickstarter is more broad). As with Kickstarter, the artist only gets the money in question if they reach their monetary goal in a certain amount of time, and musicians are encouraged to offer fans incentives to fork over cash. Artists can also divert a certain percentage to a charity of their choice.
We first heard that Ben Folds Five was getting the band back together — after 13 years — back in January; the band subsequently announced a slew of tour dates. Unsurprisingly for an act with such a socially savvy frontman, the band has decided to forgo the major label route and go right to the fans to get the upcoming disc (release date TBD) into the hands of fans.
Fans who choose to donate money to the cause will be gifted — at the very least — with a digital download of the new album upon completion, with awards like T-shirts and CDs offered for most generous pledgers. Granted, these rewards are a bit underwhelming, but the band aims to change that soon.
“We’re conspicuously absent of high dollar items (unless we really think of something amazing and unique to justify it),” Folds says on the fundraising page. “We’re open to suggestions. I might make some art of the pages from my lyric notebook, for instance? Dunno… Robert [Sledge] has been very interested in trying to work out a way to do lessons on his style and sound. Hell, I’d sign up for that! Darren [Jessee] has a hotel key collection and some bugs.”
On Wednesday, the band put forth an even more sweeping effort to get their fans involved in the production of the record, posting a message to all “journalists and radio people” (IE Twitter followers and Facebook friends) looking for an interview. It’s clear from the post that when Folds says “journalists” he means up-and-coming bloggers and fans of the band — not necessarily pros (the message was posted on a crowdfunding site, after all, not blasted to journos via a PR agency). Folds provides an email address that interested folks can hit up for more information about the fundraising effort, offering interviews to worthy candidates. The address? ImaDamVP@gmail.com.
According to Folds, the mysterious email has a very specific meaning. “Everyone who’s downloaded [new single] ‘Do It Anyway’ from Pledgemusic or made a pledge is a Vice President of Promotions of our de facto record label,” he says on the pledge page. “Your names will be credited in album art, and poster art as thanks for being there. The lame joke is that every label has a gazillion VP’s of this and that… not that funny, but you gotta call this SOMETHING.”
Folds hopes to mobilize his army of “VPs” to spread the word about the album on social networks, thereby drumming up support for the effort among fans first. So, basically: Fans fund the record, fans act as the journalists who inform the public of the record’s impending release, and fans act as the PR machine that gets the record sold. In return, Folds says the band will share links to fundraisers’ own artistic pursuits via their social channels.
“We’re depending heavily on word of mouth as we’re bypassing traditional media blitzing in the run up to the album release,” Folds says.
We’ve reached out to Folds’ camp to find out more about this project, which launched hot on the heels of singer Amanda Palmer’s extremely successful Kickstarter campaign to fund her new record. In the meantime, check out the band’s new single, “Do It Anyway,” below (and download it via PledgeMusic).