How One Musician Hopes To Parlay $20,000 In Medical Bills Into A Crowdfunded EP

Posted July 18

Being in an indie band can be tough financially — lacking in niceties like a steady paycheck, health insurance and the funds to get one’s music made in the first place. A lot of bands tackle the whole “no money for music” issue via crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and call it a day, but for house musician Adam Jay, the situation is a little more fraught. In addition to an itch to make tunes, he’s got $20,000 in hospital bills to pay and, as we mentioned before, zero health insurance. Naturally, to IndieGoGo he went, where he launched a campaign that seeks to fund his hospital bills, as well as an EP that was born from his intensive care experience.

After a particularly satisfying performance at the annual Movement Electronic Music Festival in May, Jay’s luck took a turn. A mild cold turned into a bad cough, which turned into a perforation in his lung. After being diagnosed with pneumomediastinum (air in the chest cavity), Jay landed in the intensive care unit. The musician spent a week in the hospital, and with all the tests it was a pretty expensive affair — especially sans insurance. It total, the bill amounted to around $20,000.

Still, the whole ordeal wasn’t entirely a negative money-suck. “It was incredibly hard to sleep there, because you have all these machines that are making noises,” Jay says of his pricey visit. “You have a thing on your finger that’s measuring your blood oxygen level and any time that dips below, like, 90 it starts beeping. You got other machines moving air and a whole arsenal of equipment keeping you alive. I’ve done some recordings in the past where I’ve used found audio and I just thought, maybe there’s something here that I can work with.”

Jay recorded the sounds of his stay on his phone and stored them away — until his medical bill came. “It was a pretty big shock,” he says. “Reality set in that this was a pretty large debt that I would have to take care of and as an independent, full-time musician in America, I think most of us who do this as our full-time job are under- or completely uninsured.”

When he told his friends about his plight, many generously offered to help out. However, Jay didn’t feel right just taking the money. “I wanted to be able to give everyone who so generously agreed to help me out something in return,” he says. “Something with meaning and something that came from this experience.”

And thus — from pain, trauma and a whole lot of bills — the Mediastinum EP was born. The name “Mediastinum” refers to Jay’s ailing chest cavity, and every song on the disc features samples from the machines he recorded while in the hospital. The cover art of the EP features an X-ray of Jay’s chest.

Jay took to crowdfunding site IndieGoGo to fund the EP, as well as raise capital for his hospital bills. His fundraising goal is $23,000, with $20,000 going toward paying the hospital and $3,00 going into production of his record. Unlike fundraising sites like Kickstarter, Jay will get paid regardless of whether he reaches his goal. He has currently amassed a little over $3,000, with more than a month to go.

Like most crowdfunding campaigns, donors will receive different rewards based on how much they donate — $6 donations garner a digital download of the EP, while $50 gets you the vinyl, as well as a “thank you” integrated into the album art and into a special closing track.

“I’m not looking for handouts,” Jay says of the campaign. “My goal here is take an awful situation and make it into something productive. Something that can be shared with a community of people who are willing to help.”