Kristin Hersh is an American singer-songwriter known for her work with Throwing Muses (the best hope of the 4AD label, until a little group known as the Pixies came along). She’s currently leading the way in exploring new models for making and sharing her music, and for receiving something back from her fans at the same time.
The project is the cleverly titled CASH Music (Coalition of Artists and Stakeholders). It begins with Hersh posting her music to the website – but not just music: MP3 and FLAC audio, sure, but also lyric sheets, cover art, and even the ProTools stems of each song. It’s offered free, with a polite request that downloaders consider making a financial contribution. But she’s not just suggesting a financial contribution – users are also “asked to interact with this output, assess it, be inspired by it, enhancing it’s value. Once that value is perceived you are asked to contribute accordingly — your money, your ideas, your effort, or all of the above.” Already, fan-created remixes are showing up on the site, along with new cover art, or images inspired by the songs.
Enthusiastic fans can also subscribe to the site (getting bonuses such as rare demos on CD, or places on the guest list for a live show), or sponsor Hersh’s recordings, receiving in return a visit to the recording studio or a credit on her CD.
This is great. It’s putting the control of the music in the hands of the artist, and the fans, and letting the fans become involved in the making of the music. Who needs record companies?
I was lucky enough to see Kristin Hersh perform a few months ago in Wellington. It’s great to see someone be able to sustain and develop their art under their own control.