JD: What were your influences and inspirations when creating ArtistShare?
BC: Even though there was nothing like it at the time, the need was still there. Artists really needed a way to directly connect with their fans - something where there wasn't a gatekeeper. At that time, record labels were really in control and it was a mystery how to get your music out there.
How do you promote yourself? The only real way to do it at that time was to tour. There were very few "indie" artists. It was mostly major labels that had control of everything so the need for that was there when the major labels started to falter a little bit. People were starting to trade things online and they were starting to lose money from it. From my perspective, they started to panic, mistreat artists, and grab ahold of what they could.
And not all labels are -- I owe a lot to record labels because they provided all this music that I listened to when I was growing up. They did a huge service but technology came along and ended up rendering them obsolete. I was just there at a time when I saw an opportunity to take advantage of that technology that was kind of hurting record labels and leveraging it to the artists' favor.
JD: How did you come up with the concept of ArtistShare participant offers?
BC: I remember sitting around in my apartment and thinking about my favorite people, my favorite artists, and what I would like to see. Any time I had any sort of question, I'd just put myself in the position of being a fan. I'm a huge fan of music. One of my favorite people of all time is Milton Nascimento.
So I'd picture him writing a song, working on lyrics, or working on a melody - whatever he'd be doing. I'd picture what it'd be like to be in the room with him and then taking that concept (what got me excited) and transferring it to the Internet. How would we present that over the Internet?
At the time, there was very little video - it was about the size of a postage stamp. But at the time, I decided a video would be a good way to do it anyway - even if it was just a little, tiny picture. Photos, audio, written examples - all posted, just to provide that 360 degree coverage of what was going on during that creative process. Those are the kinds of things that excited me, so I started to think that various levels of participation could get various levels of access. That's really how I came up with the idea of participant offers. It's just from a fan's point of view. What would I like to see?
JD: Where do you see ArtistShare in the future?
BC: You know, I think I see it in the same way I saw it when I was first developing it. We're going to see new technology come along, we're going to take advantage of that technology, and we're going to preserve the essence of ArtistShare which is that connection between the artist and the fan. I'm very excited to see how technology is going to progress to further help us with our mission of making that connection between the artist and the fan. How we're going to relate the creative process to the fan. How the creative process is going to change due to certain technologies. How artists are going to creatively use technology to create their art and communicate with their fans. I see ArtistShare as essentially the same thing but more technologically advanced.
JD: After 10 years, what is your current role in ArtistShare?
BC: Everything. I make executive decisions, I work on projects, I do programming, I empty the trash, I do shipping. I have my hand in just about everything. Of course I have people to help me, but I like to keep my hand in everything in the day-to-day. It makes me feel involved and I really know every aspect in the business.
JD: Is there a specific artist that you'd like to work with?
There're some other artists out there. There's a young singer-songwriter from Canada named Ariana Gillis who I think is just amazing and I think we will be working with her. She's fantastic.
You know, I'm open to anything. Anyone whose passion is a creative process. Anybody who is really focused on their fan base and communicating with their fans - those are the type of people I want to work with. People whose art is more important than commerce.
JD: Happiest moment at ArtistShare?
JD: Most memorable fan encounter?
BC: Whenever I'm out somewhere and somebody recognizes me. They come up and they say "I really appreciate what you did, what you're doing." I can tell that they appreciate the connection that they're able to have with the artist through ArtistShare. That makes me feel really good because that was my whole point of starting this - to create something where it'd be a community of people, where the fans would have direct access to the artist and vice versa. And personally, that's been one of the most enriching parts of my life is having that kind of direct access to these artists and to know that I enabled that for somebody else - that's huge for me.
You know, back to the GRAMMY Award for the first ArtistShare release.. I was getting emails saying "We did it!" So the fans - some of these people were writing and it felt like such a team effort. That people were coming out and saying that was a great moment for me. It's true, I honestly believe that the fan is equally important to the artist. The listener is equally important to the performer. There's no hierarchy there. You can't have one without the other. And the fact that the fans would feel that good and important. That was a great moment as well.
JD: Saddest moment at ArtistShare?
BC: Well I've had a lot of sad moments 'cause we've lost a few great artists over the years. But definitely when we lost Jim Hall in December 10, 2013. He was one of my closest friends, I produced his last 6 albums, we toured together, performed together, spent a lot of time together over the last 20 years. He was one of my favorite artists of all time but also definitely one of my favorite ArtistShare artists. That was a sad day.
JD: Where do you see the music business in the future?
BC: The music business isn't really going to change. There's always going to be fans, there's always going to be artists making music. The way that people experience that is going to change. I'm not sure if that constitutes the music business. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. The most important thing for a fan is to be able to listen to the music, have artists make great music, and have direct contact with them - whether it be in person or over the internet. Artists need support from fans. In order to do what they do, they need to make money. So it's going to be the same as it is today.
What it's going to boil down to is the relationship between the artist and the fan. That is the music business -- it's always been the music business. Technology has changed, it's allowed certain people to hold certain positions of power or regulation, but what I love about the internet and technology is that it's completely demolished that at this point. There are some companies coming along that are trying to reestablish that type of power, that gatekeeper go between type of thing. But I don't think they're going to last, I don't think that's going to work. Genie's already out of the bottle here, people know how to connect with each other and I don't think the music industry itself will ever be the same. I think it's going back to it's roots - which is the original one person sitting in front of another person while that person performs music for them. That's the essence of the music business.
BC: Blue Note/ArtistShare was great. A few years back, there was a student at The New School (Talia Billig) who was doing her term paper on a comparison of Bruce Lundvall and myself. Bruce Lundvall being the "old school" and me being the "new school". She was conducting interviews back and forth and Bruce and I actually started sending questions to each other through this person and we got to know each other. I always had tremendous respect for Bruce. Bruce didn't really know who I was but he was very curious about what I was doing. Once we got to know each other, Bruce really saw the value in AS and wanted to incorporate that with Blue Note to try to keep up with the times and move things forward, just to explore how this could benefit Blue Note.
So it worked out to be a relationship where we have a joint label called Blue Note/ArtistShare where either ArtistShare or Blue Note can propose an artist. We both agree on it and put them through the ArtistShare system. Blue Note provides support and publicity, and ArtistShare does the fan-funded campaigns and distribution. Blue Note will have the option to (at the artists's discretion) to sign the artist to a Blue Note record deal at the end of it. And it's kind of a very innovative first step and I really gotta give it up to Bruce for really pushing that, really seeing that. I think that Blue Note is an amazing company, amazing brand, a lot of history. They've got so much to give as far as being able to get artists out there onto the map. ArtistShare, I'd like to think, is one of the best mechanisms for artists to be able to connect with their fans and be able to fund their projects. So it's the perfect marriage between two companies.
Read more about Blue Note/ArtistShare here.
BC: Me, Bruce, and Willie. A couple of years ago, we were doing a book through author Dan Oulette - a fan-funded project, Bruce's biography. We took a trip up to New Jersey where Willie was playing at a theater up there. We met Willie on his bus, we hung for the afternoon, interviewed him for the book, went to the show afterwards and Willie sat us right at the side of the stage. It was a great, amazing day.
JD: Any last words?
BC: When I first started ArtistShare, I only had a little bit of money in the bank to support myself, I had an idea that I thought would work because the thought of it really excited me. The thought of being able to access this creative process over the Internet and to create a mechanism for artists to fund their projects really excited me, and I had no idea whether it was going to work. Once I put it up and people started doing it, what an amazing feeling that was.
And to this day, I'm so incredibly thankful to the fans who participate in these projects. We definitely don't take it for granted. Neither the people at ArtistShare nor the artists. It's a great privilege to be able to present this to you and we know it's a leap of faith to go and support a project that you haven't heard year or contribute to a project of an artist that you don't know very well - or if you do know them, you're not sure what they're going to be doing for that project. We just have a huge amount of gratitude for all the ArtistShare participants and I do my best to thank each and every one of you.
Interview by Jana Dagdagan