Is Crowdfunding about the Free Market or Community?

Fuck. This writing this blog just made me realise that this is essentially commenting …

The internet is a place where hype is most definitely abound, particularly on the more political implications. To many, the internet was going to set everybody free  – knowledge is power, and the Internet is potentially the greatest source of knowledge mankind has ever known. These days, these people are generally known as Internet Utopinianists.

The implication was that the Internet allows a democratisation of the world – no longer do we need record labels, as there’s no need for the middleman between the band and its fans. And this, on the surface, seemed true to some extent with the rise of the Crowdsourcing phenomenon. This week has seen a story of the Foo Fighters agreeing to play a gig in a town in the US they haven’t played for 16 years after the gig was Crowdsourced. I saw a (bloody awful) gig at The Electric Ballroom by the Swedish world music-psychedelic-funksters Goat last year that was intiated by Songkick’s Detour.

All this comes to mind due to an article featured on the Guardian website casting doubt that all this (and more) is actually free-market capitalism:

inside beats the libertarian free-market clank of the Silicon Valley culture in which it was forged. It is part of the same impulse as Uber or Airbnb, where upstart companies use the language of communality to speak individualistic capitalism: when using one of these services you’re in a one-on-one transaction away from the rest of society. How uncomfortable you are about this probably depends on how traditionally leftwing you are, but the broader point is that crowdfunding prioritises isolationism over plurality, and that can affect the kind of art that reaches us.

Maybe, although I’m uncomfortable with the idea that because I buy direct from a band I am somehow directly conspiring and agreeing with free market capitalism, a system I generally abhore. Is there no other way to conceive this relationship?

Frank Turner, the one man Mumford & Son, got into a bit of a kafuffle last year with some of the liberal left Guardianista types for standing up as a Liberatarian who believed in economic liberty as well as social libertarianism. He said his values were the values of punk. But, free market values (economic libertarianism) are not the values of a punk that I understand as that is only understanding the value of something as a commodity. That the items of music have no value past what people are willing to pay for them.

I reject this. The economic relationship between band and fan, to me, is much more about supporting bands directly – there is the unfortunate necessity (well, if you have any sense of supporting the music you like) of an economic transaction. But conceived only as that, it hides away the real thing going on: a celebration of culture, despite it’s economic value.

Ben Beaumont-Thomas writes that

Some campaigns drift into exploitation, like Amanda Palmer’s recruiting of unpaid musicians, and abuse their funders by paying them back only in their own satisfaction and glee. Ultimately it depends on the funder whether they are content with the transaction

But, that’s due to Amanda Palmer’s shitiness, not the fans who want to celebrate what Amanda Palmer has done for them, as fans of her output. And – ‘paying funders back only in their own satisfaction and glee’ – what better for a fan than seeing/hearing the music that you want to see? Beaumont-Thomas seems to completely misunderstand why people like music : this is not a rational deal, darling. This is love.

Personally, I find the threat of the free market issue is different from the above mentioned suggestions.  What about new bands and musicians? What about experimentalism within music? Who’s going to pay for that to start out that when most of those fuckers just want to see the Foo Fighters, Amanda Palmer or some other act that made its name through major labels, major advertising, and major radio stations? Perhaps music is now in more of an mainstream/underground apartheid than its ever been – the rich get richer with the Crowdsourcing, recycling dead ideas until the shitty, flattened, beaten corpse can’t given anymore and yet people still turn out: while innovative, interesting, passionate, experimental bands reach a crowd of hundreds around the globe for 20 years until a cultural event hails them as legends and they play a sold-out Barbican. Until then, it’s all cold, tinned beans, shitty jobs, and an album every 3 years.

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