Last night I attended a stacked local show in support of Duck. Little Brother, Duck!'s current U.S. tour. During the band's set, an attendee - who, for argumentative purposes was a bit intoxicated - screamed out, "Sell me your music!" It's interesting to hear such a phrase in an age where no one gets money for anything, and everyone gets chicks, music, movies and most of their entertainment for free. The music fan wanted to give a touring band money. Think about that for a second. Think about the level that Duck. Little Brother, Duck! are at right now. Small touring bands don't pull much from merch, and the gas generally comes from the door or the bar percentage - and if lucky, a guarantee here and there.
The reason that fan's comment stuck with me the rest of the night was because of the news from Monday which Circa Survive had announced. After releasing their last album, 2010's Blue Sky Noise, on Atlantic Records, the band decided to take the route that mewithoutYou took earlier this year with Ten Stories and release their upcoming album themselves. While Violent Waves will be released in CD, digital and vinyl formats - well priced around your average record store pricing (the digital copy only $5) - the band released two "expensive" packages. One limited to 100 for $250 dollars and one limited to 11 for $750. Guess what, two days later I'm checking on them, and they're both sold out. But when announced, many were baffled at such a price for a bundle many of us couldn't begin to afford. Most bundles up to this point generally round out a little above $100 here and there.
As outrageous as people thought the prices were, they're really not as uncommon as some packages have been for Kickstarter projects over the years. This time, Circa Survive surpassed the investment and put up the front end themselves, looking for a bit of payback to cushion costs thereafter. Along with mewithoutYou, this may be the counter answer that naysayers against the idea of Kickstarter were hoping would eventually happen. It'll be interesting to see how many other established bands take stride in this direction. I say "established" because selling packages at those prices means you better have a damn good following. No new touring band is going to be able to pull off something like this model - it definitely takes a large fan dedication.
On Tuesday, before the show, I ended up taking an afternoon browsing the record stores around town and even stopping into Half Price Books to browse their $1.00 CD section. With a few purchases that afternoon from the trek, it made me wonder about "How much would I be willing to pay for this?" over and over in my head. Now, on one level it's because I have to make sure I have rent and then some extra in my bank account in a few days, but I also thought about how having backdoors like Mediafire and streaming systems such as Spotify has still changed the way I think about purchasing music. That in itself is very interesting to me. I wouldn't pay full price for Filter's Short Bus, but a $1 for a used copy? Sure. I wouldn't buy a first press of Converge's No Heroes at the prices I've seen on eBay or Deadformat, but $15 still sealed - I've got to snag it.
Those kind of thoughts run through my mind all the time. I wonder if I'm bastardizing the price of what I pay for any type of media not only because of personal funds, but how much it's actually worth to me versus how much it seems to be worth to others. What Circa Survive and mewithoutYou have done is tap into their fan base to see how much people think they're music is truly worth. It's a risk that has paid off for now. While I know some of you are saying, "Well, the same can be said for Kickstarter," the difference here is that the product is already finished. The band put up the investment - not the fans. It's a reminder that there are enough people out there saying "Sell me your music!" to keep great music alive. While there's a lot of "free" out there, some people still feel connected enough to a band and their music that they continue to say, "Take my money. Please!"