May 3, 2009

“Start seeing the beauty of fullness” :: New models of paying for music


All of us are scrambling to figure out how we will consume, produce, distribute, and enjoy music in these nutty digital times where anything can become a fluid mp3, slipping from here to Kazakhstan and back before you finish that sip of coffee.

Mp3 blogs are, of course, shaping and reflecting this new system of music in 2009, as are torrent sites and message boards and a thousand of you and your friends forwarding YouSendIt links. There are many, many positives to this new model of musical exploration and discovery, but also ethical questions for consumers — as well as very real financial and creative questions for the artists who make the music.

Since Renaissance painters pimped out their brushstrokes to the highest bidding of their patrons, we’ve been selling and commissioning art. I’ve often wondered about that critical shift from art to commerce, and have wondered aloud many times how compatible the two can ever be. The fiscal realist in me argues with the idealist creative dreamer.

San Diego musician Joel P. West had similar thoughts and feelings about what we see in art, namely beauty in flawed honesty. When he completed his newest album, he decided that instead of selling it, he would send it out for free — in exchange for an honest creative work of your own. Thus the Dust Jacket Project was born.

From the project statement — amazing how much sense this makes:

…When somebody is willing to see things as they really exist, particularly when one is honest with themselves, they leave the limits of their expectations and start seeing the beauty of fullness. They recognize their rough spots and become gracious toward the rough spots in others. Honesty is contagious and it spreads appreciation for what we have and encourages confidence in our unique attributes. Perfection is not found in flawlessness, but rather in the collection of honest people who each bring unique experiences and perspectives into the whole.

Creative work is a way to understand each other and compare experiences but, as any other thing of worth, has been controlled and exploited for the individual instead of existing as a communal practice. It presents an opportunity for commerce and thus the system of distributing creative work that we are familiar with is one that is designed around being profitable.

A value system based on what will and will not sell devalues the essential idea of creating things in the first place; to say that one painting is worth a hundred dollars while another is worth a thousand is to say that expressing one thing is more valuable than expressing another. It places emphasis on product rather than process and says that if one cannot create something that meets ideals and standards, it is better to not create at all. Art is a unique and important form of communication and a competitive system devalues it for both those making and those experiencing creative work.

This website is a project with the goal of collecting honest pieces of thought and creative work from all, not only those who consider themselves to be artists in the traditional sense.

In order to obtain his newest album (Dust Jacket), you must send Joel “something of your own creation that describes a part of you … Whatever you send, it should be something honest or candid.” By my count, he has close to 600 submissions so far. Photographs, poems, anonymous confessionals, original songs, paintings… I could get lost in this site for a long time.

And it all started because someone wanted to trade his music not for money but in order to unearth more of the creative wonder out there all around us, sitting in each of us waiting to be heard. So very cool.

28th and NE Davis – Joel P. West


I think you should consider submitting something honest into the project, as I plan to.

Go take a look at the Dust Jacket Project and the music of Joel P West.

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  • The album’s pretty good–nice and quirky. I sent in a photo I took a couple weeks ago. It’s worth getting.

    Adrian — May 3, 2009 @ 10:29 pm

  • [...] “Give a little, get a little” mindset, let me share a cool project I read about on the Fuel Friends blog last night: Basically, this singer/songwriter, Joel P. West will send you his album if you send him [...]

    Wanted: Blazers « Des Moines Register Staff Blogs | The Des Moines Register — May 5, 2009 @ 12:16 pm

  • Thank God someone is finally covering this… one of the best albums of 2008, with an ingenious distribution model to boot..!

    Zack — May 6, 2009 @ 10:34 am

  • What a cool idea. He pretty much sums up my feelings about sharing art – I want to always give music away for free, but as the drummer I won’t always be the one who gets to make that decision… Anyway, I’m sending him a photo of a picture I drew. Thanks for writing about this Heather, it’s good to know that there are lots of other people out there worrying about money and artistic expression seeming to go hand in hand, when maybe they really shouldn’t.

    Caz — May 6, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  • Last night, I submitted a comic entitled “I (Heart) Free Music” (that I also posted on my website), got my e-mail this afternoon, and I’ve been enjoying the album ever since. Your recommendation is spot on once again, Heather. Thanks again.

    Matt Graupman — May 6, 2009 @ 11:49 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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