Q: How do you make 1 million dollars in music?
A: Start with 2 million.
I hate that joke.
Early on in my career, it was easy to avoid talking about money, because money was so seldom involved. I played for drink tickets, dinner discounts and to impress the cute guy at the bar. If money came in, it was a bonus. I just didn’t like talking about it. So when, last year, I was invited to speak alongside industry folks on a panel about crowdfunding, I was a little uncomfortable. I’d barely scraped through my last crowdfunding campaign (let’s just say it wasn’t a coincidence that my top donor and boyfriend had the same initials). I was afraid I’d make an ass of myself in front a room full of strangers. Naturally, I said yes.
The day of the conference, something in me changed. I stepped onto the stage, and looking out into the audience of hopeful musicians, I decided I’d resist the urge to feel small. Sitting next to Benji Rogers, the founder PledgeMusic, I engaged the crowd in a conversation about storytelling, creating and connection. “What’s normal for you is amazing to others.” Benji said, “What artists don’t realize is the value in the process. People want to know how an album is created. They care about the creative process. Crowdfunding is a way of sharing it with them. This isn’t charity. It’s collaboration.”
Within ten minutes Benji had taken everything I believed about money and music, and turned it on it’s head. After the panel, I chased him down in the wings of the auditorium.
“I think I’m ready to make a record.” I told him.
“Great! Let’s set up a meeting.” he replied.
A few weeks later, we met at Pledgemusic’s 5th-story Manhattan office. Over chocolate-chip cookies, we compared the arc of our careers, and how the campaign would run. Within days, I was on the phone with their artist relations team, mapping out the process. I’d already contacted the producer from my first two records. He was a safe bet. I liked working with him. None of this 40K record bullshit. It made perfect sense. That was, until I hopped on the phone with Scott, Pledge’s Artist Relations rep.
“Why would you record all the way out in Georgia? You live in New York! I know this guy out in Woodstock, I think he would be perfect for you.
I was uncomfortable. My old producer was already onboard. Don’t rock the boat, Aly.
In the world of songwriter-album-making, producers are kind of like musical doulas. They keep the vision and end-goal of the record in mind, and then very kindly, very lovingly guide you through one of the most emotionally trying cluster fucks of your creative career. For the sensitive, insecure artist, making an album is a little like playing Operation with a set of salad tongs. But in the end, if all goes as planned, you have a beautiful, shiny baby to show off to all your friends on Instagram. Still, something told me to trust Scott, so I did.
Within hours Kevin and I were emailing music references back and forth. I emailed him MP3’s of my music, and he immediately set up a meeting to talk about making a record together. We never talked about money.
A few days later, at a coffee shop in lower Manhattan, we talked about our favorite producers, recording styles, songwriting. I asked Kevin how much he would need to make the kind of record we wanted to do.
“We will make it work. Whatever you can raise, I can work with. I want to make this record.”
I’d found my guy. Now I just needed to pay for the damn thing.
To be continued... Aly
PS. Hungry Ghost is out NOW! To help celebrate the release, I'm sharing stories about the album. This is part 4 of 5.
On Tuesday, December 20, catch me on Facebook Live at PASTE Magazine's studios, performing a few of my favorites from the new album. Starts at 2pm HERE.
The best way to help now would be to buy or review the record on iTunes. You can do that here.