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10,000 Maniacs + 100% funding = 1 New Album

10,000 Maniacs turns to its fans to support the band's next recording project.

Numbers Game

The Internet has changed the music industry in a lot of ways. Record labels can no longer guarantee sales, and bands no longer need record labels to get their music out. Another novel industry trend has emerged recently too: People are no longer purchasing an album off of the shelf, fully packaged and ready for them. Instead, they’re purchasing it before it even exists.

Websites like Kickstarter and Pledge Music have allowed bands like well-known Jamestown group 10,000 Maniacs to fund their album with the help of their fans, as it’s being produced. Fans pledge a certain amount of money—anything from $15, which ensures a copy of the new CD will arrive at your doorstep before the general public can get their hands on it, to $10,000, which awards you a private acoustic house concert—and the band uses the pledged funds to record the album.

Networking to generate funds isn’t a new idea, but the way it is done has changed.

“We’re a very old-school band,” says 10,000 Maniacs bassist Steven Gustafson, a founding member of the group. “When we were first coming up there wasn’t an Internet, there weren’t cell phones. Networking to us was getting in our van and driving to Georgia. This a lot quicker.”

In 1983 the band released their debut album, Secrets of the I Ching, independently, with the financial support of their friends and family. It was a success, and by 1985 they were readying their major label debut, The Wishing Chair, which was released on Elektra Records. By 1999 the band had released five more major label records.

Now, 13 years since the release of their last full-length record, The Earth Pressed Flat, the band has come full circle, funding this record on their own again with the help of their fans.

“It’s exactly the same thing,” Gustafson says, refering to his band’s early years. “A lot of the work is still ours,” he said. “We have to manufacture the products, we have to ship the products, and we have to create the products. If we get 500 people pledging for a CD, we have to get to work making them. It’s a very independent way to do it. These guys [Pledge Music] just help you collect the funds.”

It’s an exciting process for the band but it can be an even more exciting process for fans. It gives people the feeling that they are a part of the creation of the record, rather than just consumers. The product is not simply a compact disc anymore. For $500, the band will sit down for a 30-minute Skype session, or lead singer Mary Ramsey will show up to your house and give you a private viola lesson, an option that at least one fan has choosen to pledge their money toward, Gustafson said.

The prize at the end is not the only reason people pledge, though. It’s part investment and part donation, too. People search through sites like Pledge Music and invest in the bands that they want to see continue making music. There is a personal touch involved that a major record label has never been able to provide.

“It’s still about having good songs, but there is no purveyor of taste anymore, like record companies used to be, or what radio was. They decided what they thought was good, what should be listened to,” Gustafson said. “It’s not like that anymore. If you’ve got the time and the patience, there is a lot of great stuff out there.”

To pledge or just see what the 10,000 Maniacs are up to, go to

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