CROWDFUNDING RADAR: Established Musicians Stake Independence With Crowdfunding
Tommy Womack (photo by Scott Willis)
One of the things I love most about writing Crowdfunding Radar is finding young artists few have heard of (myself included) and boosting the signal for their first album, or first professionally produced album. That’s what most people think of when they think of sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. But crowdfunding has always included a significant share of artists who have been in the business for years, even decades. Sometimes it’s an artist who was a label act before the inevitable shift in popular tastes left them out of the mainstream. Sometimes it’s an artist who was never a major label act but who has always maintained the kind of cult following and guerrilla promotional flair that makes them perfect for crowdfunding. More recently, it’s been a desire to own one’s masters, brought on in part by the Taylor Swift/Big Machine controversy and in part by artists like Jason Isbell, who has proven you can be extremely successful and completely independent. In this week’s Crowdfunding Radar, I’m featuring three artists that many of you have likely heard before, each with their own reason for taking their latest record to the fans.
Tommy Womack – I Thought I Was Fine (click here to view campaign)
As I was growing up in the Nashville radio market in the ’80s, Tommy Womack was as big a rock star to me and my friends as Springsteen. Womack’s weekly radio show, Nashville Tapes, brought us Nashville’s rock community, with bands like Jason & the Scorchers, Will & the Bushmen, Webb Wilder, and his own Government Cheese every Sunday. So when he calls his new album I Thought I Was Fine a “rock and roll record,” that kid sitting in front of his boom box on Sunday nights in 1988 wakes up. Womack has stripped down for this album, with just him and producer Jonathan Bright playing on it. To reach his $15,000 Indiegogo goal, Womack has one of the lengthier sets of backer perks I’ve seen. In addition to things like handwritten lyrics, a custom song, and vinyl test prints, the real sell here for Womack fans is likely going to be 30 Years Shot to Hell, a massive 42-track retrospective of his “greatest misses.” There’s also an exclusive live bootleg on offer.
Ty Herndon – JACOB (click here to view campaign)
During the late ’90s, Ty Herndon was as big a country hitmaker as they came, a prime example of what radio audiences wanted at the time; which says something about how far mainstream country has moved from even the slick “countrypolitan cowboy” era. Herndon’s fade as chart topper was helped along by his own choices, destructive and revelatory. Drugs, alcohol, and criminal and civil charges dogged him for several years. But his unmooring from the airplay docks also let him finally come out in 2014, the first major male country singer to do so after Chely Wright paved the way. Today, Herndon is doing his own thing, re-recording “What Mattered Most” with the correct pronouns and raising money for charity. He is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for his new album JACOB, co-writing all of the songs. To reach his $25,000 goal, Herndon is offering a number of backer perks. In addition to the album, Herndon is also offering “Jacob” hats, tickets to an online album listening party, a “Cameo” for you or a friend, a visit to the studio, and a night of karaoke in Nashville.
Zach Nugent – Debut Solo Album (click here to view project)
Zach Nugent (no relation to Ted) may not be a well-known name in the roots community, but it’s a very familiar one on the jam scene. For years, Nugent was a part of Melvin Seals and JGB, touring the country continuing the legacy of the Jerry Garcia Band before leaving to pursue a solo career. He’s currently running a Kickstarter campaign with a $25,000 goal to release his debut solo album. He’s hinting at a number of guest artists but hasn’t made any official announcements thus far. This is a different campaign approach than I usually see, with the album only available in early stream. The focus instead is on merch. Perks include a thank-you email from Nugent, a used pick from a show, a signed photo, tickets or backstage passes to a show, and a solo acoustic show.