My Project du Jour:

Dear Rockers - Paying Back Musicians $5 at a TimeI agree that record companies are mostly evil. Still, I’ve always felt a little sheepish about downloading music without paying the artist. Often discovering a musician or band will lead to buying their CDs and attending their shows, but not always.

Plus, don’t even get me started on an adolescence of music taped off the radio and my Dad’s records.

So, how to assuage this musical guilt? I figured I could send five bucks to some of these artists I’ve never paid. Then I figured I could start a site documenting that process. Then I figured I could invite other guilty music fans to do the same thing.

Four hours later, I came up with Here’s the official spiel:

Many of us own music that we didn’t pay for. We don’t feel guilty about shafting the record company, but what about the musicians themselves?

Here’s how it works:

1. Pick a musician
2. Write them a letter
3. Scan or photograph the letter and send it to us
4. Mail off the letter along with $5
5. Enjoy your new, guilt-free life

That’s it, in a nutshell. I suppose it’s a bit of an homage to Post Secret. Subsequent to launch, Kirsten pointed me to MusicNeutral, which kind of does the same thing without the letters and fun and with transaction fees. The site is brand new, and only has nine letters, but I’m hoping to get more.

If you want to assuage a little guilt, please consider submitting a letter. On top of the good karma, you also get:

  • A link back to your blog, website, Flickr gallery of vintage pants, whatever.
  • If you submit before the end of 2007, a chance to win an iPod Shuffle. Your chances would currently be 1 in 8–the first two letters are mine, and I won’t be buying myself another iPod.

Thanks to the friends who answered my pleading call to submit a few seed letters and provide feedback on the idea–264 karma points for each of you.

Apparently the Maffinator mentioned Dear Rockers yesterday in his weekly tech column on the CBC, but I’ve yet to hear it.


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  2. Brilliant. You’ve opened a can of worms with this one. Would love to see a response from one of the bands that gets a payment.

  3. This will work great for the musicians/bands. I can’t help to wonder who will pay for the other services needed to produce music though: mixing, sound engineering, studio time, etc?

    These are traditionally paid for by the record companies and was one of the main reasons musicians began to market through the companies now morphed in to the evil RIAA etc.

    I think that the current business model for record companies has to die, it’s sucking the life out of music.

    But if this model of payment is to overtake the current distribution system via recording companies, we are essentially asking the bands to become their own project managers, marketeers, accountants, and so on. Is that realistic?

    What is a middle ground here? One which benefits the professionals necessary to produce music as well as the musicians, yet without gouging us consumers?

    – Jack

    I wrote something (vaguely) related to this a good while back, regarding copy protection on a Wyclef Jean CD.

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