Blake Lewis Crowdfunds Next Album, Portrait of a Chameleon

blake-lewis-crowd

Almost one year ago, it was announced that Blake Lewis, the American Idol season 6 beatboxer, had signed with major label Republic Records.

His 3rd studio album, Portrait of a Chameleon, was due out in spring 2013. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe the single, “Your Touch” (which was used as in a Microsoft commercial) didn’t take off they way they expected and dropped him?

In any case, Blake continued to work on the project, and is planning to release it in April on his independent label, Audio Day Dream Records.

But Blake needs your help! He’s financing the record via the crowdfunding website, Pledge Music (just as his pal, Didi Benami did recently–and quickly met her goal).

If you want to pledge (I did!) surf over to Blake’s page, at this link. There’s also an introductory video posted on the age.

Blake’s message to fans:

Hello my friends,

Before anything else, I want to thank all of you — not just for being incredible fans, but for all of the support over the years. You are the reason I’ve been able to live out my dreams, so I wouldn’t have it any other way than to invite you along for the ride…

I just finished mixing and mastering my third album Portrait of a Chameleon. It’s eleven songs of pure magic. I’ve been working on this album for over a year and I couldn’t be any happier with how it sounds. From the very beginning I’ve been working on this project with no outside collaboration (labels) and being influenced only by the music that has inspired me since I started performing. This is my first independent album and my finest piece of work to date. It will be released on my own record label Audio Day Dream Records and I can’t wait for you to hear it this April!!!

Here’s where you guys get to come in to the process with me — working with PledgeMusic, I get the chance to involve you in releasing my album. It means I get to offer you all sorts of crazy goodies, and loads of interesting and unusual items when you pledge, by pre-ordering my album. I’ve been pledging for other artists and their PledgeMusic campaigns and I’ve loved it – especially getting to have an inside look into their worlds, which is a big part of the package.

When you pre-order my album you’ll get both a download of the record and a backstage look into my creative process.

Sound good?

When you pledge you automatically get access to free extras like studio footage, rough mixes, photos, crazy beatbox videos and more (and more!) to come. I’m doing this because you guys have made me what I am today and I want to be able to involve you in a much deeper way than I have ever before.

Plus, for me, it’s really fun ;)

One last note — part of your pledge will also be helping out some amazing kids at The Seattle Children’s Hospital. I’ve been singing for kids there since I started my career in 2000 and they can always use some extra joy, love and help, so please do what you can.

Come take a journey with me…

Love, Peace and Beats!

Blake

Blake was one of the first of the Idol contestants to re-arrange covers in the competition into something new and exciting. Who could forget his completely re-worked version of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” ito something new and exciting? It was so unusual, it gave Jon Bon Jovi himself a little pause…at first.

A creative guy with an electronic sound that happens to be hot right now, could Blake break through, at least into the club scene, with a new record?

  • RCormier

    I like how former Idols are reaching out to fans to support their projects. Releasing a CD is not cheap. If the former Idol can’t get a label to pay for it, better to spread the cost amongst fans. That’s the whole secret to showbiz – spend someone else’s money. The one thing I have not seen yet is an offer to share in the profits from sales, but I guess that gets too complicated to track. However, if you are a wealthy fan who truly believes in Blake, you might be prepared to invest $100,000 in him for a percentage of gross sales like 60-70%.

  • HermeticallySealed

    I’ve seen several gaming companies, novelists, artists and musical groups do this for the last few years. I certainly have no problem with it, and the few companies/artists I have followed who did it always produced quality products. It seems to give a lot of freedom as well, allowing them to put out the product they want, not what some executive desires. I have always been a fan of Blake’s and will contribute as well when I get the chance.

  • No Thanks

    I’m posting here not because I’m interested in Blake, but because I’m curious if anyone knows if any of these “crowd funded” records have ever made an artist a decent profit. Anyone? Anyone?

    I’m curious to see how the crowd-funded “Veronica Mars” movie will do.

  • Peter Hewitt

    Yes they can. I know some artists that make an album… ask for like $25000 or something and up with $70000 or something, but then they may put that towards other costs such as music video / touring. Helps them keep going for sure. Depends on fanbase

  • Incipit

    AFAIK, Green River Ordnance is making a success of crowd funding their album – I would have to check around for other artists who are using this method.

  • No Thanks

    I’m not talking about covering costs of the album production, I’m talking about, actually making a living this way.

  • HermeticallySealed

    A lot of artists/companies do this, so i imagine it has to be to some degree. I know several companies which fund all of their projects this way, and if they can afford to pay multiple employees off said products I imagine an music act can as well. I don’t think it will be enough to free from touring/paying gigs, but probably helps pay the bills.

  • No Thanks

    OK, so they might make a few bucks selling to their fans (who already paid money to get the album made). What about promotion? Does the music reach beyond the hard core fans? Does their fan base expand?

    I dunno, I just think if you go this route, it needs to be just one part of a larger plan.

  • HermeticallySealed

    Typically, crowd funding is seeking to cover the cost of initial production, fees, promotional costs, etc. If the artist/company is thinking it through, the target funding amount should take care of any ad promo. Granted, a lot of artists don’t seem to worry about that, and so only raise enough for production of a limited number of physical copies.

  • No Thanks

    “Granted, a lot of artists don’t seem to worry about that, and so only
    raise enough for production of a limited number of physical copies.”

    THIS. This is what would bug me. I mean, I’m not inclined to give an artist money simply to indulge their creative whims. But if it is to help launch a clearly thought out business plan, then I’d be more inclined to support it.

  • Porfivor Nixon

    I like Blake, I know he has some talent- but doesn’t he have a million dollar house? I’m not helping some millionaire finance his album- if he is so confident of his album, sell the house and do it that way. I’m not sure he still has the house, I just remember something about him having some trouble paying taxes on it. His last album was great, and his “Till we see the Sun” is one of my favorite songs, but “Your Touch” was terrible- the worst thing he could have put out to try to build on his momentum back up- plus, if he has finished the album and professionals aren’t interested, maybe that says something, you know. I’m just against giving celebrities money to squander just because they don’t want to use their own. They have opportunities the rest of us will never see. That being said, his last album was great and I guess if there is someone to give money to, at least he has some potential talent there instead of one of these celebs who have none at all.

  • HermeticallySealed

    The problem is, many artists are trepidatious about setting the target goal too high, as some crowd funding sites are all or nothing; the project is only funded if the goal is met. Unlike games and books, promo for music and video is expensive. If the artist fails to raise enough funds with promo included, then they have to start all over again, and getting the same people to refund a second time at a lower amount is fairly risky. So I can understand artists not asking for more than basic production and minimal ads.

  • HermeticallySealed

    He isn’t a millionaire as far as I have heard. His last album only sold about 3k or so. As for his house, last I heard he and Elliot Yasmin were sharing an apartment.

  • No Thanks

    Well, that seems shortsighted on their part. Honestly, it seems to me that most artists are like,”Just give me the money to make my album. I have no idea how I’m going to promote it afterwards or do anything beyond that, but please support my artistic vision.”

    No smart business person would give away their money willie nillie. At least I sure wouldn’t.

    That’s why I’m curious to see how this “Veronica Mars” movie will do. They people behind it are experienced in the industry. They probably have enough knowledge and connections not only to make a good movie, but to also find a distributor and to work out an actual promotional campaign. For a project like that, I would feel like my money did not go to waste.

  • thirdtime

    Blake is listed online as being worth 1.2 million. I don’t know where they get their info. or how accurate or up-to-date it is, but I kind of agree with you. It sounds like a bad investment to me…no offense to Blake at all. He had opportunities already that didn’t work out for him and as you said, just maybe there is a reason for that. I suppose if I felt that strongly about a musician that I wanted to make sure he or she could continue to put out CDs for me to buy I might consider it, but I can’t think of anyone I feel that strongly about. Buying their existing music and going to see them in concert is one thing…financing their career is another.

  • RCormier

    I have sympathy for Blake not wanting to spend his own money. Artists do not have a regular stream of income. They have to be careful to save up enough for a rainy day. Could Blake afford to finance his third CD on his own? Maybe, but if he did, that could leave him with no safety net should the CD not sell well.

    If Blake has tried financing through labels (large or independent), if has tried to get distribution deals for his music, if he has worked all his industry connections, if he has borrowed as much as he can from friends and family – if after all this he still cannot find financial backing – then I think he should reach out to fans. Better that fans collectively lose a few thousand dollars supporting their favorite than the artist lose his house or his emergency fund. But like I said, I think the onus should be on the artist to tell his fans that he exhausted all other avenues of financing before coming to fans.

  • HermeticallySealed

    Not sure what the risk is here. You fund a certain amount, you get a product in return. The higher donation level, the bigger your product package. If you give a minimal amount, you get the basic music package. No different than if you just went to a store and bought it, to be honest. You aren’t so much investing as you are buying a product, hence the “packages” available per donation level.

    I don’t know, for me if I hear music I like, I don’t base my decision to buy upon whether or not the company put enough marketing into it. Guess it’s just a matter of how you look at it. ::shrug::

  • No Thanks

    Well, I guess if your just in it for the music, then you would be satisfied. Maybe I’m waiting to see if these crowd-funding methods will ever become a viable alternative to the major record labels.

    In the film industry there have been some real success stories (before the advent of crowd funding) where people raised money independently, got their movie made and ended up becoming a big success. “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Clerks” comes to mind.

  • HermeticallySealed

    I can’t say about music/video media, but it certainly has been for indie game companies, comic artists and authors.

  • JustJam

    So what happened to his record deal with Republic Records? It got cancelled? :-(

  • HermeticallySealed

    Yep.

  • Eilonwy_has_an_emu

    Lewis disappeared from Republic’s list of artists months ago, so yeah. The label bailed when his first single with them didn’t achieve enough to warrant releasing the album. Apparently the news didn’t merit a stint on the Shirley Halperin Couch of Shame to tell all about how it happened and how he was nonetheless excited about making new music.

    The single was aimed at the dance/club play chart, and I don’t know enough about that chart to speculate on what exactly went wrong, other than that obviously, something didn’t go right.

  • thirdtime

    Just so I understand… are you saying if they fail to meet their goal then no CD is ever put out? What happens to the money people pledged? Does the artist keep it or does it get refunded?

  • Eilonwy_has_an_emu

    On Kickstarter, if the goal isn’t met, the money is refunded to contributors.

    Other crowdfunding sites can have different policies. I know there’s at least one where the artist can choose to keep the contributions if the goal isn’t met, though the contributions are still supposed to be used toward the end product. (That is, it’s not considered kosher to keep the contributions and not give the contributors whatever bonuses they were promised.)

    ETA: Pledge Music, the one Lewis is using, refunds contributors if the goal isn’t met. http://www.pledgemusic.com/site/about

  • Nostradamos

    This commercial made me think of him….. http://youtu.be/6BPbjC47GwM

  • thirdtime

    Oh…well then that seems fine to me. I looked at his site and he’s not asking for tons of money – I think it’s $10 or $15 for the finished CD – not out of line with what you would pay in a store. So I guess if an artist I really wanted to continue to hear music from was doing this, I wouldn’t have a problem with pledging then. Thanks for the info.!

  • No Thanks

    Did you ever see that episode of “2 Broke Girls” where Caroline got people to crowd-fund her purchase of a pair of $1500 pair of pants. She was like “For a donation of $5, you get the feeling of good will in your hearts. For $20, I’ll send you a picture of me looking hot in my new pants.”

    That’s what most of these crowd-funding projects feel like to me.

  • HermeticallySealed

    Meh, early sites kind of seemed that way, but Kickstarter and newer sites seem to have fairly strict requirements. You actually have to offer something, be it deluxe versions, private performances, or some sort of service. One project I saw gave higher donors say in certain merchandising decisions and storylines.

  • Bugme Nomor

    Amanda Palmer wanted to raise $100K. She did that in a day. And went on to raise more than $1,000,000. I understand that’s the record for a music project.

  • standtotheright

    Sometimes the fact that the campaign is successful IS part of the promotion. Amanda Palmer, as mentioned below, got loads of press for how successful her campaign was, and it helped promote her tour. (She then fucked it up somewhat by asking local musicians to guest at her shows for “hugs and beer” but she soon agreed to pay them, like she should have offered in the first place.).

  • standtotheright

    The difference is that there have been channels for years for independently-made films to finance distribution through bigger studios. The music industry is still playing catch-up there, and there isn’t the equivalent of a Sundance for musicians to come with completed product and partner with labels. If a campaign is successful in raising the funds, however, it demonstrates some demand for product and makes getting those kind of partnerships easier.

  • No Thanks

    Right. I get what your saying. But I still question how many of these
    artists actually have some sort of plan beyond raising the money to
    produce their album. I, personally, would need some sort of indication
    that there is a plan in place to seek out partnerships or self-promote before giving anyone my money.

  • standtotheright

    As I said in the Reinhart thread, I don’t think crowdfunding is a fan’s chance to play venture capitalist. I think it’s about pre-purchasing product, and potentially getting a few extra perks.

    Now, is it fair to say that people who seem to have plans for exactly where the money will go are going to better manage the production process and so fans are likely to get a better product? Sure.

    But I don’t see it as an “investment opportunity.” If the musician can parlay the campaign into one, that’s great, but I get the product either way.

  • No Thanks

    I’m not saying I would expect a financial return, but I would like to think I’m investing in someone’s potential success and furthering their careers.

  • Eilonwy_has_an_emu

    Y’know, if I bought an indie album off Bandcamp only when I approved the band’s promo plan, I’d never buy indie albums off Bandcamp at all (and have missed out on some amazing, if obscure, music).

    If an artist whose music I like goes the crowdfunding route instead, so I’m handing over my $10 for an album via Kickstarter rather than Bandcamp, does it make that much sense to require different buying criteria? I’m paying the same price and getting the same product.

    (Come to think of it, if I had to approve the marketing plan, there are major-label albums I wouldn’t own.)

  • No Thanks

    On Bandcamp do they ask you to fund the album for them? Or do they just make it on their own and sell it there?

  • standtotheright

    If crowdfunding allows a musician to release a product without going into debt or being caught up in a contract that doesn’t suit their needs, it’s giving them a leg up. That’s as much of a guarantee that any fan with $100 or less in their pocket can give in this industry, IMO.

    Like I said, it’s great if an artist says “oh, for every $1000 over the total we can add to the promo budget by getting X,” but there’s no guarantee that it will lead to anything, so I don’t price in my hopes for that if I decide to contribute.

    Different strokes.

  • Eilonwy_has_an_emu

    They make it first and sell it.

    I don’t see that it’s a vastly superior marketing plan to max out your credit cards to make the album, then hope people will buy it — versus locking in enough advance orders to be sure to cover the costs of making it. On marketing savvy, crowdfunding seems to win over pay-and-hope.

  • No Thanks

    Give me money to make the album and you will get a free copy of the album once it is done? Is that how it works? If so, how does the artist make money? It kind of sounds like they would, at best, break even. How do they make money beyond that? That’s why I ask – do they have a plan?

  • Eilonwy_has_an_emu

    One of the standard perks is to donate roughly the usual street price of an album and get the album when it comes out. There are also other donation levels, typically some lower, some higher. The lower ones don’t get the album. The higher ones get various goodies that über-fen crave but that don’t mean much to me, from drumsticks to backstage passes. (I assume this is all on Lewis’ donation page, too.)

    Even if all the donations were at “basic album price” level, there’s no reason that would automatically mean “break-even and no higher.” The marginal cost of making and sending another physical CD is not $10. (That’s assuming physical distribution is even offered; sometimes it’s not.)

    Where the total funding level is set is what determines whether the artist breaks even or makes a little extra money to use to fund promo and touring. Not every artist goes for making a profit — some are just trying to get the music out there without going into debt. If your fanbase is small, profits may be impossible, but at least you’re getting music out there and still being able to pay the rent from your day job; if your fanbase is huge, you can clean up.

    Crowdfunding may also make it possible to afford a higher standard of production than could be managed by paying one’s friends in Taco Bell meals (studio time is not free, and back-bedroom production is still pretty lo-fi, even now). If a musician wants to make an impression on indie radio or on label A&R, there’s a minimum level of production that it’s helpful to have.

  • disqus_CR25ev2Z1s

    I’ve funded three albums off of Pledge Music (which is more reliable than Kickstarter) for someone I’ve been following for 20 years who doesn’t tour anymore. The first one was reliable, so the next two were a good investment of $10 for a digital download.

    I think people like Slash and Spike Lee who are millionaires several times over have no business begging for funds when they could clearly pay for these projects themselves (or have access to resources indie musicians don’t), but I don’t really see musicians who had a modest HAC hit a few years ago and are now indie (Ryan Star, Green River Ordinance) or who were on a reality show nearly a decade ago and have struggled since losing their initial deal are in the same category. Blake may have been “worth” 1.2 million back in 2007, but I don’t find it hard to believe resources have dried up for him since then.

    That said, these kinds of projects shouldn’t be seen as a giant cookie jar for ANYONE (I’m looking at you, Slash) who doesn’t want to pony up their own funds.

  • disqus_CR25ev2Z1s

    Oh, Amanda Palmer. I could write a whole book on how that little girl single-handedly abused the Kickstarter system.

    You don’t get to use your wealthy husband to raise Kickstarter funds then complain that it isn’t fair when people point out that you have access to more than enough money to fund your own projects in the first place. Especially when you turn around and ask people to work for you for free after you’ve raised thousands of dollars.

  • http://kristentheyellowlab.blogspot.com/ ZsusK

    But, isn’t it really just another version of vanity publishing, except that a few devoted fans foot the bill?

  • http://mjsbigblog.staging.wpengine.com/ mjsbigblog

    But is there something wrong with that, if you get something in return?

    I donated 15 dollars to get a CD and a download of the album That’s seems like a perfectly fair exchange to me. I’m just handing over my money before the album is made, instead of after.

  • standtotheright

    That criticism I don’t get. She has fans who found her without anything to do with Neil Gaiman, and even massively successful novelists have fluctuating income. That she didn’t use her husband for a bank doesn’t seem odd to me at all.

    But the “guest musician” thing was craven. She dented a lot of goodwill with that, and deservedly so.

  • standtotheright

    Along with the album in various formats and the usual “insider” goodies, Lewis is offering a digital package of beatbox samples that he created and used for the album at $400, which doesn’t seem that off the mark compared to some commercial products I’ve seen.

  • suenigma

    Exactly. It is a creative solution and a more than fair exchange.

  • http://kristentheyellowlab.blogspot.com/ ZsusK

    There’s nothing “wrong” with it. But, to me, the album/novel/film is not selling on its own merits. What if the album or novel you fund is absolute crap?
    I’m not totally against it, and it’s really not that big of a deal to me if people want to do it or participate in it. But, it’s like vanity publishing in the sense that the only people who are ever going to hear this music are the devout fans who, like family members of the wannabe writer who self-published a novel, are going to be happy just to have something with their artist’s name on it, quality be damned. And, already, I’m seeing requests to help crowd fund various friend’s favorite local artists on facebook and such. It’s like the people at work asking you to buy junk from their kids to help fund their class trip. I don’t know. I guess I better get with the times. ;)

  • standtotheright

    But, it’s like vanity publishing in the sense that the only people who are ever going to hear this music are the devout fans

    Once the campaign is funded, getting the album distributed to digital markets is a fairly trivial exercise. And if the campaign is successful, it makes it a lot easier for the artist to present it to potential commercial partners for wider distribution, without any of the usual production expenses. So in fact the campaign makes it *more* likely that it will be heard by a wider audience.

    I just don’t see this as that different from classic rock fans buying a stalwart’s new album on the day of release: Most of them didn’t stream it first for quality, they bought it on the name. There are some people who are into Lewis’ stuff enough that they’ll invest in it in advance. I’m not one of them, but I don’t think it’s irrational.for them to do it.

  • Eilonwy_has_an_emu

    But, to me, the album/novel/film is not selling on its own merits. What if the album or novel you fund is absolute crap?

    What if the novel or album you buy from a reputable publisher is absolute crap? I own a couple major-label albums that are truly dreadful but that the label thought would be commercial. I’ve read enough sporkings of 50 Shades of Gray to strongly suspect that it’s incredibly awful (including consistent bloopers like the Washington [state]-based heroine using British colloquialisms and, in 2011, not knowing how to use the internet, despite being a high-achieving college student), but the publisher saw $$$.

    Meanwhile, works that don’t look like they’ll blow up huge commercially can’t get corporate backing, even if they’re good.

    I’m not saying every indie novel and indie album is an under-appreciated gem — that’s definitely not so. I tactfully ignore plenty of indie fund-me/buy-me requests on Twitter because I’ve glanced at the works and been underwhelmed. But I’m also not seeing a bright line between “corporate publisher = quality” and “didn’t get a publisher so it must be drek.”

  • Bugme Nomor

    You’re hearing about artists previously unknown to you because your friends are, in essence, recommending them to you. Sounds like the holy grail of social media marketing.

  • Not fit to print

    I understand what you are saying but we are free to apply our own standards in terms of who we support. A person can decide to fund only artists whose previous work they enjoyed. IMHO, the real problem is when a relative or friend asks you to fund something they are doing because you’re a friend. It is trading on something that has nothing to do with the work.

  • Anneliese Trainer

    The PledgeMusic platform is meant to take the emphasis off of the fundraising component and instead focus on fan/artist engagement.

    Take a look at this article from Digital Music News: http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2014/01/30/pledgemusic

    It sums up the general idea pretty nicely!
    : )

  • DavidL

    Love Blake, new music is fantastic and I’m glad I pre-ordered this album