Sahil Lavingia on July 16th, 2012
This guest post was written by Bryan Landers, a musician/entrepreneur who graduated from CalArts and makes apps that enable people to be creative and happy. You can follow him @bryanlanders.
Everybody’s got a song that holds a special place in their heart. No matter when you listen to it, you’re pulled into a world inside the music and inside the times you’ve previously spent inhabiting that world. It’s a sacred place. It can make you dance with an unusual lack of inhibition and lift your spirits on a dark day. If you’re lucky, you might even have a whole record of songs like this. For me, there’s the 3-disc Tom Waits opus, “Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards”. Waits described the record as, “a lot of songs that fell behind the stove while making dinner….about 60 tunes that we collected. Some are from films, some from compilations. Some is stuff that didn’t fit on a record, things I recorded in the garage with kids. Oddball things, orphaned tunes.”
It’s the “Bawlers” that get me. These stray ballads can fill your heart with an ache that reminds you of how wonderful it is to be a human and alive. It’s a captivating collection by one of the greatest American songwriters. I’m not alone either. The album was certified Gold by the RIAA, nominated for a Grammy, received incredibly positive feedback by critics, and the song, “Never Let Go”, was even used in a PSA by the Ad Council.
It makes you wonder — if such a marvelous recording can be fashioned out of only orphaned tracks, what other songs are out there not benefitting from a similar treatment? What other masterpieces are left unheard, unseen, and unloved on the shelves of artists?
The internet gives artists a direct connection to their audience and digital media has freed us of the physical limitations of CDs and bookcases. We don’t have to limit our output to an industry-standard 12-song record anymore. We also don’t have decide what our viewers and listeners will find compelling enough to consume. All we have to do is share our work.
Gumroad makes this as simple as possible. You don’t pay any fees to list your digital goods, so there’s no risk in trying to sell your tracks, documents, or artwork files. You don’t even have to set a price — you can let your fans decide how much they’d like to pay themselves. This new model worked for innovators like Radiohead and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and now you can experiment with it, too.
There’s a new experience possible where we can let the audience in during any part of the creative process. On Gumroad, you can share works-in-progress, remixes, or alternate takes. Do you have any unlicensed artwork or music that wasn’t picked by a client or used in the project it was intended for? Why should the life of those pieces end there, simply taking up space on a hard drive? What if there’s more you can learn or value you can gain from those efforts? It’s never been easier to find out.