In the 1980s, when 10,000 Maniacs wanted to network, the band hopped in a van and hit the road. In 2012, that's not necessary.
Through PledgeMusic, 10,000 Maniacs not only have a direct link to their fans throughout the world; the band has a way to fund a new album.
"It's this new concept called crowdsourcing," said founding member Dennis Drew. "There's crowdsourcing news. There's crowdsourcing money. We're really just pre-selling the record. You want to hear a new 10,000 Maniacs record? Pony up."
By pledging a minimum of $10, fans will get a downloaded version of the new 10,000 Maniacs record before anyone else. The album, which hasn't been named, is scheduled for a Jan. 15 release.
"It turns into a fan club site," Drew said. "Not only can you put up $10 and get the download, if you want to pre-order a real CD package, you can do that. If you want to get vinyl, we can press it into vinyl now because now we've got the money to press vinyl."
T-shirts will be available for fans, along with autographed vinyl, colored vinyl, CDs, retro posters and more. There are VIP package options for record-release shows in Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago.
"It's your store. You can sell whatever you want," said founding member Steve Gustafson. "If fans want it, they'll buy it. And if they don't, they won't. You're raising money to do the project and to earn."
10,000 Maniacs' PledgeMusic campaign - which can be viewed at pledgemusic.com/projects/10km - launched Monday and will run through mid-December. By mid-week, the band - and its fans - had raised 31 percent of the undisclosed total needed to release the record. According to the PledgeMusic website, more than 90 percent of the platform's projects have reached their goals. Ben Folds Five more than tripled theirs.
"There will be a small profit from this, but not a lot," Gustafson said. "We don't think we're going to raise $1 million, but we should get enough to finance the project, all of the merchandise, the records and all the shipping. This isn't a get rich scheme for us, but it's getting the record out. It's giving us that opportunity. Hopefully, this record is going to influence our agent and buyers for concerts next year. It could build."
Those who pledge gain access to videos, interviews, photos and more, along with the ability to interact with the band. They also take the place of record labels like Elektra and Geffen.
"People in Jamestown, when they go pledge $10, they're part of the record company," Gustafson said. "They're helping to finance the record and get it released. Except, there's no gatekeeper telling us, 'We think this is good. You should listen to this.' It's us directly to the fans, and they decide.
"The thing about labels, they feel that since they invest the money that they can pull strings and meddle in what you're doing," he continued. "We had that with our old record company. Sometimes we fought against them, and sometimes we went along with their suggestions. This is a little more liberating because we don't have to please anybody. We can just say, 'Here it is. Like it or don't.'"
Fans' credit cards won't be charged unless the campaign reaches its goal. If and when the campaign hits its mark, the band will give 10 percent of the funds to Buffalo Children's Hospital. Every PledgeMusic band has the option of supporting any charity they choose through their campaign.
"Both of my kids were born in Children's Hospital, and they spent months in the Intensive Care Nursery," Drew said. "It's something that's close to me - something I thought that was a little broader than just Jamestown. It's something that could serve the entire region."
LEARNING ABOUT PLEDGE
Earlier this year, Gustafson sent 10,000 Maniacs' former manager Peter Leak a newly recorded track to get his opinion.
Leak - who had been working with The Rescues, a band that did a PledgeMusic campaign - thought crowdsourcing might work for 10,000 Maniacs. After looking into it, Gustafson thought the same thing.
Leak facilitated a meeting between Drew, Gustafson and the creator of PledgeMusic.
"I suppose for his brand, it's good to get some bands that have a history," Gustafson said. "It helps give (PledgeMusic) credibility. A lot of the bands I see (on there) are pretty new. We sat at that meeting, got up and walked away. Dennis looked at me and said, 'Yeah, we might as well do it.' It's an opportunity for us. It's a great opportunity I think."
While explaining why the band liked the PledgeMusic option, Drew called 10,000 Maniacs a small business.
"People don't think of it that way because bands seem like so much fun, and they are," he said. "But, we pay taxes on a lot of different stuff. We've got to have an accountant and a lawyer - just like every small business. We pay for a lot of stuff just touring. We have people who work for us, transportation, hotels. ... Using the old way to reach these people would've been really difficult. This crowdsourcing idea, this PledgeMusic, is perfect. It puts us everywhere. It gives us the opportunity to be in everybody's home."
Drew and Gustafson hope the fans who pledge will help spread the word via social media, which could help the campaign grow exponentially.
In some ways, the PledgeMusic campaign reminds the founding members of when 10,000 Maniacs first started.
"We were an independent record company when we started," Drew said. "We made our first two records on our own."
"It was just like this," added Gustafson. "We got pledges from our parents and our friends, and they financed the record for us."