So far the examples I have been discussing have covered only mainstream artists. That was in order to make clear the significance of the occurring trends in the music industry. The recent shift away from record labels that Prince, Radiohead and other hit bands are just starting to experience actually started in less popular genres and has been working it's way to the top, so to speak, over several years.
In 2001, a professional musician and computer programer, Brian Camelio started a website called ArtistShare. Frustrated with the apparent futility of seeing financial returns with record labels, he designed the site as an alternative. Artists who sign on get their own site on the ArtistShare page. As Camelio states: "Here at artistShare it is our goal to put the "art" back into the word artist. Our patent pending process allows fans to experience an artist's project from its conception to its fruition. Through artistShare, artist projects become a unique and rewarding experience for the fan."
In order to gain access to content, fans donate money. There are different options for fans who wish to contribute. They can spend $16.00 or so and simply get a copy of the CD. They can spend a little more--up to about $30.00--and get the CD and some extra material, like a booklet or some photos, along with it. Finally, there are the Bronze (limited to 10), Silver (limited to 5), Gold (limited to 2) and Executive (limited to 1) participants who donate $1,000, $2,500, $7,500 and $18,000 respectively. These people gain total access to all the content and information, signed special edition copies of the CD, personalized DVD messages from the artists, the ability to attend the recording session of the album they are supporting, VIP and backstage passes to the bands performances throughout the year and more.
For less mainstream artists and those who have a small, niche group of fans, this method has proven much more lucrative than signing with a record label. One artist who has had incredible success since her shift from a label to ArtistShare is Maria Schneider. Considered by many to be one of the best and freshest modern big band composers, Schneider has been nominated for several Grammy Awards and won one in 2005. Her first three albums were recorded with a label and she lost considerable amounts of money with each one. Therefore, when she was presented with the ArtistShare option in 2001, she was only too ready to jump on board; what did she have to lose? Now, when she sells a record, she sees all of the money for it. She is doing much better for herself and continues to write and record music prolifically.
Tying this all in with my previous post on the internet, it is interesting to note that Schneider's Grammy winning album, Concert in the Garden, was the first Grammy winning album to have all online sales. ArtistShare is just one such new business model that musicians are benefitting from. As this trend continues, I am sure we will see many more appear.