You have customized playlists in iTunes or Spotify, you have a “music genome” service that suggests music that you will like based on other music that you already like on Pandora, and you can vote for your favorite (or least favorite) American Idol (or Voice, or Talent, or X-Factor, etc.) and determine whether or not they will put out a record to try to appease the masses. One thing is very clear to me in all of those examples...music fans have more power now than I can ever remember.
I think this is a great thing – there is more of an opportunity for people to determine what they actually like instead of what they are being told to like. One of the most progressive ideas that I've seen in the development of this new listener power are services like Pledgemusic, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo. All three of these websites allow artists to pitch their music, views, political stance, charity they support – and they all allow fans to support them directly. Directly meaning; fans actually contribute money directly towards the making of an album or a tour, rather than paying for the cost of a fully manufactured and produced product.
Why distinguish between supporting the process rather than the finished product? If you support an artist directly through one of these services, there are few (and in most cases, no) political hoops to jump through for a label to determine what is “marketable” or “trendy.” The most ideal outcome is a record/tour/cause that is purely one that is conceived by the artists, and the fans will receive it in the truest form possible because the funding came with no strings attached...well, the only string attached to fan funding that I can see is - “We all want you to make the best record you can, and we'll even put our own money behind it to see it happen.”
There are so many examples of this type of campaign's successes, I don't think any artist can ignore it. You can see them on the larger scale (like Ben Folds Five raising the entire amount for their new studio record within 1 day), or even on the smaller scale (I saw a girl named Blake raise money to buy a MacBook Pro so she can record her first record on it).
Though I haven't yet taken advantage of one of these services myself (yet), it's something that is an amazing opportunity for artists and fans alike. I'd love your thoughts on this one, feel free to post them in the comments section.
Power to the fans,