Jill Sobule's Next Album Is Listener-Funded

Sobule Video
Julian Hibbard/Courtesy of Jill Sobule

The first time Jill Sobule visited the BPP studios last fall, the singer-songwriter was toying with an idea. In January, she gave the plan a shot: She used her Web site to ask fans for money to make her next album.

In another example of just how upended the traditional music industry has become, Sobule's fundraising scheme worked. In less than two months, she says, she raised $75,000 — enough to record, promote and tour for a new album. She says that in 53 days the donations ranged from $5 to much more, from well over 500 people in 44 states, the District of Columbia and 11 foreign countries.

But the point wasn't just money. "They don't just give," Sobule says. "They get!"

For $10 — Unpolished Rock (but with potential) Level — the supporter is entitled to a free digital download of the album. At the $500 Gold Level, Sobule promises to record an instrumental theme song in the supporter's name. One supporter from the United Kingdom, Jo, donated at the highest, Weapons-Grade Plutonium Level, an investment of at least $10,000. For that money, Sobule says, she's singing a duet with Jo.

"It doesn't really matter if she can sing," she says. "It will be fun, and it will be great."

Sobule's challenge rallied new and old fans — but for one supporter, the reason wasn't the music:

I am donating, not because of the music (the music is good, but not really my kind of music), but because I think it is a worthy project. The idea of using the Internet to get small donations from a lot of people is great. ... So I am giving a small tip in the hope that you one day make a great album.

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