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Payment is an option, the music is not. Kristin Hersh and CASH Music 20.07.2010

I've been to a handful of concerts in recent years where artists have said to the audience, that they would not be amused if the video they shoot at the concert goes up on YouTube, or similar puffy statements, as if the video on YouTube would affect the sales or popularity of this artist in an adverse way.

This is what makes CASH Music (dubbed the musician’s open source revolution), and what founder Kristin Hersh is doing with it, refreshing. Her husband, Billy O'Connell gets on stage at the intimate Whelans venue in Dublin to present her. In the intro, CASH Music is mentioned extensively. It's also stressed, that the music on her website is free, as he says, 'payment is an option, the music is not'.
Several times during the concert, which covers both her back catalogue as a solo artist, a couple of Throwing Muses tracks from a forthcoming album, plus tracks from her latest solo album Crooked (released as a book with a CD), the prologue of the songs quite often contains the sentence "you can download this track from my website when you get home tonight". She also plays brand new tracks, that will be available from her website, for free, in the coming weeks.

Kristin Hersh on stage at Whelans, Dublin

The whole concert is the closest I've ever gotten to experiencing a 1000 True Fans-situation as described by Kevin Kelly. I'm sure Hersh have read his piece, and if she hasn't, Kevin Kelly would be happy to see, that there's someone in the industry that thinks, at least partly, like him.

At CASH Music, the option to pay comes in different versions. You can choose to pay whatever amount you want for the music you can download, for free – a sort of donationware model for acquiring music online. The other option is to become a Strange Angel. A Strange Angel is a person who donates money to Kristin's projects. The smallest amount starts at $US 30 pr. quarter, which gives you two free tickets to any Kristin, Throwing Muses or 50FOOTWAVE performances, so you don't have to worry about tickets anymore. You also get Kristin's new CDs ahead of release date, and you get access to a media-rich subscribers page with "cool stuff", including live bootlegs, video links and more. On the other end of the Strange Angel scale, is the Executive Producer Level Support worth $US 5000. Donating that will earn you an Executive Producer credit on Kristin's next CD. You don't just support the product, you become the product. How brilliant is that? It is the closest I've seen to the Street Performer Protocol, as described in the paper by Kelsey and Schneier.

Hersh is not the only one approaching the music industry, and the life as a musician this way, although she is probably the only one doing it in the all-embracing way she is doing it. The stables at CASH Music has more than 60 projects using the software developed by the organization, popularizing the web as a platform to socialize music, reaching more people, in a new way, where sustainability for the artist is the goal. And judging from Hersh's productivity, it works for her.

You can follow Kristin Hersh on her blog, twitter, and facebook.

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Bio pictureverture.net is the personal website of me, Jonas Voss, and this is my blog. I've lived in Dublin, Ireland from 2005-10, currently live in London, and was born and fully customized in Copenhagen, Denmark. I write about anything that comes to mind. Really.
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