Just a Fan Breaks 10K Mark
Website built by Wilco fans to “pay” for downloading album meets initial goal weeks ahead of schedule.
By Derek Phillips
Justafan.org, a website developed by Wilco fans as a way to pledge support to the band and raise money for the band’s charity of choice, has just reached its initial goal of raising $10,000. They reached the goal weeks ahead of schedule (which was June 22, the release date of Wilco’s upcoming album A Ghost is Born).
While it’s impressive that the site has reached its goal ahead of schedule, the founder of the site, Ronen Givony, said it almost happened even sooner.
“For a minute or two during the first three or so days (when we were pulling in almost $1000/day, and with zero publicity at first) I wondered if we wouldn't get that and then some,” said Givony.
The site has garnered the attention of the media with stories on MTV and VH1 as well as articles and interviews in Rolling Stone, The Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times, and many more.
All this attention and the positive reaction from the band and the hundreds of emails from fans got Givony to thinking about expanding the project, but not without some sober thought.
“In the past few weeks I've actually taken to reading some books about the music industry and contacted a handful of music industry lawyers to feel out the situation. The short of it is...it doesn't look good, at least from the legal angle.”
According to Givony, Wilco is a rare breed and while many musicians talk a good game, most don’t have the kind of leverage with their label to be able to stand up against the heavy-handed tactics of the RIAA against file sharing and free streaming of music.
“After YHF, most any record label will think twice about telling Wilco what to do with their music, which is kind of staggering in itself if only because it took all that to give an artist control over their own work.”
But that’s not keeping Givony from trying. His idea is to expand the project to include other bands as well.
“I've been in touch or plan to get in touch with a handful of bands with records coming out in the next few months (Sonic Youth, the Beastie Boys, Bad Religion, Sparta, etc) about signing on as well.”
Ultimately though, justafan.org was created for fans to voice their support for their favorite band and the response Givony has received from around the World is a testament to that support.
“I have a folder with maybe 150 emails I've received from fans, and journalists, and musicians, and record industry people, young people and old people, downloaders and technophobes, and even people who claimed they hadn't even downloaded the album (one guy said he didn't even *like* Wilco, for crying out loud, he just hated the music industry), all writing to say they appreciated the effort and wished more bands would sign on for such an effort.”
And where would we be without Wishful Thinking?
GLONO's original reporting on justafan.org.
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There's a great article in USA Today (of all places!) that shows that a lot of bands are finding that file sharing helps them.
For some acts, file sharing seems to have actually increased sales. When Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out in 2002, the entire album had been available through peer-to-peer networks for nearly a year. Yet the album sold more than 50,000 copies its first week out — the best debut of the band's career and more than double the first-week tally of its preceding album.
Like a 'down payment'
The band hopes to replicate that success with A Ghost Is Born, due June 22. The album's tracks already are easily available through unlicensed sites Limewire and Kazaa. Anticipating that, the band has begun streaming the album on its Web site and has partnered with a group of fans to accept donations from downloaders via a Web site called Justafan.org. The money raised through that site will be donated to Doctors Without Borders.
"They came to us and said, 'We want to encourage the people who are downloading to do something positive,' " Wilco manager Tony Margherita says. "Kind of like a down payment."