As anyone who has read my little blog over the past few years knows, I have a real interest in alternate methods of music distribution. I also have a professional interest in crowd-sourced funding, since many clients of mine have experimented with it to various degrees. Finally, I am a huge fan of Frank Zappa, for many different reasons.
So, I was fascinated with the recent announcement from Frank’s widow, Gail Zappa of a new distribution concept intended to raise approximately $1,000,000.00 needed to complete a video release of Frank’s 1973 concerts at the Roxy Theater in Los Angeles. Apparently these shows were professionally filmed as well as recorded (Zappa fans know the original album “Roxy and Elsewhere”).
Gail has asked “1,000 highly motivated sensitive and discerning individuals” to become distributors of the audio soundtrack of the concert. According to Gail’s press release those individuals who contribute $1,000.00 to the Zappa Family Trust have the right to distribute the recording of the concert however they see fit, except that these so‑called distributors have to pay the trust mechanical royalties and report their sales to them.
This concept is interesting but fatally flawed. In this environment of internet piracy free‑for‑all (probably imagined by Frank at some point) there is no way that the patrons of this cause are going to make any actual money selling the recordings and if they do, the average fan is going to be ill-equipped to know how to go about reporting and paying mechanical royalties. Hell, it’s difficult enough to get record companies to do this. What happens if they don’t pay? Does the Zappa trust sue them?
I may be wrong, there may be 1,000 Zappa fans worldwide who will pay $1,000.00 for the privilege of being an exclusive Zappa distributor and if so this is the apex of the crowd funded money raising model but I don’t think that will be the case.
Still kudos to Gail Zappa for trying something new. It’s nice to see that Frank’s legacy as an iconoclast lives on.