May 4, 2008

Making More Music: “Microfinance” and Struggling Artists?

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As long as people have a sense of hearing, there will always be a market for music. Sounds get ranked, and musicians are sensitive to those distinctions. So, what does microfinance have to do with have to do with music? In the footsteps of Kiva, advertises the option to “microfinance” struggling musicians around the world with its“tune your world” campaign.
Calabash is a self-described fair trade music company that increases sales and exposure for developing world artists. It collaborates with international music producers and music journalists to sniff out talent, and has even been picked up by National Geographic as a source for National Geographic’s worldmusic store. Hidden in the wording though, is somewhat of a twist. Calabash has set up a person-to-person model via PayPal, but it really can’t be described as microcredit. The “microfinancing” leans towards “microfunding,” another term it mixes into its descriptions. If a fan makes a minimum sponsorship fee of $25 towards a specifically defined artist project, he’ll receive news and be able to download advance copies of recordings. It’s a playful use of the term “microfinance”, but can be initially confusing. The sponsorships really fall into the donation category.
But so it goes. When a phrase or term, like microfinance, picks up in popularity it gets tossed into new contexts and its meaning bends. Sites like Calabash are probably attracted to its good reputation, and try to tap into that by spinning the term into its pitches. For confusion’s sake, let’s hope we maintain an anchor and that microfinance doesn’t evolve too quickly.