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Marty Khan: Outward Visionary

By Published: July 5, 2011
AAJ: Alternative models, like ArtistShare and Kickstarter, certainly have successfully pushed artist-driven models. What seems unique about what you're describing is its potential to allow new artists without fan bases to create high-quality product.


MK: That is the problem I have with the other models. If you already have your fan base, you can invite them to participate. But what if you don't yet have a large fan base? Here, we're dealing with an earlier step. Before your fan base, you can lean on the support structure that you already have: the local room that believes in you and will give you a place to perform, the studio with an engineer who knows about you and wants to help, the musicians you know who would like to participate.

The other part of the deal with Rahe's project that I've put on the table involves a filmmaker who was also a part of the collective class, who created the music video to her song "Be Down," and later, "Rescue." In bringing him to the discussion, I was able to work with him to develop his own career in structuring his organization and developing his business—and continue to do so, in his and my projects, as well as for Rahe. With my helping him in handling his contracts and publicizing his work, he in turn was able to help to create Rahe's music video, and provide video pieces for the other musicians. This was also part of the pay that the musicians were offered. Whether they actually take advantage of that is up to them—and part of the learning process of self-empowerment and proactivity.

At the end, our revenue sharing was a combination of profit sharing, of barter, of product creation, of experience, and of education and counseling that we offer to people for participating. That way, we can say, "Look, even if you walked away without a dime from this record, you still walk away with consulting sessions with me, a video for your website, and opportunities to create your own projects with this model." Everyone leaves with something substantive in their hands.

This allows everyone to maintain artistic integrity. A number of the participants have said to me, "This is the only opportunity I've had to really collaborate in the creation of a project!" This goes back to the Coltrane Quartet model. Rahe is an extremely talented and gifted songwriter and solo artist with a more complex sense of where she wants her music to go.

AAJ: We've discussed extensively your model of collective action, but can you go into further detail as to how that played out in the conception, recording, and production of the album?

MK: Helene and I sat down with Rahe and listened to her music, and together we all selected an initial set of 18 pieces and honed it down even further. We came up with eight pieces and said, "How will we develop these songs?" She'd tell us what she heard, and we'd say things like, "Hmm, you know, bass clarinet would make a great addition on this track." We'd continue this process when we got together with musicians, and we'd essentially workshop the pieces. She'd sing a bass line to an artist, and he'd run with it. Everyone would feel like he or she had an ownership in the music, and everything was conceived with this synergy of the ensemble.

Some of the pieces started as sextet and became trio works. Some of the trio pieces expanded to sextet, and the music evolved in that manner. The basic tracks were laid down live with the band. She would come in and add the vocals, then add harmonies, and we would continue to expand the pieces.

It was as creative a process as I've ever been involved with in my life. My own participation in the process was greater than usual. In most cases I had been dealing with much older musicians who knew what they wanted to do, and my job was to facilitate it. In this situation, I was there to give her feedback, because she knew what she wanted to do, but the notion of experimentation was a new concept to the younger generation of musicians. This is one of the requirements we've had—that the artists we worked with needed to have a clear sense of what to do, even if all the specifics aren't locked down.

Rahe knew what she wanted to do, and when I spoke to her early on, I asked whether she wanted to be an artist like Chris Botti
Chris Botti
Chris Botti
, who could sell a huge number of CDs, or to be an artist like Miles Davis, who could sell just a fraction of that. Without hesitation, she chose the Miles Davis path. The bottom line is: do you want to be popular to be a star, or do you want to make the music you love and bring it to as many people as possible?

So it became a question of where we went from there. And in creating the album, we applied what I had learned, in the 1960s, of bringing people together to work toward a common goal under the leadership of a visionary. And through this experience, she's grown from an artist who knew she had a vision, to a visionary artist with the mature confidence of a true leader.

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