Terre Roche is folk music royalty. The middle sister of The Roches, sandwiched chronologically between Maggie and Suzzy, she made an indelible musical mark in 1979. That was the year the trio’s self-titled debut was named Album of the Year by the New York Times for their intricate compositions and sisterly harmonies.
Mentored by Paul Simon who allowed Terre and Maggie into the studio to watch him record, Terre’s musical resume also includes a stint as Squeaky Fromme in an opera about Charles Manson. Now that’s eclectic.
Terre appeared in the New York Times again on Sunday, but this time it was for an opinion piece she wrote about her recent Kickstarter experience. She raised $8,400 but since she was seeking $21,500, she didn’t get any of it for her latest musical project, Afro-Jersey. (Kickstarter only allows you to collect your pledge money if you raise the entire thing.)
Disappointed but undaunted, Terri next tried the same campaign with Indiegogo, which lets you keep all the money pledged. This time she set her goal at $8,000, but only raised a little more than half of that.
Terre was kind enough to answer the questions we had about the experience that inspired her beautifully written New York Times piece.
When did you first hear about Kickstarter?
I first heard about it when I received an email from my friend Willie Nile about contributing to his Kickstarter campaign.
How did you determine the amount you needed to raise?
We picked the figure to cover the cost of our producer and have enough left to manufacture the CD and publicize it.
Can you tell me a little bit about the project you were funding, Afro-Jersey?
It is a trio that began as a collaboration between myself and my good friend Sidiki Conde, from West Africa.
Do you think crowd-funding is just a trend?
I’m not sure what you mean. Trends are very important to pay attention to. Right now the world seems to be re-ordering itself in an effort to adjust to becoming a global community. The way businesses traditionally worked in the past is obsolete now. Crowd-funding has always existed. Some people have more success with it than others do.
Would love to hear a bit more about the “makeovers” record label people tried to give you in the past?
The Roches’ career was an uphill struggle from the point of view of record sales. We were remarkable in that we garnered much praise but were unable to get on the mainstream radio. This was very frustrating to the record labels. I think we were on five different labels over the years. When a record label releases a product, they look at the sales to see if they want to continue the relationship with the artist. That makes sense to me. Every business has to pay its bills. Nobody can tell you not to make music. But whether they want to pay for it or not depends upon whether they will profit. This is just common sense and I don’t feel in the least bitter about it. To answer your question though, I’d say that the attempts to make over The Roches came mainly in the form of suggestions that we do different material and in the constant search for a producer who would make a commercial Roches record.
Amanda Palmer raised 1.2 million dollars on Kickstarter, but do you think the vast majority of artists fail to reach their music goals?
Probably the majority of people in general fail to reach their goals. Amanda Palmer seems to be very comfortable and well-suited to the game of networking. I applaud her for it. But that’s not the case with every artist.
Do you prefer the old record label model to the new independent artist model?
I am much more comfortable in today’s independent artist model. When I was starting out, a band had to appeal to a handful of A & R people who for the most part were self-congratulating failed musicians that had figured out how to draw sizeable paychecks in exchange for playing it safe. This may sound bitter, but I offer it as a description of something that the general public usually doesn’t get to observe.
Any ideas to replace both the labels and crowd-funding platforms?
The main challenge for all artists is to tend the creative flame. Keep studying and learning about music. Find tough teachers to kick your ass and make you go beyond what you thought you could do creatively. If you immerse yourself in this way, you will be disappointed at the professional failures, but you’ll be coming from a very strong center. Music as spiritual practice. Keep challenging yourself musically and people will begin to notice what you’re doing. For example, writing my article was a cathartic activity which was very creative and fun for me. I thought I did a good job scratching an itch. I’m thrilled that it found its way into the New York Times. That’s icing on the cake.
What sort of feedback have you gotten on your piece?
I’ve received a lot of feedback from many diverse sources. It seems that a lot of people can relate to what I talked about in the piece. Many artists thanked me for writing it. A few people expressed that it made them sad. Some felt sorry for me. But most of the people seemed to see the humor in it, which is what I felt when I was writing it.
If you had it to do over, would you use either Kickstarter or Indiegogo again?
The experience of trying to raise money on Kickstarter and Indiegogo was very interesting. I learned a lot. I saw firsthand what artists today are up against. I’m not sure if I’d use either of them again. The founder of Indiegogo has contacted me as a result of my piece. He wanted to know if I wished to start up another campaign with them. He asked me to give him feedback about my Indiegogo experience. I look forward to an exchange with him and will probably learn something from it. Out of that exchange will probably come the answer to your question.
What advice would you give someone planning to use Kickstarter or Indiegogo?
Use the manure of what happens to you. Be honest about it. Hone your powers of describing things accurately. Try to keep vindictiveness out of it. The more awareness you bring to a situation the more powerful your contributions will be.
Click the link to read Terre’s New York Times piece, “The New Busking.”