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Technology

Kickstarter Gets Serious About Music's Fuzzy Future

The crowdfunding site's first-ever acquisition is Drip, a music subscription service focused on indie labels.

[Photo: Flickr user Mel Schmidt]

Kickstarter is busy carving out its role in the music industry of the future. "Yeah yeah yeah," you might say. "Bands have been begging me for money to help them record new albums for years now." But as of today, there's more to it than that: Kickstarter just bought a music company.

Earlier today, Kickstarter acquired Drip, a music subscription and digital fan club service, which was scheduled to shut down tomorrow. The service, which lets fans pay a monthly fee for exclusive music and other perks from their favorite independent record labels, bills itself as way for fans to support artists directly. Obviously the business side of things didn't quite pan out, but the concept seems to be right up Kickstarter's alley.

Whether it planned to or not, Kickstarter has become a notable force in the music industry. Although the site's top-funded projects include more smartwatches, video games, movies, and gadgets than vinyl LPs, many small-to-medium-sized artists have turned to the crowdfunding model to help finance tours and release albums. Amanda Palmer famously raised $1.2 million from fans on the site to fund a new album, tour, and book in 2012. Meanwhile, artists like TLC, De La Soul, Murder By Death, and Polyphonic Spree have used Kickstarter to help finance comeback tours and albums. Composer David Teie just put the finishing touches on "Music For Cats," an album of music scientifically engineered to be enjoyed by cats.

With the traditional music industry now half-way dilapidated (and very little hope of it recovering to pre-2000 levels), it's interesting to watch tech companies swoop in and try to pick up the pieces. Streaming services like Spotify are increasingly taking on label-esque roles like distribution and artist relations. Companies like ReverbNation and Music X-Ray are taking a crack at A&R in an age when record labels can't afford to incubate artists as much. And now Pandora is getting into the concert ticket business.

Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites are doing their part too, but until now it was a relatively organic, unofficial phenomenon: Oh, your band wants to record a new album? Why not try Kickstarter like everybody else?

It's not entirely clear how Kickstarter plans to integrate Drip, other than to save the service from extinction and hire Drip cofounder Miguel Senquiz. But given the two companies' shared interest in providing a direct pipeline between artists and fans, the acquisition makes complete sense. And as Kickstarter's first-ever acquisition, it's a clear sign that the company's focus on music is likely just getting started.

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