Issa / Jane Siberry and her Music Self Determined Pricing Policy

I remember reading about Jane Siberry in Mondo 2000 sometime in the mid 90s and bought her albums "When I was a Boy" and "Maria" as well as the soundtrack for "Until the End of the World" which has a track of hers on it. I used to play "When I Was a Boy" on Sunday mornings whilst having brunch when I lived in Auchenflower. when I moved from that apartment my neighbour asked what was the beautiful music that I used to play on sundays, so I put him onto her sounds. around that time also, I was listening to a lot of Brian Eno, David Sylvian, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Laurie Anderson and others.

recently I've just rediscovered Jane Siberry's music online. in 2006, she changed her name to Issa and can be found online at she's parted ways with her previous music label and is offering her music purely as an online label now, after running an independant label called Sheeba distributing CDs to music customers. her new business has a new business model called Self Determined Pricing Policy or "Pay It Forward". I 've heard that Radiohead are doing a similar thing for their current album - mp3 release only & customers pay what they like.

I like Issa's philosophy and way of life. she's living out of a backpack - traveling for her tours and has removed most of the 'stuff' in her life. patrons on her site can donate money for studio recording time and pay what they like for the songs. it may not suit everyone though, but I can see the benefits, as for the past few years I've been living out of a suitcase and traveling (albeit usually for longer stints of time & to different countries) and living out of hotels, away from a permanent base. though I still have my 'stuff' back home - it was nice to leave it all though as there was so much of it!

there is the argument that Issa & Radiohead can be successful using this method as they've already become established using the traditional media & music industry methods, and that perhaps upcoming or lesser known artists may not be as successful. but I'm not so sure. if the music is good and you eventually keep at it, I think most people will support you if they can, especially if they appreciate music of quality. and those who pay for music are usually in that category. plus having the music available on the net for 'pay now' at set / user chosen price, 'gift', 'pay later' is good for impulse buyers who can't wait until they visit a record store or for the store to receive their cd. and also, the artist is receiving ALL of the money and paying less costs such as the production of cds & artwork, though these are still nice to have also. (but since I've been traveling, I've been preferring mp3s as posting cds home can be expensive)

here's an extract from an interview with Issa by Alexandra Gill @

"It may not be right for everyone, but it feels good for me. It feels more in line with the planet," says Issa, speaking in hushed tones and pausing frequently.

"I do believe the consciousness of the planet is changing, the vibrations are rising a little bit," she adds matter-of-factly.

"Maybe it's because I'm in the public eye and talking about what I've done, but I see signs all around. People come forward and tell me they are getting rid of things and changing their careers or quitting their jobs without a safety net. Instead of going inch by inch, they've decided to take a big leap."

In Issa's case, the choice to simplify life was a creative one. After nearly a decade of running her own label, she had found the day-to-day administrative duties were seriously getting in the way of making music. The mail-order end of the business was particularly burdensome. What with all the CDs, books and clothing items to be shipped, envelopes to be licked and customers whose credit cards had been declined to chase, she found herself with no time to write.

By March of 2005, she had reached her wit's end and decided to shut the label down. Then at the last minute, she had a change of heart and chose to put her entire catalogue on-line so it wouldn't be lost forever. Although she has stopped releasing CDs, fans can now visit Log Cabin, her new all-electronic store at and download MP3s of her music and artworks.

Last November, she went one step further with a new pricing policy that she calls "self-determined transactions." Customers can choose to pay the standard rate of 99 cents per song or contribute whatever amount they deem fair. They can pay immediately, download and pay later, or accept "a gift from Jane" and rip off the entire collection for free.

"Like many, I'm restless and impatient with living in a world where people are made to feel like shoplifters rather than intelligent people with a good sense of balance," she writes in the site's Open Letter.

Self-determined transactions, the letter continues, are not donations, pay-what-you-can, guilt trips or tests of your integrity. It's simply a way of treating others the way she would prefer to be treated herself.

"This makes me feel like I'm completely in alignment with the energy of the music. It's pure and honest. The pricing thing is very wrong. It's so far removed from the nature of music as a sacred thing."


other artists are working with this Self Determined Pricing Policy also, most recently debated has been Radiohead with the digital release of their latest album "In Rainbows". also Trent Rezner from Nine Inch Nails - who told Australian fans to steal his album as it was priced too high in Australia, Jonathon Coulton, Oasis and Jamiroquai are thinking about it, The Charlatans, and I'm sure there'll be more to follow!

from the telegraph article,
[quote]While CD sales are falling dramatically, download sales have grown from zero in 2003, to 26.5 million in 2005 which then doubled last year to 53.0 million. However, according to the British Phonographic Industry, for every track that is paid for, twenty are downloaded illegally for free.[/quote]

even if 1 in 20 are paid for, that's still a lot of money going directly to the artists. and it'd be interesting to compare if those buying online would actually buy the cd, as buying online is much easier for the impulse buyer and the 'I want it now!' generation who can't wait for the next day to visit their music store or wait for the store to have it delivered.

some articles of interest :
Fans Pay Whatever They Want for Radiohead's Upcoming Album
By Eliot Van Buskirk
Radiohead's "In Rainbows" page
Pop Geek Jonathan Coulton Succeeds by Giving Music Away
By Mark Anderson
Trent Reznor Escapes His Label's Clutches
By Eliot Van Buskirk
Trent Reznor To Fans: "Steal, Steal and Steal Some More"
By Eliot Van Buskirk
Established Artists Plan Post-Label Careers
By Eliot Van Buskirk
Oasis, Jamiroquai to follow Radiohead
By Harry Wallop and Lucy Cockcroft

1000 True Fans
By Kevin Kelly (founder of Wired magazine)

"The gist of 1,000 True Fans can be stated simply:"

"A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living."

"A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans."


"Let's peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks. "


The Reality of Depending on True Fans
(Robert Rich's reply)

"Thanks to the internet, I am making more money now, selling directly to 1000 True Fans, than I was during the days on Hearts of Space selling 20,000 - 50,000 copies. But had I not benefitted from the immense promotional effort that it took for HOS to sell those albums, I probably wouldn't be surviving today as a full time artist."

"I have about 600 "true fans" and 2000 seriously following listeners... more on the fringe perhaps. My database has about 3,000 names but I only hear from most of these people every few years."


"Indeed the internet is a tool that allows artists to broaden their audience, and allows individuals in the audience to broaden their tastes, to explore new styles, to seek that which surprises them - if they want surprise, that is. The internet can also give us tools more narrowly to target specific demographics and to strengthen those assumptions that prevent acceptance of new ideas, nudging people towards algorithmically determined tastes or styles. Companies can use demographic models and track people's search patterns to pander to their initial tastes and to strengthen those tastes, rather than broaden their horizons. This problem doesn't lie within the technology of the internet, but within the realities of capitalism and human psychology."

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