Tomorrow and Saturday, November 20, the infamous composer Glenn Branca will premiere his 15th symphony, “Running Through the World Like an Open Razor,” at Le Poisson Rouge, a venue in New York City.
A non-profit called the New Spectrum Foundation has financed the piece and its rehearsals, but LPR is hoping to have a hand in funding Symphony no. 15′s recording. The venue recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to create a limited edition vinyl pressing of the upcoming shows. Scheduled to run for another 28 days, the campaign offers contributors everything from signed show posters ($15) to copies of the symphony’s score, signed by Branca and every member of the ensemble performing it ($1,000). In the shows and their attached campaign, LPR’s founders, Justin Kantor and David Handler, saw an opportunity to do more than distinguish LPR. They saw the chance to create something that would make a lasting contribution to Branca’s profile and legacy.
“With this particular piece, chances are if it’s not recorded and released now, it probably won’t be in the future,” Kantor explains.
But if Kantor and Handler simply wanted to create a record of the performance, they wouldn’t be trying to raise $16,000 on Kickstarter. They are pressing the premiere, which will occupy two discs, onto 180 gram vinyl, which will make it more durable than a normal pressing.
“People want something special now,” Kantor says. “Anyone can get any recording so easily now. It’s not like 15 years ago where you’d get a CD or a piece of vinyl that was rare, and you’d prize it for being rare…to have something that’s really special and unique, there’s a market for that.”
This is the first time LPR has tried something like this, and though Kantor did stress that this will not become a regular occurrence (“We’re not starting a record label or anything like that,” he told me), he also said it won’t be a one-shot deal, either.
“I think the important thing is continuing the conversation of where the industry is going in terms of purchasing music,” Kantor explains. Even though every partnership between artist and presenter would be different, “you kind of have to keep plugging away, play around with an idea for a little bit.”
Everybody has to try something. As music industry types focus on the growth in the digital music sector, there is a lot of talk about how artists can make touring revenue the cornerstone of their livelihoods. But even as more artists hit the road, the economy has kept audiences inside; in the third quarter of 2010, Live Nation promoted 3% more shows than it did in 2009, but its revenues also fell 16%.
In Kantor’s estimation, this is partly because venues haven’t done enough to make themselves stand out. “Venues have become just a box, or a shell to see a show in,” he says.
This is the exact opposite of what he and Handler envision for LPR. “Our ultimate goal is to not have to worry about what the artist’s draw is, knowing that the venue has enough of a built-in audience that we can take chances and put on musicians that might not be able to bring in anyone on their own.”
And in order to foster that kind of loyalty, venues need to start developing firmer, deeper bonds with the artists they present.