Saturday, November 19, 2016

patreon announcement - it starts with you...

Hi folks, welcome to Spectrum Pulse, where we talk about music, movies, art and culture - and this time, the conversation is about you.

No, not like that, or like that either. For those of you who are not aware, my name is Mark Grondin, I'm the host of this series, which includes critical reviews, year-end rankings of songs and records, Special Comments, and of course my weekly series Billboard BREAKDOWN, where I dig into the twisted and often chaotic mess of the Billboard Hot 100. And over the past three to four years, it's been astounding to watch this community of over twenty-three thousand people grow, developing friendships, collaborations, and even memes - and while there have been some contentious moments, I'd like to think that we as a community have helped forge something special. And this... now it's time to take a step I've been considering for nearly two years, a chance to open up the floodgates to you, an experiment I've seen refined and tested in so many quarters.

I speak, of course, of Patreon. Founded in 2013, this was a service designed at its core to better connect artists with their fans and audiences, cut out the middlemen to build the symbiotic relationship, inspired by the old concept of 'patron of the arts'. At a deepeIt r level this was forging a connection, allowing the audience insight into the process or even direction of the art created. It's enabling talent, allowing great things to grow...

And yet, I don't really fit into the traditional definition of 'artist'. Yes, I'm a published author, but I fall more in line as a critic leaning even towards journalism, and while there is indeed value in sparking that conversation, I'm convinced it needs to be treated in a different way. YouTube, in a way, has already started to change this critical dichotomy, harkening back to an older tradition of individual men and women describing, analyzing, and critiquing art, not corporate entities with a brand delivered from on high. For the most part, over six hundred reviews have given you evidence, you know where I stand - and this means the next step is bringing the conversation to you. 

As such, the principle of this Patreon experiment is going to be different than most - smaller, more flexible, more ready and able to connect at the base level so that your voices can be heard, and you can have real insight into my process. As such, the three tiers of involvement are intended to be accessible while still maintaining a clear understanding and control of things, so I don't totally lose my mind in this experience. Probably will anyway, but hey, you never know. And, like any journalist, I need to be accountable to my audience, which is why any Patreon contribution is set per video that I produce - you know where I stand, you get what you pay for, and if the content isn't there, you don't get charged. 

And that's why, in this spirit of this accountability, the first level, at one dollar, is visibility: you get to see my schedule, my upcoming plans, and maybe even a rough timeline of when future projects are to be reviewed in detail, all on a handy Google doc. Now certain things are inevitable: Billboard BREAKDOWN is a weekly series and is not going anywhere, subscriber and channel anniversaries pretty much supersede everything, and year-end lists will of course stick around, but between those, the remaining 75% of my content, this will give you a chance to see where I'm planning on taking my show next.

Now many of you are probably thinking that's pretty innocuous, nothing all that revolutionary, it's just a schedule, it probably doesn't change that much... and yet at that same level, three times a week - Tuesday and Thursday evening around 7-9 pm EST and Saturday afternoon 1-3 pm EST - you will have access to that schedule and an opportunity to vote on entries. Each contributor gets one vote, and depending on the vote tallies, I will move entries up and down my schedule to meet your popular demand. And while there are times of year where one record will supersede everything else in the conversation, I know for a fact you guys and girls are a diverse group who watch for many different things and genres, from pop fans to metalheads, country fans to hip-hop heads, I can foresee some contentious voting. Now there are rules here - for one, I have a vote as well, and this doesn't stipulate a specific timeline for me to cover the projects, only the order in which I'll cover them - of course, with the added condition that the project needs to be out commercially as well (and not just leaked) - I have no problem if you put upcoming projects on the list, but if it's not out by the time I get to it, I might cover something else on the schedule first. And that also means that if an artist has a massive back catalog to get through ahead of time that I haven't previously examined, I may move some things around this schedule if absolutely necessary. I'm dearly hoping this won't be necessary, but again, it's sanity protection for me, and I will always be very straightforward about it if and when that needs to happen.

But wait, you might ask, what if the album I want you to cover isn't on that schedule? Well, this is where we get the second level, at $2, once a week during the Saturday afternoon voting, you have the option instead of voting to change the schedule order, to add an album to my schedule. Of course, there are rules: the album has to be from the year in which I'm currently - in 2016 I cover 2016 albums - the lyrics must be available online in full, I cover full-length albums not EPs or mixtapes or compilations, and there is zero guarantee that adding the record to the list will get you a positive or negative review. The album will start at the bottom of the schedule, and yes, I do have the final say if I'm going to cover it. Independent artists, this is your chance to get in at the ground floor. 

But isn't there something else in my tagline that doesn't tend to get enough attention? Well, at the highest tier - $5, one a week during the Saturday afternoon voting, you have the option instead of voting on the schedule order to add a movie. Now like with the albums there are some big stipulations here: the film needs to be from the same year and widely distributed - I need to be able to see it either in a theater or on video - I cover studio-backed films, and again, no guarantee of positive or negative review. Again, it starts off at the bottom of the schedule, but can be voted upon by everyone within the general process. After all, I say I cover music, movies, art and culture - this way, the truth in that tagline gets to be emphasized.

And that's pretty much it - again, this is an experiment of interactivity. I want to get you more involved in the process while maintaining my usual standard of quality. I'm not gating off content or releasing things early for patrons - that's not something I believe in on a fundamental level - and if you don't want or can't afford to be part of this, there's no ill will from me. And sure, there's a far off dream of doing this full-time, but even that won't come without you. But until that comes to a reality, I'd be very grateful to welcome you to this team so we can have some fun. Until then, I'm Mark, welcome to Spectrum Pulse, and I'll see you all on Tuesday - voting starts then, the experiment starts now.

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