Boston's Future: Music Mecca of North America?

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Great music cities each have their unique quality: New Orleans, Nashville, Austin and Brooklyn, among others. Boston-based start-up, Microfundo, which uses Web-based, social-network-style "crowdfunding" to promote live shows, wants to know what it would take to make Boston the next music mecca of North America.

Great music cities each have their unique quality: New Orleans, Nashville, Austin and Brooklyn, among others. Boston-based start-up, Microfundo, which uses Web-based, social-network-style "crowdfunding" to promote live shows, wants to know what it would take to make Boston the next music mecca of North America.

By applying the same crowdsourcing energy that created projects like Wikipedia to music, Microfundo is betting that it can place the future of a thriving Boston music scene entirely in the hands, (and music heads) of Boston.

Brad Powell, Microfundo's Chief Inspiration Officer, says: "Believe it or not, the future of music, especially when you're talking about the heart of a local music scene, is going to look less like Live Nation and more like Rue La La."

He's talking about the online one-day sale boutique that regularly creates excitement and stampedes for the fashion conscious.

Crowdfunding music acts is not new. But Microfundo takes the concept to another level. The company has taken the exclusive sale boutique template and extended it to music, with the goal of engaging fans to bring artists to town and fund live shows directly.

Ironically, the inspiration for Microfundo, and its plans for boosting Boston's music scene, comes from Brazil. "In the favelas of Brazil," Powell explains, "there's a local music movement called 'Tecno brega' in which local bands team up with a presenter to put on a show. The bands give their music to street vendors who sell MP3 copies for super cheap and promote the show. The artists get no money from the music sales - but they sell out their shows! The most successful tecno brega bands are giving away their music - and touring and selling out large shows all over Brazil. When I first saw this I thought, 'If they can do this so well in the favelas in Brazil, surely we can do something like this in Boston.'"

"Of course, here in Boston it has to be a little different," Powell says. Microfundo's method is to work with an artist who has an upcoming performance and host an exclusive release of their music - available for one day only at the bargain price of 'pay what you will. The goal of the exclusive release is to promote the upcoming show at a local venue.

Boston fans can rally to bring a favorite artist to the city. They get a great deal on an exclusive release and are actively involved in creating their own thriving music scene. The artists get to play to a sold out show. And the local venue is able to put on a show with less risk.

Microfundo's example suggests that Boston's uniqueness could come from a special combination of music and technology. This leading edge could be derived from harnessing the wisdom of crowds - empowering local fans to produce local events, creating their own music scene and supporting favorite musicians that want to perform here.

Here are three upcoming projects that show the range of Microfundo's work:

1. Boston-based Italian folk ensemble, Newpoli are launching their completely crowdfunded CD project at the Regatta Bar on April 14th at 7:30pm. Newpoli is made up of alumni from Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory. To help promote the show, fans will be able to get an exclusive EP download for the price 'pay what you will' on Microfundo. Information: http://www.microfundo.com/newpoli

2. Boston rock legend Rick Berlin is collaborating with Berklee faculty member and bassist, Tom Applman for an exclusive live performance of Pink Foloyd's legendary album 'Dark Side of the Moon' at Johnny D's April 14th at 7:30pm. Berlin has been curating his extensive catalog and offering a free song-a-week (complete with the story behind each song) every week for all of 2011 on the Microfundo site. Information: http://www.microfundo.com/category/song-a-week/

3. Just one year past the Haiti earthquake Microfundo and Boston non-profit Peacetones are collaborating on a singer-songwriter project called 'Haiti Sings.' Last summer Peacetones went to Haiti and recorded several young musicians in Port au Prince and then held a crowdfunding style contest called 'Haiti Sings'. The winner, a young singer named Wanito, raised over $4,000 and will be coming to Boston in April for performances at the Beehive, the Western Front and Bull McCabe's. He will also record his first album at Chillhouse Studios in Charlestown. Information: http://www.microfundo.com/haitisings/

About Microfundo
Headquartered in Davis Square, Somerville, Microfundo was founded on a simple premise: to change the way the world funds music. Microfundo has taken crowdfunding and the private sale boutique template and extended it to music, with the goal of turning the hit-driven music industry system on its head and engaging fans to fund artists from around the world. The company's rich social network of artists and fans also unites people by building greater cultural awareness and international economic development.

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