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Helen Perris

Why I decided to be an even more independent independent artist.

I have been playing my original music around Sydney and further afield for four and a half years. In that time, I've witnessed, and participated in, the rise and the beginnings of the fall of

crowdfunding, the growth of streaming services, the further disintegration of record labels, and the re-emergence of the very old-school model of patronage. All of this has happened since I decided to focus on my songwriting instead of my acting. It's clear to me that the only thing that an independent musician can count on right now is that the ground will keep shifting.

The music industry is in a state of significant uncertainty. The old models are unsustainable and the replacement models are not yet profitable. New sites purporting to support musicians seem to pop up every few months, yet these sites are businesses too: they each claim a cut of our earnings from our intellectual property before we see any of it. I worked out that distributing my two crowdfunded EPs through iTunes and the regular streaming services was costing me more money in fees than I earned in sales and streaming revenue. How is an independent musician with no management, distribution or PR team going to survive in this environment?

Helen Perris

After my third crowdfunding campaign failed, I knew I needed to do things differently.

I ran two successful crowdfunding campaigns for my EPs Flesh (2012) and Oneiro (2013). Since then, the crowdfunding market has subtly shifted focus, and is no longer as fertile a ground for fully independent musicians to fund more ambitious projects. Crowdfunding is a novelty no more, and instead has become legitimised in the eyes of the mainstream public as a way to finance artistic endeavour. It is increasingly difficult for lesser-known artists to rise above the noise and be noticed.

“Crowdfunding fatigue” might sound ridiculous, but it is very much a thing as we are bombarded on social media by friends, and friends of friends, and influencers of friends, to fund their latest campaign. Even I get worn out by all the requests, and I’m a huge supporter of crowdfunding as ways and means.

“So why not Patreon?”, I hear you ask. Patreon is a great idea, don’t get me wrong, and full power to it and artists that take advantage of the service it provides. I strongly believe patronage is the way for musicians and other artists to carve out sustainable niches now and into the future, just as it was prior to the establishment of the recording industry. However, I no longer want to work to the requirements of a third party. I want to do things my way, and I want to interact with my fans and supporters with as little friction as possible. I don’t want to agonise over different subscription levels, or tiered rewards, or be beholden to someone else’s terms and conditions. I also don't want to take the risk that a service will fold, taking all of my work down with it.

I set up my own subscription service on my website. I call the subscribers Perrennials - a

portmanteau of Perris and perennial. It is a small but growing community of people who appreciate and have faith in my music, and want to help provide an environment where more of it can be made. I can still own all my own intellectual property. I don't have to give a cut to a third party. By doing it this way, I can set an affordable and basic floor, and let everything else be open to discussion.

The only thing I am beholden to is my fans, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Helen Perris is an independent pop artist based in Western Sydney. She recently released her

single Mirrors & Windows, which is available through her website, Bandcamp page and on iTunes and streaming services (at least for the time being).

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