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How Fans Powered Susheela Raman’s Latest Album

The UK-based singer raised a third of
the funds to produce her recently
released album, ‘Queen Between’, by
reaching out to fans

Lalitha Suhasini May 16, 2014
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Susheela Raman and Sam Mills Photo: Andrew Catlin

Susheela Raman and Sam Mills Photo: Andrew Catlin

Singer Susheela Raman and her gui­tarist/producer husband Sam Mills have just returned from their tour of Europe when they settle down in their UK home for a chat. Says Mills over a Skype chat, “Our Paris gig was sold out.” Raman adds, adjusting the web­cam to fit both of them in the frame, “We’ve got re­quests to perform in Germany as well.” But this is hardly an unexpected show of appreciation for their music even though Mills admits that this is “the strongest reaction they’ve received for an album since the glory days of Salt Rain.” Earli­er this year, fans from across the world contrib­uted close to 12,000 pounds on PledgeMusic, a London-based online resource for artists to raise funds for their projects. Says Mills, “Having fans supporting us was such a gesture of faith. It was very moving and validating that we could in­spire such a level of enthusiasm.” Adds Benji Rog­ers, cofounder of PledgeMusic that helped raise funds for Queen Between, “This is not just another crowdfunding platform. We call it direct-to-fans, where fans get to be a part of unlocking a record or DVD. It’s much more interactive.” Of course, pledgers, as contributors are known, are also spe­cial to the artists they support. Raman and Mills have already performed three private gigs for their superfans who pitched in to fund Queen Be­tween. Adds Mills, “Having just returned home, we plan to deliver a lot more ”“ rare tracks and secret mixes.”

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Queen Between involved flying down musicians from Rajasthan and Pakistan ”“ percussionist Nat­hoo Solanki from Pushkar, vocalist and morchang player Kutle Khan from Jaisalmer, flautist Rana Ram Bhil and Rizwan Muazzam Qawwals from Faisalabad ”“ to record in London. Recalls Mills, “We were in the studio for four days and then ran out of money. Our family lent us some but record­ing was halted all through July.” Both Raman and Mills were sure that they did not want to self fund the album entirely and signed a licensing deal with their current recording company (Times Music) to cover some of the costs. Says Mills about why looking to fans for funds seemed like a good op­tion, “The recording industry today seems like a big sunken ship. All the people we knew are gone. While musicians have some good years, perfor­mances are ephemeral.”

Jonathan Spottiswoode, a New York-based musician and filmmaker, and a good friend of Mills and Raman convinced them into trying PledgeMusic. Says Raman, “There is no shame involved in asking fans for money in America. The idea is still catching on in Europe.” In ret­rospect, Mills feels that the model would have worked better for them with a little more plan­ning. He says, “We finished the recording and then began looking for funding. But this (man­ner of raising funds) works in a more immedi­ate fashion.”

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PledgeMusic’s Rogers says that fans pledge 51 dollars each on an average. Adds Rogers, who started out as a musician before he kicked off the online platform, “I believe that this is the fu­ture, fans are the future. They will participate in the making of albums and DVDs even as they consume music via streaming sites.”

This article appeared in the May 2014 issue of ROLLING STONE India

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