Five Starving Artists | Buzz Blog

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Five Starving Artists

Local charity partners with musicians for a cause

Posted By on May 14, 2015, 12:30 PM

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A very ambitious project is currently underway in the music community and may be one of the first of its kind to succeed. 5 Starving Artists is a program where local musicians donate their music toward raising funds for charities, wherein you purchase their singles and the proceeds are then donated to a worthy cause. Today we interview Michael Schultz, founder of the program to talk about its formation, the artists he's currently working with and the causes they're working for. (All pictures courtesy of FSA.)

Michael Schultz
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Gavin: Hey Michael, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.

For me, I'm originally from back east by way of Georgia and Virginia. Moved out to Utah in 2011 for a job and have been here ever since. Apart from that, I'm just another person that loves music and wants to help spread the word about some great local bands.

Gavin: What sparked your interest in local music prior to moving to Utah?

When I was living back east, one of my friends introduced me to a great bands from Richmond called Carbon Leaf. They're actually pretty big and have a solid presence in the area, but it's not a band that you'd hear on the radio much outside of regional play. They were really the first band that I got really hooked on that showed me how much great music is out there that's not considered "mainstream" by most people.

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Gavin: How did you get involved with the local music scene in Utah?

It actually just started earlier this year, so it hasn't been that long. During a road trip, a Carbon Leaf song I hadn't heard in years came randomly when my iPod was on shuffle during a road trip, and it was such a refreshing switch from the same old songs that I'd heard on the radio all day previously. That's what really started to get me thinking about looking around for some local bands in Utah.

Gavin: What were some of your favorite local bands that you first found here?

Wow. That's a difficult question to answer really because there are so many to choose from. The first bands that I was really found were The Weekenders, Advent Horizon, and Jhonny K and The Krew. They each have their own unique styles, but all three produce incredible music. In fact, The Weekenders and Advent are getting ready to come out with new albums shortly that I'm really excited to get a hold of. Then I started looking a little farther south towards Provo and found a whole different group of amazing musicians, such as Fictionist, VanLadyLove, and The National Parks.

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Gavin: How did the idea for 5 Starving Artists come about?

The idea behind Five Starving Artists really started when I was in the process of trying to find local bands in the area on sites where you can purchase music. On the particular music site I was looking at, it was very difficult to find great local bands because there are thousands of listed bands in the archives, and I guarantee you that only 10% or so of them are still active. When there are over 3,000 bands listed in a ten-mile radius of where you live, that's exhausting to search through. I also knew that these kinds of music purchasing platforms are not at all helpful for bands because they get lost in a sea of other hopeful musicians. That's when I started thinking about a different kind of website that would just feature five bands per week. That's a manageable amount of new music to check out each week for listeners like myself, and it's great for bands because it provides real visibility since they are only shown with four other musicians.

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Michael: We also added in a charity aspect because we figured if we'd be making this system, we'd really like to do some other great thing with it. So when you put it all together, it seems like a win-win-win for bands, local music enthusiasts, and charitable causes. One of the really cool features that we're planning is that we will pay bands a portion of subscription sales. They still get a certain amount for each time their songs are purchased, but by also giving a portion of subscriptions, we'd actually be able to pay bands just to have their music featured rather than the opposite, which is how most other websites do it. This could be a powerful, unique new concept on how bands would get paid. It seems sad to think that the concept of bands getting paid a fair amount to have their music available for streaming can be considered novel, but that's one of the sad realities with today's music industry when you have streaming services that pay fractions of a penny for each play.

Gavin: For those curious, how does the plan work when it comes to donating?

We have set this up as a passive donation system. By "passive," I mean that listeners just come on to the site like they would on any other music purchasing platform like iTunes and buy songs they like. The difference is that a portion of the revenue from each song sale is reserved for donations. So listeners aren't actively having to think about donating or what to donate, but rather they passively donate just by using and being involved with this program. We are not setting this up as a non-profit, and we chose this for a very specific reason. We do not want to be an organization that relies strictly on donations or be like a benefit concert that does an enormous amount of good but then goes away. We want to build a for-profit program that creates value for listeners by introducing them to incredible, hard-to-find bands each week and then making it easy for listeners to purchase music on our website. If we are successful, we can make this into a long-term sustainable way to continuously raise money for charity.

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Gavin: What specific charitable organizations did you have in mind when you first started planning it and who do you currently contribute to?

Right now we are partnered with the charity Feed My Starving Children, which is a hunger charity that does amazing work all over the world. Eventually, we would like to expand what we're contributing to by running weekly campaigns for various other causes. Cancer research is another big one that I personally would like to contribute towards, but the thing about these causes is that everyone has their own feelings about what is most important to them. We see this kind of a program as being a mechanism to help out with these many different causes.

Gavin: What was the process like for you to get bands involved and bringing people on board?

Right now we're at the point where we are actively looking for musicians to join on with this idea. We've had great luck with reaching out to some amazing bands and getting them on board, so we've been pretty successful so far on that end.

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Gavin: You currently boast having 35 Utah-based bands involved. Who do you currently have on the roster?

It's actually about 35 total bands across the country, Canada, the U.K., and Australia. From Utah, we have 12 amazing bands on board right now. These include Advent Rising, DateNight, Fictionist, Great Interstate, Jhonny K and the Krew, My Fair Fiend, Richie Kissinger, Robyn Cage, Selja Sini, The National Parks, The Weekenders and VanLadyLove. I've been fortunate enough to meet up with many of these bands, and they're all really great people that want to help make this idea into a reality.

Gavin: You’re also using a Kickstarter campaign over the next two months to raise funds for this cause. How is that working compared to the system you already have?

The Kickstarter is being run to raise funds to create the formal website and the infrastructure to make this idea possible. We're going to need to hire professional developers to get the streaming and purchasing system in place, and that's not something that I can do while messing around in Wordpress.

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Gavin: What is your ultimate goal for this current campaign and what do you intend to do after it has finished out?

The goal is to raise $10,000 to build the website, and if successful, we'd have the formal program ready to go around September. We just need to get a great following of active, enthusiastic local music lovers on board to help make this idea into a fully-functional program. We're very excited to roll out info about our 35 supporting bands throughout the campaign. So if you'd like to help support local bands and charity and like the idea, I encourage people to pledge.

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