Marble Falls singer-songwriter John Arthur Martinez, also known as JAM, is busy recording his 15th album, 'Three White Spanish Horses,' through a crowdfunding effort. He’s giving backers a unique opportunity to have him write a song about their life, a family member, or the love of their life. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
Help crowdfund singer-songwriter John Arthur Martinez’s next album, and he will sit down with you and write you a song.
“Crowdfunding has become important in creating new albums,” Martinez said. “If you aren’t a part of a major label, or even a big independent label, it’s all on you as an artist.”
Martinez is at work on his 15th album, “Three White Spanish Horses.” It’s his fourth crowdfunded album, which he manages through the website Indiegogo. The crowdfunding program offers what it calls “perks” for different levels of support.
Martinez came up with the idea of writing a song for sponsors as a perk. At a higher level of support, you can sing on the album. Another perk is to have a John Arthur Martinez concert in your home. You can also sponsor one of the musicians on the record.
“I looked at Indiegogo for unique ideas and also what other artists aren’t doing,” he said. “One thing I came up with is writing a song about someone as a perk. Together with (the sponsor), I can piece together a song about them, their life, or the love of their life.”
Those in the Highland Lakes or Central Texas can sit down with Martinez in his studio and collaborate on the piece. After the initial sit-down, he’ll work with them via email, Zoom, or in person. Those who can’t meet in person for the collaboration can do so via Zoom.
Crowdfunding has become business as usual for independent artists and even those signed to a major label who are not at the top of the charts.
If an artist is with a major label, the production costs for an album are recouped out of its sales and not the label’s pocket, Martinez said. In many cases, artists often go into debt to the label.
And then, there are the reimbursables.
If a label’s representative attends an event such as South By Southwest in Austin to promote an artist or album, associated costs come out of album sales.
Even an artist with moderate album sales might end up owing the label.
And with fewer people buying complete albums, margins are tighter.
“Some people ask, ‘Why do it then?’” Martinez said. “You know, a painter has to paint and create, well, a singer-songwriter has to write and sing. And crowdfunding helps me do that.”
Another way he cuts costs is by recording at home, which reduces the overhead. Two of his previous albums were recorded in Willie Nelson’s Nashville studio at roughly $60,000 each, which did not include promotion, marketing, or advertising.
Martinez’s current album includes all new material. He worked with mystery writer Jane Grape on one song and the late Alex Harvey, who penned “Delta Dawn” and “Reuben James,” on another.
Martinez also relies on touring to support his albums and himself. He was booked for a European tour in 2020, but when the pandemic hit, it was pushed to 2022 and then 2023.
Things have picked in Texas and across the country of late. Martinez wrapped up six shows in six nights this March for the first time since 2020.
“That used to be the norm,” he said.
With all of the challenges he faces as an independent artist, Martinez still loves his chosen profession.
“Like I said, a singer-songwriter needs to write songs and sing them,” he said. “I look forward to making this record with you.”