On incentives, songwriting and activism: Erin McKeown

Cover shotA little while ago Erin McKeown, an American DIY musician, producer and activist, came to Brighton as part of her tour to promote her new album: Manifestra. Erin is a 2011 – 2012 Fellow of Harvard University’s Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, which studies alternative independent methods of earning for musicians. Her own research contemplated how to make a creative life a viable profession, so I went down to have a chat about her work, PledgeMusic and making the world a less violent place.


The Jailer


What is the most important thing for you to communicate through your music?

For me, it is a sense of another world besides the one we live in. One that is more poetic, and saturated.

You experiment with a wide variety of musical styles. Are there any genres (besides folk) that you find particularly suited to your particular blend of musical activism?

I have always thought rock was excellent for activism. A great chorus can really change the world. Also, Afrobeat has a wonderful history of activism in its songs. you don’t just need an acoustic guitar!

Manifestra CoverDo you see the current issues surrounding copyright and digital streaming services as a major barrier for a future harmonious relationship between tech and music companies?

As long as someone figures out how to make money again off of musicians, the music biz and tech world will get along fine in the future. It is the day-to-day lives of musicians that I worry more about… How will we continue to make music and be part of our communities if we cannot make a living from being artists?

Is there any advice you can give to unknown artists looking to pay for a musical project by appealing directly to their fans for support?

Make sure your incentives reflect your personality. Spend some time thinking about your fans and what you want to give them that is meaningful and unique. And then be very attentive to your fans and [keep] communicating with them over the course of your campaign. you can’t take a moment off!


Blackbirds (From Distillation)


Would you recommend PledgeMusic for musicians over other fan funding websites?

Every fan funding site has its own unique characteristics. Pledge worked best for me, but that isn’t to say that it is right for everyone. As with the incentives, take some time to really think about what you want and weigh your options carefully.

If you could inspire just one change in the world through your music, what would it be?

I would very much like to see the world be a less violent place. That means no violence toward women. No gun violence. No “us vs. them” mentalities.

Check out the video for “Proof” from Manifestra here:



Erin’s Website


Buy Manifestra: Erin’s Site or iTunes