HumanFankind – Where Fans Give Back to Musicians

By Kira Grunenberg

A new company called HumanFankind has found its place on the web as a rising champion for artist compensation. Headed by a music enthusiast named Justin Silverman, he and a team of bloggers manage this website that balances writing about music and encouraging visitors to ‘pay for it’ by giving back what they can if they’re loving the tracks they hear. Similar operations like NoiseTrade have supported this type of methodology for supporting musicians, though not as many artists are necessarily open to release specific tracks for free download at the risk of receiving no “tip.” The fundamental premise for HumanFankind is along these lines, though not identical:

You like a song by an artist listed by HumanFankind?

1) Go to the donate page
2) Select the artist you want to support
3) Fill in your information for a secure PayPal transaction
4) Your artist gets sent their compensation!

Unlike NoiseTrade, HumanFankind’s accumulated donations are not in direct connection to specifically offered songs. In the site’s FAQ, it’s even implied that artists can utilize association with HumanFankind in a Kickstarter-esque way, since the idea isn’t about compensation only for songs.

I’m an independent artist and would like to raise money for a project.

Then you have come to the right place! Raising money to start a new album, make t-shirts, go on tour, or anything else that you would like has never been easier! Simply email [email protected] with your contact information, mailing address or PayPal email address, and phone number. We will promptly add your name to our service. Now you can direct your fans, friends, and family to us to donate on your behalf!

The list of artists to which you can donate is very extensive. Musicians from the largely profiting A-listers, to lesser known DIY artists, and even some deceased individuals. Anyone that might not be listed can be submitted to the company for suggested adding to the list.

The press release posted alluded to HumanFankind users possibly feeling guilt from piracy, though it doesn’t always have to be about clearing your conscience over music you illegally downloaded five years back. Divided into five categories – Indie, Dance, Hip-Hop, Popular, Rock – HumanFankind’s bloggers post short write ups about freshly released music in their genre category, alongside links to music existent on the web. These are usually legitimate YouTube or SoundCloud streams. At the end of the posts, each blogger always circles back to HumanFankind’s core mission of “help[ing] artists recoup money lost when fans download music for free.”

This all sounds well and good and the very hands-off approach makes HumanFankind seem friendly and reliable –especially considering how openly the site encourages people to contact them if there are any questions to be answered. However, the easy method they offer for individuals to “do the right thing” stands out, perhaps to a fault, for its one-size-fits-all mentality of showing support. Listed in the FAQ as well, are the important questions regarding assurance about donations going to the artists (not pocketed by HFK) and assurance about the money going to the actual artists versus imposters. Suddenly the prospect of throwing away money to a shady business seems a little too close for comfort when essentially no exact process is provided.

How do I know that this money is actually going to the artist?

…we send it to the artist’s representative, PayPal account, mailing address, or charity of their choice. We have an excellent track record for getting the donations into the hands of the artists.

How do i know my donation is going to the right person?

Before sending any donations to an artist, we verify that the person receiving the donation is the one that you wanted.  Based on public records posted by the actual artist, locations of band and recipient, and other factors we make sure that your donation is going where you want, not an impostor.

One might be dissuaded from donating based on the above vague notions but then again, direct links to artists’ real social media accounts have been included in the FAQ and after first hand follow up, the quoted posts have been verified as real, (e.g. Band, Aeon Now mentions donations on Facebook while another band, Otherness, thanks them on Twitter). So although the public isn’t getting complete disclosure on how HumanFankind moves donations, clearly they do, at least some of the time.

The downside to essentially just sending ‘blank’ money to an artist is the lack of targeted compensation. After all, established artists tend to work with many others most of the time; co-writers, studio musicians, producers, and yes, a label, to name a few. One could say blank money going right to an artist is comparable to a lone singer-songwriter playing in front of an open guitar case for cash. The internal reasons people give cash go unknown but the artist gets it just the same.

Kira is an old school music nerd with a love for all things creative; always searching for music’s common ground. She graduated with an M.A. in Performing Arts Administration from New York University. Drop her a tweet @shadowmelody1