Singer-songwriter Cape May accompanied by great music

Ellis Paul

There is a banner message greeting fans on singer-songwriter Ellis Paul's website that probably says it best: "The new era of self-produced, fan-funded, self-released albums is upon us."

The music business, Paul says, has been turned on its head. The recording process can now be completely in the hands of the artist - rendering big, corporate record labels obsolete.

And that, Paul says, is good news.

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"That whole system just doesn't work anymore," says Paul, speaking from his home in Virginia. "The store sales aren't really happening. All they do now is put the song up on the internet and they wait. The symbiosis just wasn't working for me."

Paul, a Boston-bred folk singer who has garnered numerous music awards for his songwriting, will be discussing songwriting and the future of the music business as one of two keynote speakers at the 2013 Singer-Songwriter Cape May, better known to its attendees as the "SS Cape May."

Red House Records artist Tracy Grammer, formerly of the popular folk duo Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer, will also serve as a keynote.

The music conference, featuring more than 80 music industry professionals and 150 acts and artists, takes place Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 23, at Congress Hall and throughout select live music venues in Cape May.

The singer-songwriter weekend, now in its sixth year, features two afternoons of music business panels, workshops, mentoring and two keynote speaker talks for musicians and registered guests. At night, the participating artists showcase at 15 Cape May live music venues. All the showcase performances are open to the public.

Paul is currently in the studio recording his upcoming album, slated for a spring release. Kristian Bush, half of the Grammy Award-winning Sugarland duo, is producing the album, which is being completely funded by fans.

"This is the second time we've done (a fan-funded album) … and we have twice as many people involved this time," Paul says.

"The genesis was I realized that with a record label, they provide a little bit of funding for you, and then over the course of four months, they provide some core support, and then the job is kind of over ... and they own the record in perpetuity. And perpetuity is a long time."

To date, Paul has raised more than $70,000 from more than 400 fans. There are various incentives given to fans in exchange for their support of the project, including guitars, T-shirts, artwork, rough demos of songs - Paul is going so far as to rip pages out of his own handwritten journals, sending them to high-level donors.

With the fan-funded projects, Paul says, he has been just as successful - arguably more so, as fans get to have a hand in the project.

"I'm selling about as many (records) as I would on a small label," Paul says.

Of course, some of the attendees at SS Cape May might still be hoping for a breakthrough - armed with great material or ideas, but not sure how to put it all together. Paul, who spoke while taking a break from writing a song about the city of Boston, says the answer is not to pin hopes on marketing gimmicks.

"The No. 1 thing is to write great songs," Paul says. "You want people to react great to them when you play them live. You can make a crazy video and get a million hits on YouTube ... but that doesn't guarantee that you're going to get 20 people at a show. It starts with a song and great performances."

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