Save Our Songbook
Technology has transformed the world and our culture, allowing instantaneous communication, real-time news and information of all sorts, from every possible viewpoint. But there is one important area where the promise of technology remains unfulfilled, and that is in allowing free access to the vast archive of recorded music, shows and performances from the inception of recorded sound to today. Even worse, since the invention of recording, America has adopted this technology to the exclusion of all else, so that recordings are the only archival historical resource that remains relevant, and unfortunately, those recordings are locked up, with some available to those who can afford to purchase them, but most gathering dust in a vault.
Our culture is literally buried in a Time Capsule.
About a year ago, American Songbook Preservation Society set out to build a digital repository to make these precious resources available to anyone, for free. What we found is reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic science fiction movie, with a barren landscape dominated by warring factions. Being the plucky anti-heroes that we are, we are wading into this quagmire and are asking you to join us, not to defeat some evil empire, but to save a bunch of great music from irrelevance and create a new space in American culture for pop music that is past its popularity, and too good to be consigned to the cultural trash heap.
And so we present to you – the Great American Songbook.
The period from 1920 to 1960 represents the apex of American popular music, that produced a treasure trove of talented musicians the likes of which the world has never known before or since. From vocalists like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and composers/lyricists such as George and Ira Gershwin and Irving Berlin, America gifted the world with music of a higher caliber, but today that music has all but disappeared from the cultural landscape.
The Great American Songbook is a body of music that is lauded the world over for representing the zenith of American culture and songwriting at its best. And it has never before been so important to take action to preserve and restore this vital cultural resource and access to it. With vinyl and compact disc recordings quickly becoming a distant memory, record stores disappearing and live performance dwindling, there is a very real danger that this music will be lost to future generations. Perhaps Tony Bennett put it best when he said, “This is America’s classical music.”
As you might imagine, bringing this vast resource to a place where anyone can access it, for free, is going to be a huge undertaking that will require lots and lots of money. But we are two guys, who don’t have millions to throw down, so we beginning with much more humble goals.
We have established a wiki at greatamericansongbook.org/wiki/ to catalog and link to existing performances around the Internet and also to serve as a repository for recordings and educational materials developed by American Songbook Preservation Society. We will need a small army of volunteer contributors and moderators to keep the information up to date as new resources become available and others vanish. Our immediate goal for this part of the project is to determine what is out there with a much better degree of certainty than is possible at the present. As this effort gains momentum, we look toward establishing an Oral History Project, creating original multimedia resources and engaging in advocacy aimed at resolving copyright restrictions that currently make our goal of free access prohibitively expensive.
We want to host an Inaugural Gala Concert as a way of promoting the music, giving opportunities for singers and musicians to practice their craft. On July 4, 2016, we want to put on the biggest concert we can afford, based on the level of donations received, to promote the Great American Songbook to an ever-widening group of advocates who will attend, volunteer and help fund more concerts in areas throughout the country. This concert will be located in the Aptos, California area, and all concert perks do not include transportation to or from the concert.
Ronald S. Kaplan
Ron Kaplan is a singer who has focused his career on continuing the tradition of performing songs from the Popular and Jazz Standards of the Great American Songbook. He performs regularly, and has released nine albums, including his most recent, a career retrospective that was released in 2014. In addition to his career as a concert performer and recording artist, Ron Kaplan also is the founder and executive director of American Songbook Preservation Society, which for twelve years has been pursuing the goal of preserving the cultural resource known as the Great American Songbook.
Stuart I. McCammon
Stuart I. McCammon has enjoyed a long career in the nonprofit sector, including stints at Boys & Girls Clubs of America, University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital Foundation of Orange County. He is a nonprofit serial entrepreneur, building successful programs from scratch, and has been fortunate to work alongside many experts in a variety of areas including website development, video production, nonprofit management, event marketing, direct mail, annual giving, nonprofit law, corporate/foundation relations, major and planned gifts, cause-related marketing and school/governmental agency collaborations.
Our goal for this Indiegogo project is $50,000. With that, we feel like we can get the wiki started off successfully and throw one heck of a party/concert on July 4, 2016. But more importantly, we want to engage people – as many as we possibly can, because that is what is going to breathe life into this music. We figure there will be a whole bunch of people who get excited about the Great American Songbook and decide to support one of the many other groups that are working on different aspects of this music, and that is OK. We also hope that many, many people will rediscover these performances and decide not to wait for our digital repository to be built, and just go ahead and buy recordings for their personal enjoyment, and that is OK too. And if we don’t raise the $50,000 that is also OK. We have already put up the wiki, and will still host a concert at whatever level is possible with the donations received. The concert will be located in the Aptos, California area, and all tickets are for admission only, and do not include any travel to or from the concert venue.
$25 /ASPS Sticker
$50/ Inaugural Gala Concert – one General Admission ticket.
$75 /American Songbook Preservation Society – Singing The Great American Songbook CD
$100/American Songbook Preservation Society 52 min. Documentary film DVD
$150 /Gold Circle Inaugural Gala Concert – one Gold Circle ticket.
$200/American Songbook Preservation Society 117 min. Concert DVD
$250 /VIP Inaugural Gala Concert – one VIP ticket, including admission to pre-concert VIP reception.
$500 /VIP Inaugural Gala Concert Experience – one VIP ticket, including admission to exclusive pre-concert VIP reception and after-party attended by concert performers, musicians and media.
$1,000/Great American Songbook Wiki Partner – “Partner” name identification on the Great American Songbook Wiki, located at greatamericansongbook.org/wiki
$2,500/Great American Songbook Wiki Supporter – “Supporter” featured name identification on the Great American Songbook Wiki, located at greatamericansongbook.org/wiki
$5,000/Great American Songbook Wiki Presenter – “Presented by” featured name and logo identification on the Great American Songbook Wiki, located at greatamericansongbook.org/wiki
$10,000/Associate Producer – “Associate Producer” name and logo identification in all concert advertising, program and promotional materials, Ten VIP Inaugural Gala Concert tickets, Ten pre-concert VIP reception tickets, Ten VIP after-party tickets, One autographed Inaugural Gala Concert CD, One autographed Inaugural Gala concert DVD
$25,000/Producer – “Producer” name and logo identification in all concert advertising, program and promotional materials, Limited edition personal recognition artwork, Ten VIP Inaugural Gala Concert tickets, Ten pre-concert VIP reception tickets, Ten VIP after-party tickets, One autographed Inaugural Gala Concert CD, One autographed Inaugural Gala concert DVD
$50,000/Executive Producer – “Executive Producer” name and logo identification in all concert advertising, program and promotional materials, Limited edition personal recognition artwork, Ten VIP Inaugural Gala Concert tickets, Ten pre-concert VIP reception tickets, Ten VIP after-party tickets, One autographed Inaugural Gala Concert CD, One autographed Inaugural Gala concert DVD
$100,000/Master of Ceremonies – “Presented by” name and logo identification in all concert advertising, program and promotional materials, Opportunity for one person to be the Honorary M.C. and participate in the stage show, Limited edition personal recognition artwork, Ten VIP Inaugural Gala Concert tickets, Ten pre-concert VIP reception tickets, Ten VIP after-party tickets, One autographed Inaugural Gala Concert CD, One autographed Inaugural Gala concert DVD
We see a future where schools can access free sheet music and arrangements of Great American Songbook music, where singers and musicians have a rich, vibrant array of opportunities to perform this music for others, where legions of fans can access archival footage of old performances and appreciate new, talented singers and musicians that are keeping the flame alive. This music is too good to consign to a museum – it needs to be seen, heard and performed, and our Indiegogo Project is just a humble beginning of a huge vision to preserve and protect a uniquely American cultural treasure.
Risks and Challenges
We have dealt with all of those along the way to conceptualizing our Indiegogo Project you see today. We set out a year ago to establish the digital repository, and found that copyright holders want huge sums to access their assets, that video copyright is still prohibitively expensive and oriented more toward showing in movie theaters than on the Internet, and that very little of these performances are even available. We would like to address all of these issues as we raise funds, engage in advocacy and establish relationships with copyright holders, but for now, this project is viable and free from the obstacles that led us to this path.
Other Ways You Can Help
Anything you can do to promote this project to your friends is appreciated – we are aggressively pursuing interview opportunities and free advertisements in all media, and when it gets down to it, we are a nonprofit. Join the American Songbook Preservation Society. Contact us if you want to start a chapter – we haven’t gone there yet, but would love to see this effort go all grassroots on us. Have a carwash, start a memorial fund for a loved one, tell your friends to send us money instead of wedding presents – the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. And we can’t do it without you.