Steamboat Springs As stock prices dwindle and a recession builds during the first few months of George W. Bush's presidency, one type of investment continues to prosper.
Although he is the first musician that fans can actually own a piece of, Chuck Pyle knows that investing in music and musicians is the way of the future.
It's worked for him.
"I'll have the financial support to not travel," Pyle said. "The travel is what keeps me from producing. Now I can stay home and produce about 100 songs that I'm writing."
While playing different gigs pays the mortgage, Pyle said he's gone every weekend, somewhere in the country, to give people a taste of his western theme, folk-acoustic style, a little cowboy poetry and some neo-humor on life.
Although the new investment philosophy has bridged consumers with musicians, Pyle said it also puts pressure on him to be creative.
When people are investing in your talent, you'd better show them you've got what it takes to make them money.
About seven years ago, Frank Landy, a psychologist consultant, met Pyle, also known as the Zen Cowboy, at the Acoustic Music coffee shop in Nederland.
As Pyle strummed his six-string acoustic guitar and sang of the campfires, deserts and wide open spaces night after night, Landy was convinced this man needed a little financial backing to help his music career lift up and take off.
But Landy's proposal really blossomed when Pyle took him on a river trip down the Chama River in New Mexico.
On a river-rafting trip, Landy said Pyle would play when the group camped at night and during lunches. The two became friends and quickly turned their newfound friendship into a producer-consumer relationship also.
"The idea came out of the blue. People could buy a share of his future," Landy said. "It's a completely novel approach to support your favorite singer-songwriter."
Investors buys a share at $1,000 each. From the revenues of CD and cover royalties, investors receive their money back plus profit of up to 200 percent of their initial investment.
At first, investors receive 80 percent of their investment back until they acquire their initial investment. Then it becomes a 50/50 contract with investors and the talent, which, in this case, is Pyle.
For example, if one of Pyle's CDs sells for $15 in stores and $10 is the profit made, $8 will go to investors and $2 will go to Pyle. However, when investors receive all of their initial investment back, they now make $5 of the $10 profit and Pyle makes the other $5.
Shares are offered in a yearly series of no more than 100, and the contract with investors is four years. Landy said the company, Zen Cowboy Woodshed LLC, has made $50,000 in subscriptions.
"I think that is really an innovation and that if it proves successful, there will be the emergence of these new partnerships to support the efforts of lesser known singer/songwriters," Landy said. "I do this for the love of music."
Music investments have been done before, but Pyle said only by paying someone for a satisfying music experience.
"It's a lot more personal," Pyle said of other investments people have made. "When you invest in a company you love and the people, you put your money where your heart is."
"Right now, the only option for an emerging singer/songwriter is to persuade a label to pick them up, or get someone big to produce a song," Landy said. "This is a third option. It's not hard to generate $50,000 and it's a lot more predictable."
Creating a market analysis with the fans is key. The musician needs to have a loyal fan base that is willing to front the first $1,000, Landy said.
Hiring a good law firm that handles developing corporations also is an integral component in starting an investment company. And an experienced accountant is an element that can't be left out, Landy said.
"We are a corporation. We are required to protect our shareholders," Landy said. "It's a hobby and a labor of love. But everyone who likes Chuck, so badly wants him to get in the country top 10. Everyone just wants him to be up there at the Grammys."
Pyle said he felt contracting with Landy and other investors was a natural step because of his cutting edge music.
"My work has always pushed the envelope," Pyle said. "I write different than other musicians."
Pyle is speaking of a formula that musicians typically follow, but he and a few others in the world have broken that pattern to relay a new audio diversion pleasing to the ear.
Most formulas consist of two verses, a chorus, a solo, a bridge and another chorus.
With a slight change to the structure, like putting a lift before the first chorus, creates a soar in the song.
This new-age singer-songwriter has lived on the Front Range for 30 years and has recorded five CDs with artists such as John Denver, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Chris LeDoux and Jerry Jeff Walker. The theme song for the PBS series "Spirit of Colorado" is one of Pyle's originals.