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Tuesday
Nov022010

An Argument Against Fan Funding

Let’s be honest. You don’t need the money.

Anyone can make a record for next to nothing these days. Almost any other hobby is more expensive: photography, mountain biking, even video gaming. When a teenager singing into a webcam gets exponentially more views on YouTube than your latest “professional” video, the answer isn’t more money.

You’re just not there yet.

(hey, don’t feel bad - I’m not either)

Tracking at Abbey Road Studios won’t get you there. Hiring T-Bone Burnett to mix your album won’t get you there. A full-day mastering session with Bob Ludwig won’t get you there. 10,000 pressed CDs with 18-page inserts won’t get you there. A $5,000 promotion budget won’t get you there either.

No matter how much money you throw at your project, we’re all limited by a stubborn principle called free market pricing. People are only willing to pay what a product is worth to them, not what it costs to produce. The intrinsic value of music is in free fall, and people won’t pay for it if they’re just not that into you.

So why are musicians flocking to fan funding (also known as “crowdfunding”) sites like Kickstarter, Sellaband, Slicethepie, PledgeMusic, and artistShare in droves? 

My guess is that they figure “why not give it a shot”? Well, I’ll tell you why not, and offer a better option.

  1. It’s dishonest. I’m simply not willing to pretend it costs thousands of dollars to put out an album. If you can’t sell 100 CDs at $10 to pay for replication, make CD-Rs at $2 a pop, produce them on-demand, or go digital-only. Effective promotion doesn’t necessarily come with a price tag. And really, why should your fans pay to promote something they already bought?
  2. They own you. By entering into a partnership with your fans, you become accountable to them. Until you follow through on your promises, you no longer call the shots. As Hugh McLeod explains in Ignore Everybody, “The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will. The best way to get approval is not to need it.” While some may actually like the added pressure, it comes with a loss of control.
  3. You could fail. Publicly and humiliatingly. Everyone will get their money back while you walk away empty-handed. Your fans may conclude that either your goal was too ambitious, or just maybe, your music isn’t as good as they thought is was. Your failure functions as a reverse testimonial. And then what? Are you really going to dump the whole project? If not, why hold it hostage in the first place?

We’re all adults here, right? If your project is so promising and you can’t scrape together $1500 from your “real job,” you could always write up a business plan and get a loan from the bank. Then again, they may just chuckle and offer to raise the limit on your Visa.

Fortunately, there’s a way to reap all the benefits of fan funding with none of the downsides: take pre-orders.

You can still create tiers with personalized extras, like phone calls with the artist, studio attendance, or a custom song. If you accept payments directly, you earn an extra 10% that would otherwise go to a third party. You can create a plan that scales with your goals (“if we reach 100 pre-orders, I’ll press CDs and all digital album sales will include physical CDs as well”). Or you can wait to add tiers until you reach certain milestones, so you don’t promise anything you can’t deliver. Best of all, you’re not locked in to anything. You can adjust your approach as you go based on fan response.

Taking pre-orders puts free market pricing on your side, by allowing you to create only what you need to fulfill demand. Best of all, there’s no “goal” to reach, so you keep every dollar. Risk is no longer a factor.

When is fan funding a better choice than taking pre-orders? What can an artist do on a fan funding site that they can’t do on their own? Let me know in the comments!

Brian Hazard is a recording artist with sixteen years of experience promoting his eight Color Theory albums. His Passive Promotion blog emphasizes “set it and forget it” methods of music promotion. Brian is also the head mastering engineer and owner of Resonance Mastering in Huntington Beach, California.

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (57)

agreed on all points and then some. i have always felt that taking money from fans under this premise was deceitful, not to mention cheesy. altho i am all for involving fans in the artists process, having them finance your project is lazy and irresponsible. you should be giving to them! pre-orders are a perfect way to kickstart any worthwhile project. selling production credits and thank you name space is deplorable. fake.

November 2 | Unregistered Commenterarttoothdecay

I always thought fan funding was; buy ticket to show, buy CD, buy merch and then tell a friend.

I agree Brian. If you can't afford Abbey Road either work harder or go for a cheaper option.

The main problem is that everyone and his dog is making music now. Will musicians fund other musicians? The only people who profit are the middle men (websites). New systems same old conclusions.

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterLoon

I think this is great advice for people that suck.

I know that sounds flippant and possibly cruel, but just because it's easy to make something these days, doesn't mean it should be made in the first place. As a veteran in "the biz" of over 35 years, and having had the privilege of working alongside dozens of universally recognized artists, technicians, and business people, I can say without any doubt whatsoever that 99% of the people that play an instrument or write music should do so as a hobby.

The easiest way to tell if you truly suck is to stop listening to the praises you get from family and friends... or accolades from online services that are filled with people that are clearly doing a "cattle call" for talent.

Really talented A&R people who are actually focused on finding that needle in a haystack rarely use such methods to find true talent... largely because such services rarely attract truly talented people.

But there are truly talented "diamonds in the rough" out there and for them, with the collapse of the record business and the devaluation of music, fan-funded support is a FANtastic way to solidify and grow one's fan base while getting the job done.

And Brian... you can't just "hire T-Bone Burnett"... he's not like a gardener.

Dan Nash
Just Great Management

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterDan Nash

agreed, agreed & well said . thanks for writing with such candidness . also love that you quote hugh mcleod .

November 2 | Unregistered Commenteramy

As someone who has been a believer on Sellaband since (almost) its start, there are a number of things in your post that ring true. In fact, I even mentioned the "why would you ever use a middleman, if you can do it all yourself" in one of my recent blog posts.

One interesting point to pick up on.. Whoever said fan-funding ISN'T pre-ordering? Rather if you're funding using your existing fans, then essentially you're getting them to pre-order because they are paying for something which (presumably) hasn't been created yet.

Rather this is the problem with fan-funding sites. Artists seem to be turning up at them looking for new fans rather than bringing existing ones and meanwhile the sites are doing everything they can to attract artists, but not potential new fans. i.e. there is a vast difference in what artists seem to be expecting from a fan-funding site and what fan-funding sites reckon they are.

Until fan funding sites stop being the passive middleman and take a more active approach towards fan creation, I think your comments about using fan funding sites are generally going to be spot on. If you a) DEFINITELY know you have the fans who are willing to spend the money and b) don't have the infrastructure/ don't want the hassle of collecting the money and information yourself, then this is the only current combination I see where a fan-funding site can fill the gap.

It's also worth noting that not every fan funding site will return the money that fans deposit in it. Despite the information in Sellaband's current FAQ, they will no longer refund money deposited in the site (you'll need to check the actual T&C for the reality) even if the artist leaves before reaching their goal.

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterLucretia

You say..."people won’t pay for it if they’re just not that into you." Yeah, that is the point. Fan funding allows you to connect with people that really want you to succeed and ARE really into it. This is especially relevant when the product is an upsell. For example, the album is already out in digital form and the funding is to bring it out on vinyl. Low risk because product is already there, now we connect with fans willing to pay more for an upsell item.

November 2 | Unregistered Commenterbarnone

Hi Brian,

Thank you for taking on this important and honest question. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about crowdfunding (i.e. fan funding) and this is an increasingly important topic.

Although I obviously have a biased perspective, I have experienced the development, promotion, and aftermath of hundreds of crowdfunding projects - both on the platform that I co-founded (RocketHub.com) and also on other great platforms - such as PledgeMusic.com.

I have to disagree with nearly every point you've made above:

1. The premise that crowdfunding is purely about the funds is wrong. This new form of fundraising also creates awareness and momentum for an artist's project - in essence it is a fixed-length PR campaign. Take a look at this interview we recently conducted with a crowdfunding Creative: http://blog.rockethub.com/interview-with-bobby-belfry-the-creative-proc - in particular the quotes about fan involvement are telling of the great value that crowdfunding offers beyond the money.

2. No matter how inexpensive the costs of music production have gotten - the process still does take a considerable amount money to complete. For better-or-for-worse, money is still positively correlated with sound quality, promotional might, and creative freedom - i.e. making a vinyl edition may be vital for a musician's creative vision to become a reality. This costs money that most indie musicians can not readily afford.

3. I believe that many would argue that accountability to fans is a good thing. Crowdfunding allows musicians to choose what level of involvement they want fans to have in their creative process - to what level they are willing to let the market dictate artistic direction. Crowdfunding is about empowerment and choice - something the old recording industry model had very little of. Crowdfunding is a collaborative model that has nothing to do with "owing."

4. There is no such thing as failure in crowdfunding. Not reaching the financial goal is painful but it is also a valuable and vital lesson. It tells that artist that something is off and that adjustment is needed - in the scope of the project, in the artist's perception of his fans, or in combination of both. It's no necessarily a judgement of the creative merit.

5. Pre-selling from a personal site is always an option - and has been around for much longer than the proliferation of fan funding sites such as RocketHub. But much is lost in this approach - including (1.) the community/discovery cross-over that a crowdfunding site offers; (2.) social proof and credibility that comes from crowdfunding on a trusted platform with real faces/names listed as contributors; and most importantly (3.) the powerful mechanism that comes from a deadline-based all-or-nothing crowdfunding framework that gives fans an immediate incentive to give, to spread the word about projects they support, and to feel better by making a real impact.

Crowdfunding (i.e. fan funding) is an online event - a campaign that galvanizes an artist to act and that inspires fans to get involved. Crowdfunding is an event that harnesses an artist’s network and audience for funds, awareness, and feedback. It's not for everyone - but those artists that do it well much to gain.

Thank you for brining this debate to the forefront.

Kind Regards,
Vlad

Co-Founder & COO or RocketHub.com

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterVlad Vukicevic

Seriously, you do not play music and your certainly not a musician?

Imagine you are a full time musician and that you have to pay the bills, buy and repair actual instruments, that you're looking for that great microphone or try to bring your girlfriend to the restaurant, then, actually, the 1000$/day for the professional studio is, YES, expensive, and sometime, need some funding.

Do you seriously think that the bank would give musician some money when they have alreayd full the credit card for touring or others expenses?

Jez, people with not buy CD-R when it's your third album.
Come on, try at least to understand musicians.

I'm an engineer and I could understand your point of view, but you did not take the time to understand street musicians or professional musician that touring ARE the real job.

p.s. Pre-order IS fan founding

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterPhil de Bourg

Quite a range of opinions! Thanks for the thoughtful comments. Vlad, I especially appreciate your perspective from the inside. Obviously I have a different take, but I won't bore you with a point-by-point rebuttal. I do want to clarify a few points though.

First, the terminology. To my way of thinking, "pre-orders" and "fan funding" aren't necessarily different things. Fan funding campaigns typically center around a product, and tend to include that product at all funding levels. It's a pre-order, plus whatever other "value adds" are thrown in at higher tiers. And while we typically think of a pre-order as selling a nearly completed product before its release date, it doesn't have to be that way. You can frame it just as you would a fan funding campaign, deadlines and all.

So whatever you choose to call it, the important question is, where are you going to host your campaign? At a fan funding site, with its inherent costs and risks? Or on your own site, with its inherent flexibility and SEO benefits? Do you want to establish a direct relationship with your fans, or do it through a third party? WWTD? (what would Trent do? ;)

One other point I want to emphasize is that artists are selling an EXCLUSIVE experience. I did everything I could to involve my fans in the creation of my last album. Their feedback was enlisted throughout the entire process, from commenting on and selecting the best of 30 short instrumental snippets to develop, through suggesting changes to the lyrics. It's all there at colortheory.com for anyone to see.

Could I have charged money for exclusive access? Sure, and I bet I could've got 50-100 people to sign on. Is that worth shutting the rest of the world out? No way! Not only did it strengthen the loyalty of my fan base - it got new visitors to the site involved in the process, resulting in more fans. A fan funding campaign can't do that. Once you accept the money, you have to turn everyone else away at the door.

November 2 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

I partially fan-funded my 1997 album Isabella by taking donations and putting sponsor names in the liner notes. It would have taken me 1-2 longer to finish that record without the financial help. It was actually a great experience because I felt very touched, encouraged, and supported, and I've still got many letters from the sponsors saying how proud they were to have been a little part of it.

arttoothdecay: I suppose this makes me deplorable and fake. And I can totally live with that. ;-)

Mark Nicholas
Cosmicity

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterMark Nicholas

Brian.

I'm glad MTT has continued to raise the topic of fan/crowd funding by publishing your piece.

Like Vlad above I also have a biased opinion of fan funding being the Founder of Feed The Muse an online donation platform specific to the artistic community. The difference with our site is that we've taken out the element of selling equity (like slice the pie and sellaband) in your art. We've also eliminated the risk of not reaching your goal and not getting the money (like kickstarter and pledge music). By using Feed The Muse, what the artist can raise is what they receive.

I don't believe that this is a question of whether or not fan funding is the solution. At Feed The Muse we believe that fan funding is absolutely another potential revenue stream for the independent artist who is trying to manage and operate their business. When viewed in that light it begins to make sense. As a business owner I set an overall budget for what I would like to gross, but if I don't meet that goal I still need the income to pay my bills. We send out checks every month to working artists. If you include our monthly checks with the checks you receive from companies like CDBaby, ASCAP/BMI and the money you get from live shows it starts to add up to a working career. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.

From a fans perspective, people have been supporting the arts forever. Crowd funding is similar to the way fans support NPR only when you go direct to the artist it becomes more specific, more
personal.

In any event, the conversation is good because that's how we all become more comfortable with this still "new" idea.

Sincerely.

Jamie Lokoff
Founder
feedthemuse.net

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterJamie Lokoff

wow... lots of interesting points of view here... I am with Brian. I have never wanted to ask anyone for money up front. Just a personal thing... it would make me very uncomfortable. If people like what I produce then I am REALLY happy when they buy it.

And not having to answer to anyone keeps the material true to your vision, instead of trying to cater to the masses. Isn't this why we are independent?

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterHelen Austin

Great article. I feel sullied by all these newfangled ways to "monetize" and "brand" everything creative. It's not that everything out there that's geared to promoting music is bad, but I get the sense that I'm just one cup of coffee away from figuring out some angle to get that 10% off artists/punters, by offering the next unnecessary service (except it's necessary to me if I want to skin someone for that 10%...).

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterRobi

This is such an interesting article. I agree fans shouldn't have any leverage on the artist. There fans an the artist is the artist. The relationship should stay as it is.

November 2 | Unregistered Commentertrudell

Ive always cringed when Ive heard someone say they need $1500 - $2000 to record their new album and need funding through vimeo or similar. I totally agree, just release something on a shoe string. If its good it will sell!

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterPA Hire in Leeds

My comment about crowd-funding: when everyone is doing it, nobody will be able to do it. It does not scale. Artists will be tuned out like bugs at a banquet. I don't expect consumers to act as a filter either. Sites that bring expert curation to the crowd-funding table stand a far better chance of succeeding.

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

Great post, never thought about any arguments against fan funding but this solidifies some of the things i have been feeling while thinking about these services, such as cheesy etc.

The points made in the comments as ever have brought another post on MTT up a notch :D Thanks guys!

Oh and 'as expensive as photography and cycling'? The what i would like to call 'basic' recording studio set-up in my basement is so much more financially draining than the years of photography, cycling and even motorbikes have cost. This is coming from a northern English lad who can be tight with his money, knows a bargain when he see's one and got every piece in the studio for less than half price. So if a band wishes to ask for some money to set up their own recording studio or to get songs professionally recorded and mastered, i say let them.

From what i have personally gone through with setting up my basement, fan-funding is a great way to find some new revenue for an audio project.

November 2 | Registered CommenterMartin Toole

I personally feel uncomfortable asking for money. Let's face it- there are USUALLY strings attached when someone gives you money. I also feel VERY UNEASY when someone (for any reason) asks me for money! I know I am not alone in that. I would only ask for money in an emergency situation. And music is no emergency. I prefer to support an Artist in a more authentic way, which is buying the product and/or giving positive and constructive feedback.

There is pride in funding your own music projects, then funneling some of the profits into your next release and so on.

If an Artist keeps asking for money (for every music endeavor) it will be a HUGE turn-off to fans. Most adults have a hobby / Art that they would love to get funded!!! SO- why is it that few people hop on this "funding/give me money" train??? Because the average Artist has tact and pride, AND the understanding that a good product will yield monetary gain at the point of completion.

Thanks Brian for having the courage to bring up this subject and giving your honest opinion.

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterCharlene April

A 30 campaign for my Happy Holidays CD started yesterday. $285 so far. It's hosted by Rockethub who have been very helpful:

http://www.rockethub.com/projects/499-martin-blasick-happy-santa-holiday-album

- the on camera sales pitch is daunting. I'm not doing anything illegal but you'd think I'd stolen a purse in some of my daily Countdown to Chirstmas videos. It's a new skill a lot of us don't have. I am enjoying the challenge and think I will be a better performer because of it. A daily vid takes a fair bit of time.

-contributors so far are folks who've never bought any of my previous cd's. I think this might tap into a different type of person/relationship.

-Please 'like' me on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=638225776

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Blasick

Hi Brian,
So at first I'd like to adress that PledgeMusic isn't simply a "Fan Funding" or "Crowd Funding" site in the traditional sense of the sites that you mentioned below and I state this at the outset as I consider what we do to be in the direct to fan space. That said I'd like to address a few things below.

Making a record for next to nothing is still not nothing and simply recording a record is not enough. Since hundreds of thousands of albums are released each year to litle or no acclaim worldwide it is clear that something else is needed to rise above all that noise. Also bands need to tour. This does run contrary to your first point in the blog: "Let’s be honest. You don’t need the money."

So how is your rent to be paid when you are 3000 miles away playing shows? Who pays to have discs to sell at the shows pressed up? Who pays for the merch, the food, the beer and the PR campaigns that would allow for your music to reach it's peek potential audience? How would I pay your studio for your mastering services? I have a few thousand bands that I would love to send your way if you are cool with them not paying for a good mastering job...

Fan Funding vs Pre-Sale?

OK the fan funding proposition has always felt uncomfortably close to a glorified pre-sale. I agree there. It's the old "give me money now and in six months I'll send you the record I made" idea. Also the idea that the fan "rewards" are what they have paid for is strange too, which is why we don't do that. Whilst not wanting to be a pitch for PledgeMusic, I want to clarify why it's different. Our proposition is: Pledge here to be a part of the making of our EP/album/tour/video and from day one you will gain access to the bands Pledgers only updates section. From this private space you will get to view and share personalised music, video, photos and written blogs directly from the band (on in industry speak "content"). You can Pledge for any of the exclusives (incentives) on offer and a part of the profits from this Pledge go to the charity of our choice.

These updates are truly the rewards and are what create the element of participation and inclusion. They are the true value add. If you could see behind the scenes footage from the studio or hear rough mixes, live tracks, demos etc from your favourite band you would be literally taken along for the ride as the music is being made. The fact of there being tiers of financial participation is simply the price at which you want to enter. During numerous Pledge campaigns we have seen that the more an artist updates the more people Pledge. Often fans Pledge multiple times as new exclusives are offered and more updates come onto the system. All of this equals much more than just a simple pre-sale and is the reason that our artists are getting signed to both record and publishing deals outside of the platform and in some cases to our own label and publishing company. Artists are making enough money to tour and promote and to have a career in this new music industry. Fans want more and so our artists use us as as a way to give them this. In one sense the raising of the money is the smallest part of the equation. This is why I don't like to be called a "fan funding" engine as this sells our process short. This is also why the majority of our artists choose not to display their financial target (as with Kate in the picture above).
The fans do not care what the target is. It's irrelevant. All that matters is how great is the campaign and how great are the updates?

The campaigns need to be thought out, treated as anything but one size fits all and have to on a basic marketing level just work. Here I am speaking to your point about campaigns failing. We hit the point a few months ago at which 77% of Pledge campaigns that launched succeeded in making their projects happen. It's allot of work. We go back an fourth with the artists multiple times to ensure that their price points are correct, that their timelines work and if their database numbers aren't up to scratch we offer them free data capture to assist with this. If after this period of data capture is up and they still aren't at the point where we think they can make it work on our platform we won't approve the project. We send numerous artists to the other platforms should they still wish to shoot for higher targets but the point is that if you do your homework and get the project right it will succeed. If you can't make it work then don't. The last thing that any of us need is thousands of half baked projects floating around that don't meet their targets. We kick our artists to deliver what they have promised at the outset which is an experience. Music is free, the experience is not. Pre-orders in the age of the internet are in my opinion going to become irrelevant especially in a streaming world. They kill the urgency and excitement of a live campaign and they are all about the commerce. There is nothing experiential about "funding" anything.

Whilst I cannot speak for fan funding or crowd funding or even crowd sourcing as it's not what we do, I can say that as a musician it does cost money to make it work as a business. I made six albums and each one cost me money. I toured for years and this cost me money. I had some great successes and I had some dismal failures. The direct to fan model is what I wish I had had from the outset as I could have turned what I did into a business. I may do again someday, but the point is that I want amazing quality and this does cost. Our second artist just got John Allagia to agree to do her record. It will sound amazing, and yes it will cost money. I want for all of our artists to be able to afford to work with incredible producers, mixers and to be able to pay for your mastering services. I want all of our artists to make an amazing living, and a bunch of them do. It's sustainable, as long as they are creative and the music is good then people will want to be a part of it. To buy it once it's out? That's another matter but to go on the journey? That to me is the future and as the fans continually remind us, they want more of what our artists have to offer. This is why they sometimes Pledge multiple times and on multiple campaigns. They want the journey. They are the true fans and we link the musicians directly to them.
Cheers
Benji
Founder PledgeMusic

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterBenji Rogers

If fan-funding is going to take off, bands and artists can't force it to happen. It has to be a decision on the part of FANS that to say that this is the new music biz model. And frankly, I don't see people getting into it.

The whole idea has always struck me as profoundly lame. An artist's believability and credibility is image-based, and nothing says "amateur" like asking for money.

Contrary to what many comments seem to believer, good albums are not made on shoe-string budgets (if shoe-string is meant to mean under $1,000 or so). But thats no reason to advertise your financial situation and grub money from fans. Plenty of people are finding ways to fund albums without asking their fans to pony up ahead of time.

What comes down to is that there are 2 reasons you might do a fan-funding venture.

1. You need the cash to actually record and produce your record
2. You want to promote fan engagement

In the case of number 1, I say a record deal is a far more favorable solution. In the case of number 2, I'd say that you had better make the act of me giving you money for not-music a seriously fun and memorable transaction, otherwise come up with a better way to make me like you.

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

Great to hear from you Benji! I really enjoyed your thoughtful interview with Hypebot last month.

I don't want you to think I was picking on PledgeMusic by choosing that image, but as it happens, Kate Havnevik's campaign was in large part the impetus for this article. I bought her last album and must have signed up for her mailing list at some point, because I received an email encouraging me to visit her campaign page. What I saw made me uncomfortable, like watching "The Office" uncomfortable. As a fellow recording artist, I just can't see how it could possibly be worth the money.

Let me quickly address a few points you brought up:

1. Who pays for the mastering, tour, merch, promo, etc?

Presumably, the fans. They buy CDs, tickets, and t-shirts. A band is a business, not a charity.

2. "You don't need the money."

OK, I know I just said a band is a business, but I don't think about what I do in those terms. It's a passion. It's about the music, not the money. I don't need to tour, I don't need merch, and I don't need a promotion budget. None of those things ultimately serve the music. Technology has gotten to the point where I could record and promote an album entirely on my phone! Which, come to think of it, would probably be a huge selling point. More money doesn't necessarily mean more success.

3. Artist updates are the true rewards for fans.

Agreed, but as I explained in my earlier comment, artists are selling an exclusive experience. When the campaign ends, how do you build momentum for your release when you're hyping it behind closed doors? Why shut the rest of the world out when you can involve ALL of your fans on your own site, and gain new fans in the process?

November 3 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

It's different for everybody, depends on the project, and fan-funding and pre-sales is simply another trick in the toolbox which will work well for some things and not for others.

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterJulian Moore

I think like most things if you are honest with yourself and with your fans about why you're asking for their money then you have nothing to worry about.

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Kent

I'm torn about this. I think for some artists fan funding is a no brainer. For others I think it's less clear. The music business is the only business where I've heard of this notion of fans/public needing to "support the artist."

In almost every other professional endeavor like your day job for example, we think of it as "supporting ourselves." I wonder why that leap is rare within the artistic community. The language construct in the former abdicates so much power to forces outside of ourselves.

We need to realize just how much we can achieve and conquer when we enable ourselves with our creativity "off the stage."

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterCharles Alexander

Fan funding is the street musician with his guitar case open begging for money. The music industry ate itself, and now we have to start over again.

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterMonty Singleton

"I don't need to tour, I don't need merch, and I don't need a promotion budget. None of those things ultimately serve the music."

W....T....F.... is that a joke? Touring, wise men say, has a little something to do with music, i.e. the performance thereoff. Merchandise is maybe unimportant, but it reinforces (or should reinforce) the message of your music. And without promo, I ain't going to know about you're music, and sure won't be hearing it.

"Technology has gotten to the point where I could record and promote an album entirely on my phone! Which, come to think of it, would probably be a huge selling point."

I can't bring myself to believe that you actually think that is true.

I agree that fan funding is not really that superb an idea, but to keep making the arguement that money is generally unimportant to music production (if you intend to try and sell that music) is false. Sure, it requires less money than it used to, but it still requires more than you seem to think it does.

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

Brian,

With respect toward your eventual aim, your comments are short-sighted and out of touch with the real world. If you're an artist who's worked for many years to independently build your audience, and it's now a legitimate, large and loyal audience, then recording and releasing a record that respects and truly delivers to them requires fan funding. You want to give them something that will, if not blow their minds, at least move them emotionally.

By "deliver" i mean creating a song cycle that aspires to being a real artistic statement, with great players, sounds, mixing, mastering and artwork. A record that can compete with and stand beside the best things that are released this year, from any and everyone.

These things, when done by the best people in the business that you can actually afford, aren't cheap. I respect my audience, and our relationship is built on hard-won trust. I won't give them a quickie record or a one-off where I play all the instruments then mix and master it in garageband with some guy around the corner. I owe them more than that, and that requires funding.

And that's just the musical side of this handshake with the people that have supported me for 20 years and 12 cds. To work for 2 years writing and re-writing and recording, hiring real studios and real players, everything that goes into it, then watch it wither and die on the vine because you don't have the means or wherewithal to work it on radio, hire a real publicist so people can actually know it's out, hire a pr company to work the endless, myriad online opportunities, service and correspond with the hundreds of influential blogs out there, then hire and rehearse a band of great players to support the record with concerts, radio & tv shows...that's shooting yourself in the other foot and your fans in the head.

These are exciting times for independent artists, musicians, and music business entrepreneurs. There is more opportunity in the “new” music business than ever before. Now a lot of us can make a living communicating directly with our audience, and that audience is everywhere in the world. I have fans and listeners in every country from Finland to China and of course the US. If we reduce our overhead and use social strategies on and offline to create direct to fan relationships, we can only improve upon what's been done for the last 50 years in the "traditional" music business. That gatekeepers are losing their influence or disappearing altogether.

But to make that a reality, I need help on the front end. So I'm about to launch a kickstarter funding project, and it's more than honest in every way. The money will be used to finish mixing and recording, create the artwork, manufacture the cd, and then take on the gargantuan task of promoting it in this media-ized new world.

I think what's unique is that artists are raising money from fans who want to hear new work and really be a part of a creative project from the ground up. These sites are revolutionary, really--where art, commerce and patronage combine to foster creative new work.

Music has never let me down. It's been a consistent emotional connection since I was 14, like air or water, and still is. I want to extend a hand or a thought --to say "How's it been for you?" -- to as many people as I can reach through my songs. It's in this sense that I want to reach my audience: as a collection of friends who have identified with an idea, lyric, riff or melody in any one of my songs.

Fan-funding sites are the place to start this conversation in a very real way. My kickstarter page will be up next week.

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterStewart Francke

I'm an independent artist that considered doing a fan funded album last year. But I did not end up doing it because the environment for my fans to fund my project were not right. Let me explain.

1. Fans have to trust you. Which means you have to have an engaging and positive relationship with them. I had not been engaging and felt asking for money would look like I was begging. But things are better today.

2. Be realistic when asking for money. It's always hard to say how much an album will cost. But depending on your fans, the studio, producer, extra musicians, whatever--I would say fans will cover a portion of the album the majority of the time. Be realistic with how much of your costs they should cover based on what they're already spending on you (the free market). Example: if an album will project to be $10,000, don't ask your fans for that amount when they'd more likely chip in $6000.

3. Give them other ways within the crowdfunding resource used to get involved. It can't just be about the money. Money usually divides people than brings them together (in my experience). Sure you can offer cool stuff depending on the level they give. Have them choose some tracks, give feedback on ones recorded, provide them with limited release stuff that only funders will get, make it special. Don't just take the money and run.

So yes, while crowdfunding is popular and maybe trendy right now, I believe the right environment needs to be created for it.

Brian Franke
Singer/Songwriter
www.brianfranke.com
www.brianfranke.com/thinkingaloud (blog)

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Franke

My biggest problem with fan funding is that it is inherently disingenuous. There is NO need to do it via a third party in the form that it exists now.

If I am to beg my fans/friends/family for money, then I will do it on my own website or using a business plan and knocking on their doors.

On the other hand if there was a crowd funding site that was a network of investors and artists then I would be 100% behind it. In this case it works like venture capital whereby you don't have to hassle people on Facebook or other media to support you. In this case if I as an investor get a daily email of acts to invest in, I can read their bio, and listen to their music and decide for myself. The artist can concentrate on making music and I will invest as I please. The third party website will then co-ordinate the recording, promotion and sales and act like a proper label. THIS MAKES SENSE. The existing ones DO NOT. Sorry to burst anyones bubbles but if you own such a site then you need to make it more like a proper investment opportunity and stop asking artists to bring their own fans. This is the core of your business. Relying on artists to raise the money themselves and then take a cut. Sorry bad bad bad.

Now the other reason main reason why crowd funding is not necessary is because if artists concentrated on making SINGLES there would be NO need to raise ridiculous amounts of money for your project and fans can buy the record/download/CD or whatever format you have.

This worked so well in the 90s and there was nowhere near the technology or ability to make decent records at home.

Here is a basic plan which anyone can employ when releasing a single. By the way this article is excellent for sharpening the mind and to all the crowd funding sites, please don't take any offence at what I am saying.

Record and release a single without tears: (for bands)

1. Pick 2 songs. An A side and a B side.
This decision is pretty damned important. Pick a cover as a B side. It can open doors originals just can't.

2. If you have your own sequencing software, put it all together. Download Reaper if you are totally skint. It is blooming excellent. Spend a day doing it. If you can't do that, go to a midi suite in a studio. If you have a band rehearse like crazy. Then get a laptop/desktop with a decent interface Focusrite Saffire is a good one or even the damned Behringer ADA8000. RECORD AT HOME. This is what a Melbourne band called The Smoke did.

3. Hire a decent mix engineer or online mix engineer to mix your record if you can't do it yourself. There are many online and they are so affordable.

4. Get your tracks mastered. Heck even Tunecore offer it for $50 a track.

5. Document this process with a video if you can or shoot a music video with a HD camcorder or go old skool and use super 8 if you are really pushed for cash. You can pick up a camera and film for under $30. Watch what you can do with it http://vimeo.com/9112241

I prefer DSLR personally and have a Nikon D90 and the Sony Nex-5 is excellent if you can afford it. Hey you can even use one of these new fangled pocket HD cameras
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po4IDkcqzng like the Creative Vado which looks excellent or how about going old skool and picking up a DV cam for peanuts on Ebay ? Don't forget a tripod. You would need a tripod.

Now you have a single and a video (a straight forward performance shot in multiple angles and an interview of the band would do).

6. Marketing wise, my recommendation is to use Youtube advertising as well as its organic search to draw traffic to your website. You must have some sort of monetised page like we have here www.vhprecords.com and if you sign up for Blip TV you make some money based on the numbers of people that come to your site. Facebook ads is great too. There are many articles on using Facebook advertising and the best one I read, suggested you can use it to advertise to the recording industry. They are all on Facebook and Twitter for that matter.

7. When you have a bit of an online buzz you can progress to the next level and by the way once you optimise your ad spend v ad income you can even make a profit. But you would need to sign people up to your site, give them a free download and urge them to buy your version of (insert cover here from itunes).

8. Sell your story to the press. If you have one. This is better value for you than getting meaningless reviews and spending stupid amounts on PR people to get them. Send the magazines a copy of your CD or your weblink for review and put a request CD button should they require it. Your default promo should be VIDEO. Everyone can watch it and then request hard copies if needs be. To sell your story of your personal triumphs, love life or anything you have that is going to appeal to the rags go to www.talktothepress.com

9. If you do need a PR person, get a freelancer. They are much cheaper as they don't have huge overheads and with the numbers of press, pr agencies etc downsizing, there will be lots of them. Or try a Virtual Assistant with PR experience. At least you can tailor your campaign to the dollars you have.

10. Finally throw a party, competition and have fun. Then do it all again.

I have tried to be concise and there is a lot more detail I could go into but this would need a one on one discussion as everyone's needs are different. But if you use what you have to get what you want you can do it.

The most important of all is the first. Get the songs right. So if you have no A&R then team up with like minded artists. Did you know that a lot of a&r people are artists themselves ? Or were artists at some point in their incarnation.

In summary, crowd funding should evolve to a genuine network where real investors (could be individuals investing a few dollars to big investors investing millions) and artists meet. But even so you would need something to sell to them.

Look forward to hearing what people have to say in response.

Kehinde

www.vhprecords.com
www.mypopdiary.com
www.myhotmusic.com

November 3 | Registered CommenterKehinde azeez

Wow Kehinde! You've got some useful and very specific tips there.

For what it's worth, my new eighth album cost $1220 to put out. No tour, no merch, no real promotion budget to speak of, though I've spent a few hundred bucks on Jango Airplay and Facebook ads. Granted, there was some luck involved this time around, but as a rule, I try to live within my means.

As for recording an album on my phone, a quick visit to the iTunes app store will demonstrate that point (at least for an electronic musician like myself). I'm not about to try it, but it would be a slick gimmick worthy of viral coverage. If it hasn't been done already, it will be soon.

Just checked the Google. It already happened over a year ago.

November 3 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Anytime mate.
Ok so just really quick as for point 1 and above. Album sales and live business are plummeting and show no signs of more life approaching. So what we tried to do was set up a compelling and effective option. I wrote a blog about it here: http://www.pledgemusic.com/blog/23-options and having met many Pledgers they have expressed how refreshing it is to not just be sold to. We guide our artists in every way that we can as I said but in the end it is their call as to how they message especially once it's live. Kates campaign was amazing as from our initial data capture through the campaign launch the fans shared like it was their job and really got into the process. I'm sorry that you didn't. When we met Kate in London it was clear that she truly wanted to share an amazing experience with her fans and i believe that she did. A Pledge campaign need not preclude a regular release. An act we work with just signed a deal with a label in the UK and we are doing a joint venture to release a Pledge campaign into a regular campaign as it has proven that what we do increases sales once it comes to market. Also I would point out that the Pledgers are the hardcore and not the casual who will most likely torrent, stream or acquire and as a last resort buy.

As to point 2. I admire that you can do that but I know for a fact that most of the artists we have brought to market require much more. If Vinyl or analogue recording, detailed artwork and or packaging is part of your artistic expression then why limit yourself to recording at home. If you want to hire an incredible producer, musician or venue to track then why not? If you have fans who will gladly support it seems crazy to limit yourself.

3. As I mentioned above it's open for anyone to get involved but it's really for your hardcore. I am a fan. There are certain artists that I would cut off my right arm to see run a Pledge campaign from a fan standpoint alone. I get the music with a click these days. But I want more. I am willing to pay for more and so are the thousands of other people who Pledge on these direct to fan offerings every day.

But best of all if it's not for you an a personal level you don't have to participate in it. Any fan can just wait for it to come out and then try and find a place of their choosing to buy it physically if one still exists or else download it. So you could pay $9.99 for the record on iTunes when it comes out and have the just the MP3's or pledge $10 to be a part of its making, get bonus music, video, pics & blogs and see it come into the world. Either way you still get the record. Which is a better value though?

One does not preclude the other and a direct to fan campaign is most certianly optional and not required.
Cheers
Benj

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterBenji Rogers

While I have all respect to all posts, and tried to read as many as I could. I'd like to state my opinions regarding the article itself.

There's all kinds of ways to get from point A to point B. The fastest way is a straight line, but let's be realistic, there's hardly ever a straight line to success in this business.

We live in a world where you have an array of choices and opportunities, and you have to base your decisions on a variety of factors. Often it's good to pursue what you know you can finish, rather than having a lot of great starts and no motivation to take the next step.

I proudly have a Kickstarter project online now centered around my community and spreading the wealth of talented writers, musicians, and producers I've had the pleasure of working with through the years. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/yellowtieguy/southern-maryland-music-collaboration

I don't think it would be fair to post a project on Kickstarter if it's a project you have no intention of finishing without the aid of the contributions, but knowing that you have a certain amount of funding in advance can alter the course of what media your distribute in, the quality of the recording, or even the album design and artwork.

You owe it to yourself to try a fundraising program if you feel your project has merit. Has public broadcasting been "deceiving us" all these years?

Just a few thoughts. Hope you're inspired.

Daniel W. Hill
http://www.alchemicalrecords.com

Interesting article, but I don't understand the angst about these sites. It all comes down to whether people actually do fund the projects listed. If they do, willingly and with full knowledge of what it's about, then what's wrong with that? Of course it may be a little hard to understand why people would pay money on these sites, but that's up to them.

As to the specific points:
1) It's not dishonest because if some artist is able to make a partial living soliciting commissions this way and people are willing to sponsor that person, that's up to them for being so generous. Remember that time is money. Also, not all these projects are music projects. Some of them are business ideas or other things that really do cost a lot.

2 & 3) This is really the same as a whole of other things....whether you're dealing with commissions, grants, venture capital, doing a dissertation, or any sort of proposal to do work or retainer fee. Yes, it creates a commitment. That's a downside, but nothing is truly free.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Rabson

Just a couple of other points. You say that if you don't get as many hits as a teenager on YouTube, then "you're not there yet." First of all, what if you're ugly? You're not going get a gazillion hits by strumming a few chords and smiling on YouTube then. Second, if someone can actually get people they don't know to pay them $5,000 or whatever on one of these sites, then that person "is there." Maybe they may not have a huge following, but they must have some sort of fan base if they're successful on these sorts of sites.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Rabson

A coupla points:

1) While I'm all for DIY, I think trying to host your own fan-funding/presale website is a recipe for disaster. I mean, first of all, outside of synthpop and industrial music, just how many musicians also happen to be web developers? Given most artists seem to struggle with the technical aspects of updating their site content, expecting them to implement a payment gateway is likely a bit out of range. Then there are the attendant security issues that go with that - if you don't do it right, things could go very very badly. Then there's the whole issue of trust - the established fan-sourcing sites do have reputations for timely payment processing, security, etc , as well as a single point-of-contact for transactional issues. Plus, If you tell someone to "go to kickstarter" and they've done it before for someone else, all they have to do is log in, as opposed to a DIY solution where they need to work through a new user experience to pay you.

2) I am sick to freaking death of the argument that making a record is cheap. Yes, it's cheapER than it was. But you want to do it right? You want to not do a half-arsed job? It's not cheap. I mean, you know as well as everyone that good mastering isn't free, and I'm reasonably sure you're not about to recommend that artists skip that step. There are still retail outlets that will not take your CD if it's not a replicated silver CD, which means you're looking at at least 300 discs (smallest rep run I've seen) and a minimum $600 outlay. Oh, sure, *I* can pay for this stuff out of pocket, and *I* usually do, but simply put not everyone can. And I'm not about to tell them "no, sorry, you can't share your message with the world because you can't afford the run of CDs."

Let's just set aside the notion that we're all just doing this entirely for the love of music. Yes, we love music and that's our passion and we'd all do it just to make music for the sake of music if we could...but if we didn't have some interest in sharing and distributing our works widely (and not getting ourselves into deep debt doing it) we wouldn't be having this discussion.

3) The biggest advantage of fan-funding is not the funding. It's the fan relationship. Sure, something like this does not usually appeal to people who aren't already fans. However, it does take those fans who already like your stuff and put them in the equation and gets them involved - IF, and this is a big if, IF you do it right. If you just offer signed CDs or posters or something as premia it's not going to do much. If you're clever and can get the fanbase involved and motivated, you're not only getting your production funded but you're getting your fans exceptionally hyped about the production, and incentivises them to spread the word. I'm watching a kickstarter right now that raised $2500 in under 24 hours, and has the fans whipped into a viral promotional frenzy, in a way none of his previous promo efforts (and dude has had a lot of those) have.

4) A presale is not crowd-funding. Unless you're doing one of them wrong. It's generally not worth doing a straight-up presale when you don't have anything underway or close to completion. You could, but the established image of a presale is something that happens between the time the album is nearly finished and when it's acually released to stores, so doing a presale 6 months before the album's ready would appear to be jumping the gun. You don't do a presale when you're only two songs in or just in the planning stages. Similarly you don't do a crowdsource when the album is nearly finished. It's a slim semantic distinction, certainly, but sometimes that's a world of difference.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterEric

Fan funding is great! What are you talking about Brian? You are extremely out of touch with the new music industry. Evolve or die!

Here is why I am choosing fan funding for ALL my future projects:

1) With an aggressive campaign, I can get about $50 per fan (on average). While I was on the road, I was only able to sell a CD for around $5. Instead of having to sell 1,000 CDs to 1000 fans, I now only have to sell 100 CDs to 100 fans to cover my costs. You don’t need a large and loyal audience, you just need a loyal audience for the $50. When it comes to friends and family, the potential is MUCH higher! I was able to get investments of $1000 from my parents and $500 from my sister. Do you know how hard it is to sell $1500 worth of t-shirts at a show? That’s why this is the future.
2) No credit cards or bank loans! I got myself into huge trouble in the past with credit cards. I also wasn’t able to get a bank loan because I have yet to turn a profit on my projects and banks look at hard numbers. They could care LESS that my music moves them emotionally. I had to disconnect my phone because of all the harassing bill collectors! Ridiculous. I don’t have to pay the band anything (everything is shared), but rehearsing, studio time, mixing, mastering, and artwork are expensive! If we could level the playing field maybe that would help reduce costs by all sharing the same business model. Since you are a mastering engineer, have you ever thought of just collecting royalties on album sales in exchange for your mastering services? If we could get everyone in the industry on a royalty system, then there would be very little upfront costs, and your points about putting out a $1500 album would be valid.
3) Promotion. I spent $10,000 on a radio campaign and only received a few hundred dollars in royalties! This playing field needs to be leveled as well. If we could get promotional companies to get paid on royalties too, this would DRAMATICALLY lower costs. This could be handled by SoundExchange, where artists, graphic artists, engineers, publicity firms, promoters, etc. all attach themselves to the album and get paid as the artist gets paid. A shared sacrifice for giving better art to the world, it’s a small price to pay.


I think that a comprehensive royalty model really would be a great way to lower costs. But, until then, I need a way to pay for gas to get to my rehearsals and gigs. Gas isn’t free. I need to eat. Everything is so expensive I don’t have any savings either and I make EXTREME sacrifices. I live with friends, family, and fans to lower my living expenses. I would much rather NOT sleep on a couch but I have no choice. I get free meals when I stay at the promoters house. I have been bankrupt twice to bring my art to the masses but I’m not going to let that happen again. Through a great fan funding campaign, there are no banks, no bill collectors, no bankruptcies. My fans UNDERSTAND my vision and aren’t greedy fat cats.

Jack Frost

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterJack Frost

DJs are also touring and only using two big phones as their only gear. These big phones are also known as the iPad.

http://www.switched.com/2010/04/22/dj-uses-two-ipads-mixer-and-some-apps-to-make-mad-beats/

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterMonty Singleton

A point some folks seem to refuse to get; there's no 'one size fits all' solution for an industry in freefall. Some musicians will fund their merch by touring and some will fund their tour by selling merch, yet others will give away recordings to get people to come to their show; it's all good, if you can make the numbers add up in your favor. Making a record on an iPhone is a hard sell to a hillbilly band, and touring is cheap if you're BT and your whole show is on the laptop under your arm. Different strokes, y'all.

I think crowdsourcing sites like Ourstage have great potential for selecting singles to promote and crowdfunding might work if your music appeals to venture capitalists, but for most artists, Brian is probably right. The overarching theme in showbiz is that if you want to make more money, you should raise your profile, and crowdfunding makes you look small, rather than big.

Personally, I also dislike the idea of tiers and bundling; I prefer to treat all my fans the same, regardless of their socioeconomic status. (if that makes me a socialist, so be it) I do bend this far to the vagaries of the current music market; I always offer free goods in a format that's as easy as illegal downloading AND a premium product that a fan can own forever, without any 'beanie baby' fake scarcities involved, because it's important to me that I treat fans fairly. The most hated business in America is the cable company, and that's largely due to the use of tiers and bundling to artificially inflate prices; the writing's on the wall for those shysters, and their day is coming, sooner rather than later.

Side note: Busking is not begging; it's an honorable profession, and a musician can learn a lot about performing and crowd control from a few weeks on the street.(also about thievery, prostitution and public urination, depending on the neighborhood) It's as honest a living as most, and I know some folks who've sent their kids to some very good schools, by doing little else.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterMojo Bone

I really appreciate the fact that this discussion is here, and I find the article and the ensuing comments a fascinating read.

I take issue with much of Brian's article, but especially with this:

"You could fail. Publicly and humiliatingly. Everyone will get their money back while you walk away empty-handed. Your fans may conclude that either your goal was too ambitious, or just maybe, your music isn’t as good as they thought is was. Your failure functions as a reverse testimonial. And then what? Are you really going to dump the whole project? If not, why hold it hostage in the first place?"

Man, if I listened to this particular piece of advice, I would NEVER get ANYTHING done. Fear of failure is always there, but it's NOT a good reason to refrain from pursuing anything, be it fan-funding, skydiving, or learning to walk.

Fan-funding is partially and indirectly responsible for the fact that I now have a career making music. I don't have another job. I am one of the lucky ones, I know; but if I had listened to my ever-present fear of failure, I would never have gotten to this point and I would have lived to the end of my days with unending REGRET that I hadn't tried harder.

Thanks for bravely bringing up all of this, Brian. The conversation is good.

--Brendan Milburn

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterBrendan Milburn

Great stuff here guys! Thanks again for sharing your viewpoints and experiences. I've already made my case and don't want to beat a dead horse, but just a couple more quick clarifications:

Dishonesty - A fan funding campaign is not by definition dishonest, but most of the ones I've seen vastly overstate their expenses. Kate's campaign almost certainly raked in tens of thousands of dollars, presumably to cover mastering and manufacturing.

Hosting your own campaign - It's really not that hard for anyone with the level of technical skill required to put together a YouTube video or run a blog. Wordpress plus WP e-Commerce would do the trick, for free. Paypal takes care the financials. It's secure and trusted.

Finally, Jack summed up in once sentence why this whole model makes me so uncomfortable:

"I was able to get investments of $1000 from my parents and $500 from my sister."

I know times are tough in the music business, but is this really what it's come to?

November 4 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

This is a great discussion! While I disagree with almost all of Brian's initial points about crowdfunding, I'm glad he raised them and folks are having this discussion. Props to the folks from Rockethub and Pledge Music for chiming in too!

I have done two campaigns on my own that were very successful. One was for funds to help complete my last recording and one was to help finance my band's spring tour. I designed the page, used PayPal buttons, and got the word out via Facebook, Twitter and my email list. I tried to be as honest and authentic as I could be when making the ask and my friends, family and fans responded very well. The funds raised allowed me to make a better record that I could've without them and pay my bandmates fair wages and afford decent lodging on tour. I got no negative feedback.

I am about to launch a campaign for my next record and have chosen to try Kickstarter. The reasons are many. Sure, I could do it myself and it wouldn't be too hard. But I feel like Kickstarter has some advantages.

First, they have established themselves as one of the top crowdfunding sites. People search the site to find cool projects to fund. This would not happen if it were on my site alone.

Second, my new project has the potential to appeal to people well beyond my current fanbase. I lead a jazz band and we are doing a tribute to Nick Drake. We're remaking his entire debut album in our own style, using arrangements I've been working on for two years. Because Drake has a big fanbase, I'm hoping I'll be better able to find and appeal to them using Kickstarter. I may be wrong, but I think that for people that don't know me, they might be more comfortable using a third-party like Kickstarter than just sending money straight to me. We'll see...

Finally, I just want to try it out! While my own campaigns have been successful, I'm always interested in trying new things. Isn't that what music is all about anyway? I'm happy to give it a go. If it doesn't work, then I've learned something in the process and can still run a campaign of my own.

Someone above mentioned trust, and I think that's what this boils down to. If you have a fanbase that trusts you and wants to see you succeed, crowdfunding is not only a legitimate strategy but one that can deepen that trust and bring your fans even closer to you. That's what I'm after.

I'll let y'all know how it goes. My Kickstarter campaign will run from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15 and we hit the studio on Dec. 26th!

Cheers,
Jason Parker
OneWorkingMusician.com

November 4 | Registered CommenterJason Parker

"Side note: Busking is not begging; it's an honorable profession, and a musician can learn a lot about performing and crowd control from a few weeks on the street.(also about thievery, prostitution and public urination, depending on the neighborhood)"

I will say that I think busking is above crowdfunding, because at least you are getting a performance for your money, not an IOU that's a year or two out. Some buskers are professional, but others are very close to the homeless guy asking me for 5 bucks.

Speaking of prostitution, crowdfunding is one step closer to it. "Invest in the $1,000 package and I'll give you MY package."

CD Baby's most recent podcast has a great discussion about this from real life experiences.

http://cdbabypodcast.com/?p=1008

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterMonty Singleton

As a software developer, I would never recommend WP + Wp eCommerce, at least not to a neophyte user. WP is great, and I use it for many things, but I know several musicians who have had to pay someone to make their WP sites work (I know because that someone was me). Not everyone has the skills to do that themselves, and frankly, not everyone needs the skills. You'd be surprised how few bands use a content management system of any sort. Do they need one? Maybe. Are they going to learn how to install and administer one? Doubtful. Hell, I know of a few bands run by IT folks who still update their sites by hand. "Build my own content management and ecommerce platform" simply is not on their radar. There are limits to DIY.

(Also, my personal experiences with WP eCommerce have been lousy. I've mucked about in the code a bit and the lovecraftian horrors I saw there caused me to rip that sucker out before it laid waste to my site. But that's a different story. Hooray for SQL Injection holes!).

Third parties still offer value for this sort of thing in ways even a tech-savvy individual artist can't. Primarily, legal/financial protection, infrastructure, user experience and customer service. These are things an individual site needs to put a lot of effort into to offer on the same level (and frankly I'd rather be making music with that time). Some people can do it, sure, but it's not a solution that fits everyone, and I would wager doesn't fit most.

Sure, Fansourcing is not a tool for everyone. But so far, it seems to be working very, very well for some people, so it's hard to argue that it's not, at least right now, not a workable model . In a year the bottom could drop out of that too. Gotta stay agile.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterEric

I've seen friends and peers of mine be quite successful with fan funding. Good for them. I just don't think it would work for me though. If my circumstances were different and I didn't have a day job, maybe I'd see things differently. I like being completely independent, and beholden to no one as an artist except myself. I have no desire to enter into an implicit contract with my fans to deliver a specific product by a certain date. I've also seen others do things like offer to write songs using fan-submitted lyrics or poetry in exchange for funding. I just can't do that. What if a fan submitted something I just couldn't understand or relate to, and couldn't honestly make into something I thought would be good or worthwhile?

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterJames Perry

Easily one of the greatest posts on Music Think Tank, probably ever. I am amazed my own PR agency tried to pitch me this terrible idea.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterDairenn Lombard

Let’s face it. Bands are a business, an entity needing a DBA just like any other business. Most major corporations seek outside funding to allow for expansion. Furthermore, all major movie productions seek outside funding. So why is it awkward when bands go public?

Look at is this way: If James Cameron approached fans of his pre-Titanic films to raise money to produce his next flick, would you think that was cheesy? Perhaps he wanted to break away from Fox and go indie so as to not be restricted in his creative ideas. If he stated that your donation would get you a free autographed copy of the DVD, and an extra donation would get you into a private screening before the movie was released, wouldn’t that be pretty cool? And if his movie flopped commercially, you wouldn’t even mind so much because you are a fan of his work and it was in your own best interest to see him create something without creative compromise. If it became a blockbuster, even better! You were one of the few who supported a winning film.

Point being, as a true fan, I’d gladly give money to my favorite artist out of the selfish desire of wanting more of their passion in my presence (and give a flick of the finger to the Man while I was at it). I’d be quite honored to be a part of that process, even without a “thank you” in the liner notes, for I would be contributing to something I believed in, and at the end of the day, isn’t that a cause worth giving to?

Kai Brant
www.kaibrant.com

November 5 | Unregistered CommenterKai Brant

Thanks for this post, this is interesting, for both the article and the comments.

This is something I've been thinking more and more about lately. I understand the point of some people thinking there's something filthy about asking people for money (more than just asking them to buy a record) - heck, I even felt filthy when I did my "pay what you want" experiment with a previous release (documented here) and started to see how much some people were giving me for the album... to the point that I know now, for sure, that I won't be doing that again.

But there are other issues at stake. Pre-orders might be the solution - I think they'll eventually be, for what I've been thinking about - that it sucks to be the solution as we stand right now: for instance, and as we can read in some of this comments, it sucks that there's no crowdfunding-like third-party were you can effectively manage a pre-order kind of funding. And, mind you, it needs to be flexible enough to do the "if xx people pre-order the CD then a vinyl option will appear, and CD pre-orders can be upgraded to the vinyl option" kind of stuff, because if it's only to take pre-orders... well, it doesn't really makes much sense (you can just release the album), right? So, what are the options? Taking pre-orders (and setting up the whole scheme) myself? I don't know...

November 5 | Unregistered CommenterMerankorii

That’s the main problem here, bands are NO longer a business.

You can’t use the words investment, major corporations, “going public”, when talking about funding and then talk about “an autographed DVD” or “private screening” as a return on that investment.

If I told you I invested $500 in Netflix in 2002 and what I got in return was: An invitation to the launch party, a signed t-shirt, and got to be part of a huge success story (only emotionally), what would you think?

What would you think if I told you I invested $500 in Netflix in 2002 and it turned into $10,000 and I used it on a down payment to buy my first house?

The first example is a donation, the second example is an investment.

The main revenue stream, record sales, are dead. Instead of finding a new revenue stream we are asking for handouts. Fan funding is the equivalent of an animal shelter fund raiser, not a cool new startup launching an IPO.

I don’t mean to be a jerk here but so many people calling this “investing” and it’s not. Unless we are talking about a world where I “invest” in my wife and I get “love” in return.

In 1978, Sam Raimi’s first film, “Evil Dead”, used investors for its funding. The investors got to feel good AND they got rich off of their investment. So, I know where you are coming from.
If you can just give me ONE example of a fan funding project that made its investors any money I will apologize and change my position.

The old revenue stream is dead, and for the majority of the bands I know, their expenses exceed their revenue.

When a business loses money for three years the IRS declares it a hobby.

The music industry has become one expensive hobby. That’s why we are discussing fan funding.

November 5 | Unregistered CommenterMonty Singleton

Yes yes yes! The whole fan funding thing has put a bad taste in my mouth from day one. I've been under a lot of pressure from various consultants, PR people and so forth to do it, and have always said no, then had trouble coming up with a good reason why not. From here on out I'll just forward your article .... Many many many thanks for writing it.

November 6 | Unregistered CommenterSarah McQuaid

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