This article originally appeared in the 5.3.12 issue of Metroland
By now you
all must be familiar with Kickstarter, the crowd-funding site. It (and similar sites like Indiegogo,
Sellaband, etc etc) allows for bands, filmmakers, inventors, almost anybody to
raise money for a project from the public.
The drill is like this: you put your pitch on the website, usually with
a short video or written description, you set a goal, maybe you establish
giving tiers with different gifts or levels of involvement for donors, then you
work the bejesus out of your social networking platforms to get people to give
is another brilliant example of the internet removing the middle-man and
allowing a direct artist-to-fan relationship that was barely possible before. It also can act as a harsh dose of reality
to those whose projects crash and burn.
In the online world where lots of people complain that a “lack of
filters” results in good art getting buried under mountains of crap (an
observation I don’t agree with), crowd-funding is the ultimate filter: if
people don’t vote for you with their wallets, that’s a pretty good indication
that you’re doing it wrong, or your art sucks, or both.
wrong can be as simple as a bad pitch.
We talking about seilling here, and some folks are good at it and some
aren’t. Plenty of crowd-funded projects
have been successful solely on the cuteness of the pitch. And while cuteness isn’t gonna sustain your
career (it doesn’t matter how cute your pitch is, if your art sucks at the end
of the day, your second cute pitch is gonna bomb) it can sure move it along.
somebody who does it right? Go to
Kickstarter and look at Ananda Fucking Palmer’s current campaign to raise money
for a new album. A 30-day campaign to raise
$100,000. She raised $250,000 in the first day
. She’s now talking about raising a
million! No record company, no
recoupables, nothing but money to make art.
this happen? Hard work, that’s how. Palmer has been cultivating her fan base on-line
for years. She tweets, she emails, she
Bandcamps, she Facebooks, and she does it constantly, consistently, and she
does it herself. She knows her fans, and
she knows what they want. Look at the
array of options she has for donations, starting at one dollar, which will get
you a download of the album when it's done, to $10,000, which will get you a
visit from Palmer and her band, who, not unlike Grand Funk Railroad, will come
to your town and party it down. In the
middle range are passes to exclusive parties that she’s throwing in New York,
London, Berlin, etc., signed books, CDs, all kinds of stuff.
pull that off? Probably not on that
level, not yet. But you need to do more
than just announce you need money and post a picture of yourself. You need fans that are alert, and you need to
be clever. People like clever. A couple years ago Ten Year Vamp launched a
campaign with a short video featuring Debbie as “Brenda, the world’s #1 TYV
fan” that was fall down funny. Goal
met! Railbird funded their trip to SXSW
a few years ago on Kickstarter—I don’t remember their pitch, but I sent them
some money and got a CD, a little drawing and a feather. I still have that feather on my desk, and
when Railbird announced last week they were raising money to promote their new
music I looked at the feather and said, yeah man, I’m in.
plenty of pitches go bad. A friend put
up a campaign for a $35,000 film project before she had a team, a film trailer,
and a clear vision of where she was going. Time ran out before she could raise even $3,000. She’s spent the last year regrouping, doing
the real prep work, meeting people, and building support, and I think the next
campaign is gonna fly. There’s buzz.
the trade-off. In return for autonomy,
you have to hustle, you have to sell, you have to do any number of things that
aren’t exactly in the same category of skill-sets as making a movie, a record,
going on tour. I’ve heard complaints
that artists are now required to spend more time schmoozing than making
art. Hey, that’s nothing new. Ask Mozart. What I see with crowd-funding is when an
artist truly believes, and really has something to present that people want,
and if the artist isn’t an idiot (you don’t post hourly reminders on Facebook
about your goddamn Kickstarter campaign, OK?) the sales part of it comes easily
and naturally. And has benefits that extend way beyond the financial part of it.
And if you
get it all right and you still don’t get the money, then maybe the world is
trying to tell you something. Listen
Paul Rapp is a local
art & entertainment attorney who thinks the new Rosary Beard album is just
swell. He can be reached at his website