Some time ago, I backed the Kickstarter campaign of an acquaintance who was about to make his first record. It was the first crowd-funded project that I had supported. I pledged $10 and looked forward to getting a few updates and, eventually, a digital copy of the project when it was finished. About a week later I received an short update about the records’ progress. After that, nothing. As far as I know, the project was never completed. Since then, my acquaintance moved away from Nashville, leaving a few angry friends behind. So… you be the judge.
Needless to say, I was not chomping at the bit to back another project.
Recently, though, many of my very talented friends have launched crowd-funding efforts for new records. These are projects that I really would like to see completed, and music that I would really like to hear. So, I’m back in the business of pledging support through Kickstarter, PledgeMusic, etc..
In general, I think that crowd-funding is great tool for artist and for fans. The money that labels usually provide isn’t available to independent artists, unlike other label services which can be provided by freelancing pros or other companies. Crowd-funding allows fans to get in on the capitol end of things and help bring music to market. Even established artists who are no longer working with labels are using crowd-finds to pay for projects.
It’s terrific, you should get involved and support your favorite artists!
On the artist end of things, though, there is more at play than just getting the money and then chipping away at the project. First, it’s imperative to think of crowd-funds not as a gift but as a contract advance against future work. Any time you ask for money, whether a home-loan or an advance, you must be certain that you will use the money only for what you have said it’s for (including money raised over your goal) that your plans for the money you’re raising are realistic (Think you’re going to make a record and promote it for $2,500? Think again.) and that you will deliver what you promise on time, whether a monthly payment or a completed project. Honesty, transparency and diligence are all keys. If you don’t deliver, or if you under-deliver, you can kiss future funding efforts goodbye.
You can probably also say goodbye to those fans, along with any of their friends.
Maybe most importantly, you can hurt other artists by making it harder for them to raise money. It was a long time before I was willing to get involved again after my first pledge experience. For many potential supporters, it could never happen. Don’t hurt the collective reputation of bands and artists by falling down on the job.
Finally, don’t abuse the system. Carefully consider whether or not you’re asking for help with appropriate things. Does your business model include going to your fans every time you need to record? Tour? Place a CD order? If so, you need to examine your model. You must expect to have some skin in the game and you can’t always rely on the confidence and generosity of your fans to close budget gaps. If you can’t make some things happen on your own your fans will stop helping you make them happen. They might even stop helping anyone at all.