Be it Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, GoFundMe, PledgeMusic or even Patreon, there are now numerous sites out there that you can use to raise money for an idea, a product, a charity, or even something like medical bills.
I'm not entirely sure when I first came across the crowd fund model, though I do remember being very active with Dave McPherson (of InMe) and his first solo album, The Hardship Diaries. I may have seen one before, but this was the first time I remember taking an active interest in the idea.
To me it made perfect sense - I went to music school and studied music business along with everything else. I understand the principal of how record deals work, and I know how stacked against the artist they are. It really is amazing when you think about it, the artist (talent) is given money by a label in exchange for making records, marketing, distribution etc. This makes a lot of sense in the 50s and earlier (though the idea of the white man in a suit making money off the poor young black artist is a bit of a played out stereotype) as music was expensive to make and how would an artist distribute it? The idea of paying said advance back does seem a little ludicrous to me, I like to think of them as wages! But that's a discussion for another day.
If you've not seen the 30 Seconds to Mars documentary "Artifact" I would urge you to go and watch that (at the time of writing it's on Netflix), it really shows you what artists go through in the industry. I also remember Dream Theater just going into the studio on their own dime to make Black Clouds, then shopped it around for a distribution deal - I can only assume this meant they had more clout with the label and could make a better deal as there was less investment (risk) from the label.
So in that sense, crowd funding makes perfect sense to me. If you've got a fan base, why not reach out to them and cut out the middle man? They're going to buy your record anyway right? Why wouldn't they give you £7.99 (or whatever) of which you'll see all of it, rather than give iTunes £7.99 (which iTunes skim 30% off, then the label take their huge cut, deal with recoupment etc then you get under £1) - it's almost like crowd funding is the new Dragon's Den, and anyone can be a dragon!
Let's jump back to Dave....
Dave get it. Dave knows how to reach out to the fans he has and offer them something COOL. Seriously, check this out. For a mere £8 you got the album, and every couple of days you'd be getting updates from Dave with info on how the album was going and he'd upload rare behind the scenes photos no one has seen, upload old demos or acoustic renditions of songs from years ago (it ended up being over 60!) but it's all there - signed albums, phone calls, answer phone messages, birthday cards, hand written lyrics, album credits, VIP passes, personalized cover songs, cover your song, tattoo days, house party gigs etc.
He SMASHED his target in days, eventually reaching 492% of his goal (and 10% of all funds over his goal went to charity!) - he got to make his album, every fan who got involved was happy - win win!
I've funded various albums on similar platforms since (like Cameron Allen) and seen some bands achieve success (Protest The Hero raised $341146, and Dave Brons absolutely killed it!) while some went face down in the dirt (stOrk were only 36% funded and Joe Chawki only hit 25%). There are absolutely some things you can do to make sure your campaign does well, and if you don't, you've either got unrealistic goals, or you've not done it right.
There's a dark side to the business too though, and for that, we'll turn to the gaming world (my other passion).
Oculus Rift was an idea, they took $2.4m from people who wanted the system and when they'd developed it far enough... they sold the business for $2 BILLION (to Facebook!). What happens then? Some of the backers wanted a cut, but they weren't share holders, they were customers.... and now the project they put money into might go in a totally different direction. Mighty No 9 completely changed aesthetic and has been delayed more times than I care to count, Inafune has even launched new kickstarters since (which failed and resulted in huge public backlash). If I could get my money back on that I'd jump for it!). There have even been projects funded and years later the owner has just come out and said "sorry, the money is all gone - I thought we had enough but we didn't - the product isn't coming".
This bad taste left in the mind of consumers in awful for those who NEED crowd funding platforms to do what they do. One could argue that Protest The Hero didn't need a crowd fund, and Megadeth certainly didn't. What's going to stop Warner from crowdfunding albums? Or Activision crowd funding games they can afford to make? Or Fender crowd funding a new model they don't want to take a risk on? It's dangerous, because it's putting such a negative spin on crowd funding in general.
As many of you know, I'm just about ready to put out my first album which I funded on IndieGoGo about 6 months ago and it's taught me a lot about the model.
I thought the world was ready for crowd funding, but I'm not so sure now. You'd be genuinely surprised how many people have contributed to the album and not picked a perk. In their mind, it's a "donation" and after emailing them, I can confirm that's the right word. This isn't charity people. Artists create content you like, you pre order it which helps to make it happen. I've had people say to me "Oh man, I didn't realize I could get stuff". When I see that, it makes me sad. How many people saw my crowd fund and didn't read it? Or Watch the video? How many people skipped over it because they just saw me sat there with my cap in hand begging? I poured my heart into that text and video. I had a story and I wanted people to be a part of it, understand it, and know what I'm doing. The whole record is about my life falling apart, losing the woman you loved, leaving the city you live in, dealing with depression, death etc - the idea of people begrudgingly "donating" and feeling they get nothing? That hurts.
I set a £3000 goal knowing the album would cost between 4 or 5 thousand. £3k was fine though as I knew I could put the rest on credit cards if I needed to. Not making the record wasn't an option, I needed to do it.
It's a question I often ask myself. What would have happened if I put the target as £4000? What about £5000? Would the crowd mentality and the getting involved side of things resulted in a harder push? It's something I can't answer, but I have my suspicions.
Essentially what I'm saying is, artists NEED crowd funding right now, and I think if people got to know what it's all about they'd realize how great it feels to know you're making a difference in someones life. It's an amazing feeling knowing that your money helps to pay Dave Brons' mortgage, it's amazing to see that your money on Patreon has allowed Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty to leave their full time jobs and create content for those who love it, your money stops Jim Sterling having to bow to advertisers and censor what he has to say, it keeps This Exists alive, its allowed Jacob Collier to make a living. That's an amazing feeling for anyone in the creative industries, and for those who consume media.
Please guys, let's not fuck this up - This should be something really amazing.
Finally - thank you SO much for helping with my album - if you've not yet - here's a link
What do you think though? Is crowd funding a good or bad thing? Sound off in the comments below!