I’m in with the in crowd – Crowd Surfing to Crowd Sourcing
We artists are famous for being long on creativity and short on funds. Lack of money can stop us in our tracks – indeed, lack of money can just plain stop the tracks (pun intended).
Crowdfunding (aka crowdsourcing or crowdsource funding) removes this barrier and empowers musicians by empowering their fans (in this scenario, ‘pledgers’). The idea is that everybody wins – pledgers gain exclusive access to their favourite artists and get to ‘collaborate with’ them rather than being ‘marketed at’; artists build a stronger relationship with pledgers which sets them up for a long-term career, and, crucially, get the money upfront to fund their project from people who believe in it.
Unsurprisingly, the independent artist has a choice of crowdfunding platforms to utilise, all promising the biggest amount of traffic and the most generous pledgers. The top four artists should check out are Kickstarter, WeFund, Indiegogo and PledgeMusic. So which is best for the independent musician?
Amanda Palmer made big news in the music world when she fully funded her new album, artbook and worldwide tour through Kickstarter.com. She was the first artist to raise $1,000,000 via crowdsourcing and her pledge video ‘This is the future of music’ clearly shows her rationale behind the strategy. But there is a cautionary sting in the tale, and it goes by the name of Bjork. Bjork cancelled her ‘Biophilia’ apps project ten days in because she hadn’t reached a fifth of her target.
There’s a crucial difference between these projects. Amanda Palmer was offering pledgers a raft of exclusive stuff before anything had been made. But Bjork followed the model of ‘marketing to’ her fans instead of collaborating with them. By the time she set up her Kickstarter fund, the Biophilia album was out, she’d been on tour, and even the remix album was old news. Would fans really fund a Windows 8 and Android app of Biophilia for the sum of £375,000 after they’d bought the merch and album and been to the concert? Really? Would you?
Kickstarter is the biggest fish in the crowdsourcing pond and therefore it generates the greatest levels of traffic. If you want to fund your music through Kickstarter be aware you must hit your target to take home any of the money, and Kickstarter will take a 5% cut of the final figure.
For UK-based artists Wefund is the crowdsourcing platform closest to home. But pay attention to those ‘Music’ pages. The success stories, like the Juice vocal trio, are the ones with a modest target who also deliver high value to pledgers e.g. private gigs and new compositions. The projects yet to raise a penny tend to be high stakes and lower value.
Again, creators have to hit their target to take home any money and they have to deliver on their promises (aka ‘perks’). Wefund will take 50p off of each backer’s pledge and that’s in addition to transaction fees from Paypal.
Inhabiting that scary ‘real’ world beyond music and the arts, Indiegogo is different because it’s available to all ventures. You’ll find charities, business start-ups, and even personal appeals on this site. Music features too but it doesn’t have the same prominence as Kickstarter, Wefund or PledgeMusic. However, you can keep all the money you raise, even if you don’t make your goal, which sets this platform apart from the others.
As the name would suggest this one’s all about the music. And it’s got some big names on there as well as unknowns – Kate Nash and The Wildhearts feature as well as yet-to-be famous artists: subsequently the Guardian, the BBC, Timeout, Pitchfork and others are giving it props.
Artists get charged a flat fee of 15% with the option to build in a charitable donation as part of the campaign, and again fans don’t part with any cash until the target has been reached – which means artists get zilch if they don’t hit their target.
So which is best?
It really depends what you’re looking for. If you’re a new artist or band starting out, and cashflow is everything, then Indiegogo allows you to keep the cash even if you don’t hit your target. But if that’s the case you still need to think about what you can and will deliver to those fans.
Why? Because even if you are just starting out and you desperately need the money, the most valuable asset in any of these transactions is your relationship with your fans. So, if you make a promise to a fan, you need to deliver on it.
Like every human relationship, you can’t put a single monetary value on any one fan. Because a relationship with any of your fans should last for more than one transaction. Again, why? Because it’s relationships with fans that will fund your whole artistic career and determine its longevity – so they’re worth nurturing now and not later.
Guest Post by Hazel Jane MacLaurin
Hazel Jane MacLaurin makes dreamy folk piano poetry and is also an award-winning music marketer. Her strategies for the Military Wives Choir helped them hit the number one spot in 2011 but equally she loves working with independent musicians. Find out more at http://www.hazeljanemaclaurin.com
Have you set up a crowdsourcing project? If so, what do you want to achieve from it? Or what did you learn from it? Let us know in the comments below.