Kickstarter has been around for a few years but it feels like only in the past six months it has exploded as the default fundraising tool for bands and musicians. Amanda Palmer, Kevin Devine, Protest The Hero and Big D and the Kids Table are just a few success stories. And I completely get it. Kickstarter, along with several other similar crowd funding sites, has been a revelation for creative types looking for a means to generate non-traditional income from supporters.
This new model of “help me do X” hinges on the relationship of artist and fan and is built on incentives. Pledge $500 and the band will walk your dog for a week type stuff. These opportunities are fun, rare and inclusive. You are a part of the process. You are making a direct impact on the future of our band. That’s awesome. I’d love to have that connection with certain bands. But what isn’t always understood is that this model can only be successful for established artists that have a core audience of enthusiastic fans willing to make that connection. Anyone can launch a Kickstarter campaign. If you build it though, they don’t always come.
What is more interesting to me now is how bands have fully embraced the model of transparency. The notion that bands openly ask for money from the their fans because they are broke or can’t afford a certain studio or can’t tour is wild. The stigma and shame is gone. DIY is now “Do It For Me.” When a Kickstarter campaign is launched, you’re effectively giving up and admitting that you couldn’t do it on your own. And that’s probably true in most cases (and back to the fan connection and the starving artist transparency), but it also just feels lazy and easy. Why do the work ourselves when we know we have at least 5,000 fans willing to pony up $20? We hit our goal in seven days? Shit that was easy, let’s just do that again next time instead of losing money touring! Bands no longer want you to only buy their music, merchandise and concert tickets, but also fund the making of all those things. I understand if a crowd funded project is a one-time deal, but asking fans to repeat the process might be too much to ask. Time will tell.
The music industry is changing. While major labels die, independent artists are gaining more control over their careers. Not having the support or budget from a label can be hard to adjust to. The goal should be to achieve financial sustainability, not a paycheck-to-paycheck mentality. Kickstarter provides a great service, but what if that record all your fans help fund sucks and is a major disappointment? Ultimately, it comes down to the music. Make that good and the money will come.