With record labels in a precarious spot, many up-and-coming bands have been turning to crowd funding as a way to raise money for touring, recording, merch production and more. Major artists have taken note, with acts like Secondhand Serenade and The Voice‘s Nakia using the “rewards for pledges” model through sites like Kickstarter, ArtistShare and more.
Shortly after their long-awaited reunion, Ben Folds Five decided to test out this innovative new platform to help fund their first record in thirteen years. In exchange for donations, the band is not only offering prizes like signed vinyls and t-shirts, but they’re also helping to promote the music, art, videos of their fans. They’ve even offered to call each fan who downloads their new song “Do It Anyway” or makes a pledge a Vice President of Promotions for their de facto record label, encouraging them to add “#ImaDamVP” on the end of their promotional tweets. We caught up with Ben to discuss the progress of the campaign, Kickstarter goddess Amanda Palmer and why we should help fight for continued arts funding.
OS: How is the record progressing? Can you estimate a release date at this point?
BF: I think we should be doing this in early September. Sometimes we’re late, but I think that should do it!
OS: Why did you choose to use a pledge model for funding this record?
BF: Looking at all our options, we had spoken to PledgeMusic a couple months ago. We thought that no matter how we do it, we may include that route, somehow. Last weekend, we started realizing, “Well, we’re going out on tour and it would be fun to put out something we recorded,” because we’re excited about what we’ve recorded, but we’re not on any kind of label or anything. We put it out free on a couple fan sites, which crashed pretty immediately. The next day, there were about 100,000 downloads out there. We thought, “Oh shit, we gotta put the record on sale.” You can’t be promoting it and then not pre-selling it too. The industry’s already screwed up enough as it is without shooting yourself in your own foot. We scrambled the next day to get it up and Pledge had been someone we’d been talking to, and we just did it.
OS: What made you choose PledgeMusic over other services, like Kickstarter or ArtistShare?
BF: I don’t know much about all of them, so I’m not good about shopping around. But what was compelling to me was that, in our position, I didn’t think it was really necessary to flash the sales number. That’s the way Kickstarter does it, Amanda [Palmer] did it that way and it’s been really great.But I play these things by feel, and that didn’t feel right to me. I likened it to sitting in a restaurant where, next to the food, the tally is turning over while you’re eating to see how much money is going to the restaurant…it’s not necessary to know that. But I think it’s really interesting, especially with Amanda Palmer’s campaign…it gives people an insight.
Finding the money to record an album without a label is a difficult feat for any band. We’ve certainly mentioned the concept of fan funding in the past. Sites like Kickstarter continue to increase in popularity thanks to Internet buzz from independent artists. For those who don’t know, Kickstarter is an online platform that allows music lovers and fans to donate money towards a cause such as recording or touring. The platform isn’t just for musicians, but that’s what we’ll focus on today. More and more success stories are surfacing, and that provides the company with more credibility.
Let’s take a look at a band that’s used the program successfully and learn more about their project. Parachute Musical” one of the many great bands on OurStage”consists of four passionate, fun loving guys who perform keyboard-driven pop music. They’ve toured coast to coast for a few years now and have slowly built a strong and enthusiastic following. Now,
the group released few singles released before they began their Kickstarter campaign, but they were ready to bring their music to their starving fans in full force with an album. With the strong fan base, and Kickstarter’s easy to use platform, the band was wildly successful. They set a goal of $10,000, put together a video explaining the project and the benefits of donating towards the cause, set up some tiered donations and went to work promoting it. Their different tiers ranged from $10 to receive a digital download of the record two weeks before the release all the way to $2,500 or more in which you become an honorary member of the band”gaining free admissions to any show, as well as being flown to spend a day with them in the studio. They actually had one person donate at this tier, which is very impressive.
The band hit the ball out of the park and ended up exceeding their goal”ultimately achieving $16,705 from over 200 backers. We think part of their success was due to their nationwide active fan base, the sincerity of their promotional video about the fundraiser and their well-thought out donation tiers.
To learn more about their story, check out their video here. Have you tried Kickstart for a project? Let us know about your experience in the comments.
Being a musician is an expensive occupation. From gas money to rental fees to gear purchases, the costs constantly seem to be racking up, and there never seems to be enough money coming in to offset the expenses.
In the past, you’d probably have to land a bunch of paying gigs (and we all know how rare those are) or sell all your merch just to pay for studio time or tour expenses. Now, you can ask your fans to help you fund your next musical endeavor.
Sites like Kickstarter.com and SellABand.com allow fans to donate money to their favorite artists and help them fund their next tour, album release or merch order. In return, the artist provides exclusive rewards, which become better as the donation amount increases. For example, a fan who donates $20 to an artist may receive an autographed copy of the finished album, but a fan who donates $1000 may get a private concert at their home.
OurStage artist Justin Branam, who was hailed as an “artist to look out for” by AOL Music, used Kickstarter to finance the making of his new album. His goal was to raise $3000, but with the help of seventy-one fans, he was able to surpass his goal by $275.
In addition to the fundraising itself, Branam also used technology to create a unique donation incentive: an EP called iPhone Sessions. As you might have guessed, the EP was recorded entirely on Branam’s iPhone, but the album art and promo videos were created on it, as well.
Branam’s campaign lasted one month and offered fans some incredible incentives, such as having their name in the new album’s liner notes, a record from Branam’s collection or a one-on-one webcam chat with him. Fans who donated money got the prize at that level and also all of the prizes for lower donation amounts (fans could earn all seventeen rewards, plus Branam’s original demo CD from when he was sixteen-years-old, for a donation of $5,000).
Fan funding is the future, and has proven to be successful for many artists like Justin Branam. Not only does it engage fans, but it is a great way to directly reward their support and generosity. Hard work on both sides will pay off, making the relationship between fan and artist even stronger.
Check out “Dial Tone” from Justin Branam’s iPhone Sessions!
Any unsigned band would be proud to sell 13,000 records on their own. Orlando pop-rockers inPassing are especially proud, though, because they sold all of them by chatting up potential fans on the streets, in shopping malls, outside clubs and at festivals.
In 2008, the band released Breathing in the Ash, a five-song EP produced by James Paul Wisner (Dashboard Confessional, Paramore). Ash, which features singles “Say to Me” and “Back Down,” is upbeat, catchy and radio-ready. Boasting anthemic choruses filled with tasteful harmonies and no-frills guitar work, the EP recalls the familiar sounds of Mayday Parade, The Academy Is… and Jimmy Eat World. inPassing’s music is simply no-gimmicks, polished pop rock, and is sure to please fans of all ages.
Though their name may suggest otherwise, inPassing are not about to fade away. They have been performers on the Vans Warped Tour and AbsolutePunk.net marked them as a success story from “The Absolute 100,” their list of favorite lesser known bands. inPassing also received song placement in The Real World: Cancun in the summer of 2009 and appeared in a television commercial on the CW.
Thanks to fan funding on Kickstarter, the band raised over $10,000 to record their follow up to Ash, titled Then, Now, Always, which will be released later this year. Check out an OurStage-exclusive song from the new album, “Lost Your Faith” in the player below, along with two tracks from Breathing in the Ash!