Rain City Ambience

Seattle-based Northwest music source established in 2005
  • Crowd Funding Reality Check

    Posted on by

    We all already know how much the internet has flipped the music industry upside down. Labels are no longer necessary to get the funding to record the album you want to record or buy the van you want to tour in (among other things). Nowadays you can use crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. These ingenious tools allow you to go straight to your fans, tell them what it is you need their money for, give them a list of cool rewards they’ll get for donating a certain amount, and BAM, you’ve got your money and you’re on your way. I love this concept. It’s a brilliant idea and in my eyes brings the fans closer to the artist and makes them feel more involved. It shows that they are necessary for the artist’s existence and an integral part of their failure or success.

    To get an example of what is possible through crowd funding, let’s take a look at Protest The Hero’s recent Indiegogo campaign to raise money for their new album. Finally on their own and free of any label constraints, the band set their campaign goal at $125,000. To entice their fans to contribute money, the band came up with some typical and some not so typical rewards. At the $10 level, a contributor will receive a digital album download and be thanked in the liner notes for their contribution. At the $100 level a contributor will receive a custom tour laminate with their photo on the back, and when that contributor brings that laminate to any Protest The Hero show they will be “handsomely rewarded at the merch table.” For every tour, a one of a kind, exclusive “thing” will be given to that contributor and that contributor only. At the $5,000 level, a contributor and one friend will get a guest appearance on the new album, along with a full day to hang out at the studio. There are many other perks in between those levels, check out the campaign HERE and then we shall continue… By the way, Protest ended up raising $341,146 (!!!!!!!!!)

    Alright, so after hearing about that success story who wouldn’t want to start their own campaign? It sounds pretty easy right? Set up a campaign for something you’ve always wanted to do and watch the money roll in. THAT’S SO EASY WHY HAVEN’T WE ALWAYS DONE THAT?! Sadly, this is where I feel like most people lose sight of what is really going on here. For a band like Protest The Hero, who has been around for 13 years, been on countless tours, released a number of studio albums, released a live album/DVD, and had label support, crowd funding is a pretty solid option for them at this point in their careers. However, I see so many small local bands running these campaigns, and they are asking for thousands of dollars to record with a big name producer or to buy a van to tour the country, etc, etc. Most of their campaigns are failing miserably and here’s why:


    Let’s make a list.

    1. Do you have any recordings under your belt so far?
    If you do, has that recording done well? I don’t care what it sounds like, do people like it? Do they buy it from you and share it with their friends? If the answers to these are yes, excellent, on to question 2.

    If the answer is no, we’re still going to question 2.

    2. Are you capable of drawing a significant crowd to most, if not all of your shows?
    If you don’t have any recordings, this answer needs to be yes, and significant needs to be VERY significant. Otherwise, I don’t see how anyone could possibly know who you are.

    If you do have recordings and the answer to this is yes, people must like you, regardless of your recording’s quality.

    If you have recordings and the answer is no, either you’re doing a horrible job getting your recordings into people’s hands, or people just don’t like you.

    3. Have you ever toured before?
    If your answer to this is no then you probably don’t have a super realistic idea of what it costs to do so, which in turn won’t convince people to give you their money.

    4. Have you utilized the internet in every way possible to promote your music as much as you can, and has it been successful?
    The internet is one of your most important tools and resources as an independent band/musician. There are countless ways to promote your music through it and if you haven’t started yet, this is priority #1 (unless you don’t have a recording, in which case you should probably get on that).

    People, it’s called crowd funding for a reason. You need a CROWD in order to do it. Whether it’s a local crowd, an online crowd, or both, you need one.

    It seems that a lot of people are under the impression that paying for everything band-related just got a whole lot easier because you can now ask people to do it for you.

    Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Things just got harder.

    Now, instead of relying on yourself or your label, you need to convince others, people you know and people you do not know, that you are worth the money that you’re asking them to invest in you. If you’re a tiny little band that answered “no” to more than one of those previous questions, that’s probably not going to happen. You’ve done nothing to prove your worth. Why would anyone want to give you their hard earned money? Because it’s your dream to record with a well known producer and/or tour the country? Nobody cares. If your heart is set on a recording that will cost thousands of dollars, pay for it yourself. If you can’t then cut the costs. As cool as it may sound to you, recording with the person that did Incubus, Blink-182, Lady Gaga, Nirvana, N’SYNC, or anyone else people have heard of won’t sell your music or get people to like you, so find another way. If you want to tour, again, you better have a crowd that wants to see you. Otherwise you’re not going anywhere. Be realistic about what you are asking for.

    Also be realistic with the rewards you come up with. If you are Protest The Hero, a pizza party is going to be appealing because people already know who you are, what you’re doing means something to them. The same goes with offering your equipment as a reward. Only do that if you are good and people care. If you are not Protest The Hero or any other band with a significant CROWD, then giving people a pizza party for $100 or your guitar pick for $50 is only going to make you look like an egotistical jerk. So be honest with yourself about where you’re really at and what people would really want from you.

    Also, a quick word about your campaign video.. If you’ve never heard of an “elevator pitch,” the concept is that you only have 20-60 seconds (time spent in an elevator) to sell yourself. Anything longer than that and the person you were talking to has gotten off on their floor and you’ve lost their attention. Your video should be handled the same way, because people generally have microscopic attention spans when it comes to this kind of stuff. Say who you are, what you need, and why you need it. By all means, be creative with how you present this information, but if you start going on a 10-minute or longer history of your band before you even say what you want, I guarantee no one will get through watching your video, and your pitch has failed. It’s that simple. If you didn’t watch Protest The Hero’s video, go do that.

    I’m not saying crowd funding doesn’t work for small local bands, I’m just saying it won’t if they go into it thinking they’re rock stars when they’re not. Based off of what I’ve seen, a lot of bands are thinking a little too highly of themselves. So tone it down people. That doesn’t mean you won’t achieve your goals or live your dreams, that can still happen. It’s going to take a lot of work though, just like it did before Kickstarter or before Indiegogo. You have to work for it, and even if you feel like you’ve put the work in, if your campaigns are failing, you need to work harder. So be honest with yourselves. It will save you the frustration and embarrassment of a miserably failed campaign when in reality you just weren’t being realistic.

    Kelly Mason


    Co-Founder and Owner of Rain City Ambience. Passionate about photography, music, the Pacific Northwest, Paseo sandwiches, jewelry making, and skateboarding. @kellehhh on Twitter - @kellymason on Instagram

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