Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Be part of the crowd

Crowd-funding has been around for a while.  Even the Statue of Liberty has crowd funding to thank for her platform on Liberty Island, built back in 1885 thanks to crowd-funding.  Over the past few years, and in increasing numbers since the world's biggest crowd-funding website Kickstarter allowed UK based projects to use its site in 2012, the number of musicians turning to their fans to fund their music has grown exponentially.

Of course music fans have always 'funded' artists music.  In the most overly simplistic model possible artists releasese album, fans by album, artists gets paid.  However as anyone who has ever released anything above a DIY demo tape will tell you, releasing an album costs money.  Money that you have no guarantee of ever getting back.  With record labels watching every penny going out, how do bands without any label backing avoid bankrupting themselves to put out their music?

Answer... Crowd-funding. 

For those not in the know, crowd-funding allows a group or individual to run a campaign to raise funds for a particular project.  That may be making a film, building a house, or releasing an album.  Donors can pledge a certain amount of money in return for certain benefits.  The end result being if the target is met, the project is funded.

What's important to realise however is that even at this stage (statistics show that over 50% of crowd-funding projects fail to reach their targets) is that musicians have not yet made any money.  What crowd-funding allows them to do is have a chance of making some money off the fruits of their labours, rather than going into hibernation to pay off the debts accrued from making the last record.

But what about fans?  How does it change the musical landscape for the people who buy the end products?  Think of it this way.  When you go into a record shop, you can choose any of the albums on the shelves.  The products are already there, the choice of which to buy is yours.  Crowd-funding allows you to choose which products to put on the shelves.

What is the potential in crowd-funding?  Where can it go from here?  Surely, as much as the traditional model of the music industry can be lambasted, the end goal for musicians is still to be 'signed' and paid by a label in advance to release their music.  With many labels pulling back in A&R and scouting, no longer taking chances on music that doesn't conform to market trends, and dropping artists after one or two 'below-expectations' releases, crowd-funding gives unsigned musicians the opportunity to put their wares out into the market and build a name for themselves. 

Whatever the future holds for the music industry, crowd-funding appears to be one of the few ways independent and unsigned artists can take the first steps into releasing albums, and you can pledge your bottom dollar, that as grass roots music fans, you'll be on the end of increasingly more crowd-funding campaigns.

Here's some current crowd-funding campaigns from Scottish musicians:

Rachel Sermanni -

Pledge for a new EP Everything Changes.  Various goodies are available such as handwritten lyrics, signed vinyl and the opportunity for an acoustic house concert.  Pledging open until 27th January 2014

Meursault -

Meursault are heading to the USA.  Namely for SXSW, however the band plan to do a full east coast tour and finally 'crack' America.  To help fund this they are releasing a new album The Organ Grinders Monkey with various ways for pledgers to contribute to the album, such as suggesting a cover, or a private gig.  Pledging open until 6th February 2014

Sefiros -

Electronic producer Bryan Henderson has been making music for nearly 10 years under the moniker Sefiros.  This project is to fund his eight album, but would be the first to be released as a physical project.  The album is called Dither, and fans can receive signed CD's, special artwork and t-shirts.  Pledging open until 14th February 2014

How To Swim -

With their second album Niagarama recorded and ready for release, How To Swim are looking for funding to put their album out professionally on vinyl, and to be able to properly promote the release.  There's some interesting pledges available including paying for the band to clean your house!  Pledging open until 10th February 2014

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