Tag: Pledgemusic

Artists and Fans Don’t Fit Together … or Do They?

Artists and fans live in two different worlds. That’s the common belief. When you think of artists you immediately picture big stars, which it seems like make their millions without a struggle, fly out from one party to another and in between, every now and then, have concert tours around the world. The reality is different for many artists. Many of them barely finance themselves and their families with an ordinary job and usually finance even their music with it. At least they can make a living out of music. It’s the world of crickets, that Sascha Lobo described in an article based on the old Aesop’s fable about the ant and the grasshopper, as a reaction to Sven Regener’s lament about copyrighting.

Lobo criticizes the widely spread scornfulness towards (unsuccessful) artists and the general low opinion about art. This doesn’t only explain the stolen copies and copyright infringements, but also why many artists can’t make a living out of their music. And this is where the ants come to play. They work diligently and dream of a better, worry free life, in their opinion the kind of lives that artists have. And they don’t want to pay a dime for music and give, at best, only charities.

Similar to every cliché, there is a tiny part of truth in how others imagine the world. But the other part, the big part, is made out of ignorance and isn’t really thoroughly thought out. However, at that time, a constructive dialogue on copyrighting and the value of art, didn’t take place at all.

Yet, when I separate the “financing of music or musicians” issue out of the, at that time, heated debate, the opportunities of crowdfunding immediately come to mind. With it, I can scatter the artists’ worries of having to ask their fans for money (or charity). Fans will gladly support you, if they believe in you. I want to tell a short story on the subject:

It had to be around the end of 2009 when I, at Sellaband, stumbled upon a singer/songwriter whose music immediately blew me away. Alex Highton was then new in crowdfunding; I on the other hand had initiated the 50K MUSIC MAG at the beginning of 2009 and therefore asked him If I can present him there. Certainly, I also helped finance his album project. The interview was published, I eventually also received my rewards – up to this point, everything according to the normal crowdfunding process. Then “it” happened, which gave crowdfunding a larger meaning: we stayed in touch. We wrote each other emails, we met in Birmingham and Leipzig, he sent me small Christmas presents, I returned the favor with small gifts for his girls… in 2011, I and a fan, partially financed Alex’s trip to SXSW.

In 2013, he started the crowdfunding for his new album “Nobody Knows Anything” on Pledgemusic. And I was there. Some of his fans too, which I recognized from the Sellaband project.

What I want to say with all of this? Crowdfunding can be a first step towards developing a relationship with fans and questioning clichés. Yet, the crowdfunding platform and the crowdfunding itself are just additional tools. The key success factor is the artist himself. You are the person that communicates with the fans, laughs, cries, tells them stories (your stories) and ultimately asks them for money. However, it should always be an individual way of asking. If someone simply copies Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking”, it won’t work. You have to understand the principle behind it and of course, your fans. And, you should offer your fans various channels, where they can collect information about you and communicate with you.

Your crowdfunding project will still always be just one part of your relationship with your fans. Take the chance to build a sustainable, intensive and lasting friendship with them – connect yourself with them … online, but also in the real world. That’s where you’ll find the true value of crowdfunding.

Adios Big Four?

The Institute for Communication in Social Media, shortly Ikosom, published a blog post named: “Music Crowdfunding and Labels”, at the beginning of June. A survey is planned to be conducted amongst German A&R-and Product managers of around 30 small and big German labels. I think the questions can, at the moment, still be commented on.

A couple of years ago, crowdfunding platforms boastfully announced the revolution of the music business. In the meantime, disillusion found its way to the revolutionaries. ForMyBand, the startup that was founded in 2008 in Berlin, wanted to unhinge the established concept about the music industry being headed towards a crisis. Today it can only be found on a tomb-like web site with the inscription “Germany’s first crowd funding startup closes its doors”. SellaBand, which used to be a forerunner for the crowdfunding guild that operated from Norway, which started in 2006 with the ambitious slogan “Level the playground in today’s music business” (or something similar), had to announce insolvency in February 2010 and was saved by German investors.

Meanwhile, the SellaBand team moved from Munich to Berlin and is again doing well in business. The contestants don’t seem to have such worries, yet no one has really successfully made a big breakthrough. Is the promised revolution not happening? What went wrong with the futuristic model of the music industry? The Ikosom blog post was also a reason for me to speculate deeper about the relationship between music crowdfunding and labels. What interests could labels have from crowdfunding? Or do they think of crowdfunding as competition? Are there any advantages in collaborating or even a synergy between crowdfunding and labels? Can one side or the other simply take over any steps of value chains?

Before we dedicate ourselves more deeply to the questions, we should take a look at the value chains of the music industry. Here, we can quickly recognize where crowdfunding starts, namely with the discovery of the artist, financing of the album/music and the production, which is mostly self-governed by the artist himself. And that’s where the possibilities of crowdfunding are worn out and the decisive steps of promoting and marketing as well as distributing the music, are left to others. Those are, in my point of view, exactly the points where, in the truest sense of the word, the music plays. It’s where the money is made. But it’s also where the supporters/fans are left out of the game. It wasn’t for nothing that Benji Rogers, Co-founder of Pledgemusic, established a record label in order to commercialize the artists that were discovered on Pledgemusic. (Although, only recently did Benji make it clear in an email, that he doesn’t consider Pledgemusic to be a crowdfunding platform). But, where is the supporters’ outrage? Why is it that, analogously to other branches, losses (or in this case the investing risks) are socialized and winnings are privatized? Up until now, the supports, apart from the fewest exceptions, have made no profit off of the artist’s success. A successful investment doesn’t work that way. But, let’s go back to our questions. I think that the business interest that labels have in crowdfunding, is rather low. They don’t necessarily have to fear competition in crowdfunding either. On the contrary, the labels can wait until the artists have gained some fan basis through crowdfunding and then, at the right moment, sign a contract with the artist- without the risk of financing a failed album. The supporters are the one who took the risk up to this point. Please, no misunderstandings, I wish for every artist to make profits out of their music. Surely, I see the synergy between crowdfunding and the labels. Even different points of the value chain can be taken over reciprocally. Though, it won’t work, because the labels work for profit and surely, which is understandable to me, they won’t want to share with the supporters, at least not without being forced to. The revolution of the music business can only come from the bottom. By fans and artists coming together and building a joint, new kind of a label, without mediators. This would surely be, even against the still actual GEMA discussion, an up-to-date answer to joint models of the Big Four, omnipresent music mainstream and the musical united mash on all channels. Additive (08.07.12): I am looking forward to the results of the Ikosom survey.

Where’s the Crowd in Crowdfunding?

Although Tim Schafer’s Kickstarter “Double Fine Adventure” game project is making headlines, the big number of over 57.000 supporters (on Kickstarter called backers) shouldn’t mislead from the fact that this project is an absolute exception and can’t be compared to music crowdfunding projects.

Even if we take in consideration the positively running project of the Libertins on Pledgemusic, with at the time around 1.800 supporters (on Pledgemusic called pledgers), it still is a barely repeatable success, which only few musicians will achieve. I don’t possess any statistical values about the number of supporters and their financial contribution to music crowdfunding projects. I do assume that most (quite successful) projects are supported by hundreds if not even only tens of supporters.

These are more than good numbers for many artists who are so far unknown. “Newcomers” mostly face many problems at the same time. Firstly, they still aren’t as experienced in the music business, in dealing with fans (and sometimes the media), in presenting on the web (most of them don’t have Website, Twitter, Facebook or MySpace accounts) and generally in promoting. This is where a fan can be of tremendous support, whether it’s a new or an old one. The crowd shouldn’t only have a financial role. They can also help through giving advices, actively helping on building an online presence or simply through buzz marketing. From experience, usually there are a number of supporters who willingly take over those assignments, because they identify themselves outstandingly with the musician or his/her music. A decisive problem in this case is the consistency of this approach. Many fans tend to overstate the supporting or have a different idea of what support really means, and I know this from experience. This is what crowdfunding platforms are missing- suitable collaboration tools.

Besides, not even established crowdfunding providers managed to achieve a big, sustainable crowd, the so-called regular crowd. Most of the supporters are narrowed down to a single project and they attract other supporters through the interest of the media in the project. I believe the reason is that so far it hasn’t been possible to establish a crowdfunding brand, which can sustain enough supporters for a long period of time, regardless of some stars. Simply focusing on the funding act has surely played a big part in this case. In the beginning, crowdfunding platforms like SellaBand or Slicethepie (which no longer is identified as a crowdfunding platform) have worked a lot towards a vivid community-life. In the meantime, such activities barely ever take place. Reducing it all to a simple money business is letting a big potential go to waste. One can only hope, that the providers will remember what eventually makes crowdfunding a success – the crowd.