I just received a fun little package in the mail: the new album, “Diamonds & Clay” by one of my favorite bands, New Monsoon. Mind you, as one of their crowdfunding contributors, I’d already downloaded the digital version before the CD release. But at the level of contribution I made (I love these guys!), I got both — as well as this written recognition as one of their top Kickstarter contributors on the disc sleeve. Seeing that listing fills me with a joy that will last long past when the money would have been spent and forgotten.
Welcome to the wonderful world of crowdfunding.
Musicians, artists, filmmakers, entrepreneurs and fundraisers of all sorts now turn their attention to seeking the wisdom — and patronage — of the crowd through such web channels as Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
The premise is deceptively simple: describe your project, set a financial goal and a deadline, and ask for money. Paybacks for contributors (known as premiums) vary according to the level of contribution, and may range from an on-line thank you to a private concert or consultation.
Many people opt in at the “pre-purchase” level, where you contribute the amount you would likely pay for the album in a store — but you get it fresh off the presses upon release. As someone who has long bought albums, books, art and other items to support artists and creative endeavors, it’s no surprise I’ve jumped in on a few crowd funding campaigns. So far, my sponsored projects range from an “art truck” to a new CD from the Uranium Savages to an upcoming film about survivors of the UT sniper mass shooting, Aug. 1, 1966, “The Tower.” I also helped fund the restoration of Austin’s iconic 23rd Street People’s Renaissance Market Mural by the Austinacious Artists group.
Originally painted in ’74, this granddaddy of Austin murals was recently defaced by graffiti taggers. Austin came together and raised over $20,000 for restoration. I’ve got a couple of records pre-ordered as well: David Halley’s next album, and the debut album of young guitar whiz, Will Knack — mustn’t forget those. But see, I will forget those until the CDs arrive unexpectedly— so it’s like a present I’m giving my future self.
Bobby Bridger is another singer-songwriter I have long loved who hasn’t recorded a studio album in years. So when he announced a Kickstarter campaign to fund one, I jumped in with both feet just about as quick as I could. He set his sights on a higher funding goal than most projects ($30,000), so as to include money for distribution and promotion, even hiring Erin Galey — a Kickstarter success with her film, “Brave Girl” — to coordinate the crowdfunding effort.
One premium for major contributors was a reception with Bobby performing old and new songs with his producer-guitarist, John Inmon. Getting a backstage peek at a work-in-progress like this makes the involvement all the sweeter.
I became an informal cheerleader for Bobby’s campaign, as the higher target made for a steeper climb. See, with Kickstarter, no one pays until the project goal has been fully funded by pledges. Fall short of your goal by the deadline (and many do), and no money is collected. So, when it started to look close on making Bobby’s goal by the deadline, I took to reposting pitches and updates, spreading the word on social media, including video clips of Bobby performing on my YouTube channel, Casa Dexter. When he hit the funding goal, my thought: We made it. “We” — I cannot describe how good that felt.
Anyway, yes, I’ve been contributing like crazy, and enjoying the benefits— which extend far beyond the premiums.
It certainly gets me to thinking how our economy is struggling to re-form itself somehow. Past models of lifelong office jobs working in hierarchical corporations will persist but are fading. The organic growth of supportive community-based endeavors is spreading. This trend of crowdfunding looks to be part of it, moving us more towards a contributor economy, similar to the collaborative commons emerging in creative fields.
Join the crowd & fund your favorite artist or cause and help create the new collaborative commons.