It’s a challenge to get your music out to interested fans if you don’t have a major label backing you. The reality is that getting started in most businesses can be tough without the backing of someone with deep pockets. Shark Tank and Dragons Den have turned these challenges into reality TV opportunities, and helped many entrepreneurs along the way.
Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe were the early crowdfunding platforms that offered products and ideas to the crowd to generate interested and pre-orders. Some products have been hugely successful, but for the most part, musicians found limited success.
A quick survey of Indiegogo reveals a couple of albums and EP’s looking for funding, but the ones I found had not reached their goal and were over.
Kickstarter is a whole other story. While Indiegogo was created with more of an emphasis on physical products I many very cool tech gadgets), Kickstarter has always been more focused on projects like films, books and music. One would think Kickstarter is a better fit for musicians and one would be correct. Kickstarter has categories for film, comics and illustration, games, music, arts and publishing. The first one I encountered was “The Planets: Reimagined”. This is a classical/ jazz / fusion reworking of Holst’s The Planets. I listened to the demo’s and the quality is certainly there. Clearly others agree with me. While writing this blog post the number of backers went from 36 to 44 in one day.
When I checked out Kickstarter for vinyl projects I lost track of how many there were. Many got the funding they needed, many others didn’t meet their funding objectives. Why? I suspect it is more in the marketing than in the quality of the music. That said, the goal for some projects was to fully fund the vinyl from recording, through production, pressing and distribution. Other musicians were just looking to cover a percentage of their costs with the plan to be able to go to press and sell the remainder of their inventory. Not a bad approach.
Now I descended down the internet rabbit hole as I looked into crowd funding for vinyl records. Oh My!
First Stop, Vinylised. Simply, artists can upload their music, fans can pre-order the album. When the target number is reached, the album is pressed and distributed by Vinylised. They take care of all of the mastering and distribution for the artists. Really no risk for the artists or Vinylised. And with this model, you get fans to do some of your promotion. If I want the album on vinyl and I know a certain target is needed, I’ll promote it to my friends in the hope that they will also pre-order and make the album happen. When you pre-order, you don’t actually pay until the target is reached.
Vinylised is similar to a Kickstarter campaign with the added bonus for the artist that the mastering, pressing and distribution is handled by Vinylised.
Qrates appears to be pretty much the same as Vinylised. Both Qrates and Vinylised are UK based but do ship internationally.
What Vinylised and Qrates don’t offer, are some of the unique perks that many Kickstarter campaigns use to entice support. This can include something as simple as an autographed copy of a CD or vinyl album to personal meet ups with artists, lessons, and studio experiences. Some of these perks come with hefty price tags ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Pledge Music is a notable crowd funding platform that used the “perk” approach. Pledge Music claims to have more than three million fans and fifty thousand artists. Unlike some of the crowd funding platforms, Pledge Music is not involved with the actual production of products. One notable partnership appears to be with the BMG record label. The intent of Pledge Music is to act as a promoter of artists in assisting them in raising funds through pre-orders of albums, and then passing the proceeds of these pre-orders on to artists and record labels in order to get physical products delivered to fans.
Unfortunately, Pledge Music has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. It appears that funds have not been getting to artists and pre-ordered products are not getting to fans – presumably because they are not being produced.
Pledge Music is in damage control mode currently acknowledging that there have been some significant issues. These gestures are probably too late as the Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against Joshua Sason (and others) a majority share holder in Pledge Music. It is not clear that the fraud directly involved Pledge Music funds, but the structure of Pledge Music as a Micro Cap fits with the alleged fraudulent activities of Magna Corp.
This is an unfortunate blemish on crowd funding for musicians, but hopefully the success of other such platforms will be enough to keep fan and musician faith in this means to fund music and keep new vinyl coming off the presses.