Kickstarter has proven a remarkably popular tool for, er, kickstarting all different sorts of projects. Nonprofits have used it with great success. So have filmmakers, video-game designers, artists and musicians. Crowd-sourcing your fundraising efforts is a very 21st-century idea. At this point, though, it seems like musicians are skipping necessary steps before resorting to it.
Denver is a great location to find DIY musicians. It seems like every week, we're exposed to hand-printed album covers, silk-screened posters, and music that is clearly born from the sweat and blood of playing millions of live shows.
Kickstarter, however, takes away from the aesthetic. It relies upon the generosity of fans so bands don't have to work. They don't have to spend their own money, and they don't have to throw their own fundraisers. It's no longer DIY. It's YDIFM: You Do It For Me.
If you need to fund an album, play more shows. Save your money. Alternately, look into cheaper recording techniques. If you're paying $4,000 to record your debut and release your record, you're doing it wrong.
CDR releases were once considered less professional, but since nobody places much value on a product anymore, the stigma has essentially been erased. Want to keep it analog? Go cassette with a digital download code. Work some extra hours at your day job and release it on vinyl. Nobody said being in a band was supposed to be easy. That said, with websites like Bandcamp, it's easier than ever to release an album without overhead.
The same goes with recording. You can throw a rock and hit a recording engineer willing to record your album on the cheap. That's not meant to belittle the efforts of an ace engineer, but if your only goal is to get your music to tape, the main focus should be your music, not the amount you paid to get it recorded.
Times are tough, raises are rare, and the amount of people going to shows is down. But is Kickstarter really the answer? There's a bit more leeway granted to projects that are funding a second, third or fourth release, but there is no excuse for a band to ask its friends to fund a debut album. That's the band's job. If you can't afford to record and release it, maybe it's too early to do so.
There is certainly a place for Kickstarter. There are a lot of really good projects going up every day, but it seems like bands are starting to use it as a first resort as opposed to a last one. If Kickstarter really is the only way to fund a record, bands need to provide a good incentive to reward backers. It can't just be a physical product.
You need to make sure you're giving out free passes to the release show to every backer, as well as the album. Are you good at something other than playing music? Give that away, too. Fix someone's car, build them a table, let them sleep on your couch if they need it. Or take a cue from the Epilogues and offer to take them to South by Southwest with you. They worked hard to make the money they're giving to you for an imaginary product, so be sure to reward them accordingly.
If nothing else, make sure you say thank you to each and every backer, personally. Not a Facebook update, not a tweet, but a personal e-mail. Either that or just suck it up and take a financial hit of your own to complete this project you love.
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