There's no doubt that crowdfunding has become somewhat of a pop-culture phenomenon. Websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe showcase hundreds of thousands of different fundraisers ranging from movies and music to random inventions, charities, and basically anything else imaginable. As it relates to music, crowdfunding has singlehandedly changed the way artists go about creating, too. We sat down with Pat Healy, host of the Berklee Podcast The Roaring Crowdfund. In this mini-series podcast, Pat sits down with four different crowdfunded artists who all have different experiences with crowdfunding (positive and negative). Through his own extensive research, Pat covers the foundation of crowdfunding in music and how it all started, all of which is covered in the first episode.
What inspired you to start The Roaring Crowdfund?
I’ve known a lot of friends who have done it, and I started looking around the student body at Berklee Online and thinking about how nobody is getting the major label deals that they used to, and the dream come true of that salvation of being a struggling musician and not having to struggle anymore because some benefactor picked you up and paid you lots of money. That dream is kind of gone. I wanted to speak to listeners who were having the same experience, and I wanted to speak to artists who were going through these things, and figuring out what their strategies were and their struggles and how to overcome those.
Crowdfunding is unique in the sense that it favors the consumer more than a record label might. What’s your take on this?
This guy got into helping crowd funders market themselves and he helped one of the artists we were profiling. After that campaign he was like "I’m never doing music again," and was a little disheartened as the tangibility of this type of marketing is not there. You just donate money and get a gadget in the mail 20 days later. With music, you might receive a cd or t-shirt or something, but the actual music isn't so abstract. That’s kind of what we wanted to bring out, that this is an abstract thing and it’s not tangible, but it’s necessary and I think that everybody is taking that for granted and it’s getting harder for musicians to fund their projects.
What are some of the most negative aspects of crowdfunding?
I think the negative aspects are that there are so many people doing it, it’s a very crowded platform, and it’s hard to stand out. When crowdfunding first started, the playing field was so sparse that it had the air of unique interest. One's thought process would entail, “Oh I know a band that’s doing crowdfunding. That’s cool - let's listen to them, and give them money.” Now nobody is going to these sites looking for artists to fund. Now it’s mostly people doing campaigns from existing fans.
I think the future is positive. Although it is a crowded platform, the business model is flexible. Meredith Graves, from Kickstarter, mentioned that she sees the platform as something where people are investing in trading expertise with what would have originally been supported by money. People are pitching in and offering skills like creating Album covers in support.
What made you decide that these particular campaigns were interesting to study?
We had a full spreadsheet and we looked for several criteria. They had to be really early in their campaigns so we could catch them in that stage of excitement and then they also had to have music that spoke to us. I was really fortunate to find so many artists - we sourced over 100 acts. I was really excited when I came across Dutch ReBelle because I was already familiar with her music from living in Boston, and the fact that she was starting a Kickstarter was perfect.