The most successful crowdfunding project in Music: What to expect?

I spoke about this few months ago in my Fundraising in the Arts class. My topic was crowdfunding in Music. Little did I know it was a controversial topic, since people all had different idea on what was considered “Appropriate” as an Ask. Looking back at the case, I found it interesting and informative to see through the position people are taking on when judging Amanda’s project.

To give you a little bit of background in the case I mentioned:
Amanda Palmer

Amanda MacKinnon Gaiman Palmer (born April 30, 1976), sometimes known as Amanda Fucking Palmer, is an American singer-songwriter who first rose to prominence as the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist/composer of the duo The Dresden Dolls.[7] She has had a successful solo career, is also one-half of the duo Evelyn Evelyn, and is the lead singer and songwriter of Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra.

Amanda Palmer is married to Neil Gaiman, whose film Coraline was nominated for the Golden Globes in 2010.
On top of that, in 2010, Amanda asked for the release of “Theatre is Evil” by her and The Grand Theft Orchestra. Close to 25,000 backers kicked in, pledging nearly $1.2 million and making her the first musician to break the $1 million mark on a Kickstarter project. As of the written day of my article, Amanda’s project is still one of the most funded project on Kickstarter.  In In September 2011, it hit the billboard top 10, toured the world, played 25 house parties & made a MASSIVE book with album-inspired art from 30+ artists.  In each stop, she invited musicians to join her on stage, in exchange of merchandise, beer, hugs and high fives to anyone semi-professional who wanted to jam with her.

https://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/music?sort=most_funded

Amanda’s talk on Ted. You can also find the English transcript below. https://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking/transcript?language=en

Over 1million dollars for a tour? Such greedy woman, she’d better “get a job”, people said. Here’s how Amanda breaks down her expenses. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/amandapalmer/amanda-palmer-the-new-record-art-book-and-tour/posts/232020

In response to Amanda’s ask for musicians to come playing at her show for free. Also, Scroll down to read on what people think of her cost breakdown.

http://amandapalmer.tumblr.com/post/31502310905/an-open-letter-in-response-to-amy-re-musicians#comment-650247325

http://whatbettyknows.com/2012/09/13/why-i-volunteered-to-play-with-amanda-palmer/

Betty- A classical violinist on why she volunteered to play with Amanda Palmer.

Some comment that I found valid:

The problem with music, to use Steve Albini’s phrase, is that the musicians hardly ever see any of the money which is poured into the creative process. It all gets siphoned off into lot of peripheries and musicians are almost an afterthought. I kind of find it a shame that she’s claiming her approach is the future of music whilst replicating a lot of the problems of the old way. I love Kickstarter’s potential and the idea of crowdfunding records. I just think there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.

Promotion seems to be her main priority. That would be why she’s paying musicians to perform with her in the big media markets with her like New York (where more journalists will see if anything goes wrong) and not the smaller ones. That would seem to go against her stated aim of trying to keep it real and be down with the Kids.

The bottom line is that if she couldn’t afford to put on a big-scale show, she should have simply done a smaller show. It’s called working within your means. I saw Richard Thompson on tour a while back. It was just him and a guitar, and it was absolutely spellbinding. He had his own soundman with him, I’d have thought that was about it for touring crew, maybe a driver? Brilliant show. No need for all the other nonsense if you’re actually really good.”

—-

The view on Crowdsourcing should be altered. It is not for people who are begging to make ends meet in life. Nor is it for people who scream for attention by public offerings. Professionally, it is an alternative way to engage people in “Paying for the unknown”, or buy people into the delivery of a promise.  Crowdfunding expands the opportunity for even the smallest investor to make equity investments in start-up firms (or a start-up service). Amanda is now financially held accountable to the public that contributed to her success.

Having said that, Amanda may be an amazing performer (to all my honesty, it was nothing even close to my favorite type of music, but I appreciate the power, the cranky idea in all her videos, and to some extent, I enjoy watching it), but not so good at managing the business. It deemed obvious that she got ripped off making the thank you cards and high-end CD books as stated previously.

As a backer, by betting your money on someone else’s project, you basically trust that your money will go to where it needs to go, which might not be the case. Not so many crowdfund raisers come up with a decent financial plan/exit plan before they get the money. What is standard to a physical/on-time proposal/pitch isn’t well met in Kickstarter. It is no where near to a legal contract between you and the crowdfund raisers. It is instead a social contract. Apart from the flashy philosophy that Amanda brought in about Giving trust, her case on Kickstarter is all about a commercial exchange. After all, she couldn’t avoid cutting out the middleman, but it helped her to lower the cost involved. The audience got what they were promised: some well-packaged CD, some tickets to her show, but is better off from the equity question on how Amanda spent the money differently in her tours in different locations.  The outcome weren’t the same in NY as in Des Moines. You go to the store, pre-paid that designed dress for 100$, you walk away. Few weeks later, the dress will be delivered to you. No whatsoever question asked on how much that $100 of yours can afford a similar service in another store location. Another question is: Would I care if that dress, which I know for sure costs 50$, is being sold to me at $100? Would I go further investigating how many people who probably have paid similar amount as I paid? I would take it as a business transaction. I’m satisfied on the delivery of something I was promised. Things are a bit tricky on Kickstarter. When you know, publicly, that there are another 9 people who pledge for that dress, each 100$, kicking that amount to a total of $1,000, would I feel upset about the vendor being greedy? Would I feel the urge to request a decent response from the vendor to “claim its equity”?
Amanda brought up Couchsurfing to illustrate her point on Trust. However, asking for money for something you do professionally isn’t the same thing as the Couchsurf you did on your vacation. It wasn’t a business exchange. You don’t talk about Self-sufficiency in your vacation (or maybe you do!). I personally love CouchSurfing. I met lots of interesting people and learn a heck lot from them. But as a Couchsurfer, your expectation is quite far from what you can expect from AirBnB. You are not looking to “get what you pay for”. To some extent, you are looking to broaden your network, encounter new people, learn new culture, share some good time and not surprisingly, a decent accommodation is at the bottom of your list (Life knows how long I will be sticking to my portable sleeping bag!).  Such priority isn’t quite realistic in your own professional work. You need to think of a sustainable way to respond to your audience’s requirement by measurable results. Think of a scalable audience. They don’t give you money out of “love/sympathy for a talent”, they give you money because your work deserves that, because they wants to give you a chance/a means to make it possible. They now “get what they pay for”. When you’re in a more established stage of your career, find a way to funnel your profit, and sustain your business model.
On the side note: Why people hate Amanda Palmer: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17438/amanda_palmer_the_most_hated_woman_on_the_internet

 

Some of Amanda’s videos:

  • The Oasis
  • The Killing type

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