Monday, May 28, 2012

The Future of Music is Crowdfunding

I have seen the future of music, and it is crowdfunding.

This weekend, I ran across a Kickstarter project for Amanda Palmer's new album.

Three relevant facts:

1) Until this weekend, I had never heard of Amanda Palmer, and I imagine that's true for most of you.

2) The average advance that a major studio might provide a musician is $250,000.

3) Amanda's Kickstarter project has over 20,000 backers, and is just under the $1 million mark.

Now it's true that Amanda has certain advantages, like half a million Twitter followers, but there's nothing preventing other musicians from emulating her example. (Except for marrying Neil Gaiman; I'm pretty sure there's only one of him)

And the interesting thing is that despite her Twitter fame and semi-celebrity, I'm pretty sure she got a lot more out Kickstarter than she would have from a record label.

So if you don't need a record label to finance an album, produce the music, distribute the videos, or sell the tickets, what exactly do musicians need them for?

The fans have always been the ultimate source of money for the music ecosystem; musicians finally have the tools to let them tap that source directly.


Edward Nickelson said...

Viva la vie boheme!

acgourley said...

I was super excited about music crowdfunding in 2006. There was a really solid entrant with good design, an active community, solid funding. I don't think they succeeded and I can't even remember their name.

Maybe the world just wasn't ready.

Chris said...


Often, when a mass market service fails, it's because the market isn't ready.

There have been several attempts to build crowdfunding platforms for bands, including ArtistShare (2000), Sellaband (2006), and IndieGoGo (2008).

Sadly, even a great idea needs to wait for its time to come. Bands had to get more social media savvy, and consumers needed to get more comfortable with crowdfunding.

Kickstarter has done a lot of things right, but perhaps the most important thing was starting at the right time.

acgourley said...

Sellaband was what I was thinking of, thanks for reminding me.

I believe sellaband was too focused on (or could only get) less popular artists when only larger artists can popularize and legitimatize the concept as the start.

So far, crowdfunding isn't great at talent scouting. It's great at blackmail.

Chris said...

acgouley (by the way, can you use your real first name on this blog?),

Crowdfunding can't make a band popular; that you have to do on your own first.

It's merely a mechanism for financing your work.

For example, Boyce Avenue has used a strategy of recording beautiful acoustic covers of classic songs to become the second-most viewed band on YouTube:

I'll bet they could finance an album on Kickstarter.