If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you probably know that we are big fans of the arts around here. Lisa is a writer and designer, as well as a poet… Did you know that Toby was a bassist in a rock band and one time played the Terrace Ballroom in Salt Lake City? How about that Scott Preston is a professional drummer with an actual degree from a music conservatory? Ryan McClead moved to New York to expose Broadway to his talents as a composer/songwriter, pianist, and singer… Ayelette Robinson is a magnificent Ballroom Dancer… Jan Rivers is a photographer extraordinaire… Mark Gediman is… wait for it… wait for it… a professional DJ!! And, my family and I have our own rock band called “The Bendy Straws”!! In fact, now that I’ve actually written out all of these talents, it seems that we should form a band and hit the road!

We all love our day jobs in law firms because it gives us the ability to feed our love of the arts when we go home at night. I think that if we all had a wish, most of us would love spending more time on our arts projects and less time at work each day. However, we all like to eat, have a place to live, and we all like to travel, etc… so, we will continue to focus on our day jobs for now. But what about those folks out there that make a living through their arts? One of my favorite bands is trying a new way to make a living through their music, and is using a new approach to helping fund that work through a micro-financing website called Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is set up to help musicians, film makers, artist, technologists, designers, chefs, and publishers finance their work by appealing to the supporters of the arts to pledge a dollar amount to help produce the creative project. As the Kickstarter website says, “this is not about investment or lending. Project creators keep 100% ownership and control over their work.” So, this is not angel financing or having to sign over 51% control of your project to someone that has money (but probably no real love for your work.) In return, the artists give something back to their supporters. It could be a music download, signed pieces of previous art, clothing, or some other form of gratitude. Think of it as almost like having a garage sale to raise money to do your next project. In addition to getting something “physical” for your pledge, fans also get the “emotional” reward of being a part of the project. Quite honestly, most fans love the “emotional” reward more than than any physical item they may receive from the project.

The “fine print” of the Kickstarter projects is this:

  • Projects must have a dollar goal that must be met at a certain time
  • If the dollar goal is not met, then the project goes unfunded, and no money will be collected
  • Kickstarter gets 5% of any successful project, plus the money is collected through Amazon, who takes another 3%-5%. So, the artists get approximately 90% of the total money collected.
  • According to Kickstarter, project success rates are about 44%.
  • Since April 2009, Kickstarter has raised over $75 million for over 10,000 projects.

Let me give you an example of one of my favorite bands, and their Kickstarter project.

The Bunny Costume I wanted!!

The punk-pop band, The Dollyrots, is actually going to its fans to help finance their upcoming fourth album by using Kickstarter as their platform for raising money. This is a band that has been around for over 10 years, and has put out three great albums, and was actually picked up by Joan Jett’s label, Blackheart Records. They also tour the world like crazy. My guess is that they could probably get a studio to back their project, but would also fall under the control of that label and wouldn’t have the freedom to really create the type of music that their fans have come to love. So, why not let the fans be the money behind the project? In return, the fans get a couple of things for their money. First of all, the band is giving away things when you pledge a certain dollar amount. These items range from music downloads, to having you come to the studio and being part of the gang vocals and handclaps. My favorite (and I wished I had seen this sooner so I could have pledged the money) is that they are giving away their notorious bunny costume that they used in the “Because I’m Awesome” video. (That would have been… well, awesome to get!!)

So, how is the project going so far?? I’d say that The Dollyrots have hit a home run with this one. The initial $7,500.00 goal was met in the first day! Now, they have a goal of $12,000.00 (which the met in less than a week.) Looking at the numbers this morning, the average contribution is just shy of $70 per person. Not too shabby! In fact, the pledge success rate was so good, that they have been able to move up their studio time up and start getting the next album together next month today. I think that The Dollyrots lead singer, Kelly Ogden, says it best when she talks about how important it is to this band to have their fans finance their upcoming record.

“Let’s do this, guys. I promise this will be our best record, ever! … We believe in you, and we know you believe in us. That’s why this is going to work.”

In the age of flattening worlds, instant communications, and being able to find your niche, no matter how small or obscure, it seems to make sense that traditional funding methods aren’t the only way to get your projects financed. Projects like this, and platforms like Kickstarter prove that there is more than one way to get things done. This should have fans clapping, and studio executives nervous. I, for one, am looking forward to hearing this upcoming “fan funded” album. Hopefully, other artists out there can learn from this experience and use their fans to micro-finance their next project.