How do we feel about crowdfunding?

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 10:15 11/08/2014

There's talk - often, these days  about "finding a new model" about the need for the search, about hoping, waiting, riding through it...but in the last couple of years versions of crowdfunding - PledgeMe, Kickstarter, et al - have helped artists raise the cash to complete albums, make budget for tours, write and publish books...Gimme

I've had mixed feelings about crowdfunding. And I'm often asked what I think about it as a concept. Truth is, I'm still not sure. 

Yes, it is, absolutely, a cap-in-hand gesture. There's singing for your supper but this is singing for your supper-money in advance. But the one thing a crowdfunding campaign does that I like is it tells you whether you in fact have an audience. It helps you to assess whether your project is viable. There are a lot of hopeless romantics and daft dreamers out there so sure that the world and its aunty wants to hear their songs or read their book. Sometimes that's just not true. More often than not. 

And you can graft away at your day-job and save the money to put into the project - or you can be one of the lucky ones that receives some kind of funding. And if you receive any "bonus money" funding you are one of the lucky ones, it's a fluke-reward, a kindly gesture that's akin to winning a lottery not a merit award, there's no fair ranking system for the way the money is doled out. We've looked at that here before, Annabel Fay getting NZ on Air funding, Or Autozamm being funded for a decade (and then suddenly not being funded and almost instantly the band no longer exists). Hey, by all means, be in to win but understand that it is a lottery.

Where crowdfunding is different is that you're marshalling your own troops, finding out if you have an audience and if they are prepared to pay. Now that's hard to do in these days of Facebook-likes, a tossed-off gesture. Asking people to open their wallets as well as/instead of their hearts - to pre-pay for your art - well that's a tough sell.HLAH

But if you have the stomach for it you might be rewarded.

Last week I caught up with Nigel Regan of the band Head Like A Hole, we talked about the band's Kickstarter project; the aim to record a brand new album.

Head Like A Hole finds itself without a label, without representation, half the band in Auckland, half in Wellington, they've been toiling away for five years now, post-reunion. They're already released one brand new album and are hoping to have their second of this decade released by Christmas.

They need your help.

There are 20 days to go before the HLAH Kickstarter closes - you have a set period of time to raise the funds, if you don't get the full target you do not receive any of the money. Head Like A Hole has asked for $10,000, fans have so far pledged over $6000, the band is 60% of the way to its target.

They need your help.

The best way to think of this is that you are pre-purchasing the album. Yes, it's a donation to the band. They will be using your money before you have anything - but you're purchasing a promise to be rewarded with a copy of the album and other "rewards". The artist gets to decide the reward incentives. In this case Head Like A Hole has, I think, created some pretty fantastic rewards. The basic ask is for $30 - what used to be the price of a CD. So for this $30 you will receive the album, signed by the band, a thank you in the credits - your name in the liner notes.

For $50 you get the same deal and a band patch and tour poster also signed by the band. For $100 you receive everything from the $50-deal and you also get a T-shirt and reissued cassette copy of the band's first ever 4-song EP.
HLAH Guitar
On it goes. If someone out there would like to donate $4000 - and be the person that makes the new HLAH album happen you'll be rewarded with everything from the $100 package and you'll also receive a framed giant tour poster, VIP entry to the album release and to any/all NZ tour dates and a Head Like A Hole guitar (see photo). Okay, $4000 is obviously a huge ask - but that's still a pretty cool prize. If you're the biggest (richest?) HLAH fan in the country you have just bought yourself a great bit of memorabilia.

So that's how it works.

And if you are not a fan, or not wanting to support the project you don't have to. These crowdfunding projects mean that you might be spammed a bit with Facebook posts, well-meaning blog posts, ads and video clips, the artist has to learn to be borderline-shameless in plugging their own work. We're in a narcissistic social media world now anyway, so it's not quite the tall order you might be thinking.

Plenty of crowdfunding projects fall on their ear. Others speed through and get the chequered flag.

James Robinson used to write the Voyages In America blog here at Stuff.co.nz. When that blog was decommissioned he decided to package up the best of his work with new writing to support it in the form of a book. He ran a successful Kickstarter and now we have the finished project - his book Voyages in America (and it's a good read, having helped James in his quest to blog here I was given an advance copy) is available to purchase from his website and selected retailers. If you supported his Kickstarter campaign you will by now have your copy of the book. 

I wanted to use these two recent examples to head a discussion around crowdfunding. Every nowVoyages in America and then I'll chuck a link up to someone's project - Shayne Carter's album was the most recent one. Or I'll write something in support. I get asked a lot about crowdfunding. And though I'm still working out exactly how I feel about it I do believe that no one owes you a living. It's not enough to just say that you're trained as a musician and therefore deserve income. Or that you were once successful and therefore deserve continued success. These crowdfunding stabs might make the artist feel a bit like a beggar but there is another option always: don't do it. Find whatever other way. Or simply miss out on the chance. To me, if you're up for it, sticking your neck out and asking for the cash in advance, appealing to your fan base, offering rewards, connecting with the people around you, promising to work for the money, there's an honour - and hopefully a pay-off - in all of that. Right?

How do you feel about crowdfunding?

To read my full interview with Nigel Regan click here. To check out HLAH's Kickstarter click here. And to order James Robinson's Voyages in America book click here.

Postscript: Oh and in other Head Like A Hole news the band's first album, 13, is now available via the HLAH Bandcamp page. New music is on that page too as well asmost of the band's back-catalogue. Worth visiting.

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You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts

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