Is Funding Your Album on Kickstarter Insulting and Wrong?

Categories: Digitalia

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CORRECTION (12/21, 1:15 p.m.): Kickstarter uses Amazon's payment system to process its transactions, but it is a privately owned company, not a division of the publicly held Amazon.

I do a monthly Kickstarter round-up on Art Attack because I really do think that crowdsourcing is a great way to get projects off of the ground that might otherwise never see the light of day. Some wonderful independent video games, for example, exist because of crowd-funding, and it is certainly the only way that awesome-looking film Goon is going to get made because no studio in their right mind is going to finance it since it will almost certainly not make very much money.

One thing I see a lot is bands wanting to raise money to record albums, and frankly every time I do I get a little angry, not least because they seem to want an ungodly amount of dough to lay down an LP -- $8,000 and more in some cases for local bands. What the hell kind of music are you recording? Full orchestral scores?

Look, I know that my own work as a musician comes from a band that thought having to do a third take for a song was the will of Hitler, but I have put out three full-length albums plus EPs in a project that at its height boasted six members. The recording process never topped a grand, even including mastering.

So when I see local acts seeking the equivalent of a basic-model Toyota sedan, it makes me think of a few things.

First, that you are trying to play way above your station. Yes, you can go down to SugarHill and drop some serious cash on high-end recording equipment. You can also find people willing to do it for $25 an hour all over the city. But you don't inherit greatness from the studio itself, and home recording has never been easier anyway. Big-money studios come from being a big-money acts. Skipping to that stage ain't going to help you any.

If you're a local band spending $8,000 on recoding an album, then I promise you need to rehearse more and have your act together like a well-oiled machine before you go in. That's where a lot of the money in recording seems to go... fiddling around when the clock is ticking.

The thing that really melts the candy in my pants, though, is that asking for money to record seems like begging at best, and a scam at worst. It honestly feels like you aren't invested enough in your own work to cover the most basic act of creation.

Not that I'm against musical Kickstarters entirely. If Poe or Andrew Eldritch started one tomorrow so we'd finally have a new album after years of silence, I'd sign up. If a local band had already recorded an album, but wanted to raise some dough for a good music video, a spectacular release party, or some inventive packaging I'd probably be down.

But to me, recording an album is the very foundation of being a musician, and that's your responsibility. Kickstarter is for funding things that otherwise can't happen, and your average Christian prog-metal band can lay down ten tracks without my help.

On the other hand, I don't speak for all the musicians in the world. Visit Page 2 for some thoughts from others.



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18 comments
eudemonist
eudemonist

Woohoo!  My opinions made the print edition!  I.R. Special;  thanks, Jef! 

(If I ever happen to say anything useful again, though, do me a favor and
let the editor know "eudemonist" is intentionally all lower case.
Nitpicky, I know.)

eudemonist
eudemonist

Not sure I'm quite with you on this one, Jef.  I totally agree that, for eight large, a frugal local band should be able to get four albums done.  I don't, however, think the simple act of asking for support is "wrong" or, to me, insulting.  Wrong is a whole bunch of value judgement I don't wanna get into, and feeling insulted is pretty personal, but here's my thinking:  I've loaned money to bands I was tight with to get an album done, as a personal friend, of my own choosing, and felt honored they asked. 

A Kickstarter is simply an offer of a deal--promise to buy my album, and I'll make one.  I don't find that insulting, really.  With the growth of streaming and downloading (legal or not), it seems a lot tougher to break even on a project.  Kickstarter guarantees you'll sell a _few_ albums, at least, because people are invested in it from the get-go.

Sarah Hirsch
Sarah Hirsch

I've done two fundraising campaigns: one through Kickstarter and one pre-sale through PayPal. The only thing that is ethically wrong about crowdfunding is when someone puts a project together, gets it funded, and then does not deliver on what was promised. Crowdfunding is DIY, and it allows the contributors to decide what kind of music gets made. If a project doesn't have enough people willing to fund it, it won't be successful. I guess people might find the whole idea of asking for money to be distasteful in some way, and if they do, they don't have to use Kickstarter or any other crowdfunded platform. Personally, I dig that people like our music so much that they're willing to buy our album, sight unseen, based on the strength of our previous work. And it makes us work harder because we're accountable to all our fans who are supporting us. All in all, it has been a very positive experience: we've been able to put out more music than we would have been able to, and our fans feel more involved in the band.

horde5150
horde5150

I think it depends on what you're getting in the end. If there's an alternate agenda such as funding to demolish a historic site to build a new church or a new Mercedes for a pastor's daughter, then it is absolutely insulting.  But that's just a hypothetical example.

On the other hand, I've helped "Kickstart" a number of things that I felt were well-deserved. I'm an oldschool gamer obviously, and I was more than happy to fund these items:

Project Giana - A revamp of the Commodore 64/Amiga classic of The Great Giana Sisters video game. The original developers from the 80s, and original music composed Chris Huelsbeck and Machinae Supremacy. It is now a completed game, and well-worth it! I received a free copy of the game, any and all updates, soundtrack in multiple formats, Physical copy of the soundtrack, and a backer pin.

The Amiga Works - Video game music composer Allister Brimble's in-production compilation of classic Amiga game tunes he's completely re-recorded on new hardware, copy of the signed album, a download code and a signed copy of the rare Sounds Digital CD, his first album made in 1992, poster & a personalized USB memory stick containing all the tracks and the original Amiga MODS.

Turrican Soundtrack Anthology by Chris Huelsbeck - 3-CD set, being completely re-written, and signed! MP3s of the collection and a digital booklet.

Although not through Kickstarter, I also helped fund The Adicts' All the Young Droogs, And received an autographed vinyl from the band.

I also helped fund the When We Ruled H-Town DVD. Though it did not make it's goal on Kickstarter, I paypal'ed the authors the dough to keep it rolling!

It's not always a bad thing. Though with Skeleton Dick, we fund our recording, mastering, CD printing and pressing, and all merch ourselves.

Joshua Justice
Joshua Justice

Umm...DIY still takes $ last I checked. As much as you want to romanticize DIY, people like Ian MacKaye borrowed money from somewhere. DIY doesn't always mean you pulled the money out of your own ass. If you think "self funded" means the bass player just kicked in his allowance, you're an idiot.

Justin Allen Norwood
Justin Allen Norwood

Kickstarter is kinda DIY- not everyone is able to fund an album themselves...or wait are we just to have music from upper middle class yuppies?

Jacob Majors
Jacob Majors

Kickstarter is pathetic. DIY or die, losers.

ryan
ryan

I get that you are speaking to "local acts" that may not need a truck load of money to get in and record. In some ways I agree. Any band should figure out where they are in their career and do things accordingly. This is why most bands need management (not your girlfriend) alot sooner than they realize.. They need someone to tell them that what they are doing is stupid or to try something new.

However, Kickstarter has made it possible for for music to be made. And in many cases BETTER music to be made. Of the 6 campaigns I've contributed to this year at around $100-$200 apiece I have zero regrets. It was a pleasure to support artists that I believe in. They aren't begging me.. they are giving me an opportunity. And their music will be made and put out with ZERO obligation to a label or investors (other than KS rewards).

You are a fool if you think a record can be made, duplicated, mastered and marketed for a grand. Any band that thinks like that will remain a "local" band. Drawing on experiences and knowledge from professionals in the industry is crucial to growing. And those people should be paid. I've heard the difference between a $100 mastering job and a $1000 mastering job and it was worth every penny. Even if you spend a grand on the record, why would you not hire someone to help get the word out? If you think "word of mouth" or youtube is going to do it then you need to do a little more looking around.

Ultimately, if you have spent years amassing fans that WANT to help and yet you are too prideful to give them an opportunity, then you deserve to wallow in self pity and denial. Music is more than the creating side.. it's also about the listening side. And as a fan, first and foremost, I will continue to give to projects that I believe need to be made.

My bottom line with KS is that it's your fans that will decide. Kickstarter is just the avenue. It'll either fund or it won't. if it doesn't then maybe you should work a little harder and try again later. If it does then there's more art in the world that isn't beholden to corporate labels.

Sheila Willard
Sheila Willard

Fuck Kickstarter. Have funded 4 things, only have ever received my prize for one, Rocky Votolato.

Justin Allen Norwood
Justin Allen Norwood

ehh...She wrote a letter explaining the situation, but I agree that it should not have went to any personal debt.

Judith Cruz Villarreal
Judith Cruz Villarreal

think it was horrible how she got all that money then tried to not pay the musicians ( at the end she is paying them). said she used some of the money for her personal debt. that's not good :/

Justin Allen Norwood
Justin Allen Norwood

Amanda Palmer funded her "Theatre is Evil" album with it. She's obviously sort of a 'name' but yeah...I might be a little pissed if someone like Lady gagme utilized it.

Justin Allen Norwood
Justin Allen Norwood

I actually think Kickstarter is a great idea considering the state of the industry.

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@ryan I never said duplicated and marketed. I said recorded and mastered. I mentioned potential marketing as an acceptable Kickstart project since it is something beyond the abilities of most bands to do on their own. 

ryan
ryan

true. fair enough.

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