Crowdfunding Projects: It Helps To Let Your Personality Shine Through

from the my-fantasy-baseball-team-needs-help dept

You may recall a few weeks back, we had a guest post from musician Erin McKeown about her reaction to finding out that a Sony Music artist had copied one of her songs without credit, and the copied song was now becoming a hit. That story kicked off quite a discussion. A few days later, I actually got to meet Erin in person at the Innovate/Activate conference, and we had a really enjoyable chat about the whole thing. So I was interested to see that Erin recently launched a crowdfunding project for her new album on PledgeMusic. PledgeMusic is a platform that’s similar to Kickstarter, but focused just on music (obviously). It has some nice features (music player plus the ability to share some of the proceeds with charities) and some oddities (total goal amount isn’t clear, and no way to embed anything?!), but if you understand Kickstarter, you’ll understand what’s going on here.


Of course, tons of musicians (and other creators) have jumped on the crowdfunding bandwagon over the past few years, so just seeing “yet another” project isn’t newsworthy by itself. But what struck me about Erin’s approach was that some of the tier offerings solidified an idea that had been bouncing around in my head lately about these kinds of projects: the ones that work are somehow uniquely personal to the artist in question. Figuring out what goes into the tiers is always something of a challenge, but I think going with purely generic tiers doesn’t do much. I’ve said before that it’s important for artists to understand the kind of relationship they have with their fans and build on that, and it appears that Erin does exactly that with her tier options. Some of them are just amusing, like offering her first Spotify check to a backer, or the anti-SOPA petition video she did during the SOPA fight.

But then there are some that seem like they’re totally out of left field… and many of them really show off Erin’s personality. Things like having her buy some books for you. Or spending an hour fixing your fantasy baseball game. Or actually going to a baseball game or a museum with her. Or, best of all, getting to play a game of wiffle ball with her and some friends (she seems to like baseball).


Now, again, quirky tier options aren’t a new idea. We’ve been writing about them for years, and I know how some of our usual critics will react: with horror at the idea that Erin has to help people with their fantasy baseball teams to get them to support her music. Hell, we heard exactly that criticism three years ago when we highlighted Josh Freese’s hilarious tiers, which included things like playing mini-golf with you, or getting lunch at PF Changs, having him wash your car, or giving you a tour of Disney land. To this day, one of our usual critics still brings up the mini-golf example derisively, arguing that if the new business model means musicians have to play mini-golf with their fans to get their support, the new model is a failure.

But that totally misses the point. No one is arguing that playing mini-golf or wiffle ball with your fans is the future of the music business. We’re saying it’s all about the kind of person you are and how you connect with your fans. That is, what works has to be something that is unique to the artist’s personality, and which fits well with the kinds of things that make fans like that artist in the first place. One assumes that Josh chose minigolf and Erin chose baseball/wiffleball not because it was some horrific thing that they didn’t like, but precisely the opposite: because those things are fun to them and they wanted to offer up something fun and unique that they could share with their fans as well. And, in both cases, it seems like they’re succeeding.

These kinds of offerings help the artist not just make money, but to better connect with their fans by letting their own unique personality shine through. It’s that kind of personality that makes people want to support the artists. It’s not because they want to play mini-golf or wiffle ball, but that they like supporting the artist in a manner where the artist gets to have fun as well. And that’s pretty cool.

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Companies: kickstarter, sony music

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Comments on “Crowdfunding Projects: It Helps To Let Your Personality Shine Through”

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45 Comments
Yoshord says:

Re: Wait

Are you getting paid to post here? If not, why are you even bothering posting here?

I like taking pictures. Pictures count as art. I do not intend to sell the pictures I take. Therefore, I shouldn’t be taking pictures, because not making money off of the photography overrides that I like photographing? I disagree.

Anonymous Coward says:

I make music

It always comes back to the music for me.
Some of the greatest music has been made by weird assholes, sometimes with crushing issues like drug dependency and alcoholism.
Why would you link great music to great socialising?
I may not be the nicest person to spend the day at the ballgame with, or to go out to dinner with.
This makes funding great music production more about ‘the hang’, than the actual music.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Wait

If an artist can’t connect with their audience than why are they even bothering making art?

+1. Just standard excuses from the regular critic who failed as a musician to connect with their fans and now spends their time on Techdirt bemoaning successful musicians. Probably shilling because they still owe the industry millions of dollars from an unconscionable contract.

Connecting with fans isn’t a concept, it is reality, and has been reality for a lot longer than the Statue of Anne gave musicians limited (and ever expanding) monopoly powers over the common good. If you can’t connect with your fans and give them a reason to buy, you have failed. Mike is just pointing to ways to do so.

Anonymous Coward says:

I make music

You connect with fans through the music.

Who wants to connect with a total asshole with a major crack habit?
Does that mean the flawed personality has no value artistically?
Well, during their most productive periods, making genius music, both Miles Davis and Charlie Parker were crazy, difficult heroin addicts.
Rather you than me when it comes to spending the day at the crazy-golf.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

I make music

It always comes back to the music for me.
Some of the greatest music has been made by weird assholes, sometimes with crushing issues like drug dependency and alcoholism.
Why would you link great music to great socialising?

I think Amanda Palmer said all that needs to be said about that:

We’re entering the era of the social artist. It’s getting increasingly harder to hide in a garret and lower your songs down in a bucket to the crowd waiting below, wrapped in a cloak of sexy mystery above. That was the 90s. Where an artist could be as anti-social as they wanted, and rack up cred left and right for shoe-gazing and detaching. It’s over. The ivory tower of the mysterious artist has crumbled. If you’re painfully shy and antisocial and hate tweeting and blogging and connecting and touring…and you really just want to write and sing music and be left alone, you can still succeed…if your music is BRILLIANT. But you better have a damn clever boyfriend, girlfriend or friend-manager to fight your battle for you and lift the megaphone in your name, because no longer will a huge, magical company scoop you up and do all the heavy lifting (or if they do, they’ll charge you 100% of your income for the service).

Anonymous Coward says:

Wait

It was supposed to be a sarcastic comment. I am not naive enough to believe A] I can perform music well enough that people would want to listen to it and B] that even if A was true that signing onto a record label would be smart.

My sarcasm gets more use the longer I have a problem with the program I am debugging.

Anonymous Coward says:

I make music

That was the 90s. Where an artist could be as anti-social as they wanted, and rack up cred left and right for shoe-gazing and detaching. It’s over.

Thanks for the honest post Leigh.
It really reinforces my view.
Does the music fan want great music, or great people making that music?
Like many new music business concepts being currently touted, it’s genesis is rooted in the consumer ideal, which is also somewhat naive as to the realities of music.
Truly great art that we’ve held dear for hundreds of years has almost gone hand in hand with difficult personalities. I mentioned Charlie Parker. What about Vincent Van Gogh? Phil Spector, Roman Polanski?
Would we have turned away Joy Division, unable to fund their recordings because no one wanted to spend a day at the ballpark with Ian Curtis having one of his many episodes of deep depression?
This isn’t about ‘the 90’s’, it’s about the reality of the artistic mind. The artist is very often a difficult character to be with, and when you’ve worked with as many as I have, you want to spend as little time with them as possible.
I want my music to be funded based on it’s greatness, not on the artist’s great personality.
The title of this article says it all: “it helps to let your personality shine through”. Unfortunately, personable people and great art do not always come together. We should still value a cracking song recorded by a crack addict, however dark that reality might be.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: I make music

Unfortunately, personable people and great art do not always come together. We should still value a cracking song recorded by a crack addict, however dark that reality might be.

In their nature these people are also completely untouched by money or business realities anyway.

The so called “incentives” of copyright and the traditional business model of the recording industry are irrelevant to them. They will live in the same self destructive poverty making their art under any system or none.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Wait

It was supposed to be a sarcastic comment. I am not naive enough to believe A] I can perform music well enough that people would want to listen to it and B] that even if A was true that signing onto a record label would be smart.

Sorry, it just looked like the common TAM screed. I should have my sarcasm meter checked, because it has been failing quite a bit lately.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

I make music

I think you should pay more attention to this line:

If you’re painfully shy and antisocial and hate tweeting and blogging and connecting and touring…and you really just want to write and sing music and be left alone, you can still succeed…if your music is BRILLIANT.

There will always be reclusive geniuses, and eccentric geniuses, and self-destructive geniuses. And if they truly are geniuses, their creations will find a way to reach the world, one way or another. I’m afraid I don’t share your concern that this will ever stop – and i’m not sure the situation where media conglomerates swoop in and manipulate reclusive geniuses is any better than the situation in which they must find some help or struggle with stuff they hate to reach their fans.

But what there won’t be is false reclusive/eccentric/self-destructive geniuses. It’s a lot harder to manufacture a fringe personality, and nobody will care if you don’t have the talent to back it up. There are too many genuine geniuses out there vying for attention.

Remember that under the old system, the labels didn’t care if someone was a genuine genius. They only cared if people bought the records as though they were. So whenever faking a genius was easier than finding a real one, they’d just do that.

Besides, for every fucked up genius who drifts through the label life and shared their gift, there are a thousand other fucked up geniuses who wallow in their inability to breach the industry — because of the exact same social failings, and the exact same lack of someone to go to bat for them that you are so worried about. For the vast majority of fucked up geniuses, the new system lowers the bar to entry. For the extremely fucked up geniuses, the new system makes it possible for them to find an appropriately sized audience who appreciates their genius even if the broader market never will (a condition that, before, would have forever locked them out of the big labels). The only people who, arguably, are less lucky now are those one-in-a-thousand fucked up geniuses who won the lottery and got propelled to stardom the old way.

Anonymous Coward says:

I make music

You both think people can fake genius, or fake destructive drug habits?
Look, I just don’t want my music in a cuddly, non confrontational personality form. I just want good music.
Actually the music business has struggled to deal with difficult personalities, or artists mired in self destruction. So I can’t see ‘crowd funding’ being any more able.
By all accounts John Lennon was a real d**k to be around much of the time. Many of his songs are written apologies for the crap behavior he owned up to.
Anyone with any first hand knowledge of music making (which not many here have) will understand that great music almost goes hand in hand with reclusive, destructive, difficult behavior.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: I make music

Anyone with any first hand knowledge of music making (which not many here have) will understand that great music almost goes hand in hand with reclusive, destructive, difficult behavior.

Actually not true to the extent you suggest. Often it is merely a publicity stunt. Insofar as it is true it is actually aided and abetted by the copyright based model.

However the real self destructive geniuses are unaffected by monetary considerations anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I make music

>Anyone with any first hand knowledge of music making (which not many here have) will understand that great music almost goes hand in hand with reclusive, destructive, difficult behavior.

Wait, so if a music maker wants to be great, you HAVE to be reclusive, destructive and/or difficult?

Why do you hate artists?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I make music

Your last line is only an example, not a rule. There are many great musicians who are geniuses and are not jerks or suffering from some self-destructive pattern of behaviour.

While many say “your best comes from when you are at your worst” that’s not always true!

And I do have many musician friends who are very strange, some have self destructive behaviour, others do not. Reclusivity is not a requirement for the creation of great music.

And for the record, I too create music and no, I’m not the best baseball. In fact, I don’t like baseball. Does that mean I will avoid contact with fans? Ugh, no. I’d do different things. I find touring hydro electric dams fun, who else does? Don’t all raise your hands now. But I also find cycling fun. Who doesn’t mind cycling? Sure, very few would want to do training rides, like I would, but you get the point.

You can give examples all you want of great musicians who were recluse or in patterns of self destructive behaviour. And if you think outside that “only greatness comes from suffering” mentality, you’ll discover many a great musician who is not suffering.

Case and point: Matthew Good. When treated for mental illness he often worried, as do his musician contacts, that once “cured” or “managed” he’d somehow lose artistic abilities. He confirmed that’s an unjustified fear. In fact, he’s on record in interviews explaining that your creativity will flow even better without that BS messing up your head.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I make music

You both think people can fake genius, or fake destructive drug habits?
Look, I just don’t want my music in a cuddly, non confrontational personality form. I just want good music.

I don’t understand. Why are making good music and being non-confrontational, non-destructive, or whatever positive traits mutually exclusive?

Actually the music business has struggled to deal with difficult personalities, or artists mired in self destruction. So I can’t see ‘crowd funding’ being any more able.

So I don’t see what the problem is. If you feel that neither solution is working then why is there an issue with crowdfunding as an alternative option?

By all accounts John Lennon was a real d**k to be around much of the time. Many of his songs are written apologies for the crap behavior he owned up to.
Anyone with any first hand knowledge of music making (which not many here have) will understand that great music almost goes hand in hand with reclusive, destructive, difficult behavior.

What are you trying to say? Are you saying that nice people can’t be geniuses, or that normal people can’t have inspirational epiphanies, or are you trying to justify artists being dicks so they can make music?

I’m starting to see why you and the rest of the shills advocate the “sue the fans” approach of dealing with IP. You have absolutely nothing to hope for humanity because you think humans can only accomplish something if they’re complete dicks and anyone who disagrees is a naive idealist or a freetard.

And you wonder why people hate the RIAA?

Anonymous Coward says:

I make music

I said that you need to find what helps you connect with your fans.

And in music, which is an auditory experience, it’s MUSIC that people connect with. You just wont admit it because you think music should be free, so you’re fumbling around for other non-musical ways musicians can fund their music making.

Not So Anonymous says:

Re: Re:

You do know most musicians are performers as well, no? If you dont really care about your fans, ya know, the ones that actually pay you, then you have no right to complain when they download your music because they like your music but hate you. You have no right to complain that your music gets good reviews, but no one shows up at your shows.

The reality is, it is as much your music as it is the person/people in the band. Hate to break it to you, the AC.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You know what fans represent right? Fans == money. So what you just wrote is this:

Great musicians are more interested in music than money.
That’s just the reality – hate to break it to you, the monetary supporters.

In which case, they don’t care about piracy. If they know their music is great and don’t care about money, then they want everyone to hear it and don’t care if it’s from iTunes, radio, or the Pirate Bay.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If they know their music is great and don’t care about money, then they want everyone to hear it and don’t care if it’s from iTunes, radio, or the Pirate Bay.

Well you could be right, but many ‘difficult’ artists I know also don’t like being taken advantage of. So they likely wouldn’t agree with you.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re:

Great musicians know that without fans they are nothing. If no one is willing to listen to your music, you will never be able to be anything more than a hobbyist. If someone wants to be a successful musicians, they need fans. Whether those fans are your everyday music loving people, commercial producers looking for the next jingle or movie/tv producers looking for a good score for their film, the musician need them to be successful.

I am sure it is relatively easy to win fans in the music licensing scene as they are looking for good music that fits the theme of the film/tv show/ commercial. However, it is far more difficult for someone to win fans in the general public without putting themselves out there and connecting with those fans.

Michael says:

To AC: "I make music"

I think your first several posts were spot-on but then began to lose it with your later ones when you began to devolve into the accusatory “You don’t pay for the music” rant. Nobody here was arguing about pay models for music, but that’s besides the point of the article.

You’re absolutely correct that the music should be front and center when it comes to musicians. As lame as I feel some of the crowdfunding perks are, it’s still a better alternative to the traditional label-dictated model wherein the artist becomes an indentured servant. Via crowdsourcing, the consumer is allowed to make the decision whether or not to financially support the artists in question, artists who otherwise might never have been given a chance. What this means is that instead of some corporate suit deciding who gets promoted and who doesn’t, the consumers effectively take up that role themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: To AC: "I make music"

Thanks, Michael, for summing up my feelings entirely.

This conversation (before it devolved into an ad hominem exchange) does illustrate a valuable point – that there is a place in the market for someone to find the people who make great music and take care of the marketing and promotion side of things while the musician focuses on what they do best. This is what the record labels should be doing – if they stuck to this then they’d make plenty of money and everyone would be better off.

The problem isn’t that record labels exist, the problem is that record labels have forsaken their productive purpose in favor of buying bad laws from a corrupt political system, suing fans for amounts exceeding the GDP of many countries, robbing artists blind (while claiming said artists are still eyebrow-deep in debt), and attempting to hamstring the advancement of technology.

BentFranklin (profile) says:

A day job by any other name...

If musicians can’t get paid for making music, they get a day job. Then they might be able to keep making music or they might not, but even if so, the music suffers because it has to come after the day job.

Spending time connecting with fans is nice, but isn’t all this fundraising just another form of a day job? So is merchandising. All these things take time away from making music.

This may be the new reality, but I don’t think it’s an equal substitute for getting paid for each copy of your music.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: A day job by any other name...

Spending time connecting with fans is nice, but isn’t all this fundraising just another form of a day job? So is merchandising. All these things take time away from making music.

So does dealing with middlemen who want to rip you off!

As an academic I also find bidding from money a pain when I would rather just get on with the research – but that is just modern life – unfortunately most of us who are above the bottom rung of any profession have to deal with that.


This may be the new reality, but I don’t think it’s an equal substitute for getting paid for each copy of your music.

Getting paid for every copy of music was never really a fair deal. People put up with it when the royalty was 2% of the cost of the copy. Now it is 2 Billion percent it is indefensible.

Also it was never the intention of the architects of copyright law (the publishers) that the author/artist should get royalties. Their plan was always to buy the rights outright from the start. However it has proved convenient to them, in their attempts to rip the artists off, to allow a few artists to become rich as a loss leader.

BentFranklin (profile) says:

Re: Re: A day job by any other name...

I agree with everything you said. I just mean that something else is lost when you DIY/CWF, so it’s only a little better than letting a label rip you off.

TechDirt likes to tell the story of Dickens getting copied mercilessly here in America, so he toured America and made a lot of money that way instead. Fine, but what Dickens novel is the world missing because he was out glad-handing for a year? If we believe that the purpose of copyright is to promote the arts and sciences, then we have to account for the missing Dickens novel on the debit side.

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