Kicking & Screaming: Week #6
Welcome back the blog mini-series where I write about my experience running a Kickstarter campaign to help release an album. This is the final installment: the round up.
I’m relieved and overjoyed to say the project was fully funded and then some. No Country Music will have a proper release on vinyl with some extra money for getting the word out about it. That’s huge.
I’ve also already pre-sold more copies of the record through this campaign than I did for my last record, which I paid thousands of dollars to a hip indie publicist for. The pitch video (which features a song from the album) has received more viewings in the past thirty days than another music video I’ve got on YouTube has received in six years. My music and work has gotten more shout-outs, reposts, tweets, and likes from supporters and friends in the last month than the previous twenty-plus years of my creative life combined.
It would have cost me much more money to garner the kind of attention and interest that I was able to generate because of the finite, pressurized context of the crowdfunding campaign had I simply released the album “on my own” (whatever that means).
All that being said, I see this as a one-shot deal. Since I was tapping almost exclusively into my creative community and personal relationships, this isn’t some new definitive path toward funding my creative work—it’s one half of reciprocal support. If I had an army of listeners and readers, this could and should be the new sustainable way for me to release my work. But I don’t have fans; I have friends.
Yes, some new people (strangers!) found my music through this campaign. My guess, which I am basing on more than half a lifetime of experience, is that they’re fellow makers and we’d hit it off.
I work at Pandora for my day job, so I sometimes hear laments from people about declining royalties, loss of profits, death of the middle class artist, etc… I, of course, believe that in an ideal world people ought to be compensated for creative labor, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with my experience as an artist. Neither ASCAP, BMI, or the RIAA even bother collecting royalties on my behalf. I’ve only ever lost money on creative work (including No Country Music, which cost thousands more to produce than I raised via Kickstarter). My creative existence has been underground with virtually no audience beyond my immediate creative community.
The keyword here being “community,” meaning, we support one another. I almost never buy a big name author’s or musician’s work new. I’ll wait and pick up a Lorrie Moore book at a thrift store or stream a Dylan record. But I buy tons of records and books made by friends, acquaintances, former professors, and collaborators. And it makes no difference to me if I buy it after it’s manufactured or before, via Kickstarter. In fact, I can’t wrap my brain around why that distinction could possibly matter.
I want to support the work of people I like. I’m curious to hear what my colleagues and friends have to say, what they’re thinking about, what matters to them. I’m invested in the ongoing life of their work, and many of them, it miraculously turns out, are interested in the same for me.
The whole idea of fans and labels and publishers and a bunch of strangers somehow being more valuable or valid than that doesn’t resonate with me like it used to or like it “should.”
Fortunately, I’m not the only one who feels this way.