Welcome back to the blog mini-series where I write about my experience running a Kickstarter campaign to help release an album.
Before I started working on my campaign, I asked friends what they thought about Kickstarter. I was kind of surprised by the negative responses. Everything from “Kickstarter is dead,” to comparing crowdfunding to a guilt-mongering college kid with a clipboard hustling for Greenpeace who you’d cross the street to avoid.
In an attempt to address this stigma, I wrote an eloquent essay yesterday, defending the pre-sale model for independent music. I roused the crowd with a revealing anecdote and slam-dunked with staggering statistics. It was perhaps dry, but spot on.
This morning, however, I woke with the stink on my mind, the shame of going hat in hand.
As true as my point is about pre-sales being the only possible way for independent musicians to get their albums funded anymore (and trust me on this one, my research is NASA-grade, airtight), it doesn’t mean you’re not still perceived as a failure if you ask your friends for help.
No one’s arguing (out loud) that music and art should be free to the world at the maker’s expense. No one’s even saying that they wouldn’t buy the album after it was released (though why would they since they could stream it for free?). The embarrassment about, or distaste for crowdfunding comes from the perception of weakness.
The implication being that if the work was “strong” enough, an artist wouldn’t need help in getting his or her art made and disseminated. This capitalist, rugged individualist, Ayn Randian view of creativity which seems so all-pervasive and eternal—the idea that the almighty market will bear out True Quality and everything else is masturbatory self-indulgence—is about 15 seconds old in the context of human history and has been proven false so many times it reads like a punch line.
For chrissake, there’d be no Wagner without Kickstarter!1
But still, if I can’t find someone else to put out my album I’m kind of a loser, right? It must mean my music sucks, right? And no sane American wants to be associated with a sucky loser.
Thank god for you insane Americans. You are my people.
I’m resisting the powerful temptation to qualify that I, sir, am no Richard Wagner. “I’m not saying my work is any good, or it deserves attention, but I’m trying to make a larger point…” I’ve qualified enough. I’m done with that (well, maybe not forever, but this morning). I’ve been making art for more than twenty years. My work rewards listeners and readers. It’s rigorous and emotionally intelligent and crafted with dedication and care. Especially this album! It also happens to not have been commercially viable thus far.
WHO FUCKING CARES? Free market capitalism is toxic and heartless at best. To judge my creative worth according to the precepts of a system I don’t believe in is a form of psychosis. If crowdfunding means believing in the value of my own work and disrupting the commercial model of arts support, then it’s a direct cure to that illness.
So, yeah. Kickstarter!
1. Or his contemporary equivalent.↩