A look into the world of online music promotion and indie-band beginnings.


photo courtesy of Kickstarter.com  and Indiegogo.com   

by Alex Baer

Piracy. Spotify. Neverending tours. Greedy record labels. These are some of the biggest problems musicians have to contend with today.

But some musicians are trying out something new: crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.

Let’s break down that definition, shall we? Basically, crowdfunding relies on a group of people to support a product (usually a movie, an album, or a new video game), taking the initial load off of the producer.

Sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have capitalized on this trend, providing a middleman for transactions between the producer(s) and the crowd. These two big players have about the same business model: if a project is successfully funded, Kickstarter takes 5%, while IndieGoGo takes 4%.
Seems almost too good to be true, right? Both sites have massive client lists, with more projects being added every day.
This January, progressive metal outfit Protest the Hero decided to pull the trigger and try it out. After a commercially underwhelming return on their first three albums (which led to their label leaving them out in the cold), the Canadian fivesome turned to their fanbase to fund their next album.
http://vimeo.com/57246728 (2:35- 3:03)
       As part of their campaign, they included a long list of “perks” that could be purchased. These perks are almost like pseudo-donations; while they still get your money up front, you are promised something in return. 
      Some of the perks were quite interesting; for $150, the bassist- Arif- would send you postcards. For $1250, Tim the guitarist would bake pizza for you at his Toronto home. For a whopping 5 grand, fans could provide guest vocals or instrumentation on the upcoming album. Four people bought this perk.
Also included in the campaign manifesto was the full budget for the new album, lending a sense of incredible visibility (which is one of the problems inherent to crowdfunding, unfortunately).
The band received nearly triple their goal in the span of a month.
It’s easy to see why this business model is catching on. At its most basic level, crowdfunding shows just what sort of market there is for their product. As in the case of Protest the Hero, it showed them how many fans were dedicated to keeping the band alive and producing. With over four thousand presales of the digital download, CD, and vinyl perks,
Crowdfunding also has the potential to make the fans feel that much more connected with the band, mostly through updates to their campaigns. Piracy has been seen as one of the biggest threats to the music industry recently, and personifying a band seems to encourage would-be pirates to vote with their wallets.