Bands Abusing Kickstarter Are Exploiting Fans

Categories: Fan Landers

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Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist, and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.

Howdy Fan,
Over the past five years my band has built up a modest fan base that largely includes all the wonderful people we have met in the process, and is bankrolled mostly by our three day jobs.

We just released our second album on vinyl. To pay for the pressing, we started a Kickstarter campaign. With only 73 backers, we were able to raise about $4,000. As I crunched the numbers (I'm a sixth grade math teacher on the side), I realized that a good portion of our fans were willing to pay much larger sums of money than what their package was actually worth--and it sparked an idea.

If our families, friends and fans were willing to pay tens and hundreds of dollars on a promised cd or vinyl package for a Kickstarter, then why wouldn't they be willing to pay a small amount each month for guaranteed weekly content? The more fans who subscribed, the more advanced content we could give them. Also with this model, rather than hap hazardly booking shows whenever we can get them, and trying to make something out of nothing, we can have set deadlines, with set goals to accomplish each week, and a set budget to accomplish them with. We would still play live shows, of course, but this time fans would know about them weeks in advance because they would have been receiving our awesome content each week. The content could include recorded music, stories, graphic novels (I dabble),and videos. We would have a more interactive relationship with subscribers each week so we would be able to easily find out what they wanted. At the end of a year, we could scoop up all the songs we released to our subscribers and put them on a vinyl to sell at stores and on tours. Finally, it would have the added bonus of making us feel like legitimate artists. Having to deliver something to our fans weekly would push our creativity, and force us to ask ourselves what we could do to keep fans coming back?

So there's the idea...but now comes the questions. How do we ask our fans who already do so much to pay us $4.99 a month? How many other bands are doing something like this? Where do we start?

Thanks!
US



Dear US,

You don't, because this is a bad idea. While doing a no-middleman business model is usually something I encourage, you have so much expectation about how it would happen and how it would make you feel that you need to stop right here.

I cannot think of a single act that I would like to get a new song (or "content") from every week save for a circa 1989 De La Soul, direct from their time machine, or pre-'72 Zeppelin. I doubt I would want to pay $60 a year for that, certainly not a small local band I was partial to. What you have is a business plan, that is straight up milking a cow dry, especially considering that some of your fan-donors are blood relations. The $4,000 your crowdsourced was due to the extreme generosity of fewer than 100 people (congrats)--but the number you should be looking at at is 73, not the 4,000. Forgive me for this harsh toke, but don't mistake that kindness and generosity for interest or fandom. To me, 73 doesn't scream that there is demand, it says that you have some exceptionally nice friends.

The model you are relying for your plan is people paying for more than they are getting--which is messed up, though very American. Just because you could bilk them doesn't mean you should; that's a horrible precedent. Looking at it from a logistical standpoint: Even if your band is super awesome, dedicated, and has all sorts of multimedia skills for these sundry videos/podcasts/ bits o' "content"--you better be some entertaining motherfuckers if you expect anyone to care after week six.

It sounds like you want this band to be your life and this is your way of getting really busy with your band so that it feels like it is something that it is not. There's a really good chance that this whole enterprise, if you got it off the ground, wouldn't change much of anything because the problem you are describing is a spiritual malady, not one that is going to be solved by your college roommate throwing $5 a month at it. If you do not feel like a real or legitimate artist, that is on you, all the adulation in the world is not going to fill that hole.

Do some meditation on this: it's very, very unlikely rock stardom or even popularity will come to you. Whatever feelings or thoughts come up, just sit with them--don't try to band-aid them. Just sit there with it and get real with the fact you may never get the validation you want, when and where and how you want it. Think (and write some) about what legitimate means and what it means to be an artist. You also need to read Lewis Hyde's The Gift; Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World--it will inspire you to think deeply about some of these issues and help you untangle this thinking you have about money and success.


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14 comments
fifthcolumn
fifthcolumn

What you are describing sounds a lot like a business that has been up and running for a while called Patronism, which can be found at http://www.patronism.com/. From what I've heard, doing quite well for bands.

This is not meant to dispute the entirety of Jessica's post - everything she says is damn good advice for up and coming bands looking to make their mark and build a respectable fanbase: walk before you run, do unto others, etc...

Andrew Karnavas
Andrew Karnavas

I think crowd funding sites are great for bands. The band in the article is definitely expecting too much from their fans, but what the band is trying to do is monetize other experiences, and that is something that authors are trying to do as well. Besides buying the physical good or paying to attend a live performance/reading, what other experience would fans pay for? For example, someone payed $50,000 to have lunch with Carly Simon to learn who "You're So Vain" was about. http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-207_162-566622.html

GammaJosh
GammaJosh

This response totally ignores the many bands (like my own) that are not overpricing their rewards, and are just offering more stuff that their fans actually do want.  Sure, charging $75 for a CD is ridiculous, but what about charging $15 for a CD, and $75 for a nice box set?  Nothing wrong with that, is there?  Leave it to the Voice to try to ruin a good thing with their jaded hipster-ism.  Sorry you're too cool for Kickstarter now, but our fans love it.

Conjureband
Conjureband

@jesshopp amen. Tired of seeing bands use kickstarter for everything. Saw a band do two fundraisers for the same album. What has happened?

jmacleod1
jmacleod1

don't listen to @jesshopp.  this is a great idea.  haters gonna hate.  make your art.

trisloth
trisloth

@jesshopp tough but great. love the 1-year challenge of spreading goodwill. but now i'm curious about your take on k. hersh's strange angels

EdieBushwick
EdieBushwick

@jesshopp Re: "it's very, very likely rock stardom or even popularity will come to you..." Do you mean likely or unlikely?

pkmonaghan
pkmonaghan

RT @jesshopp It's a very "post-Kickstarter" world we live in//Getting one easy. Who's going to walk the Kickstarter? Who's going to feed it?

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