Is Kickstarter the saviour of the music business?

Musical artists have been increasingly struggling in recent years, trying to monetize a business model that no longer works as it once did. No one buys music anymore, or at least when they do it’s not using the model most record companies still prioritize. There are exceptions of course, people are still lining up to buy the new Taylor Swift album or their seemingly tenth copy of Adele’s album (88 weeks and counting on the Billboard 200) or even Tony Bennett’s new Duets album, but those artists that have and maintain mainstream chart success are also increasingly those artists that can appeal cross-generationally. It’s become a niche market leaving the bulk of the music business struggling to survive, relying almost entirely on touring as an income generator.

The electronic genre has been hit particularly hard. There are few superstar electronic bands who can sell enough records to make a real run an ongoing viability. For every Depeche Mode, or Goldfrapp, or more recently, Ellie Goulding, we have scores of other artists who are trying to scrape together a model that allows them to continue to produce their music.

Enter the post-Kickstarter world.

For those not familiar with the model, most famously carried by Kickstarter, but increasingly by many agencies, it’s essentially a way to form a de facto partnership between artist and fan. Fans provide funding for an album, or tour, or other project in exchange for a copy of the album when it’s released but also extras that can become strangely creative (not to mention scoops and news exclusive to the funders’ club). It’s a way of, at a minimum, ensuring the production phase of a recording session is covered off so artists don’t have to go in their own pockets for funding. Instead of hoping listeners won’t steal a pirated copy of their album, they’re getting paid up front. When it works it’s a pretty beautiful thing.

Perhaps the most famous purveyor of Kickstarter success is musician Amanda Palmer (so excellently summarized by the AV Club). She raised an eye-popping $1.2 million for her tour and associated projects (becoming the first Kickstarter-funded artist to cross the million dollar mark). While there have been many questions as to how she has used that money, importantly, she showed the power of crowd funding.

Some of our most valued artists have been embracing the model. Collide funded their new remix album this way, as we wrote earlier, The Azioc are planning a comeback thanks to a crowdsourced project. The new IMAX album, The Unified Field and associated videos are being funded using Pledgemusic, and have reached 515% of the original pledge goal among 1655 pledgers as of this writing, liberating Chris Corner and friends from having to fret about the business model as he has in the past. Ladytron vocalist Helen Marnie launched what sounds to be an intriguing new solo album also using Pledgemusic and reached her stated goal lightning fast (if memory serves, it was, like, within a day). Her website lists some very odd, and fun things one can get by pledging, showing how creative this funding process can be (you can also hear a teaser snippet that makes at least this listener very excited for her album).

These artists and many more from across our genre are embracing this model and it’s provided a new sense of life and liberation to the business. It could be the shift that we’ve needed to empower our artists to be able to create music without the Sword of Damocles hanging over them throughout the recording process and beyond. While it has its flaws, as a model, it could be just what the doctor ordered…

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One Response to “Is Kickstarter the saviour of the music business?”

  1. I’m glad you mentioned Helen Marnie on your article. Looking forward to hear her album (it seems in March 2013).

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