Crowdfunding: Financing Alternative for Independent Musicians

This article is a part of my final project for Music Business class at Sjuman School of Music Extension Program. For Indonesian version you can read it here.

Over the last decade, the number of musicians trying to liberate themselves from the grip of major labels have increased significantly; instead of begging around for major label contracts and being a sellout, they prefer to produce their own works and distribute them independently. Along with today’s rapidly developed communication, information and music technology, many opportunities have opened up for them even more.

Nowadays, advanced technology for music recording and production can easily be accessed with lower cost. Musicians can also reach their listeners/fans online through Youtube, Soundcloud, websites, and social medias. In addition, countless local events have been held, where musicians can engage with their fans.

Not only in the production and marketing side, the advancement of information technology today has also given musicians a new approach to finance their works. One of the methods that has been developed these last few years is called crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is a unique idea that allows artists to get funded by the community. It is usually presented as a website where artists can propose and promote their upcoming projects, and the audience can participate by donating a certain amount of money. Usually they offer some rewards in return, such as: merchandise, full album package, behind the scene video, invitation to workshop, recording and backstage pass, private concert, and meet-and-greet; based on the amount of the contribution.

According to many sources, this funding method was started by ArtistShare in 2003. Many projects had been completed through this platform, including the 2005 Grammy Award winning album for Best Large Ensemble Jazz Album category: “Concert in the Garden” by Maria Schneider. This album–which was fully funded by the artist’s supporter and never sold in retail stores–became ArtistShare’s first Grammy win.

maria schneider concert in the garden

As of 2014, ArtistShare projects has received 9 Grammy wins (including 2 of Maria Schneider’s other projects, and 2 of Billy Childs compositions) and 18 Grammy nominations. Many other jazz musicians have joined, including Bob Brookmeyer, Chris Potter, Julian Lage, Donny McCaslin, and Kevin Hays. There are also a lot more of other music projects worldwide that have been made possible through ArtistShare.

Since ArtistShare was founded, many websites with similar platform have been created, including Sellaband (2006), SliceThePie (2007), IndieGoGo (2008), Spot.Us (2008), Pledge Music (2009), and Kickstarter (2009). With the rise of these websites, many independent artists in the world have started to rely on this system to finance their projects, gain supports from their fans, and complete their works.

Not only for creative works, now this crowdfunding platform has also been used for other funding arrangements/interests, such as: donation for causes and natural disaster reliefs, gaining support for non-governmental organizations, and even to obtain profit in investments.

A local crowdfunding platform has also been founded in Indonesia with a website called Wujudkan. Despite being relatively new, many projects have been realized by this media, including Mira Lesmana and Riri Riza’s film, “Atambua 39 Celcius”, that acquired more that 300 million Rupiahs!

Today, everyone can create any work of arts, and everyone can be involved in the process. Artists don’t have to be depended on major companies or dictated by a bunch of capital owners any longer. Art lovers can have more options in the market, which generate a smarter and more cultured audience. So, now it is up to you to propose your best idea and to invite the public to participate. The only question remains is just: are you ready?

***

Here are some links you can visit for further information and inspirational insights about crowdfunding:

“Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking (TED Talk).” Youtube video, 2013.

ArtistShare

 “How Maria Schneider Reinvented the Classical Sound” by Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, 2013

Kickstarter

“Top 10 Crowdfunding Sites for Fundraising” by Chance Barnett, Forbes, 2013

Wikipedia on all related topics

Wujudkan

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