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How crowdfunding is changing the music landscape

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You want to make an album, shoot a music video and tour with your music. 15 years ago, you would have to dip into your savings or borrow from family and friends who have absolutely no clue what you are doing with your life. But times have changed. You really have to thank technology for having the power to transform people’s lives. Your music can now have an audience and supporters globally.

Digital downloads and streaming music are obviously major players in the music business but so is crowdfunding. You couldn’t imagine strangers paying for your musical dreams but it is a reality now. Known for simple yet beautiful arrangement and hum-worthy tunes, one of Bengaluru’s famous bands Kaushik & Unassumed Identity are very close to raising their target amount of INR 1,20,000 through crowdfunding.

Kaushik Shukla, Singer, Songwriter, K&UI j

Its past being called unconventional but when crowdfunding started out as a concept, it definitely defied conventional methods in the music business.

“The reason to choose crowdfunding or the rationale is pretty straightforward, your music gets produced by people who believe in your music or who love your music – that is what people ask us now why crowdfunding. Also, it is essential to keep in mind that you need to do a lot of groundwork before you start funding your project and have a clear vision as to how you want to use that money because people would want that transparency about what they are funding. It is rather important to be direct and believe in your dreams because that is when others believe in you,” –Kaushik Shukla, singer, songwriter, K&UI.

Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and GoFundMe have definitely sparked a legacy of music that has found a way to reach millions of people. In 2012, musician Amanda Palmer started a Kickstarter campaign asking her fans to pledge $100,000 to make her album Theatre Is Evil and promote it. She got $1.2 million from her fans, making her the first artist to break the $1 million Kickstarter record. Amanda’s story was not without downs even after she got the funding. There have been theories about the public feeling like they paid for it and so they have a say in what the artist does. There was a backlash after her campaign but this also gave musicians all over the world hope that their music could get support from their fans in terms of finances.

India’s top crowdfunding platform Wishberry’s Campaign Head Apoorvaa Agarwal said,

“For musicians, a crowdfunding campaign is not just a way to raise funds for their albums. Through a campaign, they are able to engage their existing fans better, hence strengthening the bond as well as reach out to newer fans and generate enough buzz before their album launch.”

While public funds are great for the artists on some level, “Also, I think that the biggest reason for a musician to run a crowdfunding campaign is also to discover who your real fans/supporters are. For instance, Kristian Bent crowdfunded his first album- Campfire Stories received contributions from friends/fans he was least expectant about. After the campaign, he has been able to build a tighter fan base and community around him, which is essentially what every musician wants to have,” Agarwal explained.

Whatever said and done, crowdfunding has definitely brought more power to independent artists and fans who want to listen to diverse kinds of music. Singer/songwriter from Goa, Kristian Bent explains his idea of crowdfunding.

Kristian Bent j

“Crowdfunding is surely the greatest asset in modern technology when it comes to musicians and other artists who cannot afford to put their work out there. Not only did I manage to produce the album and put on a spectacular launch, through crowdfunding, it felt like I had already bridged the gap between my music and the listeners. By the time the album was ready, I had already gathered a decent online following from people I had never seen or never spoken to, but who were connected to my music through the campaign. In all honesty, I don’t see a downside to crowdfunding. There are some absolutely fabulous artists out there with material that need to see the light of day. Crowdfunding is probably the only way that can happen.”

There were other artists including Aphex Twin, who used crowdfunding to release a 1994 album Caustic Window that never had the chance to see the light of the day. Now the artist had people pay for the unreleased work and he sold digital copies to people who had pledged money. There are also issues with a concept like this. The fans are sometimes not happy with what they get in return, their expectations are something else. However, it is something they must decide before the transaction. What most of them get in return is the joy of the music that is being made. It’s also great for bringing bigger bands to a small town.

Back in 2014, Foo Fighters fans in Richmond, Virginia started a Crowdtilt page to bring the band to Richmond. They made it happen and it was the first time in 16 years that Foo Fighters performed in Richmond. It is a great story. There are downsides that industry experts have pointed out including the whole business model being something that grew out of the Silicon Valley, anything like Uber and Airbnb- with a community tag but rising out of individualistic capitalism.

Kickstarter has also been said to have a tight filter on the kind of projects that are supported and this slims the chances of what kind of art reaches the people. It is also argued that the curatorial skills that record labels have, however outdated that model may be, is highly lacking when it comes to crowdfunding. While there may be disadvantages to the model, it has also helped shape the lives and dreams of artists changing the landscape of the music industry worldwide.

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