Being in a young, indie band is tricky stuff: Try to stay afloat on your own, and you’re eating Ramen for every meal of your tour and peddling your personal possessions to buy gas for the van. Try to make a little extra cash here and there, and you may end up with a Band of Whorses type debacle. But instead of selling plasma for $30 a pop or tap-dancing on street corners for spare change to press a few more LPs, scantily funded artists are hitting up an innovative new website that puts the power to help out in the hands of the fans.
Kickstarter was founded as a way for projects to gain funds from a greater audience. Interested donors can make a pledge in exchange for cool rewards. “We believe that a good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide,” say the founders of Kickstarter.
The aforementioned “good ideas” one can find on Kickstarter run the gamut: Polyvinyl’s heroic effort to save 10,000 records from destruction, one dude trying to make an 8-bit tribute to Miles Davis , and one writer’s quest to reunite the Kinks. There’s even a guy asking for funds to help film his ice cream man documentary, We Scream: Voices from the Ice Cream Underground (top sponsors snag an invite to the film’s Los Angeles premiere/ice cream party).
Sounds like a perfect venue for DIY independent musicians, no? The Rural Alberta Advantage (and their fans) seem to think so, as their project on Kickstarter has already garnered over $6,000 in pledges. Mostly through the power of the internet, the Canadian indie rockers have been gathering a respectable following since 2005. But they were recently signed to Saddle Creek, marking the end of their grassroots style.
“We wanted to find some kind of way to signify the end of the ‘organic’ way our music has been reaching people (we love Saddle Creek like crazy, but they are a real live label, so we can’t exactly do it all by ourselves anymore) and celebrate the awesomeness of all the people that helped us reach this level of success,” say the members of RAA on their project page. “So, we decided to do one last grand DIY gesture and make a 7″ record through Kickstarter.”
The record, which will be limited to 300 copies, will feature “remixed and reimagined” versions of two tracks on their debut album, Hometowns. Pledge rewards range from hand-signed copies of the RAA 7″ to t-shirts, and the sponsor who pledges $3,000 or more gets a private RAA concert anywhere in North America.
Athens, Ga. chamber pop set Venice is Sinking started a similar project on Kickstarter, asking fans to help them release a record immediately after the release of their second album, Azar. “We always thought it would be neat to release two albums in one year, like Bruce Springsteen’s one-two punch of Human Touch and Lucky Town,” says the band.
But their project took a dramatically different turn on June 19, when Athens’ historic Georgia Theatre caught fire. The members of Venice is Sinking decided that they would still make the album, but any profit gained from Kickstarter would go toward the Theatre. “Every cent of profit from this site will go toward the Wil, the Georgia Theatre, and the staff who treated us with such kindness and professionalism while we engaged in our experiment there. It’s not just about the building; it’s about the jobs of the people who work there, too.” Rewards for the project include a hand-colored Velvet Doodle, the option to name a song on their next record, custom lawnwork (“Jeremy’s a landscaper, so he knows what he’s doing”), a private show and even a song written by the band about any subject of your choice. At the time of this writing, the band was still about $2,300 away from their goal.
Although Kickstarter is still an invitation-only website (IE: you won’t be seeing any crazy bag-ladies asking for “project funding” any time soon), the word is beginning to spread among musicians. Among the more oddball projects, like the “Run, Blago, Run!” exhibition, musical projects are popping up every week on Kickstarter: Polyvinyl indie band Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! are looking to vinyl-ize their 2004 debut, a recording engineer is trying to make a New Orleans blues-electronica mash-up, and Allison Weiss needs help making her new E.P. Of course, there’s also Attractive Eighties Women , the project of Paste’s very own Associate Editor Steve LaBate, who successfully raised more than twice their goal amount to fund their next album.
Pledge money on Kickstarter is only collected once the project goal has been reached, so you don’t have to worry about throwing money away for a project that will never be fully funded. The only hard part now is deciding which good cause to help out. We suggest you start by browsing the recommended projects page.