[Post authored by FMC communications intern Caroline Fox]
The New York Times recently published a short op-ed that explored one musician’s unsuccessful attempt at crowd fundraising for her album. Veteran recording artist Terre Roche signed up for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, popular crowdfunding platforms for creative projects. Roche and her new band were aiming to secure $21,000 in funding to produce their next album. Unlike some other success stories, however, this already established creator fell flat when it came to raising cash from fans for her project.
Roche details how most of the dollars she collected through a barrage of emails to family, friends, and people she knew otherwise ended up flowing straight out the door to work-related expenses. Between manufacturing, shipping, taxes, and other costs, Roche never got to see most of the meager amount she raised. Perhaps more frustratingly, she had to table her songwriting and music practice in order to focus on emailing people and monitoring contributions.
We at FMC embrace services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo as a new means for artists to access capital. At the same time, Roche’s article offers a corrective to those who think of fan-funding as a silver bullet solution to music’s revenue problem. Even with technological advances, creating and promoting music can still be a costly endeavor, which presents a challenge to a number of working artists, including Roche.
We have encountered similar themes in our Artist Revenue Stream research. In our case studies, we’ve seen anywhere from 25 to 80 percent of an artist’s gross income go right out the door in expenses. Take the above graph as an example, from a case study of an indie-rock performer/composer/sideman. The large pie chart represents the amount of money the artist earns. The smaller pie chart represents how much goes toward booking fees, touring costs, equipment rental and repair, etc. Approximately 53 percent of the money this particular artist makes goes to such work-related expenses.
And we’re not talking weekend warriors here. Our research captured information about a range of professionals; many with advanced degrees in music. These are people who meticulously plan concert tours and already juggle multiple roles just to make sure they can continue creating music (Roche, for example, makes a major part of her income as a guitar teacher.)
All of this suggests that big pronouncements about how crowd-funding is “the future of music” might be more than a bit inflated. Services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are an important new tool in musicians’ arsenals. But they work best for artists who already have a particularly tech-savvy, deep-pocketed audience — and who have a long history of putting in the kind of work necessary to build a strong social media following — which as Roche notes, can leave music itself on the back burner.
What do you think about crowdfunding platforms and music?