Becca Damante '17 Arts Editor
Most of you have probably heard of websites like Kickstarter, indiegogo and Gofundme, but how much do you really know about crowd funding? Artists of all kinds, businesses and non-profits use websites such as these to raise money for various projects and campaigns, with new ones being uploaded daily. Those who pledge receive rewards based on how much they donate before the campaign ends and the final installment or project is launched.
As an avid music fan, my impression was always that these projects were usually started to raise money for musical endeavors such as albums and tours. One of the most famous crowd funding projects was of course done by musician Amanda Palmer, who raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter in June 2012 to fund her new album and art book. But music campaigns don’t actually make up the majority of crowd funding pursuits; charity groups, films, businesses and new forms of technology have also been launched from crowd funding donations. That being said, many music and film projects have been organized online in the recent past, which have the ability to significantly impact the music and film industries.
For instance, last month YouTube ukulele sensation Julia Nunes launched a Kickstarter campaign for her newest album, “Some Feelings.” As an artist without the support of a record label, she sought $25,000 to mix and master the album, create album art and conduct promotion. After one month’s time, however, she raised nearly $135,000 with plans to use the extra money for additional promotion, music videos and a tour. Though the campaign has ended, Nunes recently posted the first song off of the album, “Then OK”; she plans to release the remainder of the album sometime in April.
Over the last few years, crowd funding has also been popular within the film industry. For instance, acclaimed director Spike Lee launched a Kickstarter for a new comedy romance thriller in late 2013, and the film, “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus,” was just released last week. The movie stars Stephen Tyrone Williams as Hess Greene, a doctor obsessed with an ancient African artifact who later becomes addicted to blood because of it. Although the film has received mixed reviews, it is impressive that the $1.4 million budget was all raised on Kickstarter. At the same time, $1.4 million may be a lot to raise online, but in terms of movie budgets, it is quite low. Because of this, the movie was filmed completely in 16 days.
Both Nunes’ and Lee’s campaigns were funded on Kickstarter, which normally awards prizes for each pledging level. For instance, Nunes rewarded backers with CDs, T-shirts, posters and custom ukuleles, while Lee sent out pins and autographed bumper stickers for those that donated at least $5. His campaign also contained exclusive rewards for those that donated more money, including the ability to be an extra in the film and tickets to the world premiere of the movie.
Both campaigns really have the ability to change the face of music and film. Because Nunes is an unsigned artist, she sought to raise money for an album she would have otherwise had to fund on her own. Many other independent artists have also used crowd funding websites to make albums and EPs, including Allison Weiss, A Great Big World and Jenny Owen Youngs. With more and more artists turning to these platforms for money, it is possible that artists will veer away from the traditional support of record labels. While record labels have an enormous amount of money and resources, using websites like these allows the artists to have more creative freedom, both in their musical pursuits and their promotional strategies.
The same holds true for films. Though Spike Lee is an acclaimed director, raising the money on his own gave him much more freedom in his artistic decisions, as he directly oversaw the budget for the film. Though he had significantly less money than he would have under the support of a mainstream movie franchise, the desire for creative freedom may have outweighed the benefits of using a larger production company. It will certainly be interesting to see if this trend continues. Lee is not the first filmmaker to seek funds online. Just last year, the hit TV show “Veronica Mars” was turned into a film after a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly six million dollars.
Whatever the future holds, crowd funding will certainly play a role in the music and the film industry. Perhaps one day these online creative endeavors will be some of the most popular and successful movies and albums of our time.