On Crowdfunding… A Response

On our recent 2014 predictions episode of Conversely, I stated that I believe crowdfunding is about to see its demise. I realize this is a risky prediction – in some ways, my livelihood depends on crowdfunding – but I stand by it.

John Cantu, Director of Marketing over at Good Time Inc. rightfully called me out on this, pointing to his recent success with a new album by Ellie Holcomb. So I wrote him this email to clarify:

Hey John,

Thanks for listening to the podcast. I’ll take the blame for predicting the death of crowdfunding….. and I don’t think your project is an anomaly.

I’ve run successful projects, in both music and film, on both Kickstarter and PledgeMusic, and I’ve even consulted directly for PledgeMusic in the past. I also have a very high profile PledgeMusic campaign on my horizon (watch out for it in the next couple months). Still, I think crowdfunding’s time has come and gone, at least as far as crowdfunding is concerned.

I think there’s a distinction to be made between preordering and crowdfunding, and it’s a subtle one. Preordering is as old as time, and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Crowdfunding, as a fundraising tool, is, in my opinion, becoming less and less viable for independent artists.

As such, it’s worth pointing out that your project has support. The trend I’m seeing on most crowdfunding platforms is toward big-name artists, established fan bases, and projects with marketing/promotion muscle behind them, and I think that makes it harder for DIY artists to raise large goals – not because bigger names are siphoning off fans, but because they’re siphoning off resources. Kickstarter prefers to promote established artists, because it helps bolster the Kickstarter brand. This leaves DIY artists in the dust.

I probably should have clarified on the podcast that crowdfunding is becoming harder for DIY artists, specifically. But then again, what’s a DIY artist these days anyways?

Also interesting, and worth discussion, is that Ellie Holdcomb’s [my spelling error] project is religious in nature. While there’s some precedent for Christian projects (Mercyland was hugely successful, for example), I’d love to dig up some stats about the performance of those projects, and more specifically about the ability of churches and other communities to pitch in when it comes to promoting them.

Congrats on your success with Ellie, and thanks again for listening!

In summary, I don’t think crowdfunding is going to disappear. I do, however, think that the crowdfunding craze for DIY artists has seen its time. Preordering and direct-to-fan is here to stay, and I’d argue it’s been here for as long as artists have banged on drums.