An Argument For Fan Funding: "I’d Rather Be Owned By My Fans Than By A Record Company."

image from Brian Hazard rattled some cages with his argument against fan-funding. So much so that several executives from leading fan-funding companies took notice and weighed in their opinions. I thought it was worth challenging an artist on this matter.

Bleu, a singer-songwriter-producer, set a goal of $8,000 for his Kickstarter campaign. Almost overnight, 387 fans jumped into the mix and contributed nearly $40,000 to his cause. He didn't need to get the album funded. Rather, he just needed to cover the expenses of distributing and properly marketing his album.

All of these questions are based on assertions that Hazard made in his essay.

For example, Bleu took home an extra $32,000 from his fans. From Hazard's perspective, who contended that preorders are nobler than fan-funding efforts, taking that money could be considered dishonest in a way. Since, it greatly exceeded the initial need. Hazard says, "why should your fans pay to promote something they already bought?" It's an interesting way to look at it. Bleu was kind enough to assert his opinions on Hazard's and share this thoughts on this.

How were you able to raise $40,000?

Bleu: There's been a lot of speculation and conversation about this from folks in our camp, and other musicians hoping to run successful campaigns. I think the simple answer is that I have a very dedicated fan-base. I certainly don't have a particularly large fan-base; there were approximately 380 people who donated all of that money. But I believe their interest in, and support of my career is a key factor. I've been working hard to make good music for a long time now, and I believe the people who've followed me over the years have a true appreciation of that. It might be important to look at "who my fans are" as well.

I hate to generalize, but I think my fans tend to be between the ages of 25 and 55, are generally well educated, and fairly liberal (my sincere apologies to anyone who might be offended by this characterization, I have a great love of all my fans).

Although I have no scientific evidence on which to base this statement, it's occurred to me that this particular demographic might be a bit more prone to generosity in the form of "charitable donation," especially when informed of the circumstances of my particular situation. I think these people appreciate the opportunity to help someone that they identify with, and there might be a specific enjoyment in "sticking it to the man" so-to-speak.

Is it dishonest to take $32,000 extra?

Bleu: That's a very interesting way to put it. There's an enormous amount of transparency associated with Kickstarter (the site I used facilitate my fan-funding). A second-by-second tally of the money you've raised is emblazoned on the front of a Kickstarter page. So no one was under any illusion that I raised my initial $8,000-goal in a matter of hours. After a goal is reached, it's really up to each individual's fan-base to decide how much they want to support their artist.

It's funny, but I think some people were actually motivated to donate precisely because I exceeded my goal in such a short period of time. It created a certain amount of excitement. The notes that people were leaving definitely let us know that they were psyched about what we were doing, and having fun watching to see how far it could go. I'm pretty sure we were all flabbergasted by the end sum.

Do you feel like your fans own you now?

Bleu: They owned me before this! But seriously, ownership is not quite the right word. I consider it to be more like a relationship.

I think to some degree that we are involved in each other's lives. But, if you're saying there has to be some sort of ownership involved, I guess I'd much rather be owned by my fans than by a record company.

Will you be able to take this route again?

Bleu: That remains to be seen. I'm fascinated to see how this model develops. I would absolutely love it if it could become a real way for smaller artists to sustain their careers directly through their dedicated cult fan-bases. I know I've personally enjoyed donating to other campaigns. It feels good to put money right into the hands of the musicians I love, and knowing that the outcome of that donation will simply be more great music.

Could you have done pre-orders instead?

Bleu: We certainly could have done pre-orders, but I don't think there would have been as much excitement about the project, and we certainly wouldn't have raised as much money. Obviously, the "big ticket items" such as writing a birthday-song for a fan, or doing a full-production in the studio, could not have happened with simple pre-orders, and those are part of what helped us raise so much money (and provide an interesting way to interact with the fans).

What did Kickstarter do that you couldn’t do?

Bleu: We would have had to hire a programmer to develop a site as elegant and easy to use as Kickstarter (which would have been prohibitively expensive).

I think in the future, we'll see some bigger bands doing just that (I'm very interested to see what those will be like) but for smaller acts such as myself, it's wonderful to have this sort of site to facilitate fan-funding.

Is fan-funding the future of creative endeavors?

Bleu: I'm sure it won't be the only thing, but I definitely hope that it will be a part of the new landscape that's developing. It certainly seems like an effective way for artists with small but dedicated fan-bases can forward their careers.

Are there any downsides to fan-funding music?

Bleu: There is no perfect model. I'm sure we'll see some flaws as it develops. But right now, it feels fresh and exciting. The idea is so simple. Use technology to cut out the middle-man and put the money that fans want to spend on music directly into the hands of the musicians they love.

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