Earlier today, I attended “Financing Creativity – Microfunding and VCs.” As part of the Rethink Music conference, participants are asked to re-imagine, and re-think, the mechanism and motion of the music industry. Considering our current state of disarray and freneticism, it’s not a bad idea.
In the midst of it all, Yancey Strickler (Co-Founder, Kickstarter) said something painfully obvious and utterly brilliant:
“People enjoy spending money on things they enjoy spending money on.”
At first reading, it’s kind of a “duh” statement. But put that in the guise of musicians, fanfunding, and career propulsion, and it invites healthy discussion.
In days of old, buying music was an experience — huge LPs with gatefold art, colored vinyl, stickers and posters, and all kinds of goodies. The physical product was nearly as important as the music it delivered.
Now compare that with purchasing an MP3. Sure the price is much cheaper, but where’s the excitement? There’s no joy in the purchase, and it’s easy to argue that this (as much as anything…) led to the downfall of physical music sales. When’s the last time you tracked down the last copy of the new Arcade Fire mp3 after going to 5 different stores looking for it? But how much are those Lady Gaga tickets? How many sold out shows? People are willing to pay for the experience. It’s something they’ll have forever. There’s an attachment. Nobody is attached to an MP3.
Meanwhile, lots of artists are trying to find creative solutions for underwriting their efforts. With a growing number of artist funding sites (Kickstarter, Slice the Pie, IndieGoGo, PledgeMusic, and others…), there’s plenty of platforms to choose from. But when you take it back to Yancey’s quote, it doesn’t really matter which one you use. Instead, the focus needs to be on providing fans with something they’d enjoy spending money on.
If the best you can offer is $15 for a digital version of your upcoming release + a ticket to the release party, you might want to re-consider. Where’s the creativity and innovation that you’re supposed to be exuding at every opportunity? In other words, we know fans aren’t interested in buying music. So what’re you trying to sell them? Conventional wisdom says you’re selling access — and that’s important — , but at what price, and how does the fan measure the return on their investment (ROI)? When you start talking ROI, you enter the realm of marketing. If you’re a musician, or a brain surgeon, or anything else, you may not be a marketer. Best to do some research before diving in on promo campaigns and funding strategies.
For the artist that expects a Kickstarter campaign to bring success solely because he knows other people have done well with it, they’re bound to fail. Consider the platform a mechanism for delivery only. You’re still responsible for the product. Is it as good as it can be? Is it coveted by fans? If not, D.I.-Why is here to help …