By Scott Blasey of The Clarks
Hi, my name is Scott Blasey. I’m the lead singer in a rock-n-roll band called the Clarks. You remember rock-n-roll, don’t you? It was popular in the sixties and seventies. We grew up listening to the Beatles, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the Replacements. We write, record and perform songs in that vein. We’ve been together for nearly thirty years and we released our ninth studio album, Feathers & Bones, in July 2014.
Over the years we’ve funded our albums in a variety of ways. The first two were bankrolled in part by loans from our parents. By the time we made our third album we were making enough money from regional touring to pay for the recording ourselves. It was the 90s and the golden age of CDs. We had a distribution deal in our hometown of Pittsburgh and sold upwards of 20,000 CDs on our own. By the time we made our fourth album we had a major label deal with MCA and they paid for the recording. The next three albums were funded by an independent label called Razor & Tie.
All of these forms of funding have their pros and cons. It’s nice to have someone pay for your recording, but whether it’s parents or record companies, you have to pay it back. Early in 2013, we started talking about making another album. It had been almost four years since the last one and we were eager to give our fans something new and to re-energize the live set. We quickly realized, however, that we didn’t have enough money to do it ourselves. We were older now, with families, and we didn’t tour the way we used to. Our management company, Brick Wall, suggested crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding, is a way to fund an independent project by collecting funding from fans or supporters via the internet. We like to think of it as a pre-sale on steroids mixed with a pre-marketing campaign. You’re giving us money upfront for something in return down the line and we’re hopefully investing you in the project by giving you access to things you wouldn’t normally have access to – studio blogs, song demos, studio videos, invites to exclusive events, etc.
We had many levels of participation. You could donate $10 and simply receive the digital version of the album when it was finished. You could contribute a little more and receive an autographed copy, a little more and you’d receive all of the lower contribution levels plus hand-written lyrics. We also offered acoustic and electric live performances by the band, which, amazingly, were purchased by a couple of our most loyal, and well-to-do, fans. Overall the project was a huge success. We raised far more money than we expected and would definitely do it again. We also learned a lot about the process and would try some different methods next time. Here are some tips if you’re thinking about crowdfunding your next project.
1. Research the different companies that provide the service
PledgeMusic (the platform we used for our campaign) and Kickstarter are two of the more common sites for music-related projects. There are many more though. Search crowdfunding and go from there.
2. Start early in the recording process, but not too early
One of the things we’d do differently is to make sure we don’t start taking pledges before we have a good idea of when the album will be released. It took us a lot longer to make the album than we’d anticipated, and a few of our contributors weren’t happy that they still hadn’t received the product over a year after they’d made their pledge.
3. Set a realistic goal
You might need $30,000 to make an album, but do you have enough fans to actually make that much money? Some crowdfunding companies won’t let you change your goal after you’ve set it. And it doesn’t look good if your project stalls at 50% of your goal.
4. Update your pledgers early and often
Write blogs, take pictures and videos in the studio, keep them involved in the process.
5. Thank them
Whether it’s from the stage or in the liner notes, make sure they know how much you appreciate their support.
I hope that helps. Good luck with your project. If you’re interested in what we do, check us out at clarksonline.com.
Peace and Love, Scott