Right now, two very popular local bands are right in the middle of crowd-funding campaigns. These campaigns run by the bands Mynas and Black Vines will hopefully, if successful, fund the production and release of each band’s second full length album.
If you are unfamiliar with Crowd Funding, it is essentially the artist asking the fans to pay for a product upfront – pre-ordering an album for instance – thus allowing the bands to spend the money on funding production or distribution. A target amount and date is set and if complete, the money is released to the band. Incentives are often given to the fans through a series of gifts via higher pledge amounts. For instance, a minimum £5 would give you a copy of the album. £10 a copy of the album plus a t-shirt. £150 an album, t-shirt and private gig. If they wish, the pledger can even offer more money.
Crowd funding hit the headlines when big names such as Amanda Palmer, Ginger Wildheart and Patrick Wolf all bypassed the corporate system and successfully funded the release of albums, allowing the fans not only to have some control of the industry wheels but to also be closer to the artist.
In a town like Barnsley, when all is reliant on cottage industry or punk like ethics, crowd-funding can be the perfect way for an artist with an already decent following to put out product. In the last year, Barnsley comedy folk act The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican have successfully funded not only a 7” single but most recently a greatest hits record on vinyl, funding over £2000 direct from fans. This was done by pledges includes in house gigs, signed records, and the extra special option of the band recording your choice of cover version.
I spoke to Scott Doonican of the band to get his take on the whole Crowd-Funding movement.
How did crowd funding become the most viable option for you?
We always prided ourselves on the fact that everything we did was independent – almost a cottage-industry type thing. All our CDs have been home recorded and produced, cover-art has always been created by myself too. However, I always wanted to eventually be in a position to be able to release on vinyl because it’s one of the things in life I just LOVE! We really could never have afforded to put anything out on vinyl though without a silly bank-loan but after seeing the success of the likes of Ginger Wildheart, Amanda Palmer and Ben Folds on pledgemusic, I figured why can’t we do the same? Just because we are a silly local comedy-band, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be allowed to succeed.
So what in your opinion makes a successful crowdfunding campaign?
One key thing is that you have to set a realistic target and timescale.
For us though, it was sadly badgering the fanbase to a point where we may have even lost some fans along the way. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, so I had to unfortunately bite the bullet and relentlessly promote it. I remember Hugh Whitaker (the band’s part-time drummer and ex-Housemartin) telling me that in the early days of The Housemartins, that bandmates Ted Key and Paul Heaton were always pushing cassettes and cards into folks’ hands long before the days of the internet and had it not been for their almost ruthless publicity they’d probably not have made it. There’s so many great Barnsley bands, so if you want to get everyone’s attention you’ve got to, well, get everyone’s attention!!! If that means plugging the bloody campaign 24/7 then so be it.
Somebody said they defriended us just because they wanted a rest from it! That made me smile because there’s probably a new song in there.
Have you put money into anyone else’s kickstarter campaign – famous or local?
Yes, I pledged on Mynas’s one because I love what they do and they are great guys n gals. I am also currently pledging on the third Ginger Wildheart project… he always gives quality as well as quantity – The gift that keeps giving!
Why have you personally avoided the big name funding platforms such as Kickstarter or Pledge Music and opted for your own in house (paypal) structure? It’s risky, considering it could have meant refunding a lot of people yourself if unsuccessful?
We ensured after the success of the last campaign that we saved a small amount of cash in the event of failure to allow for Paypal fees/refunds. However, if we succeeded it meant that money would also go to our chosen charity of Barnsley Hospice. I didn’t see why Pledgemusic or Kickstarter should be lining their pockets with a huge 15% of the money even before the charity (let alone us) saw a penny. I do wonder if it works as well for lesser known bands with a smaller fanbase. I suppose it’s an adventure isn’t it? You don’t know until you win or lose.
Your last campaign was a big ask, but you pulled it off? Ideas for next projects?
As you know, I always LOVE a project and this last year has been a string of big ones… selling out the Electric Theatre, then the Lamproom, the 7″ campaign, writing and performing a musical, the 12″ campaign and now the Xmas Circus, the We Are The Bands charity single with Studio 24, all whilst clocking up over 100 shows since January and some great feedback after festival season. I just want us to be the daft little local comedy band, but the BEST daft little comedy band we can be, to continue to try and keep things fresh by trying new things… it’s often that as soon as an idea is formed that I am trying to ensure it succeeds… and I hate the idea of being defeated by summat.
Things are in the pipeline are a charity single for a Forces disability charity with Oliver/Dawson Saxon which has been on the cards for ages, but most likely a reality now after our friendship with Brett Jackson at Studio 24.
Future projects… seeing as we have managed to record with a load of fantastic musicians on the new version of Jump Ararnd (including folk legends Mike Harding and Eliza Carthy), sometime in the future I’d LOVE for us to collaborate with the Frumptarn Guggenband, Kate Rusby and Brian Blessed (preferably on the same track). Why not… it can’t get any more bizarre than it has so far!
The Bar-Steward Sons bring their annual Christmas Rock n Roll Circus to The Electric Theatre at Barnsley College on December 14th, and will feature special guests Steph Shaw, Pocketful O’Nowt, Stan Skinny and Folkus, with more to be announced.
Here are two crowd-funding campaigns going on right now that you can support…
BLACK VINES SECOND ALBUM – THE RETURN OF THE SPLENDID BASTARDS
“We are aiming at raising around £500 to record and publish our project. The album will be a mix of classic rock with moments of blues/punk/grunge/thrash all added to the pot! We have 10 tracks pencilled in for this release. Links to demos and live versions of these tracks will appear on the kickstarter page.
The main risks we have are getting the funding to release the project in time. We have given a rough timescale – and hope to record all the album in December / mix it in January, then release it in Feb 2014.”
This project will only be funded if at least £500 is pledged by Friday Nov 29, 9:46am EST.
Minimum pledge: £5 = Signed copy of the album
Maximum pledge: £15 = Signed album, t=shirt, poster & badge and a copy of the first album.
PLEDGE HERE > http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1585643282/black-vines-second-album
MYNAS ALBUM #2 – THE SOBER DRUM
“Album no.2 is almost complete! Help us get it out there by pledging to buy a copy in advance, and get exclusive goodies for doing so!
Rather than put it back any longer, we realised that if enough of our fans paid for their copy in advance, we could get everything done and have it out there before December.
And, because we have faith in you to help make it happen, we’ve even organised a launch gig for November 23rd. The venue is booked, the support bands confirmed, so all we need now are the physical copies of the album to be present on the same night.
Of course, we want to reward you for pledging your money upfront, so we’ve done our best to give a variety of packages you can choose from, all with little extras that won’t be available once the album is released officially.
And, every single person who takes part will receive their copy before Nov 23rd!”
This project will only be funded if at least £250 is pledged by Sunday Oct 27, 5:00pm EDT.
Minimum pledge: £5 = CD album, signed by all band members, with a personal message of thanks (download option available on request).
Maximum pledge: £12 = CD album, signed with personal message, 2 postcards of album art by artist John Ledger, Mynas’ debut album, plus name on guestlist for album launch gig on November 23rd. (*download options available on request)
PLEDGE HERE > http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mynas/album-2-the-sober-drum