Back in 2015, I was a relatively unknown indie musician with no hit singles making less than $50 a month from music, five small releases under my belt, and no email list. How was I able to raise $25K on Kickstarter as a relative nobody?
The last time I heard the number, north of 60,000 songs are uploaded to Spotify every day*. How do you stand out as an indie musician in such a sea of content? As a musician, I understand the desire to just release more and better music, imagining that the right single will change everything, but in this sea of content, you’ll never stand out on the merits of the music alone.
You have to deliver a parallel experience to that music that makes it bigger than the box. The typical music Kickstarter is a straightforward trade of money for musical media: “Help us raise $10,000 to record our new album!” and the rewards are things like physical media and merchandise. If you don’t already have a large base, it can be hard to make it break through the noise.
Create something unique
With Music To Die Alone In Space To, a project I Kickstarted under my old artist name “Spruke”, the answer was breaking out of the mold of being locked into thinking what a music release could be and I came up with a pitch that was only possible on Kickstarter: what if I uniquely rerecorded the album for every individual backer? The idea was a smash hit, raising $25K at 310 copies sold at $50+ a copy. It took me over nearly two years to deliver all 310 copies, but I still hear from many backers that their individual, personalized copy is one of their prized possessions; a piece of media created just for them.
Think outside your music—what else can you bring into your Kickstarter?
I want you to be asking yourself as an indie musician: what kind of bigger-than-the-box content can I create to add an extra dimension to my music? Especially things that unlock your indie-ness as a superpower. Think of performance art and stunts that could never be undertaken by major label artists. MTDAIST could never have been attempted by Maroon 5; they’d still be recording their 250,000 albums today. The smallness is part of the appeal. Or consider Rainbow Kitten’s Gumbotron, an album made entirely out of samples submitted by its backers. Could you make an album that unlocks one of your other superpowers? For instance, if you’re a photographer, an album where every song is a photo? Or if you’re a software developer, an album delivered via a mobile app? What is possible when you break out of the idea that an album is just something you listen to on Spotify?
Can I do it again?
That’s what I am to figure out with my new Kickstarter, We’re Doomed We’re Dancing, my first Kickstarter as my new artist name “Downupright”. It’s an ambitious piece of music that is also performance art: 60 original tracks in 60 minutes, that changes genres and vocalists every sixty seconds. The kicker? The kicker is that the direction of the album will be determined by the backers, with polls and surveys asking what genre comes next, what vocalist comes next, what song titles should be, what themes should be, what instruments I use, and more. This is an attempt to experiment with community building around a release; how much will you love the album if track #23 was one of your very own suggestions as part of the backer community? I suppose we will find out when We’re Doomed, We’re Dancing goes live and we see if it can meet its ambitious goals. You can check it out here.
* : this figure is disputed as a large amount of it appears to be reissues, covers, and auto-generated tracks, but even if it’s half this, it’s still substantial.
Downupright is Bill Boulden (they/them). In 2018 they fully crowdfunded the album ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’ through fan support to a whopping 25k in funding, earning it a spot-on Kickstarter’s “Projects to Watch.” Now, they are hoping to replicate 2018’s crowdfunding success with their new album “We’re Doomed, We’re Dancing: 60 Songs, 60 Minutes”. The diverse new album changes genres & vocalists every 60 seconds. Over 40 collaborators appear in a continuous party mix. You can find more on Downupright and support this living art here.
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