Crowdfunding: Why It's about More than Just the Money

Simone Mathys-Parnreiter is head of the newly founded Office Austria at wemakeit, a reward-based crowdfunding platform active predominantly in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. We asked her to give us her take on crowdfunding - this is a must read for every artist!

When HELLO STAGE asked me to write a blog entry about crowdfunding, I knew that I didn’t want to add another version of the various „top five crowdfunding tips“ to the many out there on the web (if you are interested in my view on that, feel free to get in touch). Instead, let me tell you why crowdfunding, especially in culture, is so appealing to me: because it is about more than just the money.
I don’t want to play that down, mind you, funding is essential and often very hard to come by. Still, the take on crowdfunding is too short if you are just thinking about it in terms of money and also, if you do, you probably won’t be a very good crowdfunder.

Shifting Perspectives

With the choice of crowdfunding as a means to finance your project comes a shift in perspective and a change in process compared to how many cultural projects worked so far (I am drawing from my experiences in Austria mostly). So far, in music - attention, rhetorical exaggeration ahead - artists created their works locked up in rehearsal rooms and studios and, when ready, wrote letters to other people in their rooms, in charge of state funds or labels and distribution, who then decided to give you money or service or nothing at all. If the outcome was positive you went forward, finished your product and then thought about who might actually be interested in this. The communication that started then was usually press work. Up to that point, nobody actually talked to - or with - the people to whom they wanted to play (and sell) in the end.

With crowdfunding, your listeners are there from the start or at least at a much earlier point in the process. You are telling them about what is coming, inviting them to participate. This is funding, community-building and promotion all in one go. In order to do that successfully, you need that shift in perspective: from the inside point of view of the artist to the outside point of view of your listeners. Who are they? Where are they? Why would they want to participate? If you have answers to these questions and take them seriously, your invitation will speak to them.

know your crowd and love your crowd!

By crowdfunding successfully, you will have managed much more than organized the money for your project. You will have found people who have trusted you with an advanced investment and surely will be interested to hear how the project develops, to know of further things you do or see you play. You will have strengthened and broadened your network.

The effects of this will last much longer than the money you will have successfully collected.

The funders, in turn, get much more than just the album to listen to (or whatever your funding) - they got the beautiful feeling of having enabled a project to come to life and the possibility of giving the money directly to you as the person they want to support. This is much better than purchasing the metaphorical album on iTunes or in a shop (even if it´s your local record shop, which obviously deserves support). It is personal. Crowdfunding creates closeness.

I like that with crowdfunding you have to see your project as part of a network or a community. I prefer this to the sense of entitlement that I have often encountered in culture and arts. And I have always been a believer in networks. I believe that working together, communication, connecting people and combining skills and resources is the most constructive, lasting, sustainable and satisfyingly fun way to get things done.

P.S. a note on crowdfunding and the crisis of the music industry

There are many people who are no longer interested in physical albums. Not even in owning sound files. So far, this has been more pronounced in pop than in classical music, but it´s just a matter of time for the classical scene to catch up. T his development has often been lamented, those kind of listeners branded somewhere between criminal or ignorant and the end of culture declared. You may notice that I don´t agree.

I am not saying it is easy, just that changing customer needs are a fact. Digitalization is a fact. You can’t fight it. And you don’t want to fight the people who you want to sell to. Again, love your crowd. If your crowd doesn’t want to buy a CD, accept that and offer them other ways to give you money. They might really love what your doing and still not want to buy an album. Maybe they don't even own a device anymore that can play one of the these disc things. But they might come to hear you play, buy your merchandise or tell their friends how much they appreciate your music. Or - they might enjoy supporting your crowdfunding campaign.

Simone has a background in arts, culture and music and spent several years supporting young musicians in Viennas pop music scene. Find out more on: about.me/mathys.parnreiter

Take a look at Simone's blog: simones10forward.wordpress.comBlog and be sure to take a look at wemakeit!
Author: Simone Mathys-Parnreiter / edited by Nina @HELLO STAGE
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