CROWDFUNDING RADAR: Campaigns That Get Personal
Damn Tall Buildings
Crowdfunding has changed the way albums are made, eliminating the label machine from the equation for artists too small or too niche to fit a neat genre box and allowing fans to decide which bands thrive. If labels are the electoral college, crowdfunding is the popular vote. But crowdfunding requires a skill set that some artists find difficult to master: letting fans behind the curtain. You can use a crowdfunding campaign as a virtual merch stand, peddling albums and maybe a few shirts. If you have enough fans, or a low enough goal, to make your goal $10-$30 at a time, this might work for you. But it takes a lot of $20 CD sales to make up one $500 pledge, and for that kind of money, fans expect a much more up-close-and-personal experience. House shows and handwritten lyrics can help, but bands who truly want to cash in on the experience dollar have to be ready to get much more intimate. This week’s campaigns feature rewards that provide the kind of one-of-a-kind experiences that can delight fans and command high-dollar pledges.
Damn Tall Buildings – Sleeping Dogs (click here to view campaign)
I can usually tell how successful a band will be at personalized experience marketing by their campaign video. If it’s just the artist asking for funding or, even worse, just a montage of live performances, there’s a good chance there either aren’t any unique perks or they’re going to be bad. When I see the campaign video from Damn Tall Buildings, where everything from pretentious foreign language films to drugged-out music producers are lampooned, I think, “Those guys look like a lot of fun to hang out with” and head to the deep end of their pledge list. It also helps that Damn Tall Buildings is a damn fine trio, mixing bluegrass, swing, and foot-stomping old-time music you wouldn’t think possible from a band from Brooklyn. The lower-end pledges on their $11,000 Kickstarter campaign feature the usual perks: the album in various formats, shirts, and stickers. A little higher gets you more personalized fare: Zoom concerts, a cover of your choice. And then there’s the final perk, the “Fine Dining Experience,” where you can get a five-course meal prepared by the band, with live music pairings from members throughout.
Girl Guitar – VW Van Project (click here to view campaign)
Campaigns that don’t center around an album are tough. Without that physical product to prove fan support paid for something, you’ve got an extra hurdle. But then Girl Guitar isn’t exactly a band, either. It’s the brainchild of Austin-based musician Mandy Rowden, who has balanced her own musical career with another teaching guitar to women. Considering there are a hundred Jimmy Pages for every Nita Strauss, it’s a worthwhile effort to incubate the next female guitar hero. So, while Rowden doesn’t need to sell you an album, she does need a van to haul all her gear around — a VW Bus to be exact. Fortunately for Rowden and her foundation’s $30,000 Kickstarter goal, one-on-one interaction is what they do every day. With the exception of there being no album, the low-end rewards are pretty straightforward: merch and social media shoutouts. In the middle tiers, Girl Guitar offers their bread and butter, entry into their workshops. Go farther into the pledge levels and you get even more personalized content, like a photo shoot in Austin with the van and a Girl Guitar scholarship for ages 11-18.
Mint Julep Jazz Band – Watch the Birdie (click here to view campaign)
Jazz pops up in this column a lot because, while not typical “inspired by the Carter Family” roots music, it’s hard to deny that jazz is one of America’s truly original musical roots. That’s especially true for swing. Swing bands have a leg up on the “you need to make it fun” crowdfunding rule because swing has no pretensions of exploring the human condition or delving deep into the psyche. It just wants to make you dance. Mint Julep Jazz Band shows off that sense of fun in the backer perks for their $12,000 Kickstarter campaign. You can get the album on digital, CD, or vinyl, but you can also get a Mint Julep Jazz Band-branded Burt’s Bees lip balm, a studio hang, or a night of entertainment at vocalist Laura Windley’s home, featuring “charcuterie, fruity beverages, and sparkling conversation.”