CROWDFUNDING RADAR: Now More Than Ever
The Mighty Pines
Most musicians will tell you there really isn’t any money in albums anymore. Sure, the resurgence of vinyl has helped some, but streaming is still the dominant way to consume media and it’s well documented how little most artists make from streaming. It’s why you see most crowdfunding campaigns adding extras like merch, meet and greets, and backer-exclusive concerts to sweeten the deal. But events of the last couple of weeks are finding many musicians facing the loss, or at least reduction, of their biggest revenue generators: touring and tour merch. So far, coronavirus concerns (and guidance from public officials) have shut down several major festivals, including many with a roots music focus, closed off most touring options in Europe and Asia, and, just in the past few days, seen the nation’s two largest concert promoters pull the plug on national tours for at least the remainder of March, and possibly longer. So, if you’ve ever considered contributing to the crowdfunding campaign of an artist you love, this would be the time. And, while this is a crowdfunding column, in these tough times it’s worth remembering that even artists who don’t have active campaigns probably have merchandise links on their site where you can help out as well. But, for now, let’s get on to the campaigns.
The Mighty Pines – Late Last Night (click here to view project)
While a relatively young band, having formed in 2012, St. Louis’ The Mighty Pines have found a lot of success with their wide-ranging musical style that has allowed them to fit in well opening for everyone from Parker Millsap to Sam Bush to JJ Grey & Mofro and to play festivals like Summer Camp and Dark Star Jubilee. But, for all this experience, this is the band’s first foray into crowdfunding, and they’ve hired the great Steve Berlin from Los Lobos to produce. Under the “Risks and Challenges” section of their Kickstarter campaign, they break down the stark realities of why crowdfunding is necessary ($.003 per Spotify stream, $300-$500 guarantees per show). To meet their $34,800 goal, the band has a pretty vast array of rewards, including the album in digital and CD format, a personalized thank you postcard, monthly postcards for a year, a listening party with the band in St. Louis, and a dinner party with the band.
Willie Nile – New York at Night (click here to view project)
I very nearly missed seeing Willie Nile’s new project because this go around he’s giving the major crowdfunding sites a skip to run things through his own website. Fortunately, I did find it, because not letting the world know about new music from Willie Nile is a crime. Nile is a long-time Greenwich Village fixture who has shared the stage with everyone from Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band to The Who to Richard Thompson. If you’ve never heard Nile, his music combines folk, punk, and garage rock into a mix that sounds like nothing but Willie Nile. Nile’s new album, New York at Night, is technically a preorder campaign, but it also features a number of backer rewards beyond the album (in digital, CD, and vinyl formats, the latter two signed) such as listening parties in Buffalo and New York City, handwritten lyric sheets, a signed copy of his Vagabond Moon lyric book, and a walking tour of Greenwich Village with a guy who is sure to know lots of behind-the-scenes stories.
Kate Vargas – Untitled Album #4 (click here to view project)
One of the things drew me to Kate Vargas is her duality. She is a writer of insightful, often wistful folk songs that she delivers in a rough-hewn rasp that would make Wanda Jackson proud. She’s soft spoken and often serious, but displays a dark streak of humor with songs like “Seven Inches,” in which she breaks into an ex’s home just to move all his stuff around, a much less criminally minded “revenge song” than is typical in roots music. Vargas hasn’t entered the crowdfunding waters since 2012, but is now running a Kickstarter campaign to fund her as-yet-untitled fourth album. Backer rewards for the new album of “junkyard folk” songs include the album in digital and CD formats, a cover song of your choice posted to her social media, her feedback on one of your songs, an online concert where you choose the setlist, and a house concert.