CROWDFUNDING RADAR: Pandemic Creates a Boom in Crowdfunding Projects
Them Coulee Boys (photo by Nathan Nelson)
A recent death in my family has led me to that oddest of traditions, catching up with family and friends who you only ever see at funerals, or, as I call it, Methodist Family Reunion. When the inevitable “So, what do you do these days?” question came about, I’d tell them I write a column about crowdfunding for No Depression. After I got through explaining I didn’t write about mental health and explaining what “crowdfunding” was, the next thing I got was “Wow. That must be really hard with the pandemic.” And, while in the early days I wondered if I would be able to keep up two columns on crowdfunding a month, the time artists were forced to spend off the road eventually led to a boom in new projects to choose from. This week, I’ve got three that couldn’t be more different, from a group of Wisconsin folk rockers, to a big band with a message, to a cowboy folkie ready to get back to his “Van Life.”
Them Coulee Boys – Namesake (click here to view project)
When the previously mentioned funeral forced me to skip a column, I was sad that I wasn’t going to get to share the new release from Them Coulee Boys. I’ve liked these guys for a while because they’re a rare band who are perfectly described by the Americana label. Want folk? They’ve got it. Throw in some jamgrass? Punk? Southern rock? Soul? They’re like someone gathered every genre standing under Americana’s “big tent” in a circle and had a jam session. Fortunately, I was never very good at math and it turns out their campaign has still a few days left. Obviously I’m not the only one who likes them, because they’ve blown past their initial funding goal and have introduced enough stretch goals to get their own fitness channel. For their new album, produced by Brian Joseph (Bon Iver), backer perks include the usual items, including the album in various formats, shirts and hats, and handwritten lyrics. But, as eclectic as their music, perks also include a chance to fish, golf, or enjoy a live role-playing game with the band. Who doesn’t love an artist who is ready to get his dwarf paladin out to kill some bugbears in the service of roots music?
The Revive Big Band – Debut Album (click here to view project)
I don’t feature many big bands in this space, though it’s about as American “roots” as music can get. But the debut album by The Revive Big Band caught my attention because it aims to do for big band what Carolina Chocolate Drops did for the banjo: remind the world that a style traditionally associated with white artists has deep roots in Black American gospel, jazz, and soul. Led by Igmar Thomas, the band has backed up everyone from Esperanza Spalding to Nas. They’ve been touring for over a decade but are just now recording their first album and have lined up a slate of guests that includes Talib Kweli, Bilal, and Cory Henry. Backer perks include the album in CD and vinyl formats, the latter including tickets to a virtual listening party; a Revive Big Band letterman jacket; and exclusive backer-only recordings.
Willi Carlisle – Peculiar, MO (click here to view project)
Willi Carlisle gets a lot of press in Western magazines, and there’s certainly an element of the “singing cowboy” style in his music. But to me, Carlisle could have been ripped straight out of the Dave Van Ronk “folk scare” era. Many of his songs have a root in humor (“you can’t call me homeless if I live in a van!”), but beneath it is social commentary on bigotry, cutthroat capitalism, and more that is sly enough you often don’t even notice until you finish laughing and think about the meaning behind the jokes. For his new album, tentatively called Peculiar, MO, Carlisle has taken to Indiegogo to raise funds, and to meet his $10,000 goal he is offering backer perks like the album in digital, CD, and vinyl formats; outtakes; a songbook; and a private virtual concert where you can choose two songs for him to cover, though he doesn’t promise he won’t ragtime your Springsteen, and who wouldn’t want that?