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How Crowdfunding Renewed My Faith in Myself

Jason Jason explains how he found a new belief in himself, and his music, through crowdfunding support.
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In case you missed my last article, I recently jumped into the Kickstarter pool to test the waters of crowdfunding. The idea itself was one that I had resisted for years. But with my back to the wall and nowhere left to turn, I decided it was time to turn to my family, friends, readers and listeners, and find out just how valuable they think my music truly is.

Alright, so here we go; the first week of my Kickstarter campaign. At present moment, I have a total of $3,190 pledged - 106% of my $3000 goal. The reality is, it’s going to take at least $7000 (minus Kickstarter fees and expenses) to hire an A+ publicist, but I set my first goal at $3000 because I wasn’t entirely confident I could reach $7000 and the smaller figure is still necessary in order to make a high quality video. We already have the cameras, lights and lenses needed to produce high caliber visuals, but we have something huge in mind and it’s going to cost a bit of money to make it happen.

Initially I was nervous about doing this. Well, the truth is, I still am. I’ve never been the one to ask for help. For most of my life, I took the longer route to achieve certain goals specifically to avoid asking for handouts. If ever I did need to ask for a favor, I always tried to make sure that I was offering something of value in retribution. This is true in the case of my Kickstarter campaign as well, since I’m offering a variety of rewards in return for support, but let’s be honest about what this is - people are supporting my cause and are receiving t-shirts, hoodies and CD’s priced at a premium as an expression of gratitude. Nobody on planet earth is paying $80 for a Jason James t-shirt and a couple of CD’s.

When I began this process a few months ago, my biggest fear was that nobody would care. As time has gone by, and as we’ve moved on in life with our careers and families, I’ve lost touch with a lot of the people I saw on a regular basis just a few years ago. One thing this Kickstarter campaign has shown me is how fast life can change in a short period of time. The club becomes the bar, epic nights out become movie nights in, your parents become less “mom and dad” and more trusted familial advisors, and before you know it, your friends become baby pictures and status updates on Facebook with communication restricted to likes, comments and the occasional message.

Reaching out to these people was the scariest aspect of crowdfunding. How could I approach them without sounding like I’m clinging on to some distant, fading dream? How can I convey the message that I’m taking one last big shot and not just, “Hey, how are the wife and kids? Mine are great. Wanna help me with my rap career? Yup, I’m still doing that.”

Even worse is that I would be contacting people who I’ve barely held a private conversation with since the end of our “party and bullshit” era. I’ve seen the pictures, the check-ins at family friendly travel destinations and “how to make your own book shelf” Facebook posts. Are these even the same people I used to know a few short years ago? Had life preserved that same care free rebelliousness we held inside of ourselves or did the wedding, kids and real jobs turn us all into certified adults? I could already see the reply emails and text messages in my head, “Hey, I would love to help you be a rapper but I have kids I’m trying to raise so they don’t become serial killers. Good luck with that though.”

Ugh, fuck. I could already feel the cracks beginning to appear in what would be a flood of soul shattering responses. But I had invested in this idea and it was time to put what was left of my ego on full display, legs open and ready for the ensuing sledgehammer to the groin. So I wrote the message, hit send and held my breath.

The first response came back: “Of course man!”

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Then the next response: “Fuck yeah bro!”

This continued for several few hours - an outpouring of love from people on the other side of my digital world. The general message from each person was the same: they were proud that I was still going and that I held on to my dream. They would support in whatever way they could. They had seen the videos, read the articles, listened to the albums and they believed that I could find the success I was looking for.

They believed in me.

At first the love was overwhelming - $40 from one person, $100 from the next. This was money being invested into my dream by people who have real bills to pay and none of whom have a whole lot to spare. The circle of people I grew up around, and the neighborhood I grew up in, was very much a lower-middle class blue collar community who believed in the ethics of hard work. And these people, they saw in me those very same ethics - blood, sweat and tears devoted to achieving something most would consider impossible. They admired my dedication and appreciated my drive, but most of all they wanted me to succeed.

For most of my adult life I’ve had a hard time explaining what it is that I do. I hated being perceived as a “rapper” because of the image that comes along with it. Until now, even my soon to be wife’s family had no idea that I make music. It’s hard to explain the passion that I have for this. It’s hard to share my level of commitment to the music itself. I don’t care about being famous or making hits. I don’t want to be Kanye West. I’m not up on trends and I will never rap in a “Migos flow” because that’s what’s hot at the moment. I make music because it’s just who I am. I’ve spent a lot of years trying to escape the musician stigma but the truth is; everything I am is in those songs. I am the words on the paper and the voice in the music and that’s probably all I will ever be.

Even in the comments of my last article I found myself having to defend the reasons why I spent $10,000 making this album. But I refused to go beyond just a few sentences because I know most people won’t understand. I don’t want to make something that’s “hot,” I want to make something timeless. I will flip a song upside down, turn it inside out, add layers, remove layers, record a verse, delete a verse, add a hook, delete a hook and then throw it out if it doesn’t meet my standards. I don’t want to mass produce an endless stream of cheap, beige songs that fit within the boundaries of popular music. I want to create a limited quantity of heavy content that sits underneath the stream like an ancient forgotten world to be discovered by those who are searching for it, and when this is the goal, it’s easy to spend $10,000 finding the right combination of words and sounds that will give the overall body its weight.

The fact that the few people I’ve reached out to thus far have seen the value in my message and who I am as a person has given me a renewed sense of faith in myself. For a long time I felt like I was alone and now I know for certain I am not. If nothing else comes out of this Kickstarter campaign, I’m ok with that. I’ve already reaped the biggest reward possible and for that I am eternally grateful.

Thank you for believing in me.

By Jason James, an artist, freelance columnist and writer. You can listen/download his most recent album, "Pyramids in Stereo." You can also contact him here and here.



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