If the music industry existed in the Star Wars universe, independent artists would be the Jedi Order and major labels would be The Sith, also known as The Dark Side of the Force. No one wants their favorite, independent rising star to join the dark side and sacrifice the qualities as a fan you found most attractive. In fact, the most compelling trait of an artist can be their independence. It allows you to become a part of that small collective of fans rooting for their success, seeing the progress and feeling appreciation for your support. On the other hand, there’s a lot of allure that comes with signing to a major. Everything from a big budget to big exposure, having the machine behind you can take you from blogger's favorite to superstar. Of course, the Dark Side isn’t all rainbows and moonshine, you can easily be forgotten, having to recoup that advance, forced to conform your artistic integrity or sit on the bench and become the next Lonny Breaux instead of Frank Ocean.
In this modern era, labels are in a position where they are learning to play by new rules or become obsolete. We are seeing or not seeing the rise of the “mindie,” a term coined by Nathan, defined as seemingly "indie" rappers who are secretly signed to a major label. Now, why would labels want this to be secret? The organic support that indie artists receive has widespread potential, but only if the idea of independence isn’t compromised. It does the fans a disservice, exploiting their naïve belief, until the calculated announcement is made. What if I told you there was a way to have complete creative control, have the financial funding of a major label and build a stronger connection with your supporters, a way that could that change the industry? I feel like some sleazy infomercial but it is very possible, some have started to utilize it, and it is called crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding isn’t new, it’s been around for years now and has fueled many success stories. Websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe are platforms that allow you to pitch an idea to the masses and receive profit to make the dream come into fruition. Everyone from video game developers to rock bands has utilized their supporters and even hip-hop artists have achieved opportunities through this medium, but on a very small scale. A great example is the unorthodox Meow the Jewels, where El-P raised $65,783 to remix "Run The Jewels 2" with all cat sounds for the music. Imagine what an indie artist could do with funds like that? Young Scolla meets SMKA is another Kickstarter funded album, successfully raising $4,549 for mixing, mastering, and all various other specifics to make the project a success.This method isn’t magical; it’s not for aspiring overnight celebrities or a get rich scheme. This is for the creative minded artist who finds a reward in having the best resources to supply a demand from their backers.
Kickstarter is simply a godsend. Launched in 2009, it has now funded approximately 74,000 creative projects. Used In the right hands, it can have a heavy impact on the flow of money in the music industry. The fans aren’t just a sponsor fueling the art but are connected to the artist in the process, creating a connection that is much stronger than a meet and greet, or a Twitter follow back. It’s not simply throwing an idea up and waiting for your bank account to pile up, there’s a lot of thought and planning that goes into your campaign. You aren’t a beggar on the street corner, the project presentation, the rewards, the video; everything has to be treated as if you’re pitching yourself to a big time corporation. The quality reflects heavily on how you’re perceived; convince us that you’re worth investing in. A great example is The Year Of Zuby: 12 Music Videos & New Album.
By contrast, to be honest I’m not a fan of GoFundMe. It's like a “Make A Wish Foundation” for the common man. Take your bucket list, the more heartwarming the story, and you'll have a higher chance of meeting your goal. I won’t dismiss the good that they’ve allowed to transpire, but it lacks the professionalism that I see in Kickstarter. You don’t need incentives to entice support, a video to create connections; you can simply ask and receive. With Kickstarter, if you don’t complete your goal the backers keep their money, but with GoFundMe, even if the goal isn’t reached, the money is kept. You need that feeling of all-or-nothing to not only push your campaign, but inspire backers not to hesitate if they truly believe. As a serious artist, you have to decide how you want to represent yourself, every impression is crucial when dealing with other peoples money.
Amanda Palmer raised
The value of a dollar changes when the knife of the passionless day job labor is lodged in your back; the knives that punctured Caesar are just pinches in comparison. Once the bills start showing up like unwanted exs, the car is visiting the shop more than your driveway and unforeseen, miscellaneous affairs are constantly withdrawing from your wallet, everything else is a luxury – even supporting your local music artist. Right now, there's more music, more artists and more ways to obtain that music than ever before. As a consumer, I have days where I feel like I’m a peninsula, surrounded by artists instead of an ocean. Artists have to set themselves apart, it’s deeper than saying I’m talented, I’m hardworking. You have to show me that my hard earned bucks will be aiding something spectacular. As an indie artist, the amount of money you need should reflect on necessities. Don’t let a price tag dictate quality, expensive doesn’t mean extravagant. You’re still a starving artist; a frugal mind state will only become more obligatory.
Think about it. What would happen if labels disappeared and every artist had to rely on crowdfunding? How would that change the music industry? Would the world fund Iggy Azalea’s album? Bobby Shmurda? Kendrick Lamar? Who would be the champion in a crowdfunded industry? Realistically, it will still be a popularity contest. If you haven’t started generating a name for yourself, or working within a niche market, you will have a harder time achieving your goal, but with the endless resources and an intuitive mind you can make up for a mile of shortcomings. The labels can fund campaigns, but if the connection isn’t genuine, the results will be minimum. Thanks to the increased popularity of crowdfunding, this could be an era dominated by underdogs, with talent and skill funded by the people that wanted them to succeed. A consumer dictated market, snatching the “major” from the major label, and showing the people have all the power.
Value our dollar artists, and we will value your art. We have the platform, we have the power, lend us your voice as the war cry against the odds. Against the dark side.
[By Yoh, AKA I’m G.O.O.D., aka @Yoh31]