Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014

Crowdfunding Can Work, So Let's Not Shame Bands for Doing It

By Evan Rytlewski
milwaukeehome
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MilwaukeeHome’s ambitious crowd-funding campaign to send 25 Milwaukee acts to Austin’s South By Southwest music festival fell far short of its goal, raising just $4,120 of the $20,000 it sought, the Milwaukee Business Journal reported this week. To make up some of that difference, the group is seeking additional sponsors and throwing fundraisers, including a Friday event at Oak Bar in the Third Ward and a March 5 show at the Turner Hall Ballroom.

MilwaukeeHome’s Indiegogo campaign aimed conspicuously high, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that it fell short (there’s a reason, after all, the organization opted to use Indiegogo, which lets campaigns keep all money raised regardless of whether they achieve their goal, over the all-or-nothing alternative Kickstarter). Nonetheless, the fundraising shortfall has prompted, if not quite gloating on social media from some observers, then something that can seem a little bit like it. For a significant subset of the local music scene—made up, not coincidentally, almost exclusively of musicians who came up before Kickstarter and its ilk—the very idea of bands asking for outside help is unseemly, running contrary to the most basic D.I.Y. tenants (the Y, after all, stands for “yourself,” not “with other people’s money.”) If musicians believe enough in what they do, their logic goes, they should be willing to lay their own money on the line, taking on the financial risk themselves.

That’s a noble way of thinking. Punk as we know it wouldn’t exist without that kind of pride and self-starting conviction. But to impose those values on other musicians or to look down on artists who don’t live up to them is unfair. Never mind that the “use your own money or nobody’s money” hardline discriminates against artists who truly lack the basic start-up capital to do even simple things like tour—not the bands who scrounge to put gas in their vans, but the ones who don’t even have a van—it also outright dismisses a resource that simply works for a lot of artists. Countless musicians have been able to fund tours and projects that otherwise would have been impossible using sites like Kickstarter, and most of them weren’t being cheap or greedy. They were being resourceful.

When veteran musicians gripe about younger musicians using new technologies like Kickstarter, the implication often seems less “you’re taking shortcuts” or “you’re doing your art a disservice” than it is simply “you’re not doing things the way I did them.” That’s not to knock the way touring bands did things in the past, but younger bands would be foolish not to take advantage of new opportunities if they think they can make them work in their favor. Let’s not shame them for doing it.

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