At the beginning of the year I was invited to play at the Plovdiv International Guitar Festival in Bulgaria. The material I wrote for the festival, with fellow guitarist Dave Foster, worked so well that I decided to use it as the basis for my instrumental solo album called The Ghosts of Pripyat.
My band, Marillion, has a long history with and is an acknowledged pioneer of crowdfunding:
So after giving it some thought, I came to the conclusion that I should launch a Kickstarter campaign to finance the album. I worked out that £15,000 (I'm English) would give me enough money to upgrade my home studio, a few days in a proper studio to record the drums and bass (I’ve booked some time at Real World studios in the U.K.) and enough left over to manufacture the album, t-shirts, and book the venue for the launch party. I set the campaign length to the maximum 60 days and set the official launch date for November 25th.
To get extra exposure, I also set up a BandCamp page, using my own name as the domain, to sell the audio download of the Plovdiv festival (at steverothery.com) and a video download via fetchapp.com. I uploaded a trailer for the Plovdiv video onto YouTube and an audio trailer onto SoundCloud before the launch date so people could understand the musical direction the album would take.
Within 24 hours of the launch we reached the £15,000 goal! With over 40 days still to go we’re at nearly £29,000. The BandCamp and fetchapp pages have also brought in extra revenue. After a few days of the campaign I uploaded a full track from the festival, “White Pass,” to YouTube and Soundcloud and encouraged people to share it.
The buzz for the album is still building amongst the fans. I did a Skype interview with the Huffington Post the day after the launch and the album is already being discussed in the media even though it won’t be out until September 2014.
With plans to release a special edition of the album with a DVD bonus disc, and with just over a thousand people backing the project so far, it still has a lot of potential to grow.
There are a lot of young bands out there with a fan base big enough to use this approach successfully.
Although a lot of music today is downloaded illegally (the live tracks have already been torrented) you only need a relatively small number of people who believe in you to make crowdfunding work. Once you raise the money and make the recording, you own it. No more signing to a label and getting just enough of an advance to make the record that the label then owns. With this approach you can sell it direct to the fans via your site and use a company like TuneCore or CD Baby to get the album on the digital stores like iTunes and Amazon.