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Start me up

Kickstarter gives artists a shot in the arm, maybe.

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FRAZIER: Singing for his supper.
  • FRAZIER: Singing for his supper.

It's tough to be artistic and make money. Let's face it, finding the start-up capital to make the documentary you've always dreamed of shooting or produce the record you've been hearing inside your head for years is difficult if not impossible.

But the Internet is a brave new world. One where virtual cream rises to the top of Google searches and the masses have more say in what becomes popular and what becomes obsolete. At least that's the hope. Internet start-ups are looking for new ways to fund projects and spread content through social networks. Take Kickstarter.

Kickstarter.com is a website that bills itself as "the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world." The site pairs projects with donors through an all-or-nothing funding model, where users set a monetary goal and a time limit to achieve that goal between 1 and 90 days. Most users offer tiered-rewards to potential donors. If a project isn't fully funded by the deadline, no money changes hands.

In terms of funding creative projects, the site could prove to be revolutionary. It completely eliminates the traditional gate-keepers that have dominated the entertainment industries for years. Think about it: big time record labels and radio stations once dominated what songs got radio-play, publishing houses decided what books you had to choose from and Hollywood studios picked which films were green-lighted. Now, you can do that.

It's a model that Little Rock singer/song-writer Bryan Frazier hopes will pay off. Frazier started a project on the website in early March. His goal is to make a record at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville. He's asking for $25,000 to cover recording costs and to recruit musicians to play and produce the album. Donors will receive rewards including autographed copies of the final product and private shows.

"The money's not just going to line my pockets," Frazier says. "It's going to go completely toward the record and it's not just any record. I've talked about advocating for a lot of different causes including the West Memphis Three, tons of nonprofits, environmental groups. I plan on continuing that on a larger level, but music is my voice and that's really the only way to get it out there and get some attention for these causes."

Kickstarter takes a 5 percent cut of all money raised. That's a small price to pay, Frazier says, to circumvent traditional industry channels for making and distributing a record.

"The entertainment industry is such an elitist thing anyway," he says. "But there's so much talent out there. There are so many people with great ideas, great songs and great stories that need to be heard and this website is the first step in a series of companies and avenues that are going to let these people be heard. Get a record out there. It could be a hit record that would never have been a hit 10 years ago because labels are broke, they don't want to gamble anymore and if you don't know someone personally, it's not going to happen."

Other Arkansas artists have found funding through Kickstarter. Jo Ann Kaminsky, a licensed counselor and art therapist from Fayetteville, raised $920 to rent a venue and host a puppet show by the England-based Thingumajig Theatre. Kaminsky says they met their goal faster than they expected.

"It was just kind of like a dream," she says. " 'We'll put this out here and we'll see if people go for it.' And they did. We wrote it in a fun way. My friend helped us with a video. So once we did that, we had something interesting to look at. And who doesn't want to see puppets? This troupe is really, really good. Since I do puppet work here and we have a festival every year, it was in everybody's best interest to bring this puppet show here."

The show was a success and Kaminsky says she now donates to other projects through the website.

As of this writing, Frazier has 44 days left to reach his $25,000 goal. Right now 17 people have donated over $1,400. He says he's confident he'll reach the goal and plans to promote his efforts at upcoming gigs around Little Rock.

"The studio company's going to help me promote it because I'm going to be paying them to record it, so they want me to be successful," he says. "For them, I'm a potential customer. I've got some mid-level donations. About half of them are friends and the other half are people that I have no idea who they are. Right now, we're just going with 'We're going to get there. We're going to get it.' "

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