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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2012/09/02
by Mike Gruenberg

Kickstarter

In My Life

Many years ago, my friend Felton told me about a band that he had met in Central Park. Apparently, he met some of the band members while enjoying a summers’ day in the Park. Being the gregarious person that my friend is, it was no surprise that he would strike up a conversation with what he thought would be an “up and coming” band. His love of music may have overshadowed his sense of cautious investing, but nevertheless it was an opportunity to meet a band at the beginning of their career.

He went to see the band perform on a number of occasions. Befriended the lead singer, knew everyone in the group and continually followed the bands’ exploits. Then the band signed a publishing deal with a major music company, became the opening act for some other up and coming bands in the New York area that already had record deals. All of this activity prompted my friend to “invest” some cash in the band of his new found friends. I remember the day; he gave me a copy of the soon to be released first album of this band. Music aside, it was fun to be on the inside of this soon-to-be hot band.

Unfortunately, as is the case for so many young bands, all the excitement and dreams went for naught. The band broke up, my friend lost whatever money he invested with his now former friends and the rest is history. He does have a copy of the band’s never to be released first album as an expensive memento. Dreams unfulfilled, money lost, but a good time was hopefully had by everyone.

The music business for “fans” is whole lot different than it is for men and women who work at the record companies, publishing firms, law offices and booking agents. Hopefully, they are all satisfied with their chosen profession within the music industry. However, the bottom line is that for them, it’s a job. I’m sure many of these people get a certain thrill when dealing with a mega music star as their client, but in the end, its business. Balance sheets, income statements, contracts all have to deal with as a business.

As fans, we don’t really care if the last Neil Diamond tour made money. We don’t care if the booking agency turned a profit. All we care about is supporting our favorite recording stars by buying their records, downloading their music and attending their concerts. We are on the other side of the glass looking in. Up until now.

Recently, my nephew in Atlanta decided to open a bar with a friend of his. As is the case in many families, he asked his friends and relatives to help him financially since he was a bit short in the monies needed to open the bar. He directed the family to a site called Kickstarter. There, he posted the project of opening the bar and people had the option to invest in this new venture. His aunt and me invested and apparently so did a number of others because the bar opened and business seems to be brisk.

As it turns out, the Kickstarter site is helping a lot of people realize their dreams. For whatever the amount you want to invest, people who paint, create music and write books can receive money from those who want to invest at those ventures.

Apparently, Kickstarter is having an incredible effect on the music business. Singer/songwriter, Amanda Palmer recently raised $1million dollars to create a music album. She accomplished this feat in less than one month. In essence, all of us fans, with our noses to the other side of the glass can now enter the room and be a part of our musical heroes’ life.

Palmer raised $1.2 million in 30 days from 24,883 backers. When the album is released each of the 24,883 backers will receive a digital download of the album. But, it gets better. For varying degrees of the amounts of the investment, backers will receive:

• A limited edition CD
• Thank you card
• A party with Ms. Palmer
• A private house party at the backers’ house
• Dinner with Ms. Palmer plus a portrait of Ms. Palmer that she will personally paint.
The reality is that the barriers separating the “fan” from the “artist” are quickly evaporating. By virtue of sites like KIckstarter, we are able to get closer to the artists we love to watch and hear. Of course in this case, Ms. Palmer is a proven entity as she was ½ of the duo called the Dresden Dolls, a group that had a fair amount success a few years ago. Investing in her is a lot less risky than investing in a musical act with no prior success, but like all investments, there is no guarantee of success.

Nevertheless, it’s certainly nice to see how today’s technology brings us closer to the musical acts that produce the music we love to hear.

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