Jake is a composer, blues shouter and musician with a diverse set of influences. The Big Rude Jake band successfully meshes the sounds of traditional jazz, jump blues, rockabilly and punk. The lyrical style was inspired by his love for his favourite powerhouse songwriters like Tom Waits, Jacques Brel and Berthold Brecht. What a ride! Now, Big Rude Jake is engaging his fans and global community to crowdfund a new, live record. Capturing the live experience isn’t easy, so I spoke with the Big Rude Jake team about the challenges associated with this process. On a recent tour of France, we were struck by how audiences reacted to the live show, even though most of them didn’t speak English. It was a real wake up call. During the past five years, I emphasized the song-writing elements of the act, making special efforts to feature the lyrics above all. But it suddenly occurred to me that the most universally attractive aspect of Big Rude Jake is the energy of the live show! This is not to say that I regret taking the time to brand Big Rude Jake as a song-writer. It’s just that many of our fans the world over love us because we are a lot of fun. And that is good! When we got back to Toronto, I immediately set out to create an album that captures the energy of a live performance, with enough sound fidelity to be radio friendly. People had been asking for it for years. We bounced the idea off of our friends, family and fans, and everyone agreed: now is the time to record in front of an audience. The RocketHub team has been seen quite a few times watching your live videos - so you’re definitely on the right track. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music in Toronto - how are your supporters responding? Support for the project is starting to build momentum, and we are getting very excited. The whole experience has been an emotional roller-coaster ride. While RocketHub creates the infrastructure for this kind of fundraising, it is up to us to get out there and spread the word. It’s not easy to ask for support. You have to stick your neck out. You have to put yourself in a vulnerable position, emotionally. If you have faith in your fans and in your project, I believe you’ll find that support is out there. But you must be positive. Plus, it’s been important to remind ourselves that we’re not asking for a handout. It seems everywhere you go, people are asking for donations. We are offering valuable rewards of equal (or greater) value to the cash that our fuelers contribute. That makes it easier for us to share the idea with people. Of course, the other thing that makes it easy is the fact that Big Rude Jake is blessed to have the best fans around! That’s very important and honest advice - framing the project around “trade, not aid” is vital. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? We have taken a two-pronged approach. My wife handles the online aspects of our presentation, and generally monitors a million and one details, and I have been on the phones and on Facebook and going through e-mail contacts to connect with people while still working on the music. You could say my wife is in charge of marketing, and I am in charge of sales. I can’t say I like doing sales much. But I love this project more than I hate sales. As such, we have been getting results. My advice, therefore, is to stay positive. This is not a program for cynics or pessimists. Stay away from nay-sayers. Connect with people who believe in what you do. If you are like me and you get freaked out when things are not going along as you planned, walk away from it for a few hours. Go and do something that will get your head back in the right space. Call up a friend who is supportive. Listen to some music that really inspires you. Do something fun. Then get back at it. That’s very sincere and correct. Thank you for this interview. To experience Big Rude Jake, head over here. -Vlad
Tennessee is one of the most prestigious and prolific North American creative hubs. The talented, Ryan Crowley hails from the creative state of TN and he’s flying high via his crowdfunding campaign on RocketHub. I had a deep convo with Ryan about his background, project, and career. What was the inspiration behind your music project and what are your aspirations for it? The inspiration behind this project came from many places. The first of which being that I’m a songwriter and a performing musician, I always have been and I always will be. The problem was that I’ve never had the ability to do a solo record until now. I wanted to be able to tell my stories in my own way on a record, both to show where I’ve come from and to help me figure out where I’m going. I think a lot of people my age can relate to that. We’re fresh out of college, and the only things that have changed is that we’re a little older and wiser, but we don’t always know what to do next. The second inspiration for doing this project, the one that lead me to RocketHub, was my good friend Banks Nelson. He and I have been playing together for years, and my bands always shared the stage with his. Last year, I saw something on Facebook that said “Banks Nelson: Going Broke for Broken People.” I clicked on it, and it took me to Matt’s RocketHub page, where I learned he was trying to raise $5,000 in 90 days. Part of me thought he was crazy, but what I really felt was his bravery in just putting himself out there. I thought, what a brilliant concept! He’s basically selling the record through his rewards, and those sales in the form of donations will allow him to make the record in the first place! When I finally got the guts to try my hand at a solo record, I knew I could do it because Banks did it first. I ended up calling my project “With a Little Help from my Friends,” both for my being a Beatles fan, and for the revelation that my album wasn’t going to happen without the help of my friends, family, and fans. Awesome - we love Banks and his pioneering spirit. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding leader in the world of music in Tennessee - how are your supporters responding? The response from friends and family have been overwhelming… I didn’t know this many people believed in me until now. People I haven’t spoken to in years, people from all over the country and even other parts of the world have contributed already. I’ve had lots of fuelers share my link on their Facebook and Twitter pages to spread the word to new fans, and I have quite a few people I’ll be meeting for the first time when I deliver their rewards to them. It’s such an amazing feeling to know that I haven’t even recorded the album and already I’m reaching so many people, and so many of them are reaching me. That’s what I wanted to do all along, connect with people, and it’s happening. The night I launched the campaign, I sat with my finger over the button of my computer telling myself I could walk away from this right now, and no one would know. I was afraid I was going to fail. When the nerve finally came to me, I hit the button and prayed for the best. In the morning, I had my first $15 donation, and then they just kept coming! Not all at once, but every day, every couple of days, my fuel would rise drastically. When I reached the point where I had more fuel in my rocket than I had time expired, I sighed relief. …and now you’re doing it! Clearly you had a good plan that has helped you build strong momentum. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? When anything builds quickly, people see it as happening all at once. I’ve found that to rarely be true. My manager/producer Chris McGuire of Valience Music and I had been talking about our strategies for the RocketHub campaign for two months before we launched. The only advice I can really give is to share how we’re doing things, and why we’re making the choices we are. The first thing we did was create a general internet buzz. I updated all of my social networking sites, even putting a demo version of “Oh No, Oh My,” (what will be the first single for the record) up to test the waters. This got all of my current fans talking, and I would chat with them whenever I could to get feedback. That’s really key for today’s artists, you have to know and love your fans. On every page of my internet presence, I kept telling fans to “expect big news in August.” When August came around, I launched my Crowfunding campaign. Once it began, I sent an email out to everyone on my mailing list. I don’t have an extensive list yet, but to everyone that’s asked for updates, I got the word to them. I also sent my street team an email asking them to post the link around their social networks to spread the word. Then, I posted the link on my own Facebook wall. The thing that Chris and I talked about from the start is that we didn’t want to spam people. We wouldn’t post directly on other people’s walls, but we could encourage them to post it there if they desired. Also, we don’t post everyday. We hit Friday and Saturday up because we figure that’s payday for everyone, and if they have any money to give, it will be on those days. Then, we let the week rest from RocketHub. I also created a Facebook event for the entire campaign and invited my current friends to join. I only sent one invite out to each of them, they are free to decline and I don’t take offense to that in the least! Still, with the event page everyone I know knows about it, and I can start a dialogue on the very website that I know all of them visit everyday. The biggest contribution to our success so far is the word of mouth from my fuelers. They’re telling everybody they know, and giving me great praise with the words they say. They are the lifeblood of this project, and I’m determined to put out an album that will be worth the accolades they have already given me. The other thing I do want to mention is that we picked a financial goal that was based on what we thought we could achieve. We figured out what our minimum cost of recording the record and paying the musicians would be and made that our goal. If we end up exceeding our goal, then great! We can then take it to the next level. But this way, we know that the record will happen. That’s all we were asking for, the opportunity to make a great first record. Great advice - being realistic and ambitious at the same time is tough, but you’re pulling it off quite well. Hear Ryan’s music and get involved. We’re stoked to have another success from Tennessee. -Vlad Images courtesy of Nicole Young and NMY Photography.
We have unveiled and rolled out our partnership with The Orchard, the global distribution platform for independent music and video content owners. As part of the Marketplace rollout, we will empower The Orchard users to seamlessly integrate their content and established assets to launch innovative crowdfunding campaigns via RocketHub’s global fundraising platform. RocketHub is proud to join music industry leaders such as FanBridge and SoundCloud in creating a foundational resource through The Orchard. Our own fearless leader, Brian Meece said about the announcement: “RocketHub continues to search for new ways to empower artists and their fans. The Orchard partnership is the next step in this evolution. We’re proud to welcome the global community of Orchard artists into the RocketHub ecosystem.” Join us in making the The Orchard and their awesome artists feel right at home at RocketHub. -The RocketHub Team
Ainsley Boyd gives motion to still images. The resulting films merge photographic and filmic ideas, playing with the idea of time and memory. She plays with some of my most beloved themes: nostalgia, memories, and the reinterpretation of the past into the present. Ainsley has an exciting opportunity this fall to show her film, Quiet Ostinato, at the Guelph Nuit Blanche and is leveraging RocketHub to crowdfund this into a reality. Here is what Ainsley had to say about her film/photography project: Much of the inspiration for my photography and film work comes from the natural world. I am interested in small, seemingly mundane, things that we pass by everyday. Beauty in the shadows and the light between shadows. Living in downtown Toronto forced me to look for nature wherever I could find it, that is what I am doing in my film. Searching for the wild in the midst of the city. I am actually educated as a photographer and the film kind of grew out of the still images I was creating. At some point they were just begging for movement. A sort of photographic context, what comes before and after a single image. Like much of my work, this film is also about experimenting with something new. In the case, working with film and the Bolex camera and the unique functions it has like varied frame rate and single frame shooting. I am always looking to challenge myself in my work and try something new. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of visual art in Toronto - how are your supporters responding? It is pretty cool to see people supporting you in this way. I have always hated asking people for money. It’s pretty exciting and encouraging that so many people are willing to support something that I have worked so hard at. I think crowdfunding is a good way to get people on board with your project. The idea that they can give even 5 or 10 dollars is much less intimidating that other forms of fundraising. I also like that there is a tangible reward, besides that good feeling of helping out, for my fuelers. Sending off little photographs in the mail to them feels like an appropriate thanks. You’ve been doing great so far - where is this momentum coming from and how can we bottle it? Well, I am not really sure how that happened! Haha. I guess you just have to put yourself out there. Ask people to support you and keep reminding them that you are still there. I have found Facebook and Twitter, as well as my email updates, very helpful in reminding people that I am still Fundraising. Basically, you need to get people excited about your project, which is much easier when you are also excited about it. Excitement is contagious. Thank you Ainsley for being so candid both in this interview and in your work. Check out this cool project, here. -Vlad
Hashem Assadullahi began his love affair with the saxophone in the Lone Star State, Texas, when he joined the 6th grade band - nearly 20 years ago. Now, Hashem leads the Hashem Assadullahi Sextet - joined by composer and guitarist Justin Morell, pianist James Miley, bassist Tyler Abbott, drummer Ryan Biesack and the world renowned trumpeter Ron Miles (most well-known for his work with Bill Frisell, Madeleine Peyroux, Duke Ellington Orchestra and many others). This group’s sound draws on a wide array of styles including jazz, classical, pop, and movie soundtracks - it’s quite enjoyable and innovative. In early 2011, they recorded an album of music spanning many musical interests, from contagious hooks of 80’s girl pop to Americana. Hashem is leading the crowdfunding campaign that will get this record made. I spoke with hashem about what makes this sextet tick. One of the aspects I love about jazz is the freedom it allows for communication during the performance within the band, so the real impetus for this recording is that I love performing with these musicians: Justin Morell, James Miley, Tyler Abbott, Ryan Biesack and Ron Miles. I’ve been playing with these guys for years in various contexts and it’s been a few years since my last record came out. It felt like it was time to go back to the studio and record some new music. Each one of these musicians is a remarkable individual and it really comes through in his playing. This group has great chemistry and the ability to take the music into new territory each time we play together. Everyone shares the musical space and contributes to the overall arc of each composition. Consequently, we collectively improvise really well while allowing each piece or song to really shine through. You’re based in Astoria, Queens now - a vibrant and increasingly prolific musical community. How has your global community supported you in your crowdfunding journey? Crowdfunding has been great for me! It’s given me an excuse to connect on an individual level with fans, friends, and family all over the world! Contacting people to let them know about the fundraiser was initially pretty intimidating but everyone has been very receptive. This project is something we really believe in and I think that comes through in our outreach. People respond to that. We’ve had support from folks all over the US, along with Thailand, Korea, and Japan. Even if some people aren’t able to chip in monetarily, they have been very supportive with their encouragement, and for me that’s equally as important. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned? RocketHub provides some excellent advice to help “Creatives.” I tried to follow all of the advice about spreading the word. I’ve spent a great deal of time contacting friends and family to put the fundraiser on their radar. I try to contact a few people each day to help relieve the pressure on me and maintain momentum, providing an excuse to make posts about my fundraiser via social media. Some of my contacts are more responsive via social networking, texting, post cards, or carrier pigeons, while I’m more of an e-mail person. I’ve had to adapt to their preferences in order to spread the word more effectively. I also make sure to thank each and every contributor—I think this is vital. Great advice about gradual outreach and public “thank yous.” Thank you Hashem and thank you to the Hashem Assadullahi Sextet. If you want to give your ears a treat, click here. -Vlad
Jenn Leggett is the proud parent of two boys, ages 3.5 and 1. Her older son was born in 2008 with a rare spinal deformity, Progressive Infantile Scoliosis. Thankfully, with help from the Infantile Scoliosis Outreach Program Jenn’s family connected with one of only a handful of US doctors trained to cure her son’s condition. After nearly a year spent in serial body casts, her little boy has a wonderful prognosis: he is cured and they expect him to stay that way! During Cole’s treatment, Jenn and the family wrote a wonderful children’s book to help explain to young kids, their families, and friends about the treatment. They even got a professional illustrator to donate her time and talents to illustrate this beautiful story. Now, Jenn is utilizing RocketHub to crowdfund the initial publishing process and further support the Progressive Infantile Scoliosis cause. I spoke with Jenn about her mission. What was the inspiration behind the super pro-social project you are currently running on RocketHub? Why is it important to you? As we say on our project page, it all started with our son. It was a very scary experience as we slowly realized that there was something seriously wrong with his spine. We addressed it with our pediatrician multiple times, but we just got brushed off. We really have both Google and the Infantile Scoliosis Outreach Program [http://infantilescoliosis.org/] (ISOP) to thank for pointing us in the right direction. Even after seeing a local specialist, we went from, “Don’t worry, its nothing,” to, “The best we can do is hold it off as long as we can until he gets years of painful surgery.” There’s a large active community of people with stories just like ours. A difficult road until finding one of the few doctors who do the correct treatment (Mehta casting). Our son is cured now, but without ISOP, we would be in a very different situation. The treatment we got was very time sensitive, and a lot of people miss the window because they don’t get the information in time. Most pediatricians and family doctors don’t know about progressive infantile scoliosis, and many specialists don’t know the right treatment. We want to use the book as both fundraiser as well as spreading the word itself in a format that can just be fun, but with a message. Finally, when we told the support group about the book, many of them just wanted a copy because the story is written as a metaphor for the treatment in a cute way that can be explained easily to small children. That’s an inspiring story - getting the word out seems to be vital. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of positive art and publishing - how are your supporters responding? RocketHub is amazing. To be honest, I was worried that this project would just never happen. ISOP is small, and does not have the resources to do it, even though it can hopefully provide them with a lot of funding when its made. Print on demand services are much to expensive to have any margin left. When we found RocketHub, we jumped on it! The support is wonderful! We’ve gotten support from other families involved in ISOP, but also friends and total strangers. And we’re hoping to get a lot more so that we can reach our goal. You’re well on your way to success and you’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? One thing that’s helped us, of course, is that there is a group out there that we’re making this book for, but we knew we couldn’t make it there with that support alone. We’re trying to spread the word to a larger audience, which is why we made sure the project should have a broader appeal. The story is a metaphor, but its very subtle and we knew it really needed to just be fun for any kid. To help it along, we’re trying to take advantage of social media and a little bribery ;) We also have a couple of giveaways going on out there from people hoping for the project to succeed (no purchase necessary of course). You get entries by posting to Facebook, tweeting, or Fueling! Giveaways: http://www.earthycrunchymama.com/2011/07/cole-the-crooked-flower-giveaway/ http://blendedfamilyof5.blogspot.com/p/earthy-crunchy-mama-givebackgiveaway.html Thank you Jenn, thank you Cole, and thank you to the whole Leggett family. You’ve warmed our hearts and inspired the whole RocketHub team and community. Help make this book into a reality. -Vlad
Lacerda is the epitome of the new music industry - a multicultural, multinational band that doesn’t fit any established molds, proactively connects with fans, and engages their community for financial empowerment. I spoke with Lacerda’s crowdfunding frontman, Milenko Vujosevic, about the band’s past, present, and future. Our multicultural background seems to help us everywhere we go. We tend to mostly tour the United States and even though Canada isn’t very culturally different in most ways, people seem to think there is something exotic about 5 guys who live an hour north of the border. So it has definitely helped in the crowdfunding sense because most of our amazing fans are from the States. But we never forget our loyal Canadian fanbase as well! The inspiration was simple really. We wanted to do something special for our fans, and a music video is something that we haven’t done yet. We thought, what better way to premiere new material, than through a music video. But of course music videos are costly and at this point in our career we need as much support as we can get. RocketHub has provided the vehicle for this support! What do you recommend to others trying to follow your footsteps? Our advice for creatives getting into crowdfunding is to set a realistic financial goal and reach out to your entire network. And by entire network we mean everyone you know. From fans, to friends, to family members. Anyone who is able to support your project even a little bit should be involved! Thank you Milenko and thank you Lacerda. Keep fighting the good fight. Friends, fans, and family can join the fun, here. -Vlad
MONARITA is a new play by Toronto poet Shannon Bramer that features actors Sara Tilley and Ruth Lawrence with Mark White, and is directed by award-winning film and theatre director, Sherry White. The play is a dark comedy about two women - dealing with the joys and challenges of life. The play has had much success at the Hamilton and Toronto Fringe Festival. I had the pleasure of speaking with Ruth about this unique play and how crowdfunding has fit into the larger fundraising efforts involved with a tour. What was the inspiration behind the unique theatre project you are currently running on RocketHub? Why is it important to you? In December 2008, Shannon Bramer sent her script MONARITA to a call for submissions to Women’s Work, a works in progress play development festival that is co-produced by (my company) White Rooster Theatre along with She Said Yes! and RCA Theatre companies. Before I finished reading it, I knew it was a play I wanted to produce. After Sara Tilley (the artistic director of She Said Yes!) read it, we agreed that the roles were perfect for us. Three months later, the playwright came from Toronto for the workshop and before she went home we asked for permission to produce it. Fast forward one year to March 2010, it was running in St. John’s, NL. The play, and the subsequent response from audiences, really inspired us to pursue a Canadian tour. Shannon has a unique vision of the world and we felt we should share it. In July, we took it to the Toronto and Hamilton Fringe Festivals, where again it resonated with everyone who saw it. Next up is Halifax and Winnipeg, and from there, who knows where will be next! Word of mouth really seems to be friendly to this show. Sounds like quite a whirlwind! How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of innovative theatre in Canada - how are your supporters responding? Well, first of all, I was surprised at how soon the RocketFuel starting pouring in. We had [originally] raised $29,000 of the $30,000+ that we needed already but we ran out of ideas to pursue to get that last piece of the funding puzzle. Anyone in the arts knows how hard it is to raise money because we’re always doing it. For every single project. I did some research on RocketHub before we jumped in, because if we were going to do it, I really wanted to do it right. As it turns out, we couldn’t have done better. Your site was simple, bright and user friendly. The ability to save and proofread is INVALUABLE. We took a couple of days to pull it all together before launching. We’ve had amazing support! After a very short time, we are 85% there and I know we will reach our goal. We used Facebook and email and talked it up a lot. I also did a radio interview with CBC that stirred up some interest in our fundraising. I started getting emails and calls and that’s when we set our RocketHub campaign in motion. That makes a lot of sense - crowdfunding can be an important piece of a bigger fundraising puzzle. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? White Rooster is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and I teamed up with two other companies (She Said Yes! and RCA Theatre) that have a history of doing good work in the community. So my first bit of advice would be to have a history of success you can build upon. We also had a measure of success with this project by being named Outstanding Ensemble by NOW Magazine after our Toronto Fringe run. That definitely helps. Second bit of advice- have a recent track record to get people excited about supporting a winner. And finally, I’m a fan of the soft-sell. We sent messages out via Facebook and email but did not pummel people with constant reminders. It can be a turnoff for some potential supporters. We DID however, publicly send thanks those who did support us, via email, Facebook and in talking it up to others. A big thanks goes a long, long way. Wow - spot on advice. A track record and credibility go a long way. Thank you for the awesome project - we can’t wait to see the play. Show your support, here. -Vlad
Labor Day celebrates the economic, social, and cultural value of workers. The definition of work has greatly evolved from when Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882. Today, the new and expanding Creative Class takes on an ever-more important share of economic responsibility and cultural contribution. From James Portnow to Sara Barbas to Mladen Lijesnic to Jenn Leggett to Hashem Assadullahi to Michal Bilick, and to countless others - the RocketHub community is personified by great labor of love, inspiration, innovation, art, and utility. Our team is proud to support the Creative Class. From artists to entrepreneurs to philanthropists to awesome organizations (large and small), we work for and alongside some of the most passionate, talented, and interesting groups and individuals. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but it’s all very good and quite rewarding. Happy Labor Day! -The RocketHub Team Images courtesy of Nasa Images.
Alma Micic was born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia. At the age of 16 she started performing with a local quartet and she’s been soaring ever since. Alma attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston and has been residining in New York since 2000. She has performed at prominent venues such as the Jazz Standard, Scullers, Iridium Jazz Club, Cecil’s Jazz Club as well as various international festivals and concert halls. Alma is now engaging her fans to crowdfund a third album and is the second in her family to experience success on RocketHub - her husband, Rale raised nearly $5,000 last year for his jazz guitar project. I spoke with Alma about her path and inspiration. I wanted to record an album of songs which excited and inspired me in many different ways, and I didn’t stick to traditional jazz standards or sound this time. The songs I wrote for this album came out of my experiences in the past year, my faith and a life full of love which I am so thankful for. I have a beautiful family which is my strong source of strength and energy for writing songs. The tunes I picked to do covers of are not the usual suspects- Sweet Child of Mine by Guns n’ Roses shaped my growing up in Belgrade as a teenager and Bob Dylan’s What Can I Do For You is a praise song that forever changed me. My producer and associate, great guitar player Doug Wamble joined me on this project and was the driving force behind the album’s heavily soulful sound. My supporters are very excited about this project, which is the first one I am funding this way, and about the great rewards they will receive. I am so happy to have so many people wanting to be a part of it! In a few words, what advice do you have for other artists looking to take this path? Believe in your project and tell the world about it. I can’t wait to hear you sing “Sweet Child of Mine!” Thank you for your project and congratulations on your success. Get the album here. -Vlad Images courtesy of almajazz.com, Kevin Hatt, and Aleksandar Kostic.