Crowdfunding Memories in Minnesota - Journals for All

P.J. Fanberg is on a mission to provide 111 journals for his squad of choirboys. As the Executive Director of the Land of Lakes Choirboys, he is dedicated to utilizing crowdfunding as a way to preserve the memories of those who experience the journey of musical travel. I spoke with P.J. about his mission: What was the inspiration behind the pro-social journalism project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? The inspiration behind our project was actually an idea that came from my experiences as a Choirboy. I came from a low-income family, where money for extra things like journals for writing was a low priority. Subsequently, I managed to have just cheap notebooks to take on our concert tours, which generally lasted around 3-4 weeks. After a few days of traveling, the covers usually were torn-off and my journal was mostly in ruins by the end of the tour. Over the years, most of those writings are gone and lost to time. I wanted to make sure the boys that are going on these tours today have a keepsake of their experiences that will last them a life time. These boys range from ages 7-15 and travel extensively throughout the United States and the World. The experiences they gain, at such a young age, are invaluable to their growth as productive, responsible members of society. With many lower income boys in our program, this felt like an ideal project to try on  Great inspiration! How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of public support in Minnesota - how are your supporters responding? My supporters are in love with the format and ease of Minnesota is usually atop every single list when it comes to philanthropic giving, so it comes as no surprise that our supports have connected with this project so easily. To be able to find a new and exciting way to give in this state is a great promotional tool to use in our area. Additionally, finding funding for specific projects, like our journals, has been much easier than raising funds for general operating costs. People love knowing exactly what their donations are funding, especially when it’s a great project. I plan to promote other projects on in the near future. Thank you for being a RocketHub supporter. You’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Sell your idea with enthusiasm and fun. If you aren’t excited about your idea, your potential fuelers will not be either. That goes for financial contributions as well. If they look and see that you don’t even believe in your project enough to support it yourself, then they are going to be hard-pressed to put their hard-earned resources into it. Facebook was a great asset for us to use to promote this idea. Within minutes of posting in on our site, we had three fuelers. I was barely done with the registration of the product before it was making us money! For those looking to launch their own project, think of the networks of people you already have in place that can help your project succeed. For us, it was the friends and families of the Choirboys. My next step is to gain the support of our alumnus who went through our program in the past. Have a plan before you launch to help build momentum fast. Nothing worse than days going by without your project taking-flight. At this point, you have pretty much missed your launch window and will have a much more difficult time fueling your project. Very good advice - useful for all types of project. Thank you P.J. for your innovative approach and heartwarming project. Support this crew, here. -Vlad

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  • May 17, 2011

Emily Zuzik Discusses Moby Collaboration - In Prep for Takeoff Tuesday at Spike Hill

Emily Zuzik is a prolific singer/songwriter, rocker and sought-after collaborator. She has the ability to effortless shift fluidly from acoustic folk to electronica and alternative rock and will be featured on Moby’s new album “Destroyed,” which is set to release May 17, 2011.  From Moby: “Emily’s vocals brought a unique dark and melodic texture to The Low Hum.  I’ve wanted to work with her ever since she auditioned for a rock project I started. She has remarkable talent and passion for all kinds of music. I’m excited to hear her new record.” We caught up with Emily as she is about to participate in RocketHub’s Takeoff Tuesday - a weekly music series designed to entertain and support musical artists through networking, workshops and career enhancing showcases. She will talk about the Moby collaboration as well as other trends and adventures in the current music business landscape. The event takes place at Spike Hill in Williamsburg - May 17th at 7PM. The same date that the record is released. 1. How did the song collaboration with Moby, “The Low Hum,” come about? - We’ve heard you use the theme of a late night in an “empty city” in the lyrics of the tune. I met him initially when I auditioned to sing for a rock project he was working on. It never ended up seeing the light of day. Later on, he asked me to sing on a song for his next record. I don’t know if that song ever made the cut either, but then we decided to write together. He gave me a bunch of instrumental compositions and asked me to write to ones that struck me. His only request was to steer clear of strict narrative and make the lyrics more introspective and vague. We did a bunch of demos and one of our collaborations was “The Low Hum” which he put on his next record, Destroyed. The late night in an empty city theme really came from what the song called for. I had just moved into an apartment in Murray Hill and I went over to the place one night on my own. I hadn’t move in any furniture yet. I’d hung a strand of Christmas lights on the window and sat in the middle of the living room floor. Then I was quiet and listened. The song happened that way. I described the scene and what I heard and how I felt in that moment. It wasn’t until later that Moby revealed that empty cities at night were a theme of his book and record. Kind of serendipitous that way… 2.  It is our understanding that the album will be released along with a photo book displaying a collection of photography Moby has shot over the years. Was “Low Hum” written with this idea of a “cross platform” distribution combining music and photgraphy? No, I had no idea there was a book coming out until much later. I was surprised and excited by the news though. I shoot photography too, especially when I travel or am on the road. I also really like the pairing of sound and vision, as Bowie coined it. So, any opportunity I can be part of a “cross platform” project, I try to sign up for it. 3. What other projects do you have upcoming for the year that excite you the most? Well, you kind of caught me in a maelstrom these days. Beyond the Moby song, I have some shows on both coasts (May 13 SF’s Makeout Room, May 17 Rockethub’s Featured Performer at Spike Hill, June 6 NY SongCircle Showcase at Bitter End).  I sang the theme song to the new NBC show “Love Bites” which is scheduled to debut on Thursday, June 2 at 10 PM. It was another collaborative project with Art Hays.  I am releasing my new album, The Wild Joys of Living, (which has 3 cowrites on it, 2 with Wes Hutchinson and one with Tom Glynn) at a CD RELEASE Party on Sat. June 25th at The Living Room at 11 PM. That cd release show will also be recorded live for XM Radio’s “From the Living Room to the Loft” program.  I’m working with UK dj team REFIX on another single and trying to keep all this going without losing my happiness or sanity. So far, so good… Much thanks for taking the time to connect with us and for sharing these insights. We are excited to hear more at Takeoff Tuesday tomorrow! Moby photo by Sunny Khasla Emily photos courtesy

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  • May 16, 2011

Supporting an Online Community through Crowdfunding

Jon Nicol is devoted to making intro a great website, a hub of knowledge and activity. He is utilizing RocketHub and the power of crowdfunding in order to keep most of the content free - a noble endeavor that I had the pleasure of discussing with Jon: What was the inspiration behind the design and development project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? is resource for church music teams. Most of my work is with smaller churches whose budgets don’t allow big conferences and expensive resources. I keep most of my content free and my workshops affordable. The poor design of the site hinders the use of the content and resources, so I’m hoping to raise money to professionally redesign the site. Very worth cause. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of pro-social development - how are your supporters responding? The first 10% came in quickly, but it slowed down. My follower base is not huge, so I will likely be dependent on a few bigger contributions to carry the project forward.  Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? This isn’t a “build it and they will come” field of dreams thing. It takes work to get the project out there. Most people will need to see it a few times before they decide to give. And many need a direct request: “will you contribute?” And from the ones that contribute, I ask them to tell a few others about it. Once someone helps you once in one way, they’re more likely to help you again, especially in a non-financial way. Very relevant advice. Thank you Jon - support this project here. -Vlad

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  • May 13, 2011

Vinyl Is Here to Stay: The Doorbells Crowfund a New Record

"Want Your Evil" is the debut that starts it all, and The Doorbells invites you to be a part of it. We love this band at RocketHub and wanted to learn more about their unique vinyl-making crowdfunding campaign: What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? The inspiration behind this project was to create a way for fans, friends, and family to feel as if they all have a hand in the 1st release of us. They already are the reason that we can put together a project like this but it furthers their staple as part of the group. We also are doing this for the fact that vinyl is still the best way to listen to music and to receive a timeless piece of art as well. This is important to us because we want involvement from everyone who supports us and this gives them the chance to. Great way to build fan engagement. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music, particularly from the Midwest - how are your supporters responding? The experience has been great. It’s a great way for artists to share their passion with the people who support it in a more connected fashion other than just the music. Our supporters are responding with mixed reviews but mostly good. It’s been a slow start but momentum is picking up fast the more people become aware of the project. Keep up the momentum. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? The only advice I could give would be to just talk about the project as much as possible and let them know what it is really about. Promote the hell out of it. Good advice. Great music. Listen and join the ride, here. -Vlad

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  • May 13, 2011

Hit Us With Your Best Shot: The Artsicle Photography Show

RocketHub and Artsicle will open the doors to the New York City art scene for emerging photographers through the Artsicle Photography Show in the summer of 2011. This show will give photographers very scarce and sought-after resources: creative real estate, promotion, and connections in the art capital of the world. This is our second LaunchPad Opportunity™ and it offers a chance to show your photographs at a cool Chelsea gallery. Five chosen photographers will receive: An exclusive spot in a photography exhibit, including an opening-night gala celebration. The option to sell at the gallery and to distribute work through Artsicle’s curated marketplace. Portfolio feedback from art industry notables throughout the week. Top-notch photographers have already jumped in, so hit us with your best shot. We’re proud to offer opportunities beyond funding to our awesome community of creative people. You can expect more LaunchPad opportunities in other sectors such as film, gaming, music and design. So stay tuned. -The RocketHub Team

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  • May 11, 2011

From Baltimore, A Cool New Sound from a Family Band

Five Smooth Stones is a family band from northern Baltimore County, Maryland (aka The Hereford Zone).  Andrew, Colvin and Tom Franklin and Kathryn Clarke blend diverse musical influences, such as Jars of Clay, newsboys, Switchfoot, Audio Adrenaline, Third Day, Mute Math, Dave Matthews Band, David Crowder Band and more. I had the pleasure of chatting with Tom, aka Fu Manchuman, of Five Smooth Stones about their very successful crowdfunding campaign: What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? The band, Five Smooth Stones, is a great blessing in my life- it is comprised of myself (real name Tom) on guitar & vocals, my daughter Kathryn on guitar & vocals, my son Andrew on drums & vocals and my nephew Colvin on bass and vocals. The band, formed several years ago, has been performing regionally and created a CD project in 2009 called Life From Dust. Over the next couple years, we were writing more personal songs and the music we were making developed and matured, and so it came time to get to recording a new project. We determined that we have an opportunity to create a top-notch album musically, and we want to match the packaging to that. So, after spending time in a cabin in Pennsylvania recording the basic tracks, we contacted a great designer to begin work on the packaging. We also researched the costs and options for producing the packaging, as well as put together a plan to market/promote the project. At that point we saw that we could make a really nice package for the fans with a little more cash- we had some funds earmarked for the project which had been accumulated from CD & t-shirt sales and gigging income- and we had heard about crowd-funding from several sources, so we checked out several sites. We chose RocketHub based on several factors, the most important being the feeling that RH was really focused on helping the artists and providing added opportunities for us. We have built a small base of loyal fans and we want to give them a great album to listen to, look at and enjoy. The songs are about the struggles of this life and the hope we have for better days, both now and in eternity, and we have a strong desire to share the message of hope with as many as we can. We love family bands from Baltimore :) How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music - how are your supporters responding? It’s been fun and challenging. The process of setting up the RocketHub project was simple, making the video was fun as well as deciding on the rewards for our fuelers. Our friends & fans have been very receptive and we are thankful for their support. It has been a great, added opportunity to connect with them and has opened some additional doors for the band as well. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Have a plan for getting the word out and make sure you tell everyone. Our biggest contribution came from an unexpected source, and if we hadn’t spread the word around we might end up short. Also, don’t be afraid to remind people and follow-up… people mean well and want to help, but this is a fast-paced world and they get distracted or it slips their mind. In fact, I’m need to call some folks right now… Thank you Five Smooth Stones for your refreshing sound and rockin’ campaign. You can still join the fun, here. -Vlad

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  • May 10, 2011

Rufus Khan: Not Just Another Improv Troupe

Rufus Khan is an innovative improv comedy troupe based in Brooklyn, New York. They keep the audience laughing with bizarre scenarios, memorable characters, and, of course, the occasional one-liner. The Rufus Khan team consists of Brendan Collins, Daniel Klein, Cem Uyanik, Jamie Rosler, Eric Austin, and Laura Darrell. They are leveraging the power of crowdfunding in order to fund future shows and development. We spoke with them about their campaign and about their creative process: What was the inspiration behind the improv theatre project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? First and foremost, laughter. Our deep desire to laugh and to make others laugh by playfully humiliating ourselves in front of a bunch of strangers. Some people call it unhealthy; we call it fun. We’ve also been influenced by subway panhandlers. Clearly, begging is funny, and gives you a great opportunity to perfect your sign writing skills. Living and working in New York City can drain you of your energy, your time, and your money, as well as making you wonder if all people are just innately awful. We hope that a RocketHub campaign will restore our faith and confidence in the general goodness of humanity, and also help provide us with more opportunities to challenge ourselves, inspire our friends and fans, and supply that much needed escape for anyone who’s just looking to have some good, usually clean, fun. Awesome! How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of improv theatre - how are your supporters responding? Our experience has been great, especially when we can get people’s attention. They all think they’re so important and busy with their lives and jobs and children.  After our most recent show, we received literally tons of positive feedback; our backs are just now getting over the aches and pains of carrying it all. People asked about our next performance, having videos made for people who missed the show, and just generally stroked our fragile egos. Monetary donations are always a harder animal to catch, especially in the midst of an economic downturn. We’ve made big strides, though, and are steadily making our way to the goal we set. You’ve caught our attention :) You’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Nagging and stalking have been our main routes to success. Pretend to be interested in other people’s lives, and don’t be afraid to hide in someone’s bushes or linen closet. Think of all the internet and social media attack strategies at your disposal and just go for it. Be playful, witty, and fun when seeking support so that you’re always bringing people entertainment. Even crack dealers know that the first hit should always be free. After that, don’t be afraid to prod; if you don’t seek out donations, no one’s going to do it for you. Most importantly, have confidence that you deserve what you’re asking for, and that if it’s what you really want, you can make it happen. For us, it comes down to honesty, heart, and that slightly offensive joke about nuns that you overheard in the elevator last week. Thank you Rufus Khan team for your funny work and refreshing campaign. Check them out here. -Vlad

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  • May 9, 2011

The Crowdfunding Chocolateers

Chocolate and crowdfunding go together like chocolate and…peanut butter. Crowdfunding is the new peanut butter? Michael Sacco thinks so. This renaissance man is successfully taking his chocolaty aspirations to the crowd. Michael is looking to fund the construction of two machines that are integral to his up-and-coming chocolate factory! I spoke to Michael about his endeavor: What was the inspiration behind the cool invention project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? ChocoSol was started as a research project at the grassroots in Oaxaca Mexico. Our goal is to create an ecological production model for making chocolate that is accessible to people with lots of initiative and only a little capital. Moreover, it is designed to be an example of alternatives to destructive development. The idea is to create beacons of change that utilize ecological agriculture and production methods, and in sharing the delicious and nutritious food products thereby produced to educate and engage people. It is similar to the trade, not aid philosophy of RocketHub, and in this sense we see ourselves as a learning community social enterprise. Experimentation is keep to good crowdfunding. You’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Honestly, I think we have kind of tapered off. The key to a good crowdfunding is consistantly promoting it. However, some of the cashflow constraints make this difficult. Perhaps a monthly payout would be helpful for small enterprises like ChocoSol. However, I have to say that the site and the idea are fantastic, and the infrastructure and design are very attractive and communicative. Successful crowdfunding takes work - keep at it and you will be successful. Check out this tasty project, here. -Vlad

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  • May 6, 2011

Backstage at Tomato’s House of Rock with Chris “Tomato” Harfenist

—- Crowdfunding is an empowering endeavor. RocketHub is a community, a platform, and a revolution empowering your crowdfunding adventure. There are many other valuable tools available to Creatives that make an impact. Because of this, we launch feature stories with a goal to highlight other organizations that share our empowerment ethos. —- Tomato’s House Of Rock (THOR) is a rock music school for seriously creative young musicians founded by Chris “Tomato” Harfenist, the leader of cult-fave alt-rock band, The Sound Of Urchin.  More than just a rock school or music club, THOR rocks elite venues (including The Highline Ballroom, BB Kings, and Brooklyn Bowl) and works with artists from world-renowned bands (including members from Furthur, Iron Maiden, Buzzcocks, Twisted Sister, Ween, Testament, Guided By Voices, and others). Through THOR, students have also met with executives from major labels, MTV, and VH1, and have performed on ABC and Sirius Satelite Radio networks. Tomato has 15 years experience teaching and mentoring young rock musicians and we had the chance to connect and get a firsthand look at the good work happening at THOR. We at RocketHub love the mission, vibe, and feel of Tomato’s House of Rock. What’s the most exciting aspect to you in regards to your role with the school? The most exciting thing for me is to watch these talented young musicians come into their own.  My main job, in regards to them, is to help guide their growth into becoming their own creative personality.  There is no lesson book for this kind of stuff, of course, so the reward for me are those moments where I see that spark of individual originality come to the forefront… it’s that thing that gets us into music in the first place and when I see it I know that I am doing something right. You have a fascinating background as a successful touring musician, and now you leverage that expertise by coaching and mentoring young artists - do you find that the kids “teach” you any lessons as well? Ha ha ha, of course!  They teach me all the time, and in so many ways.  I see parts of my young musical self in them at times, my current self, and even my future self.  The great thing about music is that if you love it, there is no real age-gap issue… I talk to the THOR members about music like I talk to my friends who have made hit records.  I haven’t met a good musician who feels they can’t learn anything more about music or the creative process. What live events does THOR have coming up the Spring and Summer? We just did a 9 band Original Music Showcase at The Knitting Factory and played the Tribeca Film Festival this past weekend, we are working with Steve Garvey from The Buzzcocks this coming weekend… we have a show in May in Stuy-Town, June at The Highline Ballroom with special guests including Alex Skolnick from Testament.  And then we are preparing for shows with Gene Ween and a “Big Three” 1986 Metal Tribute over the summer. Does that answer your question?  ha ha  It sure does! Much thanks for the insight and we look forward to seeing more great music emerging from your community. -Brian photos courtesy of

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  • May 5, 2011

From Argentina with Love and Care

Crowdfunding can be a powerful source of pro-social good. The Por el Barrio Libertad team is proving that social support can be galvanized from across the world. Through RocketHub, this passionate team is helping children in impoverished area of Buenos Aires. Here is how they see it: What was the inspiration behind the international education and support project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? Our main motivation in the project is the Barrio Libertad´s children and their ability to access to better opportunities in the present and future through education, art and recreation. Barrio Libertad is a very humble neighborhood of the Buenos Aires province. Nearly seventy families are living there in an unhygienic situation. The homes are dilapidated and without access to key public services. In major cases, the vital needs are not fulfilled. Children face very difficult conditions for development. After an intensive 2010 we are focusing the project on the district’s children. The project mainly aims to set up a place for the children between five and twelve years old, in which they could receive school support, entertainment and supervision. We believe that these first years of life are fundamental. It is critical for them to get tools that allow them to interact and integrate in the society and in an increasingly complex world – a complex world which for sure is difficult, but that also offers new opportunities. RocketHub is one of these opportunities. It is an innovative way that enables us to share our project, to find support, and to make it visible to the world. Something that was impossible to achieve some years ago. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of pro-social work in Argentina - how are your supporters responding? Many social projects exist in Argentina, but we believe our project “Por el Barrio Libertad” is innovative. It aims to integrate the physical space with the web space to generate concrete actions that impact children´s life quality. We use social networks to go near more collaborators. We receive support from donors who are part of our circles of contacts, but also from the USA, France and England.  In Argentina, we are pioneers in this area. We confront difficulties with strategy; because in our country people are reluctant to use their credit card online. This use is emerging, for that reason we designed a video explaining how to use the platform. Experiences of this nature will be more frequent in a few years, gradually people will know and trust the system. We invite all Argentines to dare projects!  Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? The platform is not only a presence online, it is a dynamic thing. Design the page on RocketHub to let people know that both the project and the Internet site are transparent and sure - is a first step. Then you have to update the content permanently, to answer and to try to anticipate the reactions you receive. Do not expect donors to come, but go and find them with an active broadcast of the page and the project. Internet allows everyone a fast and easy access to a lot of information. But information must be innovatively clear to be understood and well received. We endeavor to give visibility to projects, and so to realize our dreams! Thank you for taking this brave approach to Argentina. Get involved, here. -Vlad

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  • May 4, 2011