Crowdfunding Economic Understanding - It Can Be Done

The Future Forward Institute / Forward Foundation dynamic revolves around the idea of a new kind of workflow organized around the complex interplay of theory and practice. This means that they make complicated concepts less complicated. We spoke with one of their leaders, Sam Rose, about the power of crowdfunding and about their cool project on RocketHub: What was the inspiration behind the economics and research project you are currently running on RocketHub? Why is it important to you? We have a combined background in political science; complex systems science; social sciences, archival theory and methods; futures studies; and emerging economic systems. That is an unusual mix of areas, and it gives us an opportunity to come at problems from different but complementary paths. When it comes to this specific project, we know that there is only so much that you can gain from analysis of existing economic data.  It’s like trying to understand something by only looking at snapshots from the past. While that’s definitely useful for understanding what actually happened, it’s hard to test out alternate outcomes with only historical data. That’s where a model can help. For example, you can try changing how many people are connected in various ways. Or you can vary the amount of resources available to them. Creating models that simulate various parts of systems gives us a way to observe and learn from different scenarios, and to experiment with combinations of factors. We hope to increase people’s literacies in complex systems thinking, and how that thinking applies to their every-day lives and the basic problems of existence. This project is a first step in that direction. This seems like very useful stuff. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of economics and data - how are your supporters responding? To date, we’ve received 15% of the funds we’re seeking. Most of this response was withing the first 3-4 days of posting the project! The experience is great so far. We definitely welcome more contributions, and we know that people will find the outcomes of this project valuable. The more that people contribute, the more we’ll produce. Keep up the good work. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Asking people for funds is an exercise in trust building. Be conscientious and respectful of the fact that you are asking people to give you real money, so don’t be afraid to show them that you can do the job. Beyond getting active in various social networking websites, it’s worth spending some time to write some blog posts and create some simple examples to show people you can do what you are seeking funds for. Don’t be afraid to tell everyone you know who might have an interest in your project. As always, obscurity is the most important challenge to overcome. So get the word out any way you can. Great points about respectful outreach. Thank you to Sam and The Future Forward Institute - check out this positive project here. -Vlad

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  • April 7, 2011

Ryan Morgan Keeps Chivalry Alive

Ryan Morgan is a Denver-born, Brooklyn-based songwriter. He moved from Denver to Brooklyn in August, 2010, after spending years gallavanting around Latin America. His musical talents are apparent and he’s just an awesome guy. Now, Ryan is utilizing RocketHub to support the creation of his new record and is working with one of our favorite music-makers, E.W. Harris. We spoke to Ryan about his journey: What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? I’ve been writing music and performing it in and around Denver (and, since August, New York City) since I was 16. I’d say that, when it comes to the individual songs, I’m mostly inspired by places I’ve been. I’ve done a lot of travelling over the last five or so years, and there’s some things I have to say about those travels that I just don’t know how to say unless I write songs about them. The album will have songs about places as varied as Cleveland, Ohio and Medellín, Colombia. Needless to say, New York City itself has proven to be an absolute fountain of ideas and emotions, and I hope I’m doing a good job of translating those into songs. On a musical level, I’d say my biggest inspiration comes from the great songwriters that I’ve had the chance to meet both in Denver and New York. Of course I still take a lot away from the big, famous, signed acts that I love, but I’m finding more and more than my main influences (and, a lot of times, my main inspirations to write specific songs) come from people I know. New York has been, predictably, amazing in that regard. Not to start name-dropping but, for example, a great New York songwriter named Warren Malone produced an EP for me in January and I think you can definitely hear his influence in a lot of the stuff I’m doing now. And he’s one of dozens and dozens of people who I love and admire and keep trying to impress. The reason the current project - that is, releasing my my debut full-length album, is so important to me is because I see it as the culmination of all those inspirations. The record will be a healthy combination of the songs I wrote in Denver that have definite Denver folk scene influences in them and songs I’ve written in New York that have definite New York - specifically Brooklyn and even more specifically Big City Folk influences in them. So, I expect that the record will really reflect where I came from, and also where I am now musically. And reflect everywhere I’ve ever been lyrically. So, obviously, it means a lot to me to get to have that kind of document about my life to this point, and it’s also tremendously humbling that there seems to be a decent number of people who like the music enough that they’re helping fuel the costs of the album. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music and E.W. Harris’ studio - how are your supporters responding? Like nearly everyone, I was hesitant at first about the crowdfunding idea because I was nervous about whether I’d be able to raise the money. I’ve still got a little ways to go, but I’ve already been overwhelmed by the amount of support I’m getting. And seeing how it worked out for several of my good friends (Casey Black, Don Paris Schlotman, Paul Tabachneck and Niall Connolly have all successfully fueled albums using RocketHub) has given me a great deal of confidence, as have all their supportive words about the endeavor. It has been an absolute pleasure and a joy already to see in such a tangible way the depth of support I have as a person and an artist. It’s especially thrilling to get rocket fuel from folks I wasn’t expecting to get it from, or I didn’t even tell about it. It really is deeply moving, and gives me a lot of confidence going forward. As for E.W. Harris, I couldn’t possibly think higher of him as a person and a producer. He’s also one of the best songwriters I know, and so the input he can offer from that perspective is invaluable. I got the opportunity to sit in (and even do a bit of singing and New York cop-voicing) on his last project, which is the aforementioned Don Paris Schlotman album, and getting the chance to see him at work has left me absolutely confident that I’m in totally capable hands. With things as personal as songs you’ve written, it takes a lot of trust to share the responsibility of recording them with someone else, and I absolutely have that much trust in E.W. He’s got such an amazing ear for bringing serious depth to what could just be simple 3-chord pop songs, and I think the results of my songs being filtered through his imagination and technical wizardry are going to be incredible.  As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been beside myself with uncharacteristic sentiment at how strongly people are responding to the project. E.W. has worked on several albums for friends of mine in the past year or so, and of course they’re all as excited as I am about he and I working together. And the response to the project from all sorts of other people has also been incredible. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? I’d say that, particularly for artists who have been performing for a while, they should have confidence that they’re capable of fueling their projects. It’s a constant surprise from which angles rocket fuel might show up. I’d also say to make sure they have great rewards available (which I certainly hope I do!) And, also, it’s important to remember that you’re not asking for money (something that a lot of people, myself included, have a really hard time doing) but you’re offering rewards in exchange for support. It’s an amazing way to tap into your support to help develop creative projects without needing a super-rich uncle. Wow. Thank you Ryan for the honest insights and solid analysis. For lovers of good music, check out Ryan’s project. -Vlad

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  • April 6, 2011

Vancouver-Based Photo Class Crowdfunds New Show

By Sean Best The Langara Professional Photo-Imaging Grad Class of 2011 is connecting with the world through RocketHub in order to crowdfund a cool new Grad Show. Their project aims to support fourteen students who will be displaying their work for all to see at the Roundhouse Community Centre on May 7th, 2011 in Vancouver. We spoke with Amanda, who is the public face and leader of the campaign: What was the inspiration behind the photography project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to your group? The project we are running is helping us raise money to fund our Grad Show in Vancouver. We are a class of fourteen passionate photography students and this grad show is like our “final hurrah.” After two years of working very hard to develop strong portfolios and bodies of work, we are putting it all on display on the 7th of May at the Roundhouse Community Centre. The inspiration to start a RocketHub project was given to use by a member from our class by the name of Tijana. A photographer that she assisted in Toronto actually had a project of his own and we decided that RocketHub would be a great way for us to not only raise money and support, but to tell people about our event. It is important to our group because we want to make this event as successful as possible; the more funding we have to pay for the costs associated with the show, the better it will be! By Christoph Prevost That’s awesome - we’ve enjoyed looking at the photos from your whole team. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of student photography - how are your supporters responding? Our supporters have been amazing! Many parents and friends of students have gladly chosen to support us and we have nearly reached our goal. People have been responding especially well and I think that has to do with the incentives that we’ve offered. Who doesn’t need more art for their walls?! :) By Thorsten Gohl Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Don’t be afraid to set your goal high! Pass your RocketHub link on to everyone you know, because you never know who they could pass it on to. Come up with some juicy incentives that will keep people interested in exactly what it is that you are raising money for. RocketHub is a great tool and I’m sure that many of us will be utilizing it in the future! Thank you Amanda and Langara team. Check out their project and beautiful pictures, here. -Vlad

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  • April 5, 2011

Crowdfunding the Culinary Delights of Good Meat

This project makes the whole RocketHub team very hungry. Apparently, Orlando is on the cusp of a mobile gourmet revolution and the C&S Brisket Bus is one of a handful of vehicles leading the charge. The Brisket Bus is a joint venture between Chefs Stewart Barney and Chris Jaskulski, who have been chasing the dream of opening their own restaurant since they started working in kitchens as kids. Now they will make some of the best food in Orlando. We spoke with Steward and Chris about their crowdfunding campaign and their passion for good meat: What was the inspiration behind the cool food project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? The Brisket Bus is the product of some pretty lucky timing and circumstance. My partner (Stewart) and I (Chris) were both hired by a notable restaurant / banquet facility here in Orlando within a few weeks of each other. It wasn’t long before we struck up a friendship and realized that the we were both at the same point in our careers. We have both been in the restaurant industry since we were kids, both graduated from culinary school, both roughly the same age, and to be quite honest, both tired of dedicating our considerable skills to the benefit of others. We needed to make a change. It was at this point that we began pursuing options for self employment. The end result of this pursuit is the Brisket Bus.  A mobile gastro-delicatessen, the Brisket Bus aims to resurrect the fading culinary tradition of cured deli meats such as pastrami and corned beef and pair them with food forward techniques and flavors. We are, in the purest sense, doing what the original street cart vendors of New York City were doing in the early 1900s. Bringing the best quality food to the people in the most economical way possible. Our inspiration is an entrepreneurial spirit, a sense of reverence for historical culinary traditions as well as a desire to progress todays culinary techniques. RocketHub is proud to help you take the next step and serve your community. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the name of good food and small business - how are your supporters responding? This crowdfunding experience has been a real eye opener for us. We feel that RocketHub has helped cement a sense of community with our fans. Friends and family who have been with us through the process of launching a small business are now jumping at the chance to be a part of something that they believe in. We, in our first week on RocketHub, have been fueled by friends, family and strangers alike. It is worth noting that RocketHub is proving to be a strong marketing tool as well as a source for funding. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? The one piece of advice we would give to future creatives is to consider your timing carefully. Launch earlier than you feel you should. It’s a great motivator and the response from your fans will impress you. Don’t wait! Thank you for this mouth-watering treat. Keep up the good work. Fuel this project in the name of good food. -Vlad

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  • April 4, 2011

Paul Cullen - The Rock ‘n’ Roller Who Loves Good Wine

Paul Cullen’s musical career began when jazz guitarist, Stacey Boyd, turned him on to the bass guitar, noting there were a lack of bass players in the industry. After six months of practicing ten hours a day, Paul began playing with Stacey in a jazz trio. Paul spent the next nine years, on the road with various bands, before his big break. "I got a call from the legendary band, Bad Company, asking if I’d like to audition for the bass job. I said YES, and off to London I went." Paul spent the next three years touring the world with Bad Company, and played 254 shows entertaining over 2.5 million people. Now, Paul is innovating once again. He is crowdfunding a very cool music + wine + food mashup that he spoke with us about: What was the inspiration behind the music and wine project you are currently running on RocketHub? Why is it important to you? I always knew if done right, you could cross-market wine and music. They go so well together. I thought by taking marketing outside the norm could help both in popularity. I know how well they work together, because I live it every day. Our nightly ritual goes….Music on at 6:00 throughout the house, pop a bottle of wine and rustle up a gourmet meal, sit and chat about our day and our future days. Then we have friends over to experience the same and they are blown away. From our experience, it fits together quite well. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music and food - how are your supporters responding? So far so good….I think it such a unique thing, they are not sure what it is all about. But when they do, they jump on board. It takes time for everyone to “get it.” Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? I am early in this to tell too much, but If you have an idea this is the perfect vehicle to test it out. Thank you Paul. It’s a pleasure to have your new project be a part of the RocketHub community. To get involved, click here. -Vlad

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  • April 1, 2011

From Italy, With Good Music

Piero Bittolo Bon is a rising star in Italian jazz. He was voted as one of the best Italian jazz musicians in 2010 Musica Jazz critic’s poll and seemingly plays every possible instrument - and has one of the best musician’s websites we’ve ever seen. Now he is connecting with a global audience in order to crowdfund his upcoming record. We chatted with Piero, all the way from Italy, about his project and the lessons of global fundraising: What was the inspiration behind the international music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? This is the second album of Jump The shark, a sextet (formerly a quintet) playing my compositions. I really love playing with this band, mainly because Domenico, Pasquale, Danilo, Federico and Gerhard are such great musicians and great friends, so I can really trust them and let them put their own personality in my music, which is heavily charted but leaves a lot of space for individual and collective improvisation. I loved to record the first album, “Sugoi Sentai! Gattai!!” which had a great success in the jazz and avantgarde music scene, and I felt I had to record a new one to futher develop my musical thoughts and to be a better composer and bandleader, and hopefully to make this band play live a lot more! Also, I’m looking forward to print this cd because Dottor Pira from www.fumettidellagleba.org, one of my favourite comic artists, agreed to draw the artwork for the album. This is gonna be a masterpiece! We can’t wait to get our copy. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music and Italy - how are your supporters responding? I was surprised how fast the first funds arrived! RocketHub is really a thrilling new way for supporting music and arts in general, especially in a country like Italy where culture sadly has every day less and less money. I have a little but always increasing fanbase, which is responding well to this RocketHub project. I’m a little late in the schedule, but I’ll do my best to convince everybody that this is a project worth fueling! Beside of the cd, I’ll be glad to exchange my musical skills for lessons and home concerts for the help my supporters will give me. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Be creative about your rewards! Be convincing and inform your fanbase about every little news about your project! Use everything the internet gives at your disposal, social networks in particular, to reach and convince new fans! Thank you Piero for the international perspective. For lovers of jazz and good new music, check out this project. -Vlad

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  • March 31, 2011

The Bridge Made of Brass - Crowdfunding a Documentary

Connecting Brooklyn and the Balkans is easy when good Balkan music is involved. Brasslands is a documentary that takes a deep and honest look at this inspirational music, at the American and Balkan bands involved in its rapid proliferation, and the largest festival of Balkan music in the world: Guča. We spoke with Adam Pogoff of the Brooklyn-based team of Meerkat Media that is making this project into a reality through crowdfunding: What was the inspiration behind the cool film project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you, your team, and the Balkan music community? The Brasslands story began back in 2009. I was listening to the radio one night and heard a short BBC story about the world’s largest brass band festival in rural Serbia that attracts over half-a-million visitors. At that time I had already been heavily involved in the vibrant Balkan music and folk dance scene in New York, so I was intimately familiar with the contagious Balkan beats showcased at the annual music festival. I decided I NEEDED to make the pilgrimage to Serbia to see the festival with my own eyes, and began pre-production for a long-form radio documentary surrounding the event (my background is in radio production and ethnomusicology). Later that week I told my friend, Bryan Chang, a filmmaker, about my radio documentary and he convinced me to adapt it to film. Then, a few months later, we pitched the film to the Meerkat Media Arts Collective, a Brooklyn-based group of artists who collaborate on film and other media projects. Meerkat quickly embraced the story and production started in earnest. Fast forward one year, and a camera crew of nine touched down in Belgrade for a one-month shoot in the tiny village of Guča. After returning from Serbia with nearly 200 hours of stunning new footage we knew we had an epic story on our hands. Even though the bulk of our film takes place in Serbia, the story is deeply rooted in NY where there is a dedicated group of Balkan music and dance-lovers. The community is central to the story and we hope/anticipate our film will speak to them in a way they can relate to in a unique way.  That’s a great story of inspiration. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in film - how are your diverse supporters responding? The Brasslands RocketHub campaign is about more than just reaching our target fundraising goal (which is not to say that reaching our $10k goal still isn’t the most important part of our campaign). We are using RocketHub to spur a marketing blitz that aims to expand reach and get the word out about our film. So, for Brasslands, the crowdfunding experience has been an impetus for some important outreach that is easily forgotten when you’re knee-deep in production. Our fans are thrilled about the film and believe in the story. However only a percentage of them have actually given money thus far. This is a huge obstacle to overcome and will hopefully change once we extend outreach and make more pointed appeals. The Brasslands team is taking a tiered approach to the RocketHub campaign so that we don’t blow everything we’ve got at the start. We’ll be rolling out more pictures, sample scenes, blog entries and audio at regular intervals throughout the campaign. So, like all projects, the challenge is turning supporters into givers.  You’ve done a great job of making your campaign interactive. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Spend a lot of time and consideration writing a thoughtful project description. Choose the language carefully so that is a a call-to-action and creates a sense of urgency. For example, ‘your support is crucial in order for me to ______’.  Your description needs to showcase the well-conceived nature of your project so fuelers can give to a something they can believe in. If your project is a film, the trailer will be more important than the project description, so it better be impressive! If your film is already in production, show the breadth of footage you have. Rewards should have some special significance to the film and the donors you are trying to reach. They should be something people actually want. Since Brasslands takes place in Serbia, one of the main groups we hope to reach are Serbian-American’s. We are giving fuelers a bottle of Serbian plum brandy at a higher price point. This reward ties in with the film (watch the trailer to see why), and has special significance to one of our targeted communities. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug Brasslands. So go ahead and fuel our film! ‘Your support is crucial’ Thank you to Adam and Meerkat for the in-depth look at your inspiration, process, and project. Check out this moving project here. -Vlad

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  • March 30, 2011

Turbo Tuesday with BandBidder.com - Making Music Happen

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 will empower for little cost. Because of this, we have launched a regular column: Turbo Tuesdays. The goal is to highlight other organizations that share our empowerment ethos. If you or your company would like to be highlighted - please shoot us an email. —- Musicians and gig bookers are always in need of new and efficient tools to connect. Setting and accepting a fair price for a musical show can be tough. BandBidder.com tackles both of these pain points through a spiffy website. We spoke with Chris Kelly about the platform and its cool features: Tell me why you and your team started Bandbidder?  What are the pain points you are addressing in the market? BandBidder.com is an online auction platform that matches musicians and other entertainment providers with people wanting to book live entertainment.  I’m a gigging musician myself and I spoke with venue owners and asked them why they don’t advertise their gigs and requirements more.  They asked me ‘where?’ I told them I’m on Myspace, Facebook and some other music sites where I had paid to upload my videos and Soundcloud clips and they can find me there. They told me they weren’t on any of those sites!  I asked them why not? They said ‘We have businesses to run and we don’t have hours to spend online browsing profiles.” So I questioned why I’d spent so much time creating those profiles that only other musicians look at? I asked some more questions about what they wanted for advertising their gigs online. They wanted -           1. To say how much they can afford to pay on a particular gig           2. To say what kind of music suits their customers           3. New talent to show they are interested in their gig           4. A place to read feedback about musicians from other venues that have booked them. That’s when I created BandBidder.com. How does Bandbidder work? Entertainment bookers place an auction on BandBidder.com stating the date of the gig, the location, and the maximum price they are willing to pay. Entertainers who are members of BandBidder.com can place a bid for the gig, up to the maximum auction price. The entertainment bookers can then review the bids and choose the most suitable act for their needs. How long have you been up and running? What is your biggest success story to date? Biggest challenge? The BandBidder.com site has been live since December 2010 and auctions have already been successfully completed on the site in the US, Ireland and mainland Europe. BandBidder has been identified as having global potential and I am traveling to the US next month to speak with venue owners on the benefits of having great live music in their venue. Our biggest challenge is educating people that want to book live music. We give them the opportunity to try new forms of entertainment and retain customer numbers. We also want to teach new gigging entertainers how to find gigs and be as good as they can.  Where do you see your company in the next year or two? We see BandBidder as being a place where people go to book their live gig and where musicians can find regular work, wherever this is in the world. We will see a social element of BandBidder.com for people looking to find out what gigs are on and where. An important part of this is having a mobile presence with a gig location finder. What do you think Bandbidder does that no other online platform can offer? We offer venues a place to advertise their gig at their budget. Bringing venue owners to the site also lets them see what fantastic new talent is out there. Features for Entertainment Bookers ·         Free, easy to use platform to advertise their needs directly to entertainers. ·         Access to a broad and varied database of user-rated entertainers. ·         Additional promotion through social media websites. ·         Full control over pricing – booker states maximum price at the outset. ·         No obligation to accept any bid and they choose the winning act, not the cheapest. ·         Flexibility to adjust to their market by only booking entertainment at shorter notice when required. ·         Regular email updates on live entertainment trends and BandBidder.com offers. ·         Ability to place  auction as a featured auction with images. Features for Entertainers ·         Platform provides a searchable database of entertainment gigs – locally and worldwide. ·         Online profile with a unique URL to showcase multimedia, along with background bio information. ·         Gig Agent – Instant email notifications about work in their area. ·         Ability to bid on as many gigs as they want. ·         Regular email updates on live entertainment trends and BandBidder.com offers. ·         Independent verification of references. We’re currently looking for Artists to sign up to BandBidder.com. It is free to sign up and create your profile.  If you are not a musician, please pass the word on to musicians you know.  Follow us on Facebook.com/BandBidder.  Follow us on Twitter.com/BandBidder.

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  • March 29, 2011

From the Crowd, Faces - Canadian Crowdfunding Success

Both haunting and inspirational, Philip Robbins’ collection of photographs “Faces:Newfoundland,” is just plain good. Philip has created a moving set of portraits (and beyond), and now his crowdfunding campaign aims to bring these images to the world. We spoke with Philip about his inspirations and what the future brings: What was the inspiration behind the photography project you are currently running on RocketHub?   The inspiration for my project, Faces: Newfoundland, is a little complicated. The ‘Faces’ series started as a video projection called Faces: 4min13sec that was made for a ‘guerilla’ DIY drive-in organized by local artists [Daniel Payne, Jillian Parsons, Gerri Lynn Mackey, and myself] last summer. Since then I have created a 4’x8’ triptych/billboard, many smaller prints, and a video installation called Faces: Broadway. This last projection was a series of a dozen faces [including a local politician, musician (Allison Crowe), actors, and artists] projected onto the windows of a local business.  The common theme of each project was the intentional creation of implied narratives. I removed the context, audio, and descriptions allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks. The resulting scenarios develop and change based on what the viewer brings to the installation.  My proposed process is simple. Travel to locations where I know people [to cut down my costs] and create dynamic portraits outside, using natural light, and making them equal by using a common backdrop for each. The process evolved from my fondness for Richard Avedon’s In the American West series. Avedon traveled the American west creating outstanding portraits of the people, and characters, he found along the way. Each portrait was made in front of a white backdrop and then printed at human scale. The exhibition images will be large, 36”x22”, black and white digital prints named for the volunteer and the location in which they were taken, ex. Philip (CornerBrook,NL).  The inspiration to launch the project on RocketHub came from podcasts. It seems that many indie ventures are trying this method of fundraising and I decided to take a rick. To put myself, and my artwork, out there and see how people responded. Worse case I would raise $0 and best case I would have enough money raised to finalize my project and maybe print a small artist’s catalog. We’re big fans of Avedon’s work at RocketHub HQ as well - a worthy source of inspiration. Why is it important to you, your team, and the wider community of Newfoundland? The project is important to me because I had an idea that I just couldn’t shake. I researched RocketHub and I felt nervous, uncomfortable, and inspired. I decided it was better to try crowdfunding and fail then never having tried it in the first place. A unique element of crowdfunding is that it only works if your family, colleagues, and community get involved and show their support for your project. Their contributions are a tangible symbol of their support and energy towards you. It’s amazing what a community can do when it comes together and supports its members. In the end it’s not important how the work itself is received but the process it took to get it made. However, like all artists, I do hope that my photographs are successful and engaging to everyone who sees them.  I named the project Faces: Newfoundland to give the portraits context and to promote the island. RocketHub is a world wide organization and I hoped that people would stumble across my project and want to get involved. Newfoundland and Labrador is a beautiful province and is renowned for its scenery and its  people. It’s the people who live, visit, and move here that I want to document. Unfortunately, it’s not within my budget to travel to Labrador at this time as part of this project. However, I would like to complete that element of the project sometime soon. My goal is to document a journey and the characters I discover along the way. The journey forces me out of my comfort zone, it forces me to interact with strangers, and to alter my boundaries. It allows me to re-visit locations I can’t get to regularly and to re-establish contacts and friendships along the way. In a less obvious way Faces: Newfoundland is also about the limitations of arts funding in Newfoundland and Labrador. There’s one source of arts funding, they awards grants twice a year, and they are difficult to get because they aren’t distributed proportionally across the province. If I were to apply for a regular grant it would likely get rejected. How can an artist develop if they’re never given a chance? You’re doing quite well engaging your community. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of photography - how are your supporters responding? I’m glad I tried this experiment, but I have mixed feelings about crowdfunding and my role as a ‘pioneer’. When I signed up for RocketHub I had no real expectations, but I wanted my project to succeed. I just felt compelled to try. I wondered if anyone would donate their own money to me and what people would think of my project. Filling out the project profile turned out to be harder than writing a regular grant proposal because I knew it would be visible to the world. I must admit that, initially, I wanted people to stumble upon my project and feel compelled to donate. I soon discovered that self-promotion requires a lot of hard work, a plan, and determination. It was a struggle to publicize my project and not spam all of my friends and family. I had to target my message and social media tools effectively. The response from my supporters has been phenomenal. I’m lucky to have such a supportive infrastructure of family members, friends, and colleagues who donated what they could. It means the world to me that the people I respect deeply supported me. However, I must admit a little hesitation in discussing my ‘success’ because if it wasn’t for a huge donation from my twin brother I wouldn’t be close to my goal.  It seems that you’ve found the right balance of promo and family support. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? I don’t know how qualified I am to make suggestions, but along the way I have been given good advice.  Be clear about what your project is, what you need, and document exactly where the money is going. Make the rewards as fun as you can. Make a video, be on topic, and don’t take to long to make your pitch. Engage people, find unique and meaningful ways to solicit donations, and try not to spam your family and friends. Contact local media. Be yourself. Now you are crowdfunding veteran. Click here to get involved in this cool project. -Vlad

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  • March 28, 2011

The Sweet Sounds of Sweet Soubrette

"Take Amanda Palmer covering Radiohead and then take Phoebe Legere and drain out the jazz and replace it with Jenny Lewis circa The Execution Of All Things and then throw on some fishnet stockings and you have Sweet Soubrette…this time she has a full band and the songs have texture and beauty." - Rock NYC …Wow! We agree. Ukulele-powered indie rock band Sweet Soubrette is one of the coolest musical groups we’ve had on RocketHub. They recently released a cool new album and have now engaged their fans to crowdfund a new tour. We spoke to their fearless leader, Ellia Bisker, about the journey: What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you and your band? The background to this project is that in early January we released the second Sweet Soubrette record, Days and Nights, which was two years in the making, and we needed a project to focus on following our big release show. We had worked really hard on that—rehearsing a huge backing band, making sure the vinyl shipment was going to arrive in time, promoting the release to the media, getting people to come out and pack the venue, which they did. The support of our fans and friends was amazing. But once the show was done and the album was officially launched, we needed a next thing to focus on to keep the momentum going. Not just for the sake of morale (though I’ll admit, after the big show was over and life went back to normal—the letdown!) but because when you’re an independent musician, an album release isn’t a single event, it’s a process, and you need a new reason all the time to keep reminding the world that your music is out there. Otherwise you get absorbed into the background noise. So this tour was both the answer to “what next?” and a pretext for reaching out to our fans in a new way after the official release. We play a lot in NYC, but we’ve never toured as a band before now. To play in other places in full rock band formation is a big step for Sweet Soubrette—we’ll be playing our songs for the fans in these towns the way they’re intended to sound, and we’ll be playing for a lot of strangers. The challenge is to turn those strangers into fans. It’s exciting. We are really proud of this record—it sounds amazing, and we’ve gotten a tremendous response from the first wave of listeners. So we’re ready to do whatever it takes to introduce it to a wider audience. The other challenge is funding the tour, because it’s expensive to drive around in a rental van for a solid week and feed the musicians and then play for $5 door splits or uncertain hat passes because you aren’t an established headliner yet. It’s an investment in the future, but you get a chicken and egg problem financially. That’s why crowdfunding seemed like a great way to let the people who are excited about the music now help us get it to the next level. Here’s to a great tour and a slew of awesome shows. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music - how are your supporters responding? After a week and a half, we’ve raised more than half of our goal amount. So the response has been good so far. Some of the support was what I would have hoped and expected—the people I’m closest to personally have definitely come through. But there have also been some wonderful surprises—a work friend who gave more than I would have anticipated, a fan all the way in Australia who gave $120, a mystery fan who gave $250 anonymously (though I expect to find out that person’s identity eventually, since the reward for $250 is a house show…).  On top of the financial support, there have been some interesting ancillary benefits—a performance opportunity I wouldn’t have had otherwise, some unexpected press, an opportunity to connect with old friends and fans. This crowdfunding campaign has also given me some serious artistic encouragement—it’s been incredibly motivating and affirming to see people get excited about being involved in this project. I’ve done a little educating, too. After a friend responded to my request for support by saying, “I’m planning my own tour and making my next recording, so I can’t spare any cash, but I’m rooting for you!” I pointed out that if he also did a crowdfunding campaign, I’d reciprocate, which would likely generate additional support (beyond whatever amount we gave back and forth) through added visibility. Plus I think it’s a great to remind yourself that it feels good to support other people’s projects when you believe in their work. He gave $20. Great community perspective. Any advice for musicians looking to crowdfund a similar project? It’s good if you’ve laid the groundwork by already being in the habit of reaching out to your fans/friends to update them about your project, so that it doesn’t seem out of the blue when you contact them for funding—you’ve already built a relationship. Come up with reasons to remind people repeatedly about your campaign—a new video, a show announcement, updates about the project itself. Not everyone opens every e-mail, or pays much attention to what they read. Who knows, maybe the third time’s the charm! Be persistent about reaching out to people individually, not just in mass announcements. It can be tedious, but tends to be more effective. Plus it gives you a chance to get back in contact with people you may not have spoken to in a while, which is an investment in the relationship, even if not a contribution—and maybe you’ll just reconnect now, but then they’ll support your next project.      It can be hard to ask for things without feeling like you’re begging, or imposing on people, so I think it’s helpful to remind yourself that you’re not asking for a handout—you’re offering people a chance to get involved in a cool project, not to mention whatever exciting rewards you’ve come up with. In other words, there’s something in it for them too.  Reach out to absolutely everyone, because it’s hard to predict who will catch fire about what you’re doing, and people will surprise you. Thank you Ellia for the honest insights. Good luck with the rest of your campaign and with the tour. Check out Sweet Soubrette here. -Vlad

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  • March 25, 2011