RocketHub’s Takeoff Artist of The Month, April 2011 - John Schmitt

Spike Hill in Williamsburg, Brooklyn hosts RocketHub’s Takeoff Tuesday - a weekly music series designed to entertain and support musical artists through networking, workshops and career enhancing showcases.  Every month an exceptional artist is highlighted here on RocketHub, and the April spotlight goes to John Schmitt - one of New York City’s most exciting young storytellers.   John Schmitt was born and raised in Buffalo, NY, and his songs are a direct reflection of his experiences growing up there. John is a three-time ASCAPLUS Award Winner for new artists, a 2008 winner of the SongCircle Songwriting Contest, 2006 ArtVoice Magazine nominee for best musician…Now he has the distinction of being RocketHub’s Takeoff Artist of The Month for April 2011. We had the chance to talk with John about his creative process and upcoming projects: Tell us about what subjects inspire you as a songwriter I get inspired by so many things!  People I see on the subway, writing on a billboard, other friends’ music, and my own personal interactions.  Lately, I’ve been using images from popular literature, like Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” as imagery to use while writing.  I really don’t have a set system for writing, as a result! I saw that you opened up for Dave Matthews Band! That’s pretty awesome, how did that happen? The DMB show was really incredible.  I got to play it with my friend Caleb Hawley, and Byron Zanos.  We were contacted by SongCircle, a NYC-based company that runs showcases and songwriting contests, and asked if we could play.  I immediately jumped at it, and my Mother flew in from Buffalo, along with my sister and my aunt.  It was such a great time, the crowd was great, and best of all, I had a great vantage point to see the DMB show! What projects do you have upcoming that are most exciting to you? My next project is to record my song “Going Back”, my newest song.  Everyone tells me how much they like that song, and wish they had a definitive audio version.  So, I’m using RocketHub to fund the project, which should be up this week.  I will be touring the Midwest, the South, and California this year, and will be going to Europe in 2012!   Congrats John! and much thanks for being a part of our creative community.  -Brian John is currently touring the U.S., and has opened for major artists such as Ingrid Michaelson, Allison Kraus, and Dave Matthews Band. For more info on what John is up to - check out   

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  • May 3, 2011

Classical Theatre Becomes New in Toronto

Scott Moyle is bringing classical theatre to the future. His Urban Bard Productions is a recently-formed Toronto theatre company. They do classical theatre in unusual places, staging awesome plays in urban locations to tell the story in a way that is fresh, accessible, and exciting. Their previous productions of ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’ were huge successes. Now, Scott is looking to crowdfund ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and was gracious enough to share his thoughts about the process with me: What was the inspiration behind the classical theatre project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? Urban Bard Productions is at a tricky point right now: we’re really starting to pick up creative momentum, and our reputation is picking up substantial momentum beyond our immediate circle of contacts. But we’re running on empty financially, because part of our mandate is keeping classical theatre accessible with a Pay-What-You-Can admission cost, so we’ve only ever managed to break even. RocketHub seemed like a great opportunity to get the season on its feet, while also raising some awareness of the company. This specific project, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is a play that’s very dear to me: it was the first play I directed way back in highschool, it’s one of Shakespeare’s funniest works, and it’s a show that we have exactly the right cast for right now. Oh, and it’s a great contrast to the show we’ve got planned to follow it up: the dark and disturbing Richard III. Sounds like it’s the perfect time for a crowdfunding campaign. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of theatre in Canada - how are your supporters responding? I’m having a great time. I knew we had plenty of people who support and value our work, but I had no clue how dramatically RocketHub would galvanise them around this project - I just about fell out of my seat when our first $500 fueler showed up! It was also a fantastic exercise to think through potential rewards, particularly the ones that take advantage of Urban Bard’s unique approach to staging the classics. This whole experience is proving tremendously fun right now, and (at the time of writing) our campaign still has seven weeks to go, so I’m really excited to see what happens next. Our supporters are responding with an overwhelming amount of positive feedback and generosity - we’re 10% of the way through our campaign and we’re nearly halfway to our goal. I couldn’t ask for better friends, colleagues, and supporters. We’re glad that we can play a small part in your success. You’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Having a good bit of video seems to have made a substantial difference. It’s crazy enough that strangers are intrigued, but sticks close enough to the aesthetic of our previous shows that our fans can relate to it. Janine Harris of Keyring Media donated her time and equipment and expertise to make the video look as professional as it does, and we went through a lot of drafts of that speech to make sure the message was clear, entertaining, and representative of our brand. And, of course, a small army of my talented friends showed up and did amazing things on the day of the shoot - the actors were so great that we got it in just three takes! Never underestimate the power of the soft sell! Very few of the messages that I’ve sent around have had a request for financial support, because the video does that all on its own. All I’ve done is ask people to check out the video (promising a swordfight and knife-juggling probably helps), and linked them to the RocketHub page. A hard sell right in the initial message could turn potential fuelers off, but there’s a lot of merit in showing them a sample of of our work before asking for their support. And finally, though this may seem obvious, the blog at has an insane amount of priceless advice for potential Creatives. A great deal of what we’ve done has followed the strategies laid out on the blog, and it seems to be paying off spectacularly well. Rather than reinventing the wheel, potential Creatives would do well to look at what successful campaigns have in common. There is huge room in a campaign’s content for originality, but I think the structure of a successful campaign is probably pretty clear. Thank you Scott and Urban Bard for your awesome project and innovative take on theare. Check out one of the best pitch videos we’ve ever see, here. -Vlad  

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  • May 2, 2011

From Italy: Gallo & The Roosters Make a New Sound

Danilo Gallo is looking to make his third record by leveraging the power of a global crowd. He comes to RocketHub all the way from Italy and I had the pleasure to quickly learn a bit more about his campaign: What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? The music project I’m running on rockethub is basically the band which I lead and for which I write, I compose and arrange everything. So on one hand it is a challenge, on the other hand, it is the natural evolution of my musical point of view, as I’ve already made two albums with this band, and this project will help to make the third one. So it’s very important for my musical growth. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music in Italy - how are your supporters responding? I heard about RocketHub from friends, musicians, and so I was very curious and I find this way of crowdfunding very innovative and “fresh”. The response is quite good, I don’t know if I’m a pioneer, but after me many other musicians and collegues got interested with RocketHub and will try to do the same with their projects. Thanks Danilo for flying with team RocketHub. Check out Danilo’s great music here. -Vlad

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  • April 28, 2011

Building the Future through the Manguinhos Complex - Crowdfunding for the Present

Caira Conner is heading to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to help build an infrastructure redevelopment project focused on improving quality of life in the surrounding favelas. She is utilizing the power of her family, friends, and other supporters to get her there. Lead architect Jorge Mario Jáuregui and his team at the Atelier Metropolitano began the project in response to demand by the city government of Rio de Janeiro. Jáuregui’s goal is to integrate the favelas into the rest of the city by introducing infrastructure, landmarks, and facilitating services like water and electricity. Here is a glimpse into Caira’s journey and her future role: What was the inspiration behind the international research project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? This project stemmed from a research paper I wrote on the World Cup as a potential catalyst for peacebuilding and socio-economic development. I spoke with a number of scholars (including ones who felt that to-date, the WC had not effectively impacted its respective host countries’ economies in the slightest), and the most significant feedback I received was that if it could indeed be a catalyst for change, it certainly wasn’t going to happen under current measurements. I discovered Jorge Mario Jáuregui (the lead architect behind the Manguinhos Complex) at the Museum of Modern Art in an exhibition called “Small Scale, Big Change.” Jáuregui’s work emphasizes the idea of public space as a social connector and I just fell in love with that concept. In light of the World Cup research I was already doing, it seemed like a reasonable move to try and connect the two. So much of the criticism of the World Cup I read was based on ignorance of, or lack of sensitivty to, the local culture of its host countries:  for example, razing down buildings and infrastructure to make way for new stadiums that probably won’t be used again once the tournament ships out. I thought what Jáuregui got especially “right” was the idea of not beginning from scratch. The vision of his organization is rooted in fostering existing potential, as in the case of the Manguinhos Complex. I pitched the idea to a professor who then encouraged me to enroll in his Applied Peacebuilding class. What I hope my research will be is an examination of how Jáuregui’s methods could be an example that the coming of the World Cup is opportunity for beneficial develpment for societies in disequilibrium.   A worthy cause for travel! How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of pro-social work in Brazil - how are your supporters responding?  It’s been a positive one thus far. That said, it’s tricky asking people for money, no matter the cause. (At least I think so.) However, I’m fortunate to have an extraordinary number of extraordinary people in my life willing to vouch for me. This project was originally presented in a grad school class at NYU and is still very much a work in progress-there’s a lot of questions to which I don’t have the answers and may not for some time…if ever. The people supporting me in this venture are especially fantastic because they’re giving me constructive criticism. I certainly have my work cut out for me but I’m looking forward to getting to Brazil and gaining some on-the-ground research experience. Very cool. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project?  I decided to use RocketHub because I was turned down for a research grant for this project. I’d been hesitant to even apply for the grant in the first place because it was so competitive and I doubted my chances, as well as my grant proposal writing capabilities. When I expressed my uncertainty, my uncle commented, “If you don’t apply, I can assure you that you will absolutely not get it.” So I applied, and then I didn’t get it. (Sigh.) Crowdfunding wasn’t the original method I had in mind when I thought about financing this project but I realized the research likely wouldn’t happen at all if I couldn’t figure out a way to pay for the plane ticket. I’ve heard from a number of people who’ve thought about crowdfunding a project and then didn’t because they didn’t want to engage in the awkwardness that can arise by reaching out to your network and asking for financial assistance. I certainly understand that perspective, but my uncle’s logic still applies. Even if I don’t hit my target goal, my project still gets exposure and I still get feedback on how to improve it. Thank you Caira for being so brave and for trying out crowfunding - it seems to have paid off. Help Caira get to Brazil, here. -Vlad

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  • April 27, 2011

RocketHub’s Gibson Music Retreat Video Recap

Browser does not support iframes! Documenting the Gibson Music Retreat in NYC - including music and interviews with NONVIOLENCE, and our own Brian Meece.

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  • April 26, 2011

Skating with a Crowd - A New Way to Fund an Athletic Career

Michelle is a 13-year-old skating talent. Kate is her dedicated, passionate, and supportive mom. Together they have taken the best parts of crowdfunding in order to support Michelle’s career. From Fox Television to prominent figure skating blogs, Michelle and Kate have captured the attention of many new fans and have built incredible momentum. I had the pleasure of chatting with Kate about their awesome campaign: What was the inspiration behind the ice skating project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? I desperately needed to find a way to fund my daughter’s skating career. It is a very expensive sport, and we have very modest means. I was considering more traditional methods of fundraising like a dinner and silent auction, but I had done that before and it is a very labor intensive way to raise money. Then I caught a story on the morning news about crowdfunding, and I decided to do some research. I looked at a number of crowdfunding sites, and settled on RocketHub.I liked the format, the easy to follow directions and the fact that it was not ‘all or nothing’. Plus, it seemed a little more welcoming to diverse projects like our sports oriented one. This project is crucial to keeping my daughter on the ice this year. There may possibly be more money available from sponsors, scholarships and grants as she moves higher in the sport, but at this level there is not a lot of those options.  We’re proud to have you on RocketHub :) How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of sports and in support of your daughter - how are your supporters responding? My experience, and I think I can speak for my daughter as well, has been life changing. I have been profoundly moved by the support we have received from family, friends, and total strangers. We have received money from across the entire country, and support from people in Asia and Europe. How cool is that? I have connected in new ways with relatives and old friends, and made some wonderful new ones. Plus we have shared Michelle’s story with so many people, and now they will be able to follow her career in the coming competitive season. We have amazing supporters. 1100 people have viewed her YouTube video. 63 people have shared her RocketHub page on Facebook, and another 43 have recommended her Fox9 news story. Countless others have shared her page with their email lists, and 4 blogs have connected to her RocketHub page. One friend connected us with the local news, another posted Michelle’s story on a Chinese community forum. We have received donations from $5.00 to $1000, and they are all important to us. We are very grateful for all the help we have received. You have a great story and you’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? I think the most important thing to realize is that this is also a lot of work. It cannot happen by itself. It has to be nurtured and continually fed. Every avenue you can think of must be explored and you have to be ready to stretch yourself and step outside your comfort zone. I spend time at least every other day reaching out to more people, updating the page, thanking people, and trying to think of ways to keep it fresh. Just try and remember that your job is to get your story out, far and wide. Everyone who encounters it is free to help or walk away. The more encounters there are, the more yeses there will be. I encourage Creatives to research and reach out to blogs in your area of interest. They can be invaluable. We have recently been contacted by a Korean figure skating blogger who learned about Michelle’s story through another blog that posted about our efforts. He posted a story about her today. So the connections continue to grow. The news story was a big boon to our efforts, also. Even that was a direct result of crowdfunding. A friend of ours is a reporter in Washington, DC. She read our initial posts on FB and thought it made a compelling story so she shared our story with a reporter here in the Twin Cities. That reporter contacted us, and did a great job in telling our story. I am not sure how many people saw the initial airing of our story, but we were able to share it far and wide. It convinced a number of people to give a second time, which completely took me by surprise. Lastly, I would like to say that if I can do this, than just about anyone can. I am 51 years old and while I am not technologically illiterate, this is all new to me. But I was able to take the tools RocketHub offered and use them successfully. You’ve done everything right and worked very intelligently. Thank you Michelle and thank you Kate. Support this project here. -Vlad

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  • April 25, 2011

Vickie Raye Hits the Radio

Vickie Raye has a passion for making good music. Now she is engaging her fans and creating a new record and radio release through the power of the crowd. We caught up with her to get the scoop behind the music. What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? After so many years of putting my music career on hold, for one reason or another, I finally really focused my efforts the last 5 years 100% on my music, initially as a songwriter in Nashville, and now as an artist. It took a lot of time and dedication as a songwriter to really earn the respect of some of the writers I respected and once I started to achieve that someone beckoned the question “why aren’t you an artist? You have a great voice.” Well after some thought, I returned to my “artist” roots and really started attacking the industry with artistry as my focus. I believe that I have something to say and breaking the stereotypical norms of the business became a catalyst for me. So finishing THIS project is different than the rest because it’s totally deliberate. Every song, every production. I didn’t want to just throw  bunch of songs onto a CD and sell it….I realy want to make a statement with this next album. I am older than a lot of artists that people will find now a days and it’s important for me to show that dreams are possible at any age and music has no age limits…Good music is good music, and a great song is a great song….It’s about being REAL…. I am so excited to see what the future holds for me and others like myself; and RocketHub has provided a phenomenal launching pad to really get out there and flying. Rock on! How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music in Nashville - how are your supporters responding? Ha ha! I don’t know if anyone can call ME a “pioneer”….but the crowdfunding concept that RocketHub provides is such a unique opportunity I couldn’t pass it up. Many here in town use some of the other companies out there, but something really spoke to me when I discovered RocketHub. I think my supporters are responding well to the “soft launch” so far….we’re getting ready soon to really rev things up and hopefully exceed our goal. Very nice - thank you! Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Great question. My only advice, for what it’s worth, is 1.) to really take the time to THINK about the rewards you’re offering and give possible supporters something that they can’t get anywhere else, 2.) Don’t be scared to just take the chance and see what happens (you have nothing to lose with RocketHub) 3.) You have to believe in your project 150% and trust that your passion will translate and be contagious to the possible supporters. and lastly, enjoy the whole ride no matter where it takes you! Thank you Vickie for your music and inspirational campaign. Check out her songs here. -Vlad

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  • April 22, 2011

Summer Schlock: Where 1977 is Here Again

Summer Schlock is a seven-chacacter, ensemble-driven, backstage musical comedy set during one wild week at a summer stock theatre in that glorious year – 1977. Wow! Kevin Carter has led an outstanding crowdfunding campaign to bring Summer Schlock to an NYC staged reading. We caught up with him and chatted about his partnership with director Andy Sandberg (Tony Award: HAIR) and the journey that’s brought them to RocketHub. What was the inspiration behind the musical theatre project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? Summer Schlock is important to me because it is the first show where I’m writing the whole thing from scratch. There is no source material, it’s not based on a movie, so it will all succeed or fail on my shoulders. This is also the first time I’m doing a reading without a theatre company (Ergo Theatre company produced the readings of my first two shows.) and I want to prove I can do it on my own and get the right people in to see it. It’s amazing when I’m the one putting the money together, I’m so much more gung-ho about making sure this reading succeeds and leads to the next step! Of course, I also have the talented (and Tony-winning) Andy Sandberg on board as director and he has such an amazing eye and gets the feel of the piece (even though I do have to explain some of the 70’s references from time to time…which doesn’t make me feel old at all!). The inspiration behind the show was severalfold (if that’s even a word). After my last show, which was a big 19 actor, full orchestra, lots of sets, lots of kids, flying, etc, after all that, I wanted to scale it back. I’ve always loved backstage comedies. Noises Off, the first time I saw it, literally exhausted me from laughing so hard.  So I wanted to do something like that. I love and grew up musically in the 70’s (my first concert was Captain & Tennille) and a cast member once coined a word to describe my ‘sound’, “Kevinties”. And I love big, brassy broads and hunky shirtless men. So, put that all together and, voila! That sounds like a wild ride. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of theatre - how are your supporters responding? This is my first time ever doing anything like this and I’m really amazed at the response. The people from my distant past that just see it on Facebook and donate, people I didn’t even reach out to personally! And the size of the donations floors me. I was expecting lots of $20 and $50, but those are in the minority. I had to get over feeling like I was ‘begging’, and as you say on your site, make it feel like it’s giving people the opportunity to be part of something fun. Crowdfunding is a very powerful mechanism. You’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Well, I have to give credit to my amazing friends and family first. And a big shout-out to my former co-workers and employers, they make up about half the contributors. But to start, I just followed the advice on your site. I reached out to the most likely supporters first and broke the emails up into groups; ‘co-workers’, ‘former co-workers’, ‘family’, ‘former cast members’, ‘friends’ and sent out tailored emails to each group gradually over the course of about 5 days. Then I’d thank the contributors on Facebook with a link to the site. Then about a week in, I sent a ‘progress report’ to all those groups, not asking for more money, just saying ‘hey look where we are’. I also changed the song link on the site so there’d be something new to come to the site for. Thank you Kevin! We can’t wait to see this hit the stage - get involved here. -Vlad

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  • April 20, 2011

Musicians Institute Hosts The State of The New Music Industry Discussion

About a week ago, on April 7, 2011 in Hollywood, California, I had the pleasure of participating in an innovative panel discussion at the Musicians Institute. This was the first installment of an ongoing Social Media Seminar Series with host Joy Kennelly and special guest panelists Terra Naomi, Evan Lowenstein, “Jingle” Jared Gutstadt, and yours truly. Four key trends emerged from the discussion: The music industry is broken and no one really knows what the future will bring. Social media is beginning to fill the void - including Facebook, Twitter, RocketHub, Jingle Punks, StageIt, and other innovative companies. There is some strategy involved to being a successful social media maven - but perseverance and the ability to quickly evolve are more important. Know who you are as an artist, don’t compromise your core, but be ready to tailor your messaging for the appropriate social media channels. So artists must do their homework, experiment, and be open to adopt new tools. Check out the official Musicians Institute recap here and Joy Kennelly’s “Joy Writer” recap here. It was an honor to sit next to these trailblazers. Stay tuned for more from the Musicians Institute and RocketHub. -Vlad

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  • April 19, 2011

Community-Based Web Design Comes To Life in Philadelphia

The dream is to design and build (along with its partner Shopify site) all in one 10-hour Site Nite work session. The event will be brought to life by PhilaMade’s amazing community of volunteer members, video and photo archived, and tweeted/blogged to give onlookers a live peak into a grand experiment. The man behind the plan and uber-successful crowdfunding campaign is Philadelphia-native, Joe Rinaldi. PhilaMade is dedicated to to celebrating, inspiring and cultivating creative brilliance in the Philadelphia community and we spoke to Joe about his process: What was the inspiration behind the community programming project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? Our RocketHub project was inspired by the grassroots creative organization I’ve been fortunate enough to help launch over the past two years, PhilaMade. PhilaMade is an organization dedicated to celebrating, inspiring and cultivating creative brilliance in the Philadelphia community. Our membership consists of designers, developers, writers and other folks from the advertising and design community in the Philadelphia area. We host a full slate of programming, ranging from happy hours, to professional development events including town hall meetings, Show & Tell, and round table discussions to karaoke. While our organization has grown tremendously over the last 18 months, and we enjoy an amazing online dialog via Twitter  (@PhilaMade) and Facebook, we have no web presence of our own to date. We’ve been our own worst client… It seemed anticlimactic to merely launch a site after all this time, so we raised the stakes creating a grand experiment. Site Nite was born.  On Site Nite, a handful of designers, developers, UX, project management and content folks, all hailing from a variety of creative teams, are going to walk into a room. After one full 8 hour work session, hopefully all of those same folks will walk out again (some limping I’m sure) along with a freshly minted PhilaMade web site. We’re going to document the experience in a variety of ways and publish those accounts to the site.  What can some seriously talented folks, working collaboratively, accomplish in one fell swoop? We’ll soon see. You’ve built a whole community around this project. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of web development in the Philly area - how are your supporters responding? The response from the RocketHub team, from our membership, and from the larger audience RocketHub delivered, has been overwhelming. We shattered our goal within two days of launch, and continue to be fueled by generous supporters as we pass the halfway mark of our project. RocketHub gave us a platform to communicate both directly with our group’s constituency, as well as a larger, interested audience.   As a result of this groundswell of support, we’ve started to identify additional functionality for the site that will go live in subsequent phases, as well as begun investigating other opportunities for PhilaMade to fund future events and projects, all fueled by our growing RocketHub funds. Every penny collected over our goal will be put to good use. Thank you for your kind words. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? I think it is important to identify a well defined project goal that will by its nature, excite your audience. I’m going to do ‘something’ awesome, is a pretty hollow promise. Awesome gifts are a good enticement, but creating a goal people are passionate about is more helpful. Creating excitement about the acheivability of this goal raises the stakes, and exponentially increases engagement.  When designing a crowdfunding community based project, make sure it is something your community wants, and present it to them in an exciting way. Thank you Joe for bringing your inspired community to RocketHub. Check out this successful project, here. -Vlad

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  • April 18, 2011