It takes money to make music.
The process of renting a studio, mixing and mastering songs and packaging the finished product can cost thousands of dollars. It’s no wonder that local musicians, most of whom live on a strict student budget, have looked for alternative ways to fund their projects.
Eyes Lips Eyes, a local band that relocated to Los Angeles, is the latest of several Provo bands to use a “crowdfunding” website to finance its music endeavors.
Crowdfunding is a term used to describe the process in which a group of people pledge money, usually via the Internet, to support any variety of projects launched by another person or group. Brandon Hatch, a BYU alumnus and bassist for Eyes Lips Eyes, said the idea of relying on fans to fund their latest record — a project that will probably be released by a major record label — wasn’t immediately appealing to his band.
“At first we were a little hesitant to ask people for money,” Hatch said. “But then we started to realize that the concept is pretty cool. We almost prefer that people get the album by participating in the pledge. It gets them involved and they get to feel a part of the process.”
Eyes Lips Eyes launched its campaign on a website called Pledge Music, which focuses solely on raising money for music projects. Pledge Music, along with other crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, provides a platform for bands to urge fans to pledge money with a variety of incentives and creative, often quirky, description videos.
Incentives for donating to Eyes Lips Eyes’ project range from an advanced digital copy of the finished album (for $10 pledges) to a skydiving date with the band (for a mere $5,000 pledge). Hatch said creative and worthwhile incentives are what make crowdfunding projects fun for fans.
“You get to pick a pledge amount and for that pledge you get some awesome stuff,” Hatch said. “It’s like going into a store and purchasing something, except all the money goes into making a record by one of your favorite bands.”
Baby Ghosts is another local band that turned to crowdfunding. Last October the band launched a Kickstarter campaign to help get some songs recorded. Bret Meisenbach, the band’s drummer, said part of the reason they chose to use Kickstarter was that several other Provo bands — including Book on Tapeworm, The Mighty Sequoyah and Timber! — had successfully funded their projects through the website.
“I’ve been in bands for a while and I know that it takes a lot to get your music recorded,” Meisenbach said. “We decided to do it because it seemed like a fast route.”
Baby Ghosts ended up reaching their goal, thanks in large part to generous donations from their close friends.
“All of our donations came from really good friends,” Meisenbach said. “But they all got cool incentives in return, so it’s better than just begging your friends for money. You don’t have to put pressure on them that way.”
Although Baby Ghosts was successful with its campaign, Meisenbach is still on the fence as to whether or not Kickstarter campaigns are good for local bands.
“If you’re a new band it’s good because your close friends are excited and it can help you get off to a quick start,” he said. “And if you’re a really big band it might work well because your fans will probably be more excited about the incentives. But bands in the middle might have a harder time.”
Successful Kickstarter projects by Baby Ghosts and others make crowdfunding campaigns seem like a no-brainer for any local band. Some local musicians, however, aren’t convinced bands should place the onus of financing an album on their fans.
Chance Clift (also known as Chance Lewis, his emcee moniker) released an album last month the old-fashioned way: he got a job, bought some recording gear and a laptop and spent three years learning the ins and outs of recording. Despite the hard work and long hours of learning, Clift said he has no regrets.
“Over the last couple years I got tired of paying other people to record my music, so I learned how to do it myself,” he said. “It wasn’t as quick and easy as doing a Kickstarter to pay someone to record my album, but it was way more rewarding.”
Clift is adamant local bands should do all they can to finance their own projects before turning to their fans.
“I think Kickstarter should be used as a last resort for bands who are out of options, not the automatic reflex for every band who releases an album,” he said.
For those who are considering crowdfunding for their project, Clift has words of advice.
“Remember that your fans are doing you a favor, not the other way around,” he said. “Don’t make your fans feel like you’re doing them a favor by letting them give you money.”