Lee 'Scratch' Perry ADD

Reason Time... Reggae and Crowdfunding

04/01/2014 by Angus Taylor

Reason Time... Reggae and Crowdfunding

Reason Time... an occasional column by Angus Taylor. All his opinions his own. All research subject to deadlines!

As a follow up to last week’s column on reggae album sales [CLICK HERE TO READ], this week I am looking at an alternative method of raising funds for albums and other music projects.

Most internet users will now be familiar with the concept of crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is the endeavour to raise money for a project using multiple small donations from large amounts of people via a request on a site like Kickstarter, Ulule, PledgeMusic, Indiegogo or Sellaband. Usually there is a target that needs to be hit in order for the money to be allocated. The use of crowdfunding sites to generate funds for projects relating to Jamaican music is now widespread. Here are some examples:
Alpha Boys School - the institution for wayward boys whose music department produced members of the Skatalites, as well as Yellowman, Leroy Smart, and Leroy Horsemouth Wallace, are currently using Kickstarter to raise funds for a new radio studio. Their campaign is in need of more funds as you can SEE HERE.

Meanwhile fans of the producer Lee Scratch Perry have been asked to help finish his second album with French duo Easy Riddim Maker.

Hollie Cook has actually teamed up with PledgeMusic to release her new album.

So does crowdfunding work for reggae artists? Well, like the traditional route of being funded by a big record company it’s a lot more likely to succeed if you are an artist with crossover appeal.

For instance, another Lee Perry venture the long awaited documentary Vision of Paradise hit its target. So did the album fund for US band Big Mountain. Yet former Gladiators singer and bassist Clinton Fearon’s attempt to raise money for his European tour missed its target, as did the new album from Prince Fatty and Winston Francis.

It’s also important to choose the right crowdfunding site for your aims. Different sites charge different commission percentages and have different conditions that need to be met. Pledge Music requires that you make your album, video or end product of any kind available to download on their site, while Sellaband asks that you make some of your songs available to hear on their site as part of the fundraising campaign before you even start. Kickstarter, Ulele and Sellaband’s funding is all-or-nothing based on whether you hit your target, whereas Indiegogo has an option where you can receive donations even if the main target is not met.

Realistic goals are important. Most sites require that you complete a project rather than just a portion of it. However it might be easier to raise enough money for your horn section to come on tour than to try to fund the entire band.

The veteran reggae writer Chris Lane once told me that the problem for reggae music is that it only appeals to affluent people during a few years of college rebellion and that when they grow up and get high paying jobs they move on to Bruce Springsteen instead. Ultimately it’s easier to raise funds if your fans are wealthy – but likewise it’s easier to sell albums too.

Like my column on sales this is just the start of the discussion. Feel free to share any crowdfunding projects or your experiences with crowdfunding below...