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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Crowdfunding Will Set Us Free!

Limited edition Rideout Photography art print of piano keys
Photo courtesy of Rideout Photography. Donate here for a limited edition print.

 This week's new Oatmeal comic "The state of the music industry"  could not have come at a better time. It perfectly (and of course hilariously) portrays the evolution of how musicians, and frankly any artist, has had to make money over the last twenty or thirty years.

"A long time ago" you had to pay an arm and a leg to the large corporations that stood between the artist and the fan for CDs, merchandise, and concert tickets.

Then in the late 90's the Internet decided to get it horribly wrong. With Napster and other Napsterish services, the fan got the art, but neither the artist nor the corporations and the many people they employ got anything.

Now, we are getting better, though we still have a host of middlemen we have to go through to get the art and music we want. They are, however, notably less expensive middlemen (e.g. Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, etc.)

Finally, we look to the future, where hopefully the distance between the fan and his or her wallet and the artist and his or her work will be imperceptible.

Crowdfunding is a good start. Crowdfunding will set us free.

Crowdfunding is hardly new; both IndieGoGo and Kickstarter were founded in 2008. However, this past year has sparked a huge rise in the use of crowdfunding platforms. This is largely due to some major campaigns hitting mainstream news. The campaign that raised over $700,000 for the bullied bus monitor Karen Klein was raised on IndieGoGo.  Penny Arcade is revolutionizing the model for monetization of web comics over on KickStarter.

It is convenient that The Oatmeal put out his comic about the evolving relationship between artists and fans as I was turning this blog over in my mind, because he is who introduced me to crowdfunding.

I know. I live under a rock.

After the Oatmeal's crowdfunding phenom, and my subsequent IndieGoGo campaign's success, I was hooked on this concept. I honestly did not believe that my first campaign would be successful, because, unlike the Oatmeal, I don't have 15,000 fans that want to give me money so I can keep being awesome. What I learned, though, is that you don't have to.  People just have to believe in what you are doing, what you are doing has to be relevant, and people need to feel like they are getting something out of supporting you.

When artists, charities, inventors, and start ups get their funding directly from the people who want to support them or the product they are offering, everybody wins.  Contributors get to be on the front end of the creative funnel, instead of waiting for the product to shoot out the other end, and creators get to connect directly with their fanbase and give back to the people who keep them in food and clothing through incentives and perks.

If you see a product that looks awesome, but needs help getting off the ground or an artist or musician you love needs funding for their next project or album, I strongly encourage you to give. Wouldn't you rather pay for the things you want in the beginning, than pay extra at the end, because the entrepreneur or artist had to go to a bank to get a high interest loan?  Or, worse. You don't get to enjoy the art, music, and technology you love, because the people who produce them couldn't stay on their feet? How awesome would a world be where we cut out the middle man and support the people who make stuff we like directly?

I'll give you a great place to start.

When my buddy Alan approached me and said that he wanted some help re-branding his photography business, he had one major problem that no amount of marketing was going to help.

Last year, all of  Rideout Photography's equipment was stolen.  $6,000 and their livelihood gone in one night.

In addition to being two of the most incredible photographers, Alan and his partner and wife Kristina happen to be very dear friends of mine.  Kristina is my running buddy and Alan is my framer extraordinaire.  So I got to thinking.  If I can raise $2,500 to stick it to an attorney who I've never met, surely we can raise enough money to get Rideout Photography back in business here in Lexington, where you can't shake a virtual stick without hitting a Facebook album or Flickr account containing a portrait, family photo, or other digital memory that would not have been possible without this amazing pair of people.

So that is exactly what we are going to do.

Second Shot - Cameras for a Cause

This campaign is to raise money to replace Rideout Photography's stolen equipment. Of course, being the people they are, Alan and Kristina refused to take help without paying some of it forward to other young photographers just starting out.  So 5% of all proceeds raised will go to the University of Kentucky Photography Department.

In addition to the online campaign, all donors and local art fans are invited to attend a pop-up gallery event on the first night of Lexington's fall gallery hop.  September 21st, from 6-8pm at a yet to be determined location, every single online donor will have an incredible portrait shot by Rideout Photography.  There will also be a live photography project taking place in which guests are encouraged to participate.  Can't give out too many details on it right now, but holy crap, it is going to be awesome.

Donors can get all kinds of amazing perks and swag depending on how much they donate.  But more important than what we get by supporting the Rideouts right now is what we get down the road.  Please peruse their album below and tell me we don't need more of this art here in Kentucky.


Seriously.  And all of these images are from the perk gallery and are being made available as limited edition prints to donors. So go donate!!

Thank you so much to the people who have already donated and shared via social media.  We have a ways to go, so let's roll up our sleeves and make this happen for this incredible couple.

What You Can Do to Help

  1. Donate to the campaign
  2. Share the campaign on Twitter, FB, and Google+
  3. Add a campaign widget to your blog or website
  4. "Like" the Second Shot Facebook Page
  5. RSVP to the Pop-up Gallery Event co-hosted by Ace Weekly
  6. Follow Rideout Photography on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest
  7. Visit Rideout's website and enjoy!
For more information on this campaign, see my "Second Shot - Cameras for a Cause" Campaign cover story in this week's Ace Weekly magazine.  For more information on crowdfunding in Lexington, KY see this article in the same Ace Weekly edition. Thanks for reading!