You've got an ambitious idea for your next album and three dollars and seventy-five cents to your name. What can you do?
There are definitely funds out there for musicians wanting to raise money for a recording and touring project. Here are five ways you can fund a music project.
What It Is: Crowd Funding is a way for artists and musicians to take control of their own funding [see our piece on a platform called Kickstarter]. You sign up to a crowd funding website, design a project and your fans pledge money to see it completed. You set up different pledge levels so people can pledge whatever they like – from $1 right up into the tens of thousands. Each person who pledges receives a reward, and there are different rewards for each funding level. If a project is successfully funded, the credit cards are charged and you receive the money to complete your project.
How You Can Use It: To run a successful crowd-funding project you need to create a compelling project, and offer really awesome rewards for funders. As you're producing music, rewards will obviously include digital and hard copy songs, album artwork, and merchandise like t-shirts and caps. But think outside the square – bands have offered money stamped with their logo, private parties, backstage passes, getting your name in a song, art books, etc.
Investors want to back interesting projects with a cohesive and unique idea. Create a concept album, use a new instrument or technique, explain what makes your project different from other artists' and you'll get those backers.
For most crowd funding platforms, you have the option of including videos about your project. Research has shown that projects including video are more likely to be funded, so rope in a few video-savvy friends and produce something worthwhile.
Once your video is created and your project page is up, get the word out. You can display a link to your project on Facebook, on your website, in your email signature, on gig posters and ticket stubs. Write to your local paper and see if they'll run a story about you. Talk to radio stations and music bloggers. Do anything you can to bring in more backers.
For More Information, try these crowdfunding platforms:
What It Is: While crowd funding has become a popular way for artists and musicians who wouldn't normally be able to receive arts funding to raise money for their projects, many people are still funding music through arts funding [see our piece on grants here].
Councils and government bodies are required to set aside a certain amount of money to fund the arts. This money is available to artists and musicians to help them complete their projects. Artists apply asking for the money they need and a committee decides which projects to fund. Often, they look for projects they feel further the arts movement in that community, so music with a real local flavor will appeal.
Arts committees can be quite traditional, but that doesn't mean more avant-garde projects shouldn't apply. You never know when they might decide your project is worth investing in.
If you receive arts funding for a project, you may find you're required to abide by certain requirements – the money may only be able to be used for certain things, or you may need to submit a report or send in copies of a finished album, etc.
How You Can Use It: If you want your own small share of the pool of money set aside for funding arts projects in your city/state, you're going to have to apply. This means filling out paperwork, writing an application letter, and compiling a resume and business plan. Your local arts board will have leaflets explaining the application process and offering hints. Unfortunately, with arts funding there are never any guarantees.
Small Business Grants
What It Is: If arts funding is a bust, but you've got a savvy business head on your shoulders (under all that wild musician hair) you might even find success looking for a small business grant.
Small business grants are offered by various organizations to help people get started running a small business. They're often seeking creative, off-the-wall ideas, and your musical project might just fit the bill, especially if it's something designed to make a profit into the future – for example, if you're creating a new musical instrument or a music distribution platform.
How You Can Use It: Start by joining your local small business associations and getting on mailing lists of any awards or grants available in your area. Then apply for any that your project might conceivably fit with. To apply you'll need to produce a business plan, create a budget and compile a resume. The business association will have advisers on hand who can help with this.
Be careful not be get confused with grants and loans – you'll be required to pay back a small business loan with interest, whereas you don't have to pay back a grant.
What It Is: Sponsorship can be another great way to fund a music project. Businesses pay you money, which goes toward funding your project, in return for having their logo and marketing message displayed. Competition for sponsorship is intense, but with a unique idea and the right attitude, you might find yourself partnering with a brand.
How You Can Use It: Companies are usually looking to sponsor events, because they're more likely to attract media attention and offer greater opportunities for displaying the brand message, but albums and other projects can be sponsored, too.
First of all, you need to know how much money you need. Producing an accurate budget of your project will show you the level of support you require. You need to approach companies that have this level of money to offer – your local record store probably can't give you $20 000, but a major energy-drink company might.
Make a list of companies that would fit will with your project. Think of products and services that would appeal to your fans and approach those companies. Contact their PR and marketing departments and put in an application. The company will want to know what you're offering in return for their money, so make it worth their while. Show them you're capable of bringing in a crowd and attracting media attention and they'll be happy to help.
Also: thought of lending your song to an ad?
What It Is: Angel investors are affluent people who have a little extra cash and enjoy investing in start-ups and creative projects. Angel investors often offer smaller amounts of money – maybe $5000 or $10000 – and enjoy watching the projects they support flourish. For their money they retain ownership equity – share in the profits.
How You Can Use It: There are plenty of websites dedicated to helping small business owners (and that's essentially what you are) find angel investors. Find one in your state or country and set up a proposal. You may have to supply other details like a budget, business plan and resume, as well as samples of your music.
Remember, an angel investor owns a share of your company and is entitled to a percentage of profits. However, the advantage of Angel investors is that the quick injection of capital can be a great way to quickly grow a project to completion.
Readers, how would you go about funding a music project?