On Monday, May 23rd I launched a funding campaign on Indiegogo for my third solo album, tentatively titled “The Nashville Album.” Indiegogo is a site that manages financial backing for projects ranging from new technology to new artistic works and everything in between. Launching this campaign was a nerve-wracking venture, mostly because of my fear about people’s perceptions. I felt that some would view it as virtual panhandling, despite the fact that all contributions are in trade for product, experiences, or services and not set up as a one-way transaction. The only thing that did balance out this fear was that I had funded my first album in 1997 through a similar type of pre-sale offer, and many people in my life who had intended on buying the album anyway were only too happy to buy it in advance if it meant that it would get finished. Of course an online funding platform such as Indiegogo is so much more than simple pre-sales, so it was a leap of faith launching this to the world with the blind hope that people would actually engage without judgment or preconception.
I also knew that I was launching at exactly the same time that the Newfoundland government was handing down one of the most brutal budgets in its history as a province. In a time of austerity and (justified) tightening of purse strings, would my project and its $15,000 goal be seen as indulgent and out of touch with reality? With my Nashville producer Joshua Grange’s busy touring and recording schedule (which dictates that we make the record in early August), we had no choice but to launch when we did and hope for the best. To my delight, it was well-received and in the last few weeks has brought a whole new spark to my musical vision.
Back in February, I personally funded a trip to Nashville to make a pitch video and meet with Joshua in advance of the recording. My good friend and musical cohort Paul Kinsman came with me to film the video and capture some footage of Josh and me working together in his studio. I wanted potential backers to view this project as a serious one, and I felt that it was important to go to Nashville and come back with solid images and videos to prove that this was not a “vanity project” but a true musical collaboration between a Canadian and an American that could yield some very interesting musical results.
When the campaign was ready to be shared, I sent a note and campaign link to my Hotmail contacts a day before launching publicly; I wanted let all the principal contacts in my life (past and present) know about what I was doing before it hit social and conventional media. I received many positive replies of acknowledgment and support, and I reopened connections with so many people I had lost contact with over the years (mostly due to kids coming along and life revving into high gear). I’ve since had a few lunches with old friends, and I’ve made plans to connect with others in person as well. Just knowing I still have the support of these people gives me added confidence in my writing and musical abilities, which makes me even more determined to make the best record I can make. I learned through these renewed connections that contributions come in more forms than financial. Making a record requires much more than money; it requires faith from people in your life.
Sharing the campaign on social media was also a big motivator for me. When I saw the amount of people sharing, liking, and retweeting, I said to myself, “Wow, maybe people really do want to see me make a new solo album.” This may sound a bit insecure, but the truth is that musicians at all levels of success worry about these things. “Does anyone care? Will anyone listen? Am I living in a dream world wanting to make a new album at my age? What am I trying to prove?” I’ve been fortunate to meet some widely successful musicians over the years and have always been surprised at their openness about being unsure or insecure about new material or their place in music. Songwriters are always looking toward their next song, and they never know if anyone will think it’s any good or not. So it’s a big deal to have people’s faith in advance of releasing new material. Steele Communications, NTV, and the Newfoundland Herald have also been tremendously supportive early out of the gate, for which I am very grateful. As a result of this support, my writing has taken off in spades and I am creating like a man on fire. I’ve got three guitars set up around the house, all in different tunings. I pick them up constantly, working on ideas and recording snippets on voice memos. It’s the most prolific I’ve been in years.
While I do hope that we reach our goal by the time late July rolls around, that is not the only focus of this venture. The unexpected dividend of finding out that many people really do want to see me make a new recording is enough to inspire me to forge on and complete this record, no matter if we reach the goal or not. Some goals, such as reconnecting with old friends and finding out that I really do have a strong audience, have already long been met.
Much more than a funding opportunity, this campaign so far has proven to be a very accurate way to assess my true audience and also to interact with people on many other levels besides financially. Of course I would be dishonest in saying that it didn’t matter to me if people contributed to the campaign or not. It is, however, true that a venture such as this one yields other rewards besides financial backing. The knowledge that a solid audience of discerning, critical friends/family/associates are expecting me to make a quality product puts pressure on me to make the best record I’ve ever made. And I love working under pressure.