Crowdfunding in the music sphere hit an all-time high in 2012, with bands from all levels (from Amanda Palmer to Bowerbirds) turning to their fans for the monetary aid needed to launch new creative products. While the trend has been lauded by many, there are tons of skeptics out there wondering about the ROI of such endeavors. Translation: Are the fans getting what they paid for? Well, one band from France recently launched a crowd-facing campaign that seeks to show the fans exactly where their contributions fit in — both monetarily and creatively.
French band Uniform Motion made a name for itself in the music/tech sphere as an exceedingly transparent band in 2011 when it revealed to the world exactly how much money it could make off of its last record, One Frame Per Second, across all streaming services. According to lead singer Andy Richards, though, the band has aimed to be straight with fans since its inception.
“We’ve been fairly transparent with everything we’ve done since we began this project in 2008,” he says. “The first album we made was a series where every two weeks we’d put up a live version of the song that we recorded online along with an interactive comic book. We’ve kind of done stuff like that for every album since then.”
For the upcoming record, The Magic Empire (due out April 22), the band went full-tilt toward the transparency route — beginning with a call for fans to donate sounds that would then be integrated into the album’s songs. “The idea at the time was to get them involved in the early days so that they knew we were working on a new album,” Richards says. “If someone was to donate a sound that was to be integrated into the album, then they would have more of a sense of ownership of it and be more likely to be interested in what we were doing.”
The prospect of crowdsourcing fans for content is admittedly a bit dicey — Richards says the band received 14 or 15 different sounds and some were pretty terrible — but the band was able to tweak the sounds to better fit the jams in some cases. In others, they struck proverbial gold.
“One sound that was really cool was from a guy in Italy who recorded his kid trying to say something in Italian and it kept coming out as, ‘Uh Ninni,’” Richards says. “We actually called the song by that name.”
Due to the transformed nature of most of the sounds, though, the band worried that fans wouldn’t be able to recognize their own contributions, which led to phase two of their transparency plan: An interactive sound scavenger hunt.
Earlier this month, the band released the hunt — which was created using interactive media maker ThingLink — via their site. Rendered as a map, each day, a new song appears on the landscape, and users are able to listen to the sound in question and then guess in which song and where it appears. Songs are embedded using SoundCloud, so fans can use the platform’s timed commenting feature to make their guesses. Each person who guesses the location of a song correctly scores a copy of the album.
In a sense, this game is a form of album stream — however instead of just giving fans the whole thing right off the bat, the band is allowing them to interact with the content. The project follows a burgeoning trend — embraced by bands like Yeasayer and Delicate Steve — of launching online and offline hunts for content.
The final step, then, is getting the content into the hands of the fans. To do that, the band launched a crowdfunding-style campaign — with a twist. They’re not asking folks to fund the creation of the album before undertaking the process. Instead, they’re asking fans to help them recoup the money they spent making the album by investing in the band.
How does that work? On the band’s website, where the guys have laid out a very Kickstarter-like campaign, fans are able to: donate €5.00 for a download of the album, shell out a few more euro for a physical copy, kick in €25.00 for a CD and T-shirt, or, if they’re feeling super generous, donate €1000.00 and score a live living room show.
With the exception of the last option, the “campaign” is basically a shop where the band is selling products that they’re already made. Their “goal” is to score €4,311, which would cover the money they’ve already spent on rehearsal fees, mastering, CD, vinyl and t-shirt manufacturing. So far, they’re nearly 20% there.
“We’re using a crowdfunding approach to demonstrate the return on investment of the album,” Richards says. “So people can see how much we got back from the money we’ve invested in recording.”
Here’s hoping they make their goal — and then some.
Image courtesy of Facebook, Uniform Motion