Crowdfunding Before It Was Cool
These days it seems more common than ever for an artist to ask its fanbase to finance their next project. Amanda Palmer made headlines when her fans helped her blow past her goal, raising over $1,000,000 via Kickstarter. But before there were sites like Kickstarter, Pledge Music, or Indiegogo, I was involved in a life changing and selfless year long campaign on the behalf of the Virginia band, Mae.
A backbreaking project that fused art and community with charitable projects and innovation, the “12 Songs. 12 Months. 1 Goal: Make a Difference” campaign encouraged fans to participate in being a part of changing the lives of those in need and spreading a positive message through the band’s music and their community of fans and friends.
Rather than traditionally releasing a full-length album, each month during the year, Mae would release a new song exclusively on their website, whatismae.com. Without the support of a label or any corporate backing, we built an infrastructure from the ground up that would allow fans to donate money to these projects and share the movement via a special Mae “widget” that could be hosted anywhere on the web. Fans could donate as little as a dollar and in exchange, they would receive a high-quality download and digital booklet. However, fans were encouraged to contribute more and many of them did…because all of the profits from the song donations were given directly to charity.
The year was split into three different initiatives, (m)orning, (a)fternoon, and (e)vening. In addition to being an acronym for the band’s name, each initiative involved three separate partnerships with distinctly different charitable organizations.
The (m)orning chapter saw the band partnering with Habitat for Humanity to raise funds to build a home for a family in need in their hometown of Newport News, Virginia. Four songs, four months, and $65,000 in donations later, the (m)orning chapter of the 2009 campaign would conclude with the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the home of Rhonda Floyd and her three children. We accomplished our goal and proved that with compassion and the support of the band’s global community, we could change the life of a special family and prove that through music and a common goal, we can make a difference.
The (a)fternoon chapter shifted the focus to education as we partnered with Donors Choose to help educators around the country get the materials they need to effectively be able to execute their curriculum. The success of the initiative continued and over the course of this campaign, we were able to fund an educational project in all 50 states through the generous donation of the band’s fans.
The final chapter of the campaign, (e)vening, saw the band partnering with Destination Imagination‘s Global Finals, the world’s largest celebration of creativity. Over 1,100 teams from 45 states, 7 Canadian provinces and 13 countries converged in Knoxville, TN to showcase their ingenuity. Not only was the band an active part of the event, but they also performed live for over 15,000 participants and used their voice to encourage them to continue to focus on their creativity, ingenuity, and problem solving.
Through the “12 Songs. 12 Months. 1 Goal” campaign, we created a movement. We proved that sound innovation and marketing mixed with art and community could in fact create a platform strong enough to make a difference.