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Successfully Crowdfunding Classical Music

Tracy-silvermanJust like other genres of music, classical musicians have been successfully crowdfunding projects large and small via Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms. The Conducting Business podcast recently hosted a panel discussion related to crowdfunding classical music. Central to that discussion was the successful campaign by violinist Tracy Silverman to raise funds to record a CD of an original work he composed to be performed with the Calder Quartet.

In addition to Tracy Silverman, panelists included Artspire's Michael Royce, who I interviewed earlier this year, and NPR Music's Anastasia Tsioulcas, who produced Kickstarting Classical Musicians, One Pledge At A Time.

How Crowdfunding is Connecting Classical Musicians with Cash

Tracy Silverman is a Nashville-based electronic violinist and a faculty member at Belmont University. His Kickstarter campaign for the Tracy Silverman/Calder Quartet Recording Project successfully exceeded its $12,000 goal by $680 in January.

Naomi Lewin hosted the episode of Conducting Business titled How Crowdfunding is Connecting Classical Musicians with Cash.

Silverman said there were two primary reasons he chose to do a crowdfunding campaign rather than going after grants for classical music:

  • Speed - he had a timeline that did not fit grant schedules.
  • Activating his fanbase - he saw this as a good opportunity to go direct to his fans for funding.

He was successful on both counts skipping months of waiting on the grant process and raising funds primarily from longtime fans of his work. Part of the basis for his success was his decision to do two things:

  • Hire a social media expert for support in raising awareness online.
  • Timing the campaign to coincide with a five week, thirty-four week tour.

So Silverman maximized both his online activities as well as his face-to-face opportunities. He also decided that the best way to present his work was to let people hear it rather than to write about it. He made multiple videos playing some of the music as well as videos updating the progress of the campaign. Note that, though the fundraising concluded in January, he is continuing to update backers on the campaign page.

Michael Royce from Artspire, a tax deductible crowdfunding platform, surprised Silverman during the course of the show with the news that Kickstarter donations were not tax deductible. Silverman may also be surprised to learn that he owes taxes on that money, a topic that has recently received coverage as people sort out the details of crowdfunding.

Keep in mind as you budget that taxes should be included or accounted for. Also keep in mind that if your rewards include physical products like CDs, you're going to have to package and ship those items.

Anastasia Tsioulcas noted from discussions related to her coverage of crowdfunding classical music that a number of musicians wished they had large donors lined up for the beginning and/or end of their campaigns. It's an approach others are also mentioning as helping their campaigns.

All three agreed that artists should focusing on connecting with and engaging their audience rather than thinking of pitching or selling their campaigns. Both Silverman and Royce felt that part of the secret of engagement is connecting with the creative desires and enthusiasm of one's audience in order to encourage their support.

For more on successful classical music crowdfunding campaigns check out this deck of slides on the Open Goldberg Variations campaign and the previous NPR piece, Kickstarting Classical Musicians, One Pledge At A Time.

More: Classical Musicians As 21st Century Entrepreneurs

Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) maintains a business writing hub at Flux Research and blogs at Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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