A Guide to Funding Your Album Online: When DIY Isn’t Enough

There are a variety of ways you can record an album these days, which include recording it for free in software like Audacity and Garageband or dropping the big money to record in a well-equipped studio. No single way is ideal, but they each have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of price, quality, and convenience. Computer-based music has improved to the point where composing high quality electronic music is as simple as owning the right software and plug-ins. Recording a full-on rock album with the right microphone choices, recording environment, and back-up string section on those monstrous choruses will probably take more resources to do the job right. In the last couple of years, many artists have been moving online to help make recording a professional-quality album possible. Thankfully for those cash-strapped artists without a major-label backing, there are a host of “crowdfunding” websites out there to get the word out and help you fund your goal (with few strings attached). Here are a few of the more well-known sites to fund your next album:

Sellaband: Sellaband is designed to help musicians fund a professional album with donations from fans dubbed “believers”. In early 2010 Sellaband declared bankruptcy, although they’ve since been taken over and are now back in full force. Originally, Sellaband helped artists reach a $50,000 goal to record their album. Now Sellaband has a more flexible structure where artists can choose a much lower budget for their album to reach their goal quicker (the range is anywhere from $5,000-$250,000). Once an artist reaches their goal funding stops and believers are locked-in to their donation amounts. Artists don’t set a specific deadline so you can work a long time to reach your goal (as you can see with Public Enemy, who actually lowered their original funding goal from $250,000 to $75,000). In exchange for donating a certain amount of money in fixed parts, believers get rewarded with exclusive releases, goodies, or even a cut of the artist’s revenues. Sellaband also has a host of social features, including an activity stream, commenting, and music players integrated into the artist pages. Sellaband takes a 15% fee from the budget, although they help out on the finances, execution, and administration of the project.

Kickstarter: Kickstarter is an online funding platform for creative projects. Although Kickstarter doesn’t only include artists looking to record an album, they get more traffic than the niche music funding sites and cater to a similar demographic of artistic-minded folks. If you’re looking for a place to fund your next album, it is set-up differently than Sellaband. Jenny Owen Young created a Kickstarter project to fund her “shiny new album,” surpassing her goal of $20,000 with more than a month left before her funding deadline and well over 300 people donating to the project. Unlike Sellaband artists, on Kickstarter you can keep raising money until your deadline even if you already reached your goal (see this record-setting project: Diaspora). If you’re project gets a lot of attention, you have the ability to raise a lot more than you originally intended. If you don’t reach your funding goal by the deadline, all the backers keep their pledged donations and the project isn’t funded at all. If the project reaches its goal, the project creator offers a variety of rewards based on the amount of money you donated to the project. Kickstarter takes a 5% cut from the money raised if you reach your goal.

Slicethepie: Slicethepie takes a similar path to funding artists as Sellaband but provides a more all-encompassing funding experience. Not only can you donate music to help fund an artist’s recording project, but you can also rate music, trade contracts with other users, and follow Slicethepie’s market data. Instead of “believers” or “backers”, people who donate to artists are called “investors” and promised a certain return per 1000 albums sold if a record is made. While this strategy seems enticing from a gaming or gambling perspective, it seems like artists who use the site won’t be on track to sell millions of records and provide any sort of serious return for their investors. Nonetheless, if you are looking to fund your album and take part in a community that involves more crowd participation, Slicethepie might be a better choice. Slicethepie takes a 25% royalty for a two-year period for every track sold, although they use some of this money to pay back users who invested in the artists. They also take a commission from Contracts traded on the Exchange as well as 10% from any artists who reaches their $15,000£ goal in the Showcases section.