Kickstarter is a Brooklyn-based crowdfunding platform so well-known that its name has become synonymous with crowdfunding altogether. An early purveyor of project funding via individual contributions over the internet, Kickstarter has maximized the potential of crowdfunding online. This is especially true for musicians who have found repeated success gathering the funds to produce their next album, visual or interactive project through Kickstarter.

The online crowdfunding model makes perfect sense for music. In a basic, no-frills scenario, a musical artist would create a Kickstarter campaign, asking fans old and new to essentially pay for an album before it is produced. Akin to the concept of OTT (over-the-top) in TV broadcasting, this is all done through the internet, cutting out many traditional channels. While a certain level of trust is required by contributors, they are also given the opportunity to participate in the creative process of their favorite musicians. When the formula is just right, the results can be phenomenal such as when Amanda Palmer set a record by raising $1.2 million from fans for an album, book and tour.

Music projects on Kickstarter are some of the most successfully funded according to Molly Neuman, Kickstarter’s first head of music. Molly’s diverse background in the world of music began as the former drummer of the band Bratmobile. She also co-owned the music label Lookout! Records and was the vice-president of the American Association of Independent Music before she was brought on to Kickstarter in January, 2016.

Digital Media Wire had a chance to ask Molly some questions about her career, creative control on the Kickstarter platform, and how the music business always comes back to the people – the creatives, the fans, and the collaboration between all players that make these projects happen. Check out the full interview below.

Photo provided by Kickstarter
Photo provided by Kickstarter

1. Was there a particular opportunity or event early in your career that defined where you are now?

I can’t credit one event but I’m still a punk from D.C. at heart and am continually inspired by the music community there and in the NorthWest where I went to college. Supporting creative communities, particularly music communities outside of the mainstream, are still core to my personal passions.

2. What challenges have you had to overcome as Kickstarter’s first Head of Music?

I’m still listening to and learning from the music community about how Kickstarter music is perceived and what our strengths and weaknesses are. For some, the fundamentals of a Kickstarter campaign – transparency of goal and success, the short window and the energy required to run a campaign – are real challenges. I’m hoping that we can flip the script and have these be seen as strengths.

Kickstarter Music
Photo provided by Kickstarter

3. What makes Kickstarter such a great platform for independent musicians to finance their endeavors?

Running a campaign isn’t easy, but the resources generated and the connection to community for support is a huge opportunity for developing artists. Through a campaign, they can strengthen the foundation for their careers whether they wish to self-release or sign to a label. For labels, working with artists who can demonstrate their ability to get support from their fans makes so much sense, they know they are can be true partners and that the artists have the ability to do the work it takes to generate momentum for the long term health of their careers.

4. Musicians are increasingly needing to promote and launch music and connect with fans in new and innovative ways. And now more than ever, musicians are faced with the reality that business success requires that creativity and business often go hand and hand. How does Kickstarter serve as a tool for musicians to deal with these challenges?

See above because I truly believe it. For example, in 2015, our biggest music project was De La Soul. Their desire was to be truly independent and self-reliant in the making of their album. It was about more than financial resources, it was about creative control. Through their Kickstarter campaign, they were able to have access to funding to complete their album and have the leverage to negotiate a distribution deal on terms that worked for them. In my view, this is an ideal scenario for a business partnership that gives artists the control and independence they need and their partners in the industry the confidence that the project they will be investing in has an audience of support they can expand upon.

Amanda Palmer Kickstarter
Photo provided by Kickstarter

5. What do you love most about working in the music business?

The people. I have been so lucky to meet and work with amazing people at every stage of my career, both on the creative and business side. I am thrilled to see more diversity in our industry and am proud to play a small part in that continuing to develop.

Molly Neuman will be speaking at Digital Media Wire’s New York Media Festival in NYC on September 26-29. Purchase tickets here.

-Edward Heinrich