In the modern age of social media, celebrities can get in touch with their fans directly. Twitter is especially useful for replying to fans and Facebook makes a great place to upload behind-the-scenes pictures and exclusive videos. In exchange for the benefits we get as fans, our favorite celebrities have been given the power to ask for a little more from us. With PledgeMusic and Kickstarter, artists of all kinds can ask for help funding their projects and passions. This ranges from CDs to movies to inventions to video games. Every possible creation is represented here. What you may not know is that the fans are again the ones benefiting. They get more media from their favorite people plus they are provided with exclusive rewards for their donations!
It’s important to note that if a project doesn’t get fully funded, everyone’s money is returned and there are no rewards. This gives fans extra motivation to pledge, raise money, and share with their friends. So far, everything I’ve pledged to has made the money in time, but with so many different projects seeking funding, not everything can make the cut. The only thing you can do is choose what you care about and promote it.
The first time I took part in one of these campaigns was when one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Jake Newton, was working on his third album. One of the possible reward levels included him writing a song about the pledger. Other rewards included merchandise, tickets to his show, musical instruments he signed and a cover of any song you wanted. He had personally shipped his prior CDs, always with his signature and a sweet note, and this time was no different. He was still in charge of making sure everyone got what they ordered and he put in just as much care as he had for his previous two albums. This time I also got a cool t-shirt and some pins. The most exciting part was, of course, when I got an email about the song he was going to write. He asked some questions about me and my life and used my answers to craft a beautiful song in his signature style.
I love that artists can now keep their visions intact and get support directly from the fans instead of needing to sell themselves out. Another benefit of the fundraising process is that the artist can keep you updated as they go along with exclusive videos, mp3s and blogs for pledgers. You become a part of the creation, a unique experience you would have difficulty finding prior to the advent of sites like these.
Another campaign I took part in was Rachael Yamagata‘s most recent CD. Rachael is perhaps a little more well-known than Jake, but she still took the PledgeMusic route which allowed me to snag an autographed CD and a pair of meet and greet tickets. I brought my mom along with me to the show, since she adores Rachael and took me to my first Rachael concert back in 2007 when she was playing with Mandy Moore. That concert remains one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. The PledgeMusic experience was equally fantastic. Poor Rachael got sick prior to the show, but she hung out with me and my mom, was a good sport about my mom’s continued interrogation about Todd Rundgren, and made sure we were having a good time. She was kind enough to provide us both with drinks and was grateful for our support, even going so far as to humor my mom in the most awkward exchange of all time…
Mom: What’s that song of yours I love? Can you play that?
Me: You mean Be Be Your Love.
Mom: No, you know, that one I love. My favorite one.
Rachael: Oh, um…
Me: It’s Be Be Your Love, mom. It’s definitely that one.
Mom: No no, my favorite one!
Rachael: … Be Be Your Love?
Mom: Yes! I love that one! Can you play that?
Rachael: Of course! I’ll make sure to play it for you.
Despite totally pulling off the concert with a sore throat, Rachael gave out merchandise and hung around signing autographs and taking pictures after the show to make up for songs she was unable to sing. She did sing Be Be Your Love, so my mom was incredibly happy. I had a great time and am so glad I was able to buy those tickets.
Over on Kickstarter, the premise is similar, just a little broader. It includes technology, theater, art, food, movies, and so much more. Eliza Dushku‘s recent Kickstarter project is what prompted me to finally elaborate on the importance and benefits of this trend. She is working to fund a documentary about her homeland of Albania. Her love and support for the country are well-known and I think that it is wonderful that she is using her star power to inform people about one of her passions. One of the possible pledge rewards is the recipe for a traditional dish, Byrek, which is a Dushku family original and comes autographed. You can also join Eliza in a Google+ Hangout, purchase an exclusive calendar, or get a full-blown photo-shoot session with the lovely actress.
The artists can add rewards as time goes on and there are some really cool things that get included. Eliza has been asking for input as to what her rewards should be, speaking with fans directly to find out what they want. She has recently added the opportunity to be in a music video with her. It’s going to involve rapping and so clearly that’s going to be incredible and a once in a lifetime experience. Some of the prizes have only a limited number available, while others, such as CDs and DVDs, are a little easier to come by.
You can be part of history by funding something you care about. If you get rewarded along the way, that’s just a bonus! Be sure to browse PledgeMusic and Kickstarter for artists you like and try checking out some new ones as well. Imagine finding a singer you love or a movie you would love to see made and being able to get exclusive merchandise and help with promotion. If you find an old favorite or something brand new that you love, let me know here in the comments or over on Twitter.