Can Kickstarter Revive Classic R&B?

Can Kickstarter Revive Classic R&B?

Wasteland. Shadowrun. Leisure Suit Larry. Planescape Torment. For non-gamers out there, and for younger audiences, let me fill you in on what these are. All four of these are classic gaming franchises that made a huge impact in the 1980s and 1990s. However, for one reason or another, the franchises fell to the side and became long forgotten. That is, until Kickstarter came around. Now, each one of these games has a new project on the way, that has been fully funded in advance. Can this model do the same thing for R&B music?

In the last few years, it seemed like every classic R&B group was coming back. Az Yet, Solo, Riff, and more were all talking about reunion projects. They said the market was ripe for the taking and that they would be releasing new cds any day now. But weeks turned into months, months turned into years, and people began to forget about these projects. Some of these projects, like Solo, continue on full steam, while others simply fall victim to the amount of work it takes to pull a record together without external funding.

Kickstarter could step into this arena, and change the way this all plays out. Imagine your favorite artists putting a page on Kickstarter promising a recorded album if their backing reaches 20, 50, or 100 thousand dollars. Suddenly, the artists no longer have to balance the production of their album with other obligations, the album becomes their top priority. This type of format would allow R&B singers to receive the necessary funding to put the album together and see it through to the finish.

Another great feature of this structure is it helps the artists ensure there's a market out there for their album. If people want to see a new album from a specific artist, they can fund it and help it see its completion. If they don't care about it? Then the album won't get funded and the artists know the market's not ready for them to come back yet.

The main trick to Kickstarter projects is determining rewards for contributors. With a music CD, it's easy to come up with tiers that properly reward purchasers, while putting minimal costs on the artists. Digital versions of the album could come for the 7-10 dollar range. CD versions of the album could be rewarded at a 15 dollar level. Maybe even signed CDs could be offered as a reward to contributors willing to put in 25-30 dollars. These are just the barebones rewards, but they provide a means for the artist to fund their project and have a guaranteed market upon release. If artists want to get ambitious, they could even have reach goals that include attending an album release party, or meeting the artists. In this manner, a few die hard fans could singlehandedly fund the album.

While it's clear how this would benefit fans, by allowing them to see their favorite artists return to the spotlight, it also offers a tremendous amount of value to the artists themselves. There's the obvious - the fact that they'll have the album fully funded from the start, meaning the risks are low and they can push the album through without having to balance other obligations. But from a greater business perspective, a successful Kickstarter gives the artists so much more. Not only do they have the album funded, but they cut out the need for labels completely, allowing them full ownership of the finished product. They aren't limited to just the funding for the album from the Kickstarter as they can continue selling the album and push sales even further.

The market is ripe for the taking. Now all we need are the enthusiastic fans and the ambitious artists to come together and make this a reality.