Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Crowd-Funding Effect

Although it might seem slightly off topic for this blog, I wanted to write a short post about Ginger Wildheart's recent success over at Pledge Music with his Triple Album Project. Why? Because we've always tried to make this blog interesting and informative to other filmmakers, and Ginger's record-breaking crowd-funding seemed like something relevant that we can all learn from. And, lest that still seems too random, there are also more direct connections between Ginger and Life Just Is: he's been very supportive of our project and kindly given us permission to use two of his songs in the film (more on which another time...). I've also recently directed a video for his Ginger Wildheart Mutation project which stars Life Just Is cast members Fiona Ryan and Andrew Hawley.

For those of you not in the know (and if you're not, you really should be!),
Ginger is a British musician who found a following in the early nineties leading the rock band The Wildhearts. He's a prolific song writer who has worked on a number of projects over the years (including a recent stint in the Michael Monroe band), and who is now working on what is perhaps his most ambitious project yet: a triple album. In true independent spirit, Ginger decided he was going to do the album off his own back, crowd-funding it by pre-selling to the fans through 'pledges'. This is 'music made for the people by the people'. The triple album will only be available to those that pledge (a stripped-down, one disc version will later receive a general release, with the track listing for that version decided by those that bought the triple album). As always with crowd-funding, different benefits are offered for different pledges: £10 gets you a download version, £20-25 a deluxe 3CD set, £25-30 a signed version of the deluxe 3CD set and £100-110 gets you the albums on both CD and vinyl, plus your name in the special thanks list in the sleeve notes. All this info, and more, can be found on the Pledge Music Page, along with the amusing little video embedded below.

The campaign was launched last week, with 60 days set as the period within which to meet the target. But it took Ginger a mere six hours to reach his target, and within 24 hours the campaign had reached 200% of the sought amount.

So, how did this happen? Obviously it's impossible to know for sure, but the answer seems simple to me: because Ginger has built himself a loyal following of dedicated fans. It's important to understand that there was little publicity around Ginger's campaign, and the whole thing was achieved seemingly through a few tweets from
Ginger and his cohorts Rich Jones and Gav McCaughey, and a few posts on Ginger's Facebook page.

At this point you might be thinking 'what does this have to do with filmmaking?', but let's break it down. Ginger's worked hard to build his following. Yes, there's the back catalogue of work, but there's also more: there's the respect and gratitude he continually shows to his fans, there's his outright honesty in speaking about his life (public and private) and there's his approachability (see, for instance, his
Formspring account). All of this adds up to a personality behind his work, and one that his fans can access and, for want of a better expression, get to know. It's simple, really, but it bears pointing out: if you want your fans to actively engage with your work (in whatever medium you're working in), you need to give as well as take. Yes, the work needs to be good, but that in itself is no longer enough – you need to put yourself out there. Sure, if you're Terrence Malick maybe the mysterious approach works, but the rest of us need to make ourselves heard in an overcrowded market place. And how can we do that? By getting ourselves known as individuals with a personality that people want to (and can) engage with and support. Ginger's campaign worked because he inspires passion within his fans. And with a bit of hard work there's no reason why we, as filmmakers, can't do the same.
- Alex