As music fans, we could hail some upsurge in human passion and creativity as the driving force the behind the 21st century’s proliferation of styles and artists, but Chuck Berry begs to differ. It seems to be resources the modern musician has to take advantage of that have continually reshaped the structure and modes of music—overall increasing points of contact between the creators and waves of insatiable listeners who drive bands to bend the rules to near breaking point.
Kickstarter.com is one of those resources. It is a massive platform for funding art of any medium, connecting thousands of starving artists each week to every illuminated screen in the world, where eager faces can help bring their visions to earth with a simple monetary donation. Everyone from a poor Portland photographer capturing the battle between nature and concrete in “Built vs. Grown” to Magicsparkle, an alien rock duo from Brooklyn, can make a plea to elevate their art to new levels.
Each artist writes a brief request explaining what they intend to do, and records a short video to show off the faces behind the project and samples of their work. And like a PBS fundraiser, they offer creative prize for each level a lender can donate, at levels from one dollar to thousands.. Back massages, personal servants, high fives, cover songs of choice, and commemorative tattoos are all thrown in with equal fervor to prove the raw dedication these folks have for what they do. Each page also has a meter that shows exactly how much further each artist has to reach the goal, and a deadline. If time runs out before the request is at the very least met, not a dollar is transferred, adding to the urgency of the whole endeavor.
One feature that adds an even more personalized experience lets you search projects by city. Obviously I shot to Cleveland to see what was brewing and found Ventana, a gas mask-clad industrial metal band on the market for a touring van. Undeniably badass.
The depth and variety of artists never fails to surprise. Check out Abrorea, a spacey nature-loving married duo finishing up their new album Red Planet. They are looking for money to wrap up the release and to survive on the road while promoting it, taking their two kids with them for “roadschooling”. Hippies are real. Smother Party is a microtonal rock band from Brooklyn with footage from a live show, squealing out thick layers of noise—it’s rad. Look into Red Baraat, a nine-piece New York band claiming to be the only “Dhol ‘n’ Brass” outfit to ever bang it out. They look like a rowdy crew, and stress the need for their uplifting brand of funked-out Punjabi Bhangra in climates of war and poverty. As an unabashed sucker for girl drummers, Tess Brunet impressed me too. She’s spent the last decade tearing of drum kits behind all kinds of groups, and is finally stepping out for her own spotlight with her new project Au Ras Au Ras. Then there’s Eric Vinson. He proves that the overdrawn drop-everything-and-pursue-music can actually exist in the purest form. For a donation of $3,500, he will literally give you his 1992 Honda Accord, plus his mom’s famous strawberry cupcakes, all personally delivered. He says he’s “ready to hand you the keys”—ain’t that right. I’ll go ahead and tell you that’s a spectacular metaphor sparing myself from a sappy sloppy explanation.
In some ways this tech age has spoiled the unadulterated intimacy audiences and musicians should share. But the Kickstarter project is bringing a new edge to the possibilities our slavery to all things buzzy and wired can rip open. It allows anyone to become closely connected to a huge spectrum of creative pursuits that could very well stand beside our historical landmarks of pure genius at the end of it all. It’s up to you, I suppose.