Kickstarter, Trust, and the Perceived Value of Your Art

A critical element to any artist is the perceived value of your art. Perceived value is different from the quality of your music. Consumers don’t buy anything based on how much time, effort, or money it took you to create it. They buy things based on an internal feeling that subconsciously says, “the value added to my life from having this song forever is greater than the .99 cents it costs to obtain it.”Uphill

As an independent artist, this is an uphill battle, because, when it comes to perceived value, you start at zero. You have to prove yourself. Your value perception steadily increases as the rest of your career increases in areas like download history, live show draw numbers, branding/marketing efforts, and social media followers.

The key ingredient that links these growth areas (live show, sales, branding, social media) back to your perceived value is trust. Trust is one of the few things that cannot be bought. You can buy Twitter followers or Facebook likes, but they are ultimately absolutely meaningless because there is no trust between that random person and you as an artist.

People tell their friends about artists they trust. Trust scales. Likes and Followers do not.

Today, tons of brand new artists are turning to Kickstarter to fund their projects. I know many artists simply don’t have the money to fund their work, and so, in theory, Kickstarter “works”. Personally, though, I believe that if you are a new artist without an established base of fans/supporters, Kickstarter will ultimately hurt you much more than help you.

Funded With KickstarterIf you are a new artist launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund your first recordings, basically what you are doing is asking people to hand over their hard-earned money to support your art, BEFORE any trust has been built and the perceived value of your music is still at zero. You can ask people to give you money VERY few times before you’ve lost them for good. Before you have any following as an artist, do you really think your very first step should be asking people for money? Probably not.

As an alternative, artists should identify their goals, both musically and aesthetically, and then gradually release content that supports this vision on a consistent basis. What this will do is develop your voice and solidify your identity within your musical community. Then, with obsessive consistency, your voice will become more confident and you will write and market yourself with increasing conviction. You’ll become the leader of your own small but mighty community.

Being the leader of a small, tight-knit, loyal community who trusts you and your music is much better than slowly scraping together dollars from people who may give you support just this once but likely not again.

Some people argue that the benefit of Kickstarter is that a community develops behind the project, people are invested and involved, etc. But with a small level of resourcefulness, you can surely come up with creative ways to bring people into your project while building trust, not donations.

Kickstarter seems to often be nothing but an excuse for new artists to avoid the consistent dedication needed to develop a well-rounded career.

You are not entitled to anything just because you love making music.

There are no shortcuts. Do the work.

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