I am a firm believer in the power of crowdsourced funding through Kickstarter. Small projects get wider exposure and individuals who want to think like venture capitalists manage a portfolio of small investments with well-defined rewards or returns. I’ve supported ten different projects, ranging from print editions of web comics to Devi Ever’s cartridge based guitar effects console, and in each case I felt that I was making an economic contribution with direct impact while also enjoying the first (sometimes personalized) fruits of the labor.
This week Michael (Mic) Robert Todd started a Live EP Kickstarter project to fund recording and production of a 5 or 6 song digital EP. This is the evolution of the music business — an established musician creating a very low cost product to stimulate interest from a new audience. Mic is better known as the former bass player for Coheed and Cambria, and over the last three years his life has been woven around his separation from that group he helped form, an arrest, addiction recovery, and fighting testicular cancer.
Someone famous once said that you can’t play the blues if you’ve never experienced loss. As a corrollary, I don’t think you can write folk music if you haven’t experienced the tribulations of “regular folk” in a modern context. Flux Fortuna, Mic’s latest musical venture is a folk/rock/blues eclectic mix that should appeal to fans of acts as diverse as Coheed and Cambria to Mumford and Sons. As he says in the Kickstarter video, these songs were written in hospitals, jail, and recovery houses. From the few songs I’ve heard, the emotional Vu meter is pegged somewhere around Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town” (which remains one of the most raw, under-rated albums of all time).
Why am I interested? There are four reasons: (1) Mic is the Bubba’s guitar and bass teacher, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him in person, over lunch, to talk about music, business and life. He’s a genuine working man putting things back together, and I have the greatest respect for his transparency and candidness in discussing his issues and personal growth to overcome them. (2) He has played the hand he’s been dealt since his arrest with a pretty singular strategy: get better and create an outlet for his musical talent. The past three years are the genesis of powerful song writing; Flux Fortuna is the channel; Kickstarter is the seed capital. (3) This Kickstarter campaign is constructed with the right segmentation of rewards: if you contribute between $7 and $25 (the typical contribution) you end up with the digital product (so you’re effectively pre-ordering it) with a small bit of “not available in stores” swag. It’s a perfect model for participation and rewarding early adopters. (4) Kickstarter is the right structure for emergent groups. While anyone with a Mac and some microphones can record a song and get it on Soundcloud or Bandcamp, professional musicians aspire for a higher quality production, and that requires some initial capital. The Kickstarter model for a digital EP removes the distribution fees, packaging costs, and marketing expenses in exchange for artist and audience self-promotion.
So I’m promoting, because Mic Todd’s story deserves a good ending. It’s not always the way folk songs conclude, but Mic isn’t typical folk.
Flux Fortuna on Facebook
Flux Fortuna on Twitter
Mic Todd on Twitter (where he laments that his fake testicle has a wider audience than his new band)
Flux Fortuna Live EP Release Kickstarter project, live for another 3 1/2 weeks.
Disclaimer: I have an epsilon-sized but non-zero financial interest in Flux Fortuna’s success, as a Kickstarter backer, the owner of the various domain names that I have contributed to the project, and in seeing a certain young bass player continue learning from a great musician.