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Page last updated at 09:58 GMT, Sunday, 3 July 2011 10:58 UK

How to crowd-fund your stardom

Kim Boekbinder
Kim Boekbinder used popular crowd-funding site Kickstarter to raise money for her next big gig

By Dave Lee

"Hello Portland!"


"Portland? Hello?"

Kim Boekbinder was not having the best of gigs.

Her audience, all 18 of them, probably weren't having a great night either.

It wasn't that Kim is a bad singer. She had fans, thousands of them. It was just that barely any of them had made it to this particular show.

Even fans that weren't in the States that weren't going to see us on the tour donated money, which was just rather odd
Mark Kelly, Marillion

At the end of the night, and with her tail somewhat between her legs, Kim left with the profit: $12.50. She invested that income immediately at a local bar.

A re-think was in order.

"After the show I thought 'you know, I'm going to pre-sell the shows because it doesn't feel good for anybody when there is so few people in the room for a concert'."

So she turned to social media and sought out the fans who had supported her in the past.


She gave them a proposition: If they could stump up enough cash together - $1000 - she would book a venue in New York and do a live show.

If Kim couldn't raise that much, it wouldn't matter - she wouldn't lose any money, and her ego would be saved the battering of playing to an empty room.

She used Kickstarter.com, a website which allows people to propose projects that require funding. In return for a pledge of money, backers typically get a gift of some sort.

Launched in 2009, the site attracts millions of dollars worth of pledges from its members each month, making it by far the biggest site of its kind.

Marillion on Top of the Pops
Marillion graced Top of the Pops in the 1980s

Users are protected somewhat from wasting their money as only projects that manage to raise the minimum amount specified will receive the funds.

For Kim's concert, a pledge of $10 would get you a ticket to the gig, while $200 would be enough for Kim to write a song about you and perform it on the night.

"I just said, you know, I just need 100 people to come paying $10 each and then I will book a 100-person venue.

"It could have been 40 people paying $25, it could have been one person paying $1000 - which would have been slightly awkward.

"I ended up with 130."

But that's when the real challenge began.

"It's a huge amount of work, and the logistics for this are a little more complicated because it's quite short notice for a show.

"One of the problems that I am running into is that people don't know what they are doing three months from now so they don't want to buy a ticket for a concert and yet I need the time to book a really good venue, two or three months out."


For artists trying to break away from the industry-established norms of seeking out a record label, harnessing the power of the web is a relatively simple way to make the most of a loyal fanbase.

British band Marillion managed to convince their fans back in the 1990s to collectively put up $60,000 to send the band on tour. Way before the days of social media, it was an e-mail database that did the trick.

"There were about 1000 fans all across the world actually, even fans that weren't in the States that weren't going to see us on the tour donated money which was just rather odd," remembered keyboard player Mark Kelly.

"I think they got caught up in the whole idea of it and how cool they thought it was that the fans were organising a tour for us effectively and they did actually raise over $60,000. That was our first experience of the power of the internet and fan-to-band interaction."

Years later, and tired of the treadmill approach to working with record labels, the band looked to their fans once more - this time to create an album.

"If they paid in advance, they would get a special edition with a hardback book and maybe a double disc instead of a single disc, extra songs, that kind of thing. Something that was a collectors item for real fans. And also we had a thing where, I think it was the first 7,000 people got their names in the book and all this sort of thing.

"Really, that was our 'big idea' and we got called internet pioneers and all sorts of things on the back of it, but really it was born out of necessity."

Marillion have since gone on to release their work in other unique ways. Their 2008 album, Happiness is the Road, was placed intentionally on peer-2-peer networks by the band.

Kim, meanwhile, is busy planning her next show which she says may again be crowd-funded.

"I have only done this one show, but its been fantastic, so far."

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