Iame Looking to his right.
Photography by Arian Stevens

Together we can make Cinmetroplis happen – Geo of Blue Scholars

Blue Scholars and Iame are looking for your support through Kickstarter to release their upcoming projects. Kickstarter.com has become a gathering ground for artists looking for support for upcoming projects. Musicians, writers, designers, directors, producers and developers alike post videos asking for support from their community. Artists set a goal amount, a deadline, and give rewards as incentives to encourage support. If they do not reach their goal amount by the deadline set, they do not get any of the money pledged. Once a goal and deadline is set, it can not be changed.

Seattle hip-hop artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis recently launched a campaign with a goal of $10,000 to make a music video for their song wings, being directed by Zia Mohajerjasbi. The campaign used the reward of 6′ posters of Macklemore posing in the classic “Wings Jordan Pose”, along with others, to raise over $18,000.

Fellow Seattle artist Grynch said he was also considering using the site to raise money for his upcoming project.

“It’s definitely been discussed. I definitely think there are a lot of pluses to do something like that.” He continued ” It gives the artist that direct connection with their fan base. It’s another example of record labels, not being completely on their way out, but becoming a less viable necessity for artists. Just the nature of the business now. So many artists have the potential to eat off this shit without any sort of major label support. We’re cutting out the middle man pretty much.”

Iame is looking to raise $2,000 to help finish the production of his upcoming album, Lame, and to pay for the manufacturing costs involved with obtaining physical copies. With two months remaining until his deadline, he is closing in on about half of that amount. He will be touring with fellow Sandpeople member Sapient later this month. The focus of the tour will not only be promoting the upcoming album, but also drawing attention to his Kickstarter page.

“There have been artists who have put together some really successful campaigns,” he said. “This is a way for me to be able to get people an actual physical product without having to put myself further into debt… If worse comes to worse I can still put it up as a free download or sell it digitally, but I’m really hoping this will allow me to produce a physical copy for people to have.”

Jon Heder and Nick Peterson

Jon Heder, best known for playing Napoleon Dynamite, has currently been working the blog circuits with director Nick Peterson to raise awareness about his own Kickstarter campaign. The two are hoping to raise enough to be able to develop a live action animation short film.

“I think a lot of people like the idea of Kickstarter because they don’t know investors, or maybe they don’t have rich friends, or maybe they do but they’ve just done that so many times that they want to escape the route of sitting down and doing all the meetings,” Heder said. “It’s kind of a cool way to get out there without the pressure of finding investors, and allowing anyone out there to help out… It’s up to you how much you want to give.”

Nick Peterson pointed out that a big benefit of Kickstarter for those that pledge is there is not a risk involved with donating. The people who pledge money know exactly what they are getting in return. This takes a lot of pressure off of the artists, because they are not in a position where they need to make a large amount of money to pay back everyone they have borrowed from.

Still, securing the funds can become a large challenge.

“It’s a full time job promoting this Kickstarter thing,” Peterson sadi. “You can’t just put it out there. You really have to work it.”

Geo and Sabzi, the duo that make up Blue Scholars, are one of the most successful hip hop acts in the Northwest. It’s been four years since they last released an album. Before publishing their Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming release Cinemetropolis they hosted a private listening party, inviting only a select group of friends, journalists and bloggers.

The Group is looking to raise $25,000 to help create a series of films inspired by the album.

On their Kickstarter video Geo announced, “The question is how are we going to put this out? Releasing music and videos can cost a lot of money. Those costs are usually fronted by record labels or some big brand. We’ve tried that before. Now, we’re going to try something completely new. We’re going to sign a record deal with the people…Ultimately, you’re the ones we make the music for, it only make sense that we ‘d come to you first to ask for your support. ”

Blue Scholars have $16,000 of their goal pledged so far. They’ve done a great job of encouraging pledges by giving people an even trade. For example, $10 gets you a digital copy of the album before the release date. $100 gets you a $100 gift card to spend at the Blue Scholars shop AND a digital copy of the album.

“We never saw our own Kickstarter campaign as a donation platform. In fact, if Kickstarter never existed, we would’ve probably found another way to set up essentially the same thing: a chance to pre-order AND support the making of the album online,” Geo said in an email interview. “This was partly based on my own experience as a pledger for other projects — all the ones I’ve supported, I got something tangible as a reward. Others were intriguing to me, but unless there was an urgency or a reward, I wasn’t gonna just donate to something I felt was gonna happen anyway with or without my pledge. ”

For many Kickstarter campaigns, higher dollar amounts are encouraged by invites to private parties, meet and greets with artists, and in some cases even a production credit.

While many artists are huge believers in the project, and even more fans are willing to support, some feel that the project is simply a way for people to beg for money. One post at www.superhappywax.com read,

(Paraphrased) “This is not aimed at anybody personally, because I know a lot of good artist use the site to fund their projects but if you don’t have the money to put out your own album than shut the f*ck up and go get a job like the rest of the population your trying to leach off. Kickstarter is like an artist walking up to me and saying: “Hey, I will paint you a picture if you buy all my art supplies and then when I’m done you can buy the picture from me too”…F*ck that! Go paint your picture and if I like it I’ll buy it. I’m an artist too. I’m going to start up a kickstarter page so suckers can start paying my mortgage payments. You can come to my house once a week and I’ll even cook you a hamburger.”

Lord knows I do like hamburgers….