The culmination of a long association with pianist Matthew Mills, Bagatelles represents some 30 years of piano music by British composer Bernard Hughes.
This April my first ever crowdfunding campaign went live and the process has generously been supported through Sound and Music’s Compose. Create. Engage. The aim of this pilot programme is to see whether crowdfunding platforms such as Pledge Music have an audience for new music. I was selected as one of five composers to take part, for which I feel very fortunate!
What is the crowdfunding campaign for?
The crowdfunding campaign is supporting an ambitious, community-based project based in Birmingham called for-Wards. for-Wards is celebrating Birmingham’s diverse communities by creating a collection of 10 bespoke musical pieces constructing a cultural sound map of the UK’s incredibly diverse second city.
We are commissioning 10 leading composers with a strong Brummie connection including alternative pop legends Pram, Afrofuturist hip-hop artist Juice Aleem and Godflesh’s Justin Broadrick, to work in one of the city’s 10 districts and all of its 40 Wards, to produce a distinctive sonic response, inspired by a bank of community generated field recordings collected found in each district and shared stories. The 10 new works will be performed back in the districts in which the sounds are found.
Through taking part in sound walks, field-recordings and workshops with their composer, residents across the city will have a unique opportunity to contribute to and collaborate with composers in the compositional processes, culminating in local live performances and the creation of an online archive for future generations.
Why am I doing it?
For many years and for various reasons I have avoided applying for funding. In the 9 years since I started to work more actively in music education and as a composer (although I must admit I have benefited from funding indirectly via various other projects), it was only until 2014 that I applied directly to the Arts Council to see whether a pilot version of for-Wards could work. I also applied this year for support of a citywide version of for-Wards.
The main motivation behind why I applied to the Arts Council and to take part in Sound and Music’s Compose. Create. Engage. was because I was also commissioning a team of musicians who would work together with communities in co-compositional methods. Basically the money was not just going to me, so I felt more inclined to apply.
In terms of making the project a truly memorable and exciting one, I knew that I would need to diversify in terms of different ways of generating income. I chose not to apply to Arts Council for 100% (rather less than 50%) of what is needed which is why an opportunity to explore crowdfunding seemed appealing, but very nerve-wracking!
The challenges I’ve faced in producing a crowd funding campaign to support a multi-faceted citywide project have been numerous:
- The first being in deciding which facet of the project to focus upon. Sound and Music/Pledge Music agreed that it made sense for the campaign to support something tangible and something audiences would easily understand. We agreed this was in supporting the composer commissions.
- The start date of my campaign had to be put back due to many obstacles that emerged whilst working with for-Wards’ project partners, including one of our artistic partners now ceasing to exist.
- Contracting and confirming musicians took more time than planned, so although our Pledge Music campaign went live in April (with the original live date forecasted as January), we were not able to announce any for-Wards’ composers until August!! It felt strange to push a crowdfunder without any composers confirmed, so the campaign has lain dormant for some time. On a positive note we have had some very generous pledgers’ support without knowing who the composers were, which is amazing! (around 16).
- We are now close to announcing our 3rd composer for the year 1 programme, and with 39 days to go until the end of our campaign we have met 8% of our target. There is still a lot of work to do and I have not received a pledge from my Mum yet! I am determined to make the impossible possible and turn this around!
Taking part in this crowdfunding pilot has not been an easy process. I’m not alone in blogging about how time-heavy the process is, so please do factor the time needed to:
- Ensure all the preparatory work is done: (creating assets, working out the sort of message you wish to share, images, updates and pricing things up),
- Create update videos
- Think about and manage the dissemination of your campaign (which is challenging, as you want to pitch it just right, rather then being too heavy handed in shouting about your project and putting people off).
On a personal note, the crowdfunder does feel quite exposing – you have to be thick-skinned and be prepared for it to not work out. However with 39 days to go, I remain ever hopeful. I WILL get my mum to pledge!
It is also very exciting when someone does take the time to ‘pledge,’ as it’s great to know that there are people out there who believe in what you do and are willing to support it so directly. We also have some cool merchandise added to our pledge campaign such as a signed copy of Pram’s Shadow Shows of the Phantascope DVD.
If you’d like to take a look at the campaign, you can find it here: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/for-wards