Crowdfunding music: patronage or donation? An interview with DJ Ayres on efforts to help Munchi

March 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Recently we have discovered crowdfunding efforts to help Munchi – a music producer from Rotterdam, The Netherlands – pay for his medicine, hospital bills and a flight back home. When on tour in Hawaii, Munchi had a seizure caused by a sudden intracerebral hemorrhage. He spent 9 hours in a coma and 10 days in the Hawaiian hospital. Not being insured in the US, his hospital bills and medical expenses skyrocketed. His friend, DJ Ayres launched a resonant crowdfunding effort to collect money for Munchi to help him pay his medical expenses and a trip back home.

We had a chance to contact DJ Ayres and find out more about how he made Helping Munchi efforts successful as well as his view on crowdfunding.

Egor: Could you please tell me a little about yourself and Munchi? How did you get to know each other?

DJ Ayres: Munchi is a music producer from Rotterdam and I’m a DJ from New York.  He was sending around demo tracks to DJs almost a year ago and I was forwarded his music from a good friend, Dave Nada.  We really liked what he was doing and reached out to him about putting out an EP on my label with Tittsworth, T&A Records.  He was into it and we released the EP and began work on an album.  I went to see him DJ in DC in the fall, and he came to New York in December to DJ some parties and work on music, and stayed at my apartment.  In February he went out to LA for some gigs, then Hawaii, where he had a seizure and spent 9 or 10 days in the hospital.

E: How did you come to think of using crowdfunding for Helping Munchi?

DJ: Munchi has a dedicated following on Soundcloud and Twitter, and my friends and I all have fairly large followings as well, so it seemed like the fastest way to get things moving.  He needed medicine and a ticket, not to mention money for his hospital bills, and it couldn’t really wait for us to organize benefits on his behalf.  (Although we will have benefits in April).  So I talked to Dave Nada and Tittsworth, did a little research and ended up setting up a page at

E: What steps you took to make your Help Munchi efforts such a success?

DJ: I blasted it out on Twitter, Facebook and via email, and it spread really fast, I didn’t have to do a whole lot besides get the ball rolling.

E: How have you reached out to your fan base beside through your and Munchi’s online networks?

DJ: Nothing, it was done entirely online.  We are fortunate to have a bunch of famous musician friends who helped spread the word to their fans.  In the first few days I replied to every single person who mentioned the fundraiser on Twitter, thanking them for helping.

E: How do you think it helps to keep updating your followers about the current situation with Munchi and the support he is getting?

DJ: Even before we started fundraising, I was talking to Munchi and then updating people.  That was just out of concern and to keep his friends and fans in the loop, because everyone was really worried.  I think also because we spearheaded the effort to raise money, people were reaching out to us with questions and I had answers because he and I talk a lot.  And then once the money started really coming in, I wanted the people who were donating to know what was going on – not only how Munchi was doing but also where the money was going.  Because it is kind of a lot of money, we want the whole thing to be as transparent as possible.  I think if we’re asking for donations, people feel more comfortable if they know we are trustworthy.

E: You applied crowdfunding to help a friend in need, would you also apply crowdfunding for artistic purposes (Recording an album? Paying for tours?)

DJ: No, this was only because it was an emergency.  I think using it for other reasons would cheapen the whole thing and ultimately wouldn’t be very effective.  If it were another medium, maybe, but music is such that most people are used to getting it for free and I feel if they are unwilling to buy our music they aren’t likely to send money just because we ask.

As you see, the views and opinions on crowdfunding vary even among musicians. Some consider it a new form of patronage from dedicated fans; others – a great way to help a friend in trouble; yet others – a business model with a great potential. What makes crowdfunding unique is the way its many incarnations reach out across the world!

The fact that with this effort fans helped the artist at times of great hardship makes this story exceptional! At the same time, that is what crowdfunding is really about – fans supporting artist so that the latter can keep creating, inspiring and gladden.

Thank you DJ Ayres for your story! We wish Munchi quick and full recovery!

See Munchi’s Blog and SoundCloud or go  back to Crowd Funding – As we learn, we share


Africa Unsigned: Bringing African Music to the World through Crowdfunding

March 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last week posted an article about my company Africa Unsigned. I thought I’d also share the story with you here. Enjoy!

Crowdfunding Below New York documentary: an interview with director and editor Matt Finlin

March 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

For anyone deciding to use crowdfunding to get their projects off the ground, a question ultimately arises: “What will help me fund it successfully?” The debate is on, and we’ve had a chance to talk about it with Matt Finlin. Matt is a young film director who has successfully funded his amazing documentary Below New York on Kickstarter last summer. As Matt himself calls it, Below New York is a “love letter, a personal essay” to New York and its great subway artists.

Matt requested for $3000 to finish the shooting and the production of the documentary and within a little over a month the amount was gathered.

Egor: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into making movies?

Matt: I am originally from Canada, I’ve met my wife abroad in France when she was studying and eventually we moved to New York. My educational background is not in filmmaking. I went to school for Psychology and Education, and I always wanted to make films. So I was teaching abroad, in Taiwan, actually, and made my first film there. Then I got a job in New York, working in film and so here I am. I’ve been here for two years now and just recently started my own company.

E: Could you tell us about the making of Below New York and your experience with crowdfunding?

M: I have been shooting Below New York on and off working on it in my spare time. It was a way for me to learn and refine my skills, and learn a bit more about the city along the way. Then I realized that I wanted to finish it but I needed some money and I needed a sound-mix, a website, had to pay festival entry-fees and so on. I’ve discovered kickstarter through some friends. I was a little bit nervous about asking people for money at first. But I didn’t need a whole lot and it was a great way to bring an audience in before Below New York was finished and share the process of making the film with them along the way. Crowdfunding was a perfect way to raise money for the film and it worked out great. Even as I finished I can update people that have invested the money in me, show them little clips, trailers, invite them to screenings and keep them involved as I am completing the film.

E: Is there still interest among your Kickstarter backers?

M: Definitely! Kickstarter backers as well as complete strangers email me and say:  “It’s great somebody did this! Even though I am not a New Yorker, I love coming to New York and I saw those same guys on a train…” Even people who haven’t invested but found the project on Kickstarter reach out to me and ask: “When is the film  finished? When can I see it?” So it’s really a positive experience!

E: What would your advice be to artists and entrepreneurs aspiring to use crowdfunding?

M: I had something to show the backers other than a written description. I had a trailer of the film completed and people could see where the film was potentially heading. My advice would be to directly involve the audience, the potential audience, or the potential funders as much as possible. Here is one example: if you gave a certain amount of money to my project, the four part doo-wop group would call any contact you choose on their birthday and sing them a “Happy Birthday” song! It is fun and it gets people equally involved! If you get people involved as much as possible, I think you have a better chance of raising your money!

E: Has anyone requested to sing the song yet?

M: Yes! I actually had one backer from Kickstarter email me the other day who asked me if the guys could call and sing to her brother. So that will be the first one of the Kickstarter backers that the guys get to sing a “Happy Birthday” to.

E: Looking back, would you rather have more backers invest smaller amounts or less backers invest larger amounts? Why so?

M: I would personally have more backers, giving less money, and have more people involved! The more people back you the more people are likely to talk about your film, keep up to date with your film and write about it.

E: What would you consider a success for a film? What is the next step?

M: The film is ready and now it’s time for responsibility! With the remainder of my Kickstarter money I’ve submitted the film to festivals and I will keep applying as far as it goes. Of course you want people to like your film and I would really like to get into a festival or two. My biggest success would be having someone just say that the film touched them and that it made them feel something, that I captured something about New York that was special. The singers from the film are so happy and excited about it! The fact that they feel that I captured what they do means a lot to me. If someone likes the film – that makes me feel it is a success. Even if it is one person!

E: You are planning to use more crowdfunding?

M: We might use it to build an audience. For our next project, we want to make a fiction film. We want to make a short film to promote what will be, hopefully, the feature.

E: The next time you are going to use crowdfunding, are you going to do anything differently?

M: I think I’d reach out to more people. Kickstarter and crowdfunding worked really well for me and I enjoyed keeping in contact with the backers and sharing the experience with them. They enjoyed it and were excited as well! Next time I would do it with more confidence – crowdfunding pushes you to make a better project because people gave you money and are relying on you!


Thank you Matt for sharing your experience of making and crowdfunding Below New York with us! We wish you a lot of luck with your documentary! To all aspiring crowdfunders: involve, share and excite – because crowdfunding is an antonym to reclusiveness!

Go back to Crowd Funding – As we learn, we share

Ten Crowdfunding Commandments inspired by Biggie Smalls

March 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Inspired by RJMetrics’ blog post: “The Notorious CEO: Ten Startup Commandments from Biggies Smalls”. I realized that Biggie’s lyrics about how to be the perfect drug dealer fit perfectly with the yet unwritten rules of setting up a crowdfunding platform. Let’s see the ten crack commandments and what they entail for aspiring crowd funders…

The original ten crack commandments by the Notorious B.I.G.

Ten Crowdfunding Commandments

“Rule nombre uno: never let no one know how much dough you hold”
Displaying the target amount and watching the money progress in is the most vital, fun part of crowdfunding projects. But does this rule hold on a company level?
From my personal experience with Sellaband I can assure you that our life became disproportionately more expensive after Sellaband received a €3.5mil investment from Prime Technology. So if you ever receive a big investment, or if your profits start sky rocketing, hush, head down and use the money wisely.

“Number two: never let ‘em know your next move”
The only way to successfully crowdfund your project is by keeping the crowds excited every step of the way. So be innovative and keep surprising your investors: are you an artist? – then post videos of your concerts! Interact with your investors. Keep them entertained. Are you a for-profit entrepreneur? – then send a few working prototypes of your product to your investors, ask them to comment on your blog space. Never, and I mean NEVER sit and wait for the money to come in.

“Number three: never trust nobody”
Crowdfunding platforms have three stakeholders; the one in need of cash, the ones who are willing to support the cause, and the platform that facilitates the whole thing. All stakeholders have different interests, but it’s in everyones interest that unworthy or outright fraudulent projects are filtered out. If your operations are transparent and legit – believers will trust your platform and its content. Trust me 😉

“Number four: never get high on your own supply”
Crowdfunding business models are complicated by rules and regulations that prevent organizations from holding refundable cash (and for valid reasons too!). Fortunately there are numerous intermediaries that can help you channel the money well. For example you can select an online payment provider. My company Africa Unsigned works with Adyen, but just google and you will find more. You can also choose to work with an escrow partner; a third party intermediary between the debt issuer and debt holder whose primary task is to keep the money in an outside account until certain pre-agreed conditions are met. In any case  investors need to be assured that their money will be spent as promised and have the option to pull the money out before the project is fully funded if they lose faith.

“Number five: never sell no crack where you rest at”
Sure, as you start off, you promote your project amongst your FFF circles (friends, family and fools). Get them to believe what you believe, get them to help you and sponsor you, buy in on your dream. Eventually, better soon than later, however, you need to move on. Your FFF circle is a good starting point but you will need “real” customers to grow organically. I will discuss how in later posts. It’s crucial for your success.

“Number six: that credit… forget it”
What is the most effective way to get free publicity for your crowdfunding project? Right, fake it until you make it by giving lots of credit to fake investors. I’ve seen it happen, ( and I’m not going to mention any names). Sure, you can bluff your success and get the media interested with “succesfully” funded projects. You might even get them to publish an article or two but, believe me;  you’re having a one night stand! A relatively expensive one too. Publicity is volatile, and it just looks really lame if it takes five times as long for you to get next projects funded after you’ve had your first little wave of publicity.

“Seven: keep your family and business completely separated”
Word up biggie, so true. But not specifically for crowdfunding projects so let’s move on to the next.

“Number eight: never keep no weight on you”
Biggy is referring to not having too much cash or product on you, to prevent getting robbed. All crowdfunding projects involve the handling of other people’s money. Unfortunately money gets stolen. Yes, also online. So please make sure your servers are absolutely secure and your payment providers are legit! Thank you.

“Number nine: if you ain’t gettin bags stay [away] from police”
Biggy is referring to talking about other drug dealers with the police. “Snitching” is bad for your reputation. Bad reputation means bad business. One of the most effective ways to ruin your reputation with a crowdfunding project is to change the rules of the game. Our challenge however is that the concept of crowdfunding is still young and dynamic which means most concepts are bound to change at some point in time. Keep these changes as silent as possible until things are set in stone and it is optimal to make the announcement. Handle this well so your community will not start spamming the internet with how untrustworthy you are.

“Number ten: consignment [is] not for freshmen”
Here Biggy is referring to a BIG delivery of product. You should never except it if your market isn’t big enough yet, because the sellers will be expecting a payment. Soon!

Are you dreaming of playing big? Be sure you have the capacity to go big! Imagine YouTube did not have the capacity to serve all the video uploads. How long would they have lasted – a week? Start small, make sure everything works seamlessly. Your platform must work just as well for 5 listed projects with 100 backers, as for 5000 listed projects with 1 million backers… and more…

“Follow these rules, you’ll have mad bread to break up”

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