Tech Rap: Investing in Music, Part Two
Posted on August 03 2020
In Part One of Tech Rap: Investing in Music, I described crowdfunding and cited several music-related, reward-based crowdfunding campaigns I have supported. In this second installment I cover three more unique bands including a really cool, retro-vocal sister trio, radical harp music by identical twins, and a UK band creating folk music therapy. I conclude with an update of our Equity crowdfunding campaign as well as links to the artists discussed in Parts One & Two.
According to the Hustle, between 2009 to last year, the music category accounted for 13% of all crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter, the leading crowdfunding platform. That might not seem like an impressive number, but music campaigns actually ranked second overall, with film being the leading category at 16%. Half of all music campaigns are successful, outperforming most other crowdfunding categories. Successful music campaigns have raised $208 million dollars over that ten-year stretch. With those kinds of statistics, it is hard to ignore the important role crowdfunding plays in music.
1. The Hebbe Sisters: Jazz It Up and Move
In Part One I pointed out the fact that not all crowdfunding campaigns are successful. This is one example of a music campaign I backed that, regrettably, failed.
The Hebbe Sisters are three young Swedish singing and swinging (in the musical sense of the word) siblings who are reminiscent of The Andrew Sisters. They are best known in their home country and in certain parts of Europe, but have been working hard to change that. Emelie (29), Josefine (25), and Maria (23) Hebbe have been singing together since they were children. Their broad vocal repertoire includes Jazz, Boogie-Woogie, Pop, Soul, and Classical. As the title indicates, their latest release, Jazz It Up & Move, focuses on jazz and swing covers (plus two original songs), and from the music I have heard so far, I can tell you it is a must-listen.
For their new release, the sisters (and they really are sisters) are ably backed by the Jan Adefelt Swingtime Trio. Their voices coalesce into a sound that conjures up memories of the popular vocal hits of World War II. Stevie Wonder’s Musical Director, Nate Watts, said the sisters “sing clear like white, crystal snow”, and called them “real artists.” In watching their live performances on YouTube, they look like they are having the time of their lives, and so do their audiences. One rarely finds this kind of music being recorded these days, so I was quite pleased to happen upon them and become a backer.
So, it was a big disappointment to me when their Kickstarter campaign expired falling far short its $10,000 fixed goal, but sometimes that is the way the crowdfunding cookie crumbles. Interestingly, most of the successful music crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter are those with a goal below $10k according to the Hustle. The Hebbe Sisters chalked their campaign’s failure up to the coronavirus, which was also responsible for bringing their energetic live performances to an abrupt halt.
Toward the conclusion of the Hebbe sisters’ campaign I received a highly unusual email from them thanking me for my support despite their campaign’s failure, and inviting me to make a payment direct to their PayPal account to receive an autographed copy of their new CD toward year’s end. Having backed many campaigns over the past few years, I had never received such an email. When campaigns fail, Creators usually quietly fade away and lick their wounds, or try again sometime in the future with a revamped campaign. I went ahead and made the payment without hesitation because I believed in them and their music. That is the heart and soul of crowdfunding. Do your ears a favor and check out the songs The Hebbe Sisters have released from their new album so far. The world needs this kind of feel good music now more than ever.
With Josephine Hebbe’s help I managed to pin down all three busy sisters long enough to answer my questions via email. It was a collaborative effort, with all of them contributing to each question (I exercised minimal editing):
PS: Did you take professional dance lessons or are you just naturally good dancers?
HS: We started dancing in a very early age and went to “kids dance classes” with our parents. As we grew older, we danced more frequently and we also had dance classes every week at junior and senior high school years at Stage & Perform in Arvika. During our years in school we’ve been taking part in many shows and musicals where also dance was included. Emelie & Josefine have studied Musical Theatre for three years, where they danced many hours per week. Josefine is regularly taking a lot of professional dance classes in ballet, Jazz dance etc., and have always loved to move and express with her body.
[In] 2008 we discovered the couple dance Lindy Hop and visited the world’s biggest dance camp, Herräng Dance Camp, outside Stockholm. Since then we’ve been hooked to that dance! Lindy Hop and swing dancing have had an important role in our lives since [an] early age. It really opened up many new opportunities for us and thanks to swing dancing we have friends from all over the world.
PS: You exude energy and excitement when you sing live. Where does it come from…what is the source of these emotions?
HS: Thank you so much for saying that! That’s one of our goals - that the audience will feel the same positive energy that we feel on stage. The energy and excitement we experience when we sing really comes from our true inside. We’ve always loved singing, to express ourselves artistically and to touch the audience with our music. To sing and perform music that we genuinely like, in our own three-part vocal arrangements, is something that we really love. Since our parents are musicians, many people might think that they’ve pushed us into working with music. But all they have given us is love, encouragement, and lots of opportunities, which we’re so grateful for! We’ve always found our strong motivation and drive within ourselves.
PS: I’m excited to get my signed CD. Can you provide an update on the progress of your new album, “Jazz It Up & Move”?
HS: In January 2020 we went into the studio to record our album Jazz It Up and Move. Thanks to great people around us and support from our fans we managed to finish the album just in time to our release tour in March. To fund this enormous project, we started a Kickstarter campaign, but during the campaign the coronavirus started to spread around the world which unfortunately made it impossible for us to reach our goal. Luckily many of our backers still wanted to support us and we could fulfill our dream. The album is not released digitally yet, but will be out later this autumn. During the spring we’ve released three singles that are available on all digital platforms so far, and a fourth one, Sincerely, is coming up on Friday the 31st of July. You can buy a signed copy of the album by sending an email to us: firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our web shop.
PS: You cover several different musical genres...jazz, classical, etc. Do you have a preference?
HS: As you say, we like to move across genres such as jazz, pop, soul as well as classical music and musical theatre, often in combination with dance or other art forms. It’s so hard to choose only one genre, when there’s so much fantastic music out there! We’re inspired by performing artists who are humble yet confident. Those who are competent, driven, and dedicated. Those who have the courage to express vulnerability which, in turn, gives us strength. We’d like to think we actually have these qualities as a trio and that The Hebbe Sisters is a unique concept that we’re looking to nurture, develop, and share with people around the world.
PS: Does your jazz music appeal to a certain age?
HS: We really want to reach a wide audience with our music. With our latest album “Jazz It Up and Move” we’re hopeful that the album will inspire listeners of all ages to embrace life, enjoy themselves and seize new opportunities. We hope we’ll cheer people up with our music and also appeal to those who are less familiar with jazz and swing. The Hebbe Sisters jazz is both for nostalgic people (like our 92-year old Grandmother), dancers, for jazz lovers (who enjoy listening to crazy trumpet solos), and to “not yet jazz lovers”. If you’re still not convinced that you like jazz, check out our YouTube-channel for other stuff like e.g. Life on Mars - David Bowie, Stop in The Name of Love - The Supremes.
PS: Despite the pandemic you have recently been able to perform a few live, social-distancing shows. How does it feel to get back to performing live again?
HS: We actually performed on a raft in the beginning of July - a totally unique event that was a huge success! It felt so wonderful to meet the audience again, that was cheering from the shore! Even if it was a social distance between us, we could really feel their love and energy. We always do our very best to create a connection to our audience and to make them feel involved, appreciated and energized. Like we’re all one unity. That evening the power of music really brought us together for two hours - a memory for life! We’ve also had some live streamed concerts during the spring that are still available on our YouTube-channel.
Trivia (supplied by The Hebbe Sisters): Of the three sisters, Emelie is the arranger, Josefine tap dances, and Maria is the cook. They currently live together on a farm with their parents and two goats named Billy and Willy.
2. The Harp Twins; Harp Reflections
The Harp Twins’ new Harp Reflections CD, born from crowdfunding.
Camille and Kennerly Kitt, known professionally as “The Harp Twins”, are the world’s only identical twin professional harpists. Thought harps were relegated to cheesy elevator music, stuffy classical works, and ethereal new age music? It turns out, harps rock! The Harp Twins’ Harp Attack Volumes 1-3 CDs cover songs by Iron Maiden, Metallica, Ozzy, Led Zeppelin, Megadeth, and Black Sabbath, as well as the Rolling Stones, Eagles, U2, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, and Journey. Harp Attack will not land you in the ICU, but it might just put a smile on your COVID-masked face.
I know what you are thinking, but rest assured, the Harp Twins are not just a couple of identical pretty faces. They have Bachelor of Music degrees, are “distinguished experts” in rifle marksmanship, and are both former Tae Kwon Do instructors. Do not fret…they have a softer side. The Kitts are volunteer companions for special needs kids and adults and know sign language. They fiercely protect their image/brand and have repeatedly turned down frequent, lucrative reality TV show offers, so do not go searching for Harp to Harp, Harp Twins Gone Wild, House of Harps, Harp Hunters, or Hey, Hey We’re the Harp Twins (I made all those up) on your favorite video streaming service. The twins see themselves, and rightly so, as role models, and take that responsibility very seriously. With over 116 million views on YouTube, 1.6 million social media followers, appearances in movies, TV (The Walking Dead), commercials, theater, representing the USA in two World Harp Festivals, and tours throughout North & South America and the UK, they are clearly world-wide influencers.
Harp Reflections is The Harp Twins’ second Kickstarter crowdfunded CD, having met their $6k funding goal in an astounding 90 seconds, ending with over $54,000. That is a hefty sum indeed, though given their massive following on social media, it is head-scratching why that figure did not finish considerably higher. One effective weapon Creators have in their arsenal to maximize contributions are “Stretch Goals”, a term I have heretofore unintentionally ignored. Stretch Goals are tools Creators use to incentivize additional contributions. In the case of the Harp Twins, as with their very first Kickstarter campaign, they offered multiple unique stretch goals all of which were “unlocked” by their campaign’s conclusion. Some of these goals included an autographed mini-photo for all backers if the campaign reached $9,000, a photo and lyric book included with every CD if the campaign reached $11,000, and an exclusive on-line concert if the campaign accumulated 900 backers (it logged 903 backers by its end).
With this latest title, the Kitts now have seven albums under their Third-Degree Black Belts, so if harp hard rock is not for you, you should be able to find something else to suit your ears. In the case of Harp Reflections, the CD is described as a mix of Celtic, Classical, and Sacred music, including some vocals. As the Harp Twins explained on their crowdfunding campaign page, “We have wanted to create this album for years, and since we currently cannot tour due to COVID-19, this is really the perfect time to create an album of music to bring peace and light to an increasingly dark and uncertain world. We’re thrilled to finally begin bringing Harp Reflections to life!”
As with the other artists in this article, I invited the Harp Twins to participate, but they were unable to get back to me before the article “went live” due to their campaign-related workload. However, they eventually got back to me and I am pleased to update this article with my email interview with them:
PS: How did you first become acquainted with crowdfunding?
KK: We have long known about crowdfunding and the possibilities associated with it. For many years we shied away from it because we have a very strong work ethic and have always wanted to do everything ourselves. However, as time went on and we kept giving away free gifts of our music and art, we began to get an increasing number of audience requests to use crowdfunding sites. We realized that crowdfunding isn’t charity, it’s allowing a community of people to actively support artists and get lots of awesome products in return!
PS: Have either of you personally backed any crowdfunded campaigns, music related or otherwise?
CK: Yes, we have backed quite a few projects that other people have run through crowd-funding sites! It’s fun to show support to friends and artists of all kinds!
PS: What led to your decision to crowdfund “Harp Reflections”?
CK: We tour as a harp duo full time for a living. When the pandemic started, our scheduled shows began to topple like dominos. What everyone thought would be a few weeks, turned into a few months, which has now seemed to turn into at least a year of no touring. However, we love to look on the bright side of things. Not being able to tour became an opportunity to create art in other ways. We began an online home concert series through Patreon, continued to film music videos in beautiful outdoor locations, and decided to create a new album!
KK: Harp Reflections is an album that we have wanted to create for many years, but other projects, performing, and touring always took precedence. The pandemic created the opening needed for us to finally create this album. Crowdfunding the creation of the album seemed like a practical and logical step. It allowed us to have the funds to pay for mastering, album work, physical production, etc., and also allowed our community to be part of the creation process. We’ve always thought it would be fun to crowdfund an album, and that turned out to be true!
PS: Do you find crowdfunding affords you a special connection with your fans?
CK: Most definitely! It has been amazing and humbling to see our community come together to support our projects! It’s incredible to know that there are people around the world who enjoy what we do and want to take an active role in helping us to create more music and art.
PS: What is the hardest part about conducting a crowdfunding campaign?
KK: We think the hardest part is probably managing individual orders, messages, etc. We design the campaign, merch, rewards, Stretch Goals, etc., etc., etc. We do everything ourselves, including packaging and shipping, so with almost 1,000 pre-orders, it’s quite the daunting task.
CK: Plus, we want our community to have the best possible rewards and experience, so we’re those people who are doing things like individually messaging people who we think might need help or have backed the wrong tier. For example, we’ll recognize a supporter who is on a tier that includes all of our albums, and say to each other, “Doesn’t she already have all our previous albums? Maybe we should message her to see if she made a mistake.” Lol. We always manage to somehow create extra work for ourselves. But it’s really because we care about our community so much.
PS: What is the downside to crowdfunding as you see it?
CK: Probably that the host site takes a pretty good chunk of the earnings as a host fee. That’s always a bummer! haha
PS: If you had not crowdfunded “Harp Reflections”, how would you have otherwise released it?
KK: We would have just released it as a 12-track album and sold the physical album through our website and streaming and downloads through the normal platforms. It’s so cool that because of our Kickstarter, Harp Reflections turned into a massive 15-track album with lots of other perks and rewards for backers!
PS: What is the single most important piece of advice would you give a musician/band thinking of starting a crowdfunding campaign?
CK: Our biggest piece of advice would to be practical about what your audience wants and how much work will go into the campaign and creating the actual project. From the outside, crowdfunding looks like it’s an easy way to fund projects, but successful campaigns are a result of a lot of work and planning – before, during, and after the campaign ends.
Based on the latest campaign update, rewards have been delayed by a month since the album required more time than was anticipated. I look forward to receiving Harp Reflections in early October and to seeing the Chicago-based Harp Twins perform live next year in New Hampshire (rescheduled from October of this year due to the coronavirus).
Open your mind (and ears) to something new and give the Harp Twins an audition.
Trivia: The Harp Twins decided to hang up their Black Belts and concentrate on their harps after Kennerly broke two fingers and Camille required stitches in her face while holding a board Kennerly broke with her hand.
I do not mean to harp on the subject (okay, really bad pun), but you can uncover some hidden musical gems like the Harp Twins if you are willing to do some digging through music campaigns like you would through records in a record store (minus the dust and moldy smell). If becoming a crowdfunding backer is not your cup of tea but you love music, you should at least make it a point to have a regular browse through the numerous music campaigns on Indiegogo and Kickstarter, the two platforms that are ground zero for crowdfunding. I have found them an excellent resource for discovering new music and artists I otherwise would never have known about. The UK’s Pasadena Roof Orchestra, NY’s Bandits on the Run, and Chien Chien Lu are a few others. You can even discover silence, such as Light in the Attic Records’ album of total silence. Here is one last example deserving of your attention:
I ran across an Indiegogo campaign for a new CD by British contemporary folk group Faeland, founded by Rebecca Nelson and Jacob Morrison. I had never heard of them and though I did not to support their recent campaign (which raised nearly $14,000), their campaign led me to purchase their All My Swim CD. From the group’s website: “Faeland’s sound and mission pair up well together and create a beautiful vulnerability that is authentic and true. Songs like “We’re Just A Love Song,” “All My Swim,” and “The Wheel” offer listeners a seductive realness that rises above all the pushed product out there and must be heard and experienced to be fully understood. Faeland’s focus on positive impact and ample musical skills have the potential to touch the world if given the chance.”
In a way, I felt like I have helped support them since I bought an autographed copy direct from their website, which was costly since it shipped from the UK to Boston. Frankly, I am not a big folk music fan, but I love the original songs on this CD and Rebecca (“Beccy” to her friends and fans) Nelson’s soothing voice. Nelson has a Commercial Music Degree as well as a Master’s in Music Therapy, which might explain why the group’s music resonates with people. Indeed, they refer to their music as “acoustic song medicine to soothe the mind and spirit.” Besides their voices, the other ingredients in their melodic medicine include guitar, ukulele, banjo, double bass, violin, harp, mandolin, drums, clarinet, organ, and cello. BBC Radio 6 Music, one of the default preset Internet radio stations on our models, championed their music early on. Try Faeland on for size like I did and I think you will be very satisfied with what you hear on a number of different levels. If you are a night owl or a very early riser, take in one of Nelson and Morrison’s live streaming performances every other Wednesday at 8pm UK time on their Facebook page.
I asked Morrison and Nelson to field some questions via email:
PS: What is the story behind Faeland’s name?
Jacob: There's a village near where we used to live, called Failand. There are often low mists over Failand, even when it's completely clear everywhere else. We see the mists as the porthole to "Fae Land". In olde English "Fae" means "other", and for us music can be a passage to this “otherness”, this magic that you can't quite put your finger on.
PS: You state your music is like medicine. How do you approach your songs to try to give them that effect?
Beccy: We write music to help us get into a calm, relaxed, feel-good state, so it makes sense that the listeners pick up on that feeling, too. While it's not something we deliberately set out to do, a lot of fans have told us that our music has had a deeply healing and relaxing effect on them.
PS: Is there a spiritual or religious component to your music?
Beccy: We don't personally subscribe to any one particular religion, but we were both brought up in households where Christian, Jewish and Buddhist influences were a part of our lives. I'm sure this has impacted our songwriting in some way, and has got us used to reflecting on the deeper themes of humanity and existence. Whatever one's religion, music seems to connect everyone to something beyond themselves.
PS: Having a Master’s Degree in Music Therapy, can you give me an example of how you’ve seen music (yours or another’s) help someone in emotional or physical pain?
Beccy: During one of my clinical placements I worked with a young man who had suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost the use of his voice. Using a piece of his favourite music, and by playing with the pacing of the song to suit him, he finally had the impetus and structure to produce vocal sounds. The look in his eyes was one of such surprise and happiness! It was incredibly moving. But this is just one example of how music therapy can help people - there have been so many moving moments like this in my work with people living with autism, dementia, trauma recovery, etc.
Trivia (supplied by Faeland): As a young teenager, Morrison’s main music passion was hip hop, which surprises fans of Faeland’s acoustic music. He tried his hand at MCing, DJing, and production before discovering Nick Drake and picking up fingerstyle guitar at the age of 17.
In the way of an update regarding Como Audio’s important Equity crowdfunding campaign, as of this writing, our StartEngine campaign has raised over $135,000 thanks to many generous investors. Late last month our Founding CEO, Tom DeVesto, signed a lease for an 8,000+ square foot facility that is now housing our offices, warehouse, and hopefully, an assembly area. As Tom stated in his press release, "Music is my lifeblood. My entire professional life, in all the companies I've founded and sold, I've pursued a single goal: creating audio systems that deliver music the way the artist created it and I wish to continue that goal with U.S. manufacturing and workers." However, we still have a long way to go if we want to develop assembly in the USA, so please seriously consider supporting our campaign (hyper link) before it ends. If you are not in a position to invest, you can still help out by letting as many people as possible know about our campaign. Even before social media, word of mouth was always the most effective advertising.
As for backing music campaigns, it is exciting to discover a new sound, and quite gratifying to know your contribution helped play a role in an artist’s dream, even if it is only $25 or $50 worth of their campaign. If you have a specific music genre or genres you prefer, Kickstarter allows you to narrow down your search by selecting from eighteen different genres like Jazz, Classical, R&B, and World Music. Indiegogo is not quite as organized…you need to type in your genre of interest in the search field. However you go about it, make music crowdfunding part of your quarantine routine. Besides, musicians have been hit hard by the pandemic and really need your support. Just another less-traveled path you may not have been aware of to enjoy the (undiscovered) music.
Links to the Creators:
Next Tech Rap: Record Store Day
General Manger Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio in 2016. If you have a comment or would like to suggest a topic for a future Tech Rap, Peter can be reached directly at email@example.com