#071: Allison Weiss – The Kickstarter effect

Allison Weiss is a true DIY artist eager to get her music career moving forward, but being a college student makes touring and getting beyond her local scene a challenge.  To keep the dialogue going with her fans, Allison leverages the power of Twitter, Live Stream, and You Tube to communicate with her audience and build an active fan base.  When it came time to fund her most recent recording, she asked her fans for help. Allison encouraged her fans to help finance the recording through an online service called Kickstarter.   The result was overwhelming as Alison reached her goal in only 10 hours!  Are fan funded albums the future?

You can find Allison’s Music on CD Baby by clicking here!

Learn more about Kickstarter here.

  • Ron Carr

    Great podcast! What she is doing with online stuff is how I was going to boost my career since I also can’t tour much.

    What was the website she said at the end? Artistdata.com? What was it?


  • http://www.robertleeking.com Robert Lee King

    Are fan funded albums the future?

    I hope not. Seems like a bad precedent to set if you really stop and think about it.

    The lament of any artist under the thumb of a label or manager etc, has always been they had no control.

    As I see it, when an artist is beholden to their fans in this way, what they deliver has to meet the fans expectations at the expense of what the artist may have had in mind.

    All artists hope their fans like what they create but, the fans, if we’re honest with ourselves aren’t who we create for.

    In Allison’ case, this approach might make sense and even work out well, once. But, what about the next album? Try that again and I’d bet even diehard fans would toss up their hands in disgust. Everyone, even fans, want something for their investment.

    The contest ideas were cool though I doubt they’d work for most artists. I had the distinct impression from listening to Allison that she has a rather large following already.

    Think about it, when was the last time you got excited about winning a download/cd/t-shirt?

  • http://www.listenlisse.com Lisa

    Really useful stuff, optimistic and love the idea of doing it yourself. Just joined Artistdata.com, anything that saves time is a bonus in my books!
    I’m here in London where it seems everyone is trying to get signed but I really believe in doing it yourself otherwise you might wait forever. Also getting out of the big cities to do gigs is a good idea.

  • http://www.ballardpop.com Darren Riley

    Yeah, I enjoyed this one. I don’t she’s doing much different from other artists you’ve featured but it’s always good to be reminded of the basics of being an ‘internet’ musician.

    Alison came across as a funny, charming and endearingly geeky artist and shares a lot in common with other artists you’ve featured – they’re all interesting to listen to, confident in what they’re doing and have the passion to keep on doing it. Those qualities, I think, are the most important things an artist can have.

    (Apart from Matthew Ebel, of course; he’s obviously very shy and hates the limelight! :-) )

  • http://www.ballardpop.com Darren Riley

    Robert, the last time I won a CD was a few years ago. I can’t remember what it was and I know I didn’t like it but I do remember that I was pretty ‘stoked’ that I’d won it in the first place.

    I’d be more than pleased to enter an artist’s competition and win a t-shirt/download/CD – particularly the last two as I’ve stopped downloading torrents and pay for all my music these days, have done for the whole of this year.

  • http://www.octoberrising.com JP

    Did enjoy this one and Alison seems very cool.

    Would disagree with Robert’s criticism of fan-funded albums. Surely all albums since the dawn of recorded music are ultimately fan-funded? Only by fans buying albums could an artist be successful enough to make more. Once artist lose sight of their fans they often stop being successful pretty quick.

    I’m not saying you end up just writing to please other people but if your music ends up being too self-indulgent then it’s basically a hobby you’re expecting other people to finance.

  • http://www.ballardpop.com Darren Riley

    JP is right. All albums are fan-funded one way or another, it’s just that the ‘internet’ way is the other way round than usual.

    The Rolling Stones record an album and then the sales pay for the recording. Alison raised the money first and then made the album.

    Same thing really, but Alison’s way is safer as you don’t make an album you can’t sell – it’s already sold!

  • http://www.myspace.com/calmplexhiphop Calmplex

    Definately one of my favorite podcasts!!! i just got my invitation for Kickstarter and plan to use it to kickstart my first solo album… not sure if i have enough people to support my stuff though… id love to hear more story’s of people who have been successfull with this…

  • http://www.scottandrew.com scottandrew

    I fan-funded most of my last album:


    And I wrote a post on what I learned from it here:


    Hope that helps others make their own decision.

    Personally, I think it’s card you can only play a few times. When you approach it as a pre-order (as opposed to a donation or investment), it can give you an idea if you’ve got enough fan interest to even warrant a full album to begin with.

  • http://www.robertleeking.com Robert Lee King

    I paid cash for my albums. Took me three years but I paid for them, not my fans who may or may not buy them. I owe no-one for those CDs, that is being Indie, truly Indie.

  • Charles Bubba Suggs

    I know everybody won’t to make a lot of money. But it’s not allway’s the answer.
    I, myself at the age of 72 been with other Bands and other artist’s and have have had my own Band. and a lot’s of bad mangers. I do know you got to love your music and what you are doing, becase you can’t please your fans all the time. As time go by thay won’t you to sound like some-one els. So love yourself and your music, and everthing will fall in place.
    In the name of Jesus.

  • http://www.myspace.com/suizhenmusic Becky Freeman

    I think being truly indie has changed to whatever works best for you, in your situation. There are no rules to doing it DIY. That is what is so liberating about it. You can choose which methods you are comfortable with and employ them.

    You do whatever works for you, and if you can attract funding from fans then that is great. If I heard someone that inspired me and they were organised enough to have a kickstart set up with competitions and all that, then I’d definitely consider donating.

    I agree that fans have been funding artists for years in record + ticket sales. Hopefully by the time the next album comes around Alison would have sold enough to fund her next project and so on.

  • http://www.courageousrue.com SiouxDude

    I’ll just disagree with RLK on this one. Depending on how the money is solicited, I think that having a fan-funded record doesn’t destroy your “independence” especially if you masterminded the entire thing.

    The indie nomenclature can be deceptive as well. Indie doesn’t equate to DIY. I think what defines an indie artist is one who is in a majority control of their own success of failure when given multiple options to move forward. One may choose to delegate responsibility to others but ultimately they are the owner of their own fate.

  • Moullineaux

    Indie huh? I thought Indie meant independent,as Mr. King mentioned aboove. So let me get this straight. Ms. Weiss asked her “fans” to cover the cost of recording and pressing her new project? I will assume that her fans think that she is doing it for them? And if that is the case Ms. Weiss is no longer in charge. From the podcast is sounds like Ms. Weiss now has obligations to these fans so where does the Indie come in? I realize that money makes the world go round but if you owe someone for the funds you used to make your album, you are no longer INDIE, get it. I commend the ingenuity, don’t get me wrong. But if the “fans” control what an artist does or doesn’t do, the fans become the old school record companies and well, again, where is the INDIE. Let’s be honest here. Ms. Weiss wanted someone else to pay for the high cost of going into a studio because she didn’t want to pay for it herself. Can’t blame her for that, but calling her an INDIE artist is an insult to those of us who really are INDEPENDENT. No one can dispute that Ms. Weiss is exceptional at PR and that she has a vision. However, I believe I heard her say during this podcast that she did not want to give anyone else control of her musical vision. Well, Ms. Weiss, I hate to be the one to tell you but you have already done just that. You have allowed someone other than yourself to PAY for your recording and therefore you now are obliged to give them what they paid for. Does that sound INDIE to you? Ms. Weiss definitely knows what she wants and has defined how she will get it, good for her. One cannot, however, call her independent simply because she is not signed by some record company. She is now anything but independent because she owes those who advanced her the money. How is this different from “..getting signed”? Will she do this everytime she needs money to record? I applaud her for getting what she wanted, I am skeptical of the method she used to get it.

  • http://www.scottandrew.com scottandrew

    She is now anything but independent because she owes those who advanced her the money

    No she doesn’t. Kickstarter is a donation platform. She doesn’t owe anyone anything except a completed project, and they have no controlling interest or stake in the project.

    You’re confusing donors with investors. They’re not the same thing.

  • http://www.allisonw.com Allison Weiss

    Mr. Moullineaux, though I received donations from fans, I still wrote the songs, I still produced the record, when I let fans select two extra songs, I only let them pick from a specific list. I still designed the cover art work. I set the release date. I decided the single. I chose what I would let people hear first. I set and booked my tour dates. I handmade press kits and sent them to hundreds of blogs. I designed reward t-shirts, buttons, and stickers, and I’m currently sitting in a living room full of envelopes that I’ve yet to stuff and address and mail to more fans who are anxiously awaiting their preorders.

    Making promises and following through on them is hardly any form of “giving up control,” it is merely something one does when they’re a decent human being.

    If being “indie” means refusing any kind of help from people, especially those who believe in me most, then I don’t want to be “indie”.

    You are not the first to feel the way you do. I will leave you with a blog post I wrote on the DIY model. Hopefully you will consider opening your mind to what it means to be independent these days. Good luck to you.

    What does it mean to be DIY?
    posted on June 19

    “No offense, but what exactly is so DIY about asking the internet to fund your EP?”

    A simple question. No offense taken, but I feel the need to explain.

    DIY: Do It Yourself. A term once associated with fixing faucets and making birdhouses is now applicable to the music business. But what does it really mean?

    I am a DIY artist. I have no label, no manager, no agent. I book my own tours, I design my own merch, cook my own meals, and pay my own bills. I shoot and edit my tour docs. I tune my own guitar. I made the video for “I’m Ready” by myself. I run my website, store, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I hand-pack every CD I sell online and try to personalize every order. If you send me an email I will probably write you back. I don’t know what it means to be “normal” anymore, because all of my thoughts revolve around making music, playing music, and promoting music. This is my dream and I am pursuing it.

    That said, no man is an island.

    I came up with an idea. I could use this website to rally the people who believe in me. Would they want to invest in my future as much as I have? I didn’t know. So I went for it. And it was more successful than I could’ve ever imagined.

    DIY is about community. It’s about trading shows and sleeping on eachother’s floors, sharing the wisdom and secrets you learn about this business on and off the road. It’s about helping out your friends and asking for help when you’re in need. The acronym is not entirely truthful, I know.

    There are so many incredible people who support me and my endeavors every day and I am beyond thankful for all of that. After all, I would be nowhere if it weren’t for all of you guys, the ones who are listening to the music I’m making.

    Who knows if I’ll continue on this way. I assume I will eventually graduate to a new level, and I really hope you’ll support me if/when that time comes. I really truly love you and I love playing music and I want to be able to do it for the rest of my life!

    Anyway, sorry if this is really intense.

    The bottom line:
    “Do It Yourself” is actually more like “Do It Yourself & With A Little Help From Your Friends.”

    So thank you.


  • http://www.robertleeking.com Robert Lee King


    Well said.

    I must say though, the meaning of Indie or Independant has not changed, despite what some would have us believe. It still means standing on your own and paying your own way, just as it always has.

    My impression from the podcast, is that this CD would not have been finished and released were it not for the generousity of your fans.

    If that’s true, then yes, you owe them because you couldn’t have completed the CD without them.

    If that isn’t the case, then even though it was a great business move on your part, you’ve still made yourself beholden to those who did donate to this project, morally.

    Personally, I’d rather not be in that position myself.

    It’s rather like getting a favor from the mafia. They may never ask or they may want payback in five minutes. A risky situation at best.

    Remember, fans earn you fans and fans cost you fans. Word of mouth, or tweets on the internet can make or break an artist in moments.

  • http://www.myspace.com/calmplexlocust Calmplex

    Just wanted to say im trying this kickstarter thing out and it’s been about 3 or so days and im allready over halfway to my goal… Thanks DIY Podcast and Allison!!!! :)