Molly Neuman, Kickstarter's First Head of Music, Explains the Company's Approach to the Industry
Neuman, the former drummer of foundational riot grrl band Bratmobile and a co-owner of the now-defunct but highly influential Bay Area label Lookout! Records, departed her most recent role, as interim head and vice-president of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) for the new position at Kickstarter. According to statistics from the company, tens of thousands of creative projects have been funded since the platform's launch, drawing the backing of more than 10 million people around the world. Neuman says music projects have been the most successfully funded projects with over 22,000 to date.
Billboard spoke with Neuman, while she was in Toronto for Canadian Music Week, about her new job, how to get assistance for your Kickstarter campaign, and how the music industry can benefit from the platform, including as an A&R source.
Billboard: What is your role as head of music?
Molly Neuman: About a year-and-a-half ago, the company decided to make sure that all the creative communities were being nurtured properly and started to build the teams into having different dimensions, rather than just having someone there to field requests... to engage with different areas of creativity that are happening on Kickstarter. I’m the first person hired from outside of the company.
How do you differentiate yourselves from platforms like PledgeMusic or Patreon -- what are you doing to sway people to Kickstarter?
We are looking at things that we feel are differences and strengths of ours and, ultimately, in the future of the industry. One of the things that we offer is real transparency. We’re used to things being somewhat obscure and numbers are hidden. With a Kickstarter project, one of the challenges for us in recruiting creators is ‘’Well, you see my goal. You see if I fail and if I fail, I don’t get anything that I’ve raised.”
I’m really interested in being more engaged in Nashville, with those kinds of creators, and helping make our case to a higher caliber of talent. Also, with labels where it might make sense to help them with their artist development scenarios, or to work with artists who ultimately want to be on a label.
And that’s where your former job as vp and interim president of A2IM comes in.
Absolutely. I’ve worked with all the labels and all of the partners, the distribution companies and the digital services, so I’m looking at ways that we can -- long term -- create opportunities for Kickstarter creators with all of those partners to have a really viable scenario for a full career. Not just ‘I’m gonna raise this money and ship the records.’
Wouldn’t a Kickstarter patron wonder why a record company needs him/her to help fund a project?
The scenario has to be not be about the label raising money for an album, but about an artist developing their career and a label is a partner in that. Also, labels, especially independents, don’t have unlimited resources and [might] have a marketing an idea for the project.
Data collection is so valuable. Kickstarter could be an A&R source with all these bands raising thousands of dollars from committed fans.
I think so. That’s really the piece that hasn’t been communicated over the past few years. That’s the real opportunity, me being on the road, and sharing our story more actively is part of that education process. I really have to be out there right now and talking to as many people as I can and informing them of what we’re doing and what’s successful and what it means. And also, we have to build resources and tools internally to help the projects be something that can be manageable because even though they're generally a short window of work, it’s not easy. That challenge is ultimately a strength of ours, but can just as easily be perceived as, ‘Oh I can’t be bothered.’
Do you travel and do outreach outside North America?
I’m starting to. I’m on the road in Europe three times this year. I’ll be in France in June and then in Barcelona in September and then Amsterdam in October. I’m excited about the opportunity to share what we’re working on and what we’re trying to build. The differences that we do offer around helping artists gain understanding and resources that help set themselves up in their career in a much more robust way and then for the other parts of the music community how we can really be available as a tool to gain understanding in a similar but different way that helps people run their businesses more effectively.
The music business is a lot of risk and a lot of bets, and we might be able to be a resource for reducing those things a little bit.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.