Crowdfunding for Shows Is Here to Stay. Just Ask Mr. Toad.

Julian Fellowes, the writer of Downton Abbey among others, has successfully crowdfunded 1 million pounds to add to 6 or 7 million more pounds from traditional investors to develop a new musical based on The Wind in the Willows.

Live entertainment productions are the ideal target for crowdfunding because the fixed costs of a show represent so much of its budget, and because crowdfunders can so easily be rewarded for their investments with tickets. It’s an ideal situation, really.

Of course, Ken Davenport did some pioneering work in this area, crowdfunding a Broadway musical a couple years ago, and others, including this one, have followed.

There’s also a company, WeDemand.com, that’s specifically built to allow musicians to crowdfund performances, greatly reducing the risk of losing money on shows and giving fans a real say in where a musical act should be playing.

Right now, crowdfunding for live entertainment is in an awkward stage: It’s not new anymore, nor is the general concept. So we’re past the point where it seems like a magical money machine. For most wannabes, it’s not viable. You need to have something, and you need to be able to get to an audience. But I disagree with Bob Lefsetz’s general pessimism on the concept of crowdfunding. I don’t think crowdfunding has peaked. He’s right that you don’t hear much about it anymore, but that’s because it’s not novel. As a legitimate nuts-and-bolts tool for fundraising, it’s still very much on its way up.

I’ve been in the online business long enough to know that things that make fundamental sense sometimes fade from view for a long time, even when they’re just chugging along, continuing to climb. Hell, I started Goldstar during a time when the business press was talking about “the death of the internet.” Meanwhile, even though the economy was terrible and the dumb talking heads didn’t have any insane IPO stories to talk about, actual USAGE of the web/internet/etc. just kept plowing forward.

Same thing here. If you think you have the potential to develop crowdfunding as a useful tool in your organization’s tool kit, get some experience with it. Go up that learning curve. It’s not a magic solution to difficult realities, but it can be put to good use.

E.H. Shepard's egotistical Mr. Toad from "The Wind in the Willows." Photograph by: EH Shepard/PA

E.H. Shepard’s egotistical Mr. Toad from “The Wind in the Willows.” Photograph by: EH Shepard/PA

The friends of Mr. Toad proved that!

By the way, come to TEDxBroadway next Monday where we’ll be getting a bit of an education on this from David Drake!

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