Raising Finance from Fans

Raising finance from loans or investments can be a major challenge for all types of businesses, and it’s especially difficult when credit is scarce and investors are feeling the pinch. So any alternative ways of raising funds are worth exploring.

Enterprises in the creative, cultural and digital sector have creativity at the centre of their products and services, yet don’t always apply that same creativity to the business side of things, such as marketing, leadership or finance. But some do. True ‘creative entrepreneurs’ are not just creative people doing business – they are creative with business too. Some of these creative entrepreneurs – especially in music and film – are exploring innovative ways of raising serious amounts of money by asking lots of people for modest investments. This ‘Crowd-Financing’ approach can be labelled ‘Fan-Financing’ when fans are the focus for investments. Here are some examples:

Australian musician Clint Crighton devised a way of raising funds from his fans to record his next album. For 100 Australian dollars (about £50) you can join an exclusive club of fans which gives you special privileges: a lifetime free entrance pass to all his live gigs, a signed pre-release version of his next album, and a chance to win a trip to Los Angeles to be there at the recording of his next album. A membership of 1,000 true fans will raise the 100,000 Australian dollars he needs.

In the USA, singer-songwriter Jill Sobule invites fans to invest in her enterprise at different levels to receive a range of different benefits. From just 10 US dollars for a digital download, the investment levels rise in steps to 1,000 USD for a specially-written song for your voicemail greeting. For 5,000 USD she will perform a concert in your home and if you want to invest 10,000 USD you can sing along with her on her next album.

In the UK, Slice the Pie is a sophisticated music investment site which allows you to invest in the future success of a wide range of musicians. (I’ve invested £100 in Sarah Grace.) This model also uses a voting system to find and filter talent and then voters are invited to invest. Like the X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, this model cleverly involves the ‘crowds’ in voting – and at the same time builds a base of followers who eventually become customers or investors.

Three British teenagers raised £105,000 by selling credits in their film – for just £1 you can have your name listed in the closing credits. Award-winning Merseyside writer and film director Fiona Maher sold bit-parts in her film on eBay to raise money for her first full-length feature film. A new film called The Age of Stupid is using crowd-financing to raise investment from the public by selling shares priced £10,000 which entitle investors to a share of the profits.

Music and film are leading the way with fan-financing in the creative industries, but surely other enterprises – in the creative sectors and elsewhere – could adapt these models to their own situations and raise much-needed cash by adopting this crowd-financing approach.