Life After Berklee: The Night Shift-When your crowd is too small to crowd fund

In August 2010, I embarked on one of the biggest endeavors of my music career to date- recording my first album “Peace, Love, & the Lack Thereof”. After having graduated from Berklee and spending a year or so writing, polishing and perfecting songs for this album while in school, I felt ready to take on the challenge of getting them recorded utilizing some of the connections I had made. I walked away from graduation day armed with nearly perfect charts, polished songs, a crowd-funding campaign on FeedtheMuse, a well-maintained YouTube channel, a small following I had accrued from a year of playing locally, and a small promotional EP project I had recorded earlier in the summer. I was READY to get this album recorded, funded, released, and marketed to an interested audience right? Well sort of.

Wait, why didn’t you use KickStarter?

If you’re wondering why I didn’t choose a crowd-funding site that was more popular like Kickstarter, for example, I didn’t because I really didn’t feel confident that I could pull the amount of backers that I would need to have a successful campaign. You see, back in California where I’m from, I have been known primarily in the gospel music circles from my childhood into my teenage years. However, I branched out in my late teens to do different types of music including Opera and Jazz as I felt limited in my artistic expression within the Gospel music genre. My following, however, was primarily in the fundamentally Christian/Gospel circles and I wasn’t prepared for how they might respond to me asking them to fund a secular R&B/Soul album. My fears may have been unwarranted, but I didn’t want to find out. This project meant too much to me. This is why I chose FeedtheMuse as a more consistent fundraising method that allowed me to receive what I raised as I went, regardless of whether I had enough support to reach my project goal. I was able to take advantage of the support I DID have here in Boston.

Ready, Set, Wait.

The project trucked forward experiencing the usual setbacks that most projects encounter: finances, scheduling, the holidays, re-thinking arrangements, re-recording, etc. With my crowd-funding campaign through FeedtheMuse I was able to alternate between studio time and time where I would be promoting my campaign enough to get a check for the next studio session. That worked for a while. The musicians and the tracking engineer I worked with were very gracious which also made this process a lot smoother. However, the holidays passed, 2011 arrived with a final studio session to record the last tracks and I was almost there. I had the rhythm section tracked for every song and was waiting on the last few extra instrumentation parts. While I waited a few months for those, I recorded another small EP, called “Anticipate” as an incentive for my fans who donated $3 or more to my fundraising campaign- I was trying to look ahead to the biggest expenses for the project: Mastering and Packaging. That sort of worked out ok, I guess. I think I raised about $50 from that incentive project which I ended up deligating towards publishing the album songs with my PRO, BMI. $50 was not enough funds to replicate 1000 copies of my albums for performances and promotion. So I had a fully copyrighted, published, recorded and mixed project waiting for about $4000 more dollars to master and package. I had a rolling budget of ZERO dollars and my project came to a screaching halt.
What now?

There came a day in August of 2011, when I realized it had been a whole YEAR since I first started recording “Peace, Love, & the Lack Thereof” and I still was nowhere near being able to master, package, and distribute it at the rate I was going with my fundraising campaign. Festivals and showcases were currently happening that I didn’t feel I could best take advantage of performing in without a product. I had raised $700 from my campaign of the projected amount I thought I would need so the rest of the money for the project so far had come from my tiny pockets and I had literally nothing left. With the down-turn of the economy in recent times, I had done everything I could think of to motivate friends, family, and fans to donate i.e. Facebook Events, Youtube originals and covers advertising the campaign, projects promoting the campaign, personalized emails to about 200 people from my gospel following, etc. I had a 9-5 office job that couldn’t even take care of me, much less my career so…..I walked myself into a restaurant and asked for a hostess job where I could work every night with doubles every weekend. By September 2011, I ran my body into the GROUND working nearly 2 full-time jobs to be able to live and fund my project.

It gets better.

In between the bouts of daily nausea, the mystery injuries, random swollen wrists and ankles, the risking of my day job for over-sleeping, the dealing with all sorts of the different personalities in the restaurant industry, I managed to tuck away each check to pay for the final things I needed for the album. By Christmas Day 2011 which was my last night at the restaurant, I had mastered, packaged, set up digital distribution for the album, & set up a music video shoot for the single ( http://youtu.be/l5lrUu4VJ_A) . After closing the doors to the restuarant for my last time, I didn’t walk away- I ran. For nearly 4 months I averaged nearly 70-75 hours of work between my 2 jobs and it was one of the hardest physical things I’ve ever put myself through. A few weeks later this past January, I shot my music video for the single, “Somebody Knows”, booked my release party/concert, booked half the year, & released the album a few weeks ago. As I’m wrapping up my final payments for the project, I can’t help but smile to myself with pride about how I did what I needed to do for my dream, for my goals, for how I want to make my money someday, for ME.

Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do for yourself and for your dreams. I hope, that after promoting and marketing the heck out of this album around the world, I never have to work like I did to make this project happen. But for my music- for my career- I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Singing since she was 5 years old, Tavonna Miller ’10 is making her mark in the music industry. She, a native of Los Angeles, CA, began singing with the children’s choir at church and soon ventured out to sing not only for her own church, but also for other churches and church events. Tavonna has been afforded the experience of working with both locally and widely acclaimed gospel artists like Kurt Carr, Judith Christie McAllister, and Tonex who is currently known as Brian Slade. Tavonna Miller encountered her greatest learning experience studying the discipline of classical voice at Fullerton College (California) before furthering her pop/jazz vocal studies at Berklee College of Music. Tavonna is known for her moving musical expression in the gospel genre and now branches out to sing not only gospel/christian, but also r&b, jazz, soul, and classical. In addition to strictly vocal performing, Tavonna Miller has graduated with a degree in Songwriting from Berklee College of Music and performs nightly at many local live music spots in Boston like The 6B Lounge, The Savant Project, the Lizard Lounge, The Milky Way Lounge, Midway Cafe, and All Asia. She looks forward to a long, successful career as a musician and songwriter who makes music that she can respect and celebrates the highly anticipated release of her debut album, “Peace, Love, & the Lack Thereof” on February 13, 2012.

 

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