It was the summer of 2009, with my forthcoming indie album not even half completed, when my bank account & credit sources went completely and painfully bust.
The financial road had already been a major challenge with this project due to being a single-income singer/songwriter living paycheck to paycheck, as we single-income singer/songwriters are known to do.
But with various savings, windfalls and help from family I’d managed to sock over $10,000 into the making of my 2nd album before the tap when dry. I was proud of that, but pride wasn’t going to buy me any additional recording sessions, let alone mixing, mastering, design, manufacturing, blah expensive blah.
Or was it?
In a way, in a very significant way…yes, it was.
Because by the summer of 2009, though not nearly half-finished with the album I was already glowing with excitement about the music we were making. We were too far along the recording path to give up on the goal and by that time we had some mighty fine feathers in our making-a-record cap.
We’d just recorded special guest vocals with Rosanne Cash on my song “Oneonta.” We had a hearty “Yes!” from Stephen Kellogg to provide his own guest vocals on my song “3,000 Miles.” We had incredible NYC musicians like Denny McDermott (drums/percussion) willingly waiting in the wings and a couple of Music Biz execs saying “I’d like to hear that album when it’s done.”
So plopping into a puddle of “What Now?” wasn’t an option, but….well….what now?
Apparently, the first answer was whine about it.
On a particularly woe-is-me day, I was making it known on my Facebook page that I was indeed in need of a new plan. A good friend, and wonderful singer/songwriter, Anne Carley sent me a link to an article about Jill Sobule raising over $75,000 to make her album “California Years.” All funded by her fans.
$75,000?? That knocked me over. And it knocked some inspiration and some mighty brave gumption into my brain. I didn’t need anywhere near $75,000 to finish my album. In fact, I calculated that right about $15,000 more than what I’d already spent would nicely do the trick.
So I told my record producer, Mike Leslie, and my recording engineer, Robert L. Smith, my idea. I would beg my fans for help. I would grovel. I would offer up lots of gifts for donation incentives, like Jill did. I would make a complete fool of myself if I had to in order to make this album happen somehow.
Mike said “I hope this works.” And I replied “It will work. It has to.”
And so, my fundraiser launched. I spammed my poor fan base and social media followers with my rah-rah “Let’s do this together!” pleas.
At first, I felt like a huge loser. But, yes, a loser with pride. I loved this album. I knew I would be proud of it when it was done. I believed in my cause and I believed in my goal.
The donations started trickling in. First from people I knew. Then suddenly I started getting donations from strangers all over the world. $15 here, $50 there. A photographer in Germany. A roadie in Brazil. Every donation fueled my fire.
Of course, there were downtimes. Those times when I was feeling stuck and, consequently, the fundraising efforts froze, too. Those are the times that my own mother would kick in another $50 donation just to jumpstart my engine again and keep this dream on the road.
It took a full year to raise nearly half the money. We were recording as the money came in, but there was no way I could finish the album if I didn’t reach that $15,000 goal.
I had raised around $8,000 by August 2010, when my Fairy Goddonor magically appeared.
“Custom Songs by Jennifer Haase” (www.writemyweddingsongs.blogspot.com) is my latest songwriter venture, writing songs for special occasions. During this fundraiser year, I wrote a wedding song for a bride named Stacy who was getting married in May. She had a Dr. Seuss-themed wedding and wanted to surprise her hubby with the song at the ceremony itself. We both really enjoyed the experience of working together. Her wedding song turned out unique and lovely and I loved writing it. Stacy got married to her sweetie, Daniel. I wished her well. We went our separate ways.
Then a couple of months later she found me on Facebook and the rest is album fundraiser history.
Stacy saw me posting “Please donate!” messages and decided, by golly, she would donate. I got a PayPal notice that I’d just received 500 bucks. What??!! OMG, tears and gratitude and a weepy phone call ensued to this generous former song client of mine.
Then soon thereafter came a new PayPal notice for another $500 donation. No w-a-y!
Then, guess what? Stacy donated another full $1,000 in one shot. By now, I was shaking with elated disbelief. Who is this woman and what in the world did I do to deserve such generosity?
With Stacy’s amazing help, my fundraiser reached the $10,000 mark at lightning speed and all my fans, friends and family were celebrating with dropped jaws, too. The buzz was incredible. Everything seemed possible again. I dug into my fundraising efforts with more commitment than ever before. I networked and asked for donations all day long, via every social media outlet I had. I asked friends to spread the word. I got louder and prouder by the minute.
But these, as they say, are tough times. I wasn’t making new ground in spite of my new energy and push.
Then one afternoon I arrived home to find 3 phone messages, all from Stacy (Fairy Goddoner Herself).
“Jennifer, my husband just got a great new job and I’ve got some extra money and I’m going to go right now and donate the final $5,000 you need to reach your goal!”
“Jennifer, it’s Stacy again. Apparently PayPal won’t let me donate all $5,000 at once, so I’m going to have to do this $1,000 at a time. Just wanted you to know that!”
I literally was having heart palpitations listening to her messages.
“Hey, Jen! The donations are complete. You just reached your fundraiser goal, girl!”
I was crying hard as I dialed the phone to thank her. I had no idea what to say. How do you thank someone you’ve never even met for doing something so unbelievably life-changing? Stacy and I talked and talked. Bottom line, she had the means and believed in me and that was that.
My musical world started rumbling excitedly from the doors that opened that day. I called my recording engineer, who was speechless. I called my record producer, who shed a few happy tears of his own. As the news broke, to my fans and other donors, there were high-raised clinking glasses in a handful of time zones.
Stacy Mayfield, one of the most gracious and generous people on the planet, donated a total of $7,000 to my album fundraiser. It might be my album, but she’s the Rock Star.
In fact, every single person who donated to the making of my album is a huge Rock Star to me. I will never forget the incredible experience, the excitement everyone brought to my project and the bravery it took for me to ask for the amazing help I received.
The album is called “No More Invitations” and it releases spring 2011.
To all my album donors, I love you madly.
To all the singer/songwriters hoping they can make the funds happen, too, I say with confidence “Yes, you can.”
Just follow the Five C’s:
1. CREDIBILITY: Offer something wonderful that you deeply believe in and be good for it.
2. COLLABORATION: Embrace the importance of asking for help & getting it.
3. CONNECTION: Bond sincerely with those who help you.
4. COMMITTMENT: Never stop until you reach the goal, no matter how long it takes.
5. CONTRIBUTION: Be someone who gives back and pays it forward. Amen.