Many musicians turn to Kickstarter, indiegogo, PledgeMusic and other crowd-funding websites to pay for the recording of new music. But have you considered focusing your ask instead on merch and marketing?

Meet Dustin Sisson

Dustin Sisson, a musician and sound engineer at a recording studio in Madison, Wis., is helming a new progressive-rock project called Team Data Amplifier and the collective’s debut EP, Replicant Eyes. But he took to Kickstarter to ask for money to pay for things that are just as important to him as the music.

“You might be wondering why, if I’m a recording engineer, I need this money to fund this project,” Sisson explains in the video for his now-successful campaign. “Not all the money that I’m asking for is going to be used for the recording of the actual EP. I also want to get T-shirts made. I want to get actual, physical CDs.”

Big Picture

He even mentions the names of the companies that will print the shirts and make the discs. “Investing in this project is not just helping me in the studio but also other local businesses,” Sisson says in the video.

When you think about it, Sisson’s approach makes sense and speaks to his integrity as an artist — suggesting that he has the big picture in mind and wants to present an overall quality product and everything that goes along with it. By providing shout-outs to local companies, he’s providing an endorsement of businesses whose services he values.

Add Value

Granted, many artists that use crowding-funding for a recording project pool whatever dollars are left into a marketing fund, or spend extra on the packaging. That’s what the Minneapolis-based country-rock band Rocket Club did for their 2012 album, North Country, after raising more than $6,000 beyond the original goal of $10,000. The cover art, the 20-page full-color booklet and the sturdy six-panel digipack are among the finest I’ve ever beheld — especially from an independent band.

Sisson made marketing and packaging an integral part of his crowd-funding strategy, and it paid off. He only asked for $1,000 — a realistic figure for a grassroots project, and one to which backers could relate — and he ended up with $1,105 from 30 supporters. The T-shirts are ready to go, he’s already been able to fund some promotional efforts and the cool music he wrote continues to be recorded and shared with backers via videos.

As the music industry evolves further away from established norms, incorporating Sisson’s approach into future crowd-funding campaigns will become crucial. Too much good music today goes unheard, because it’s not promoted properly, or even at all. Collecting money to help market a project you’ve asked strangers to fund seems like the decent thing to do. After all, backers want to know that the album they’re supporting will get the exposure it deserves. And so should you.

Guest Post: Michael Popke is an award-winning journalist who has been covering music for more than 25 years. His company, Two Lakes Media Group, is based near Madison, Wis., and provides promotional writing and social media services for artists and bands. Find out more at, and email him at

Related Links:

Team Data Amplifier Kickstarter campaign :

Rocket Club Kickstarter campaign:

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