Nay McArdle talks to Nina Hynes about crowdsourcing the funds for her new album Goldmine.
Crowdsourcing is far from a novel concept with several successful past examples to reference, notably the rock band Marilion who have financed tours and albums through donations from their fans. Over the past month the musician Nina Hynes has taken the plunge into raising capital for her fourth album, setting the target at €10,000, possibly the most ambitious project of any Irish musician so far.
Speaking from her home in Berlin, Nina Hynes explained why she chose FundIt, how she plans to use it and the possibilities it holds for musicians in a similar situation.
“I miss the loose craziness of the Irish.” Begins Nina with a touch of fondness. “The cliches of the friendliness and poetic characters are all true and sometimes, I long for that wacky sentimentality. There is also a crazy poetic side to Germans though, especially Berlin and the East too which takes a while to discover. I love the social awareness and modern psychology of equality that has developed here due to recent history. The inner knowledge that human rights are indeed rights. I get the feeling that Berliners were deeply affected by the fall of the Wall and obviously World War II. They have this sense that if they do not like the way they are being treated, they demonstrate, they make it known and they don’t accept no if it goes against their sense of rights and freedom. They may have a subconscious guilt but I feel their esteem is intact enough to stand up for themselves. I wish the Irish still had that confidence to stand up against the powers that be as the Icelandic did in recent times.
“It is a zillion times cheaper to live here and life is of a much higher quality on a smaller income. I live in a huge apartment in a great area that costs what a tiny bedsit would in Dublin. I eat mostly organic food which I couldn’t afford to in Ireland. Although having said that, it works better for artists who can earn their money outside of Berlin as there are not many employment options here. I got pregnant in my first week here so it’s been all about adapting to motherhood and adjusting to the bureaucracy while trying to learn the language and living in a new environment of creativity and space.”
“Being with a child a lot tends to remind us of our own childhood and that sensual connection to the world. The appreciation of details and the sense of wonder and questioning of everything so I guess my daughter’s experience of the world affects me a lot. It sure brings a lot of joy and fun although I don’t necessarily see that in my current music. As I continue to create, I wish not to stagnate, to try not to repeat, to improve my skills, to always find that place where the vessel allows life to be experienced, created and relished rather than be passed by. I feel extremely lucky and grateful to be a musician and I am not sure if I chose it or it chose me. The songs and music grow in me, when I am walking or cleaning and when I am half sleeping, I form lyrics and work on them within before I actually write.
“I write, I write and I write.” Nina continues. “Every song fulfills me for a while and then I need the next one. These recent songs for Goldmine have been particularly fulfilling and taken on a significance and importance due to the fact that I could’ve felt ‘over’ in music as I haven’t been in public or touring but instead I let the songs keep coming, to decipher my existence for myself.
“My last album Really Really Do was very important to me as it came after en emotional breakdown of sorts and it felt cathartic on my journey. It reminded me of who I am and what I am. Also, it was during that recording that I met my man, father of my child and co-collaborator, Fabien Leseure so that album stirred me in a very new direction indeed.”
In comparison to the creative and financial support shared by a band, it’s always harder for a solo musician to produce a record that sounds equally full and finished. For Goldmine, Nina plans to use the money raised to make an album up to her own standards, roping in the musicians she trusts to correctly interpret and perform the music as she wishes to hear it sound.
“Paying the musicians, choir, flights, art work, mixing, mastering, vinyl production and all other costs involved…it might sound pretentious but I have pretty high standards when it comes to sound so I didn’t want to make a crappy home recording that didn’t reflect my vision of the songs. I will be going all-acoustic which is back to my roots, something I have run away from since my first record in 1999. There will be ten to twelve songs like a soundtrack to a mellow sci-fi western with a dark romance. Fabien will play piano and co-produce, I’ll have Sean Carpio on drums and amazing ideas, Peter Cheevers on bass and horses, Reuben Maher and Ger Griffen on guitar, noise and atmosphere. The Aspiro choir will be on angel duty and I’ll be the circus clown.
“I just want to say thank you from my heart to the people who believe in me enough to fund or support my record. It moves me immensely as my road to this has not been plain sailing and I was under no illusion that there was any kind of desire for my music to be heard, never mind bought. I have recorded on an independent basis before but this is a million miles more empowering as I won’t owe to anyone and it is the public who are making it happen. It’s pretty mind-blowing for me.”
Standing at 84% with five days to go, Nina has almost reached the target. If her bid for support is successful and reaches the total of €10,000 by Thursday 14 July she will obtain the full amount raised. However, if the total is anything less than 100% all the funds will revert back to the original donors and Nina will not receive a penny. It’s an anxious time for the artist and yet, strangely exciting. The music industry has undergone such drastic changes over the past decade with major labels clamping down on the number of new artists they sign, which has led to a new wave of independent musicians recording and releasing themselves, using the internet to market and promote their work. The predicted destruction of the music industry due to file-sharing has not quite materialised but with easier access to stream and purchase music at a lower price online, even small labels have found it tough going, meaning less opportunities for musicians searching for assistance in releasing new albums.
“Over the years, I have always been playing this waiting game,” reveals Nina, “hoping someone with money or a record company would believe in me enough to fund a record. I toured, I lived from it but there was never any extra to save for recording. I could barely afford to eat never mind rent. I haven’t yet been one of those successful bands that can get it together to fund their recordings from touring.
“So I would wait and wait and wait and the songs would get replaced by new ones and no album would get recorded, and the songs I loved would fall away and be forgotten. It’s pretty depressing but I learned to realize that I am one of the lucky ones in the world and that middle-class disadvantage of not being able to record my songs is just a western malady So I’de let it go but ponder it and mull it over and keep creating.
“I thought about doing this funding thing over the last two years. I signed up to the funding sites Kickstart and Pledge Music quite a while ago but didn’t have the courage to go ahead. Then I spoke to Laura Sheeran (who successfully funded her debut album through Pledge Music in 2010) and she convinced me I could do it. She told me about a new Irish funding site called FundIt.ie and recommended I contact them.
“They said I was asking for too much money based upon my status and social network. They gauged that could get €1-2000 euro realistically. I thought ‘well, that is not going get me anywhere. This €10,000 I budgeted is not even going to pay for the full thing. Every cent is counted for’. So I somehow convinced them that I had enough artist friends in high places who would share the link with their larger public to be my ‘strategic links’ as they call them. What I didn’t anticipate was the sheer outpour of positivity and goodwill I have been receiving from friends, family and strangers alike. It has floored and humbled me. I was really just chancing my arm as I didn’t know what else to do.”
A statement of sorts has already been made by the fact that over €8,000 has been pledged in less than fifty days. Crowd-funding is still relatively new in Ireland however and musicians have only really begun to wake up to the idea of an alternative route to a career in music. Now that record deals are scarce, could crowd-funding be the future for independent artists?
“It’s hard to tell. This really gives the public power though to decide on what gets made and what kind of culture we create. Maybe the general public will feel they don’t have to pay for music anymore as it’s all free online so it will return to the ancient times of the benefactors funding artists to further culture and also entertain themselves.
I do believe in the inherent empathy in people, and in music as a uniting source so somehow, it will be made. It’s not cake, it’s soul food. If this is the future, the output will really be a reflection of the times or hopes of a time and not just a mass-marketed, controlled version of the powerful conglomerates’ vision of who we should be.”
“I wouldn’t have thought that I was suitable for this crowd-sourcing thing as I am quite shy and embarrassed about asking for help in general but I decided I had nothing to lose. If nobody cared, well then it didn’t matter as I wasn’t missing out on anything. No love lost. However, what has happened is there has been lot of love gained and with the current financial climate in Ireland, it is a testament to the good nature, goodwill to see our own blossom and thirst for art of the nation.I believe most of the finance has come from Irish pledgers, there have been foreign funders too which has meant that my world is opening up and there are ears beyond my family which is reassuring too.
Getting the word out there has been the most work. I have been online bullying people into supporting me for almost 50 days now. I just let go of my pride and told people honestly what I wanted to do. There has been an overwhelming, unexpectedly positive response. I can’t wait to go back to the music and prepare all those rewards.”