Inquiring Minds

Is It Right To Ask Fans To Pitch In For Health Care?

The current economic environment has made times a bit rougher for artists in America, particularly musicians. Take DJ Kool Herc. The pioneering hip-hop DJ, who created the music's breakbeat foundation by switching back and forth between the breakdown section of two different funk sides, was hospitalized for kidney stones last month.

Herc's friends and fans began a fundraising campaign to help pay for his surgery, which, due to lack of health insurance, he cannot afford. Although he has been released from the hospital, Herc is depending completely on donations by fans and supporters within the hip-hop industry to the DJ Kool Herc Fund to bail him out of this serious health crisis.

For most musicians, making music is a full-time job: A career that doesn't come with a salary or benefits. A part-time job, merch and record sales, shows, and maybe a place to crash while touring are the only tangible means of maintaining financial stability. Sometimes it's when they've finally reached an equilibrium that a car breaks down, instruments break, or someone gets sick.

So what's an artist to do when he or she has bills to pay on top of bills for creating music?

In the past few years, sites like have arisen that serve to alleviate artists' monetary burdens by depending 100 percent on fans to fund "projects" like albums, shows, and other releases. Kickstarter doesn't charge anything for starting up a project and runs on an "all or nothing" process - if a project doesn't meet its target goal, no pledges are charged and the artist loses nothing (but also gains nothing).

The site also requires projects to come with "rewards" for pledges. Rocks Off asked a few local artists how they feel about direct fan-to-artist support, such as fan donations for health complications and creation of albums, and if there should be any difference between the two.

FAT TONY: [That support] comes out of a respect for the artist. I think since an artist can be very literally personal with music, it's easy for a fan to feel a strong connection to the artist -stronger than a fan of an actor or photographer may feel (though fans can develop strong connections to any aspect of art). With Kickstarter, you can get your fans and people interested in you to invest in your project through one controlled site. It gives them all they need to know about the project and about yourself.

GEO, THE CUTTERS: I don't have insurance at the moment. I think that insurance is a necessity but it's an individual's responsibility - I don't think it should be put on fans. I think if a situation comes up, a benefit show is a good thing.

I had a friend who had a urinary tract infection and had a benefit to get his antibiotics. The flyer was hilarious. In the end, he raised the funds he needed because of the show. I think it would be really weird to rely on your fans on a constant basis.

Any type of site [like Kickstarter] is fine. If it's one where you ask for funds to make a record and people contribute, something positive comes out of it. I saw that Ssion (a Kansas City group) did that.

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Allison Wagoner