I think Kickstarter is one of the best things that has happened to music in a long time, since it does away with pretty much the only remaining useful, nontrivial thing that record labels offered to bands or to fans: paying for the up-front production costs. Kickstarter lets bands get that money from true fans who are willing to pre-pay for a not-yet-recorded album, instead of basically entering into a loan-shark relationship with a label.
I recently contributed to a kickstarter for The Dollyrots. I got an early digital copy of the new album — which is great and you should buy it! — and also got the little care package they sent out including a signed poster of all of the contributors and a few similar things. This extra stuff is adorable, and made the whole process feel very personal.
Apparently they only had around 500 contributors, but that was enough to pay for the album, which is awesome, and kind of surprising — that’s not exactly a large number of people! Even for a small band, that’s only the attendance of two or three shows. It looks like about half of their total came from small-ticket items rather than things like “buy my old guitar”.
Rest of the piece is really smart too.