Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfunding initiatives

CELEBRATION SONGS: Following a Kickstarter launch party at Asheville Music Hall, the musicians in local soul and funk act Hustle Souls set off on a two-week tour of their home state and Virginia. Image from the band's campaign page

Crowdfunding platforms make it possible for individuals and organizations of any size to harness social networks and raise start-up capital for projects that might otherwise fail due to lack of funding. Each week, Xpress highlights notable Western North Carolina crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd.

Hustle Souls debut album

“We didn’t dive into a studio album at the get-go,” Hustle Souls frontman Billy Litz (vocals, trumpet, keys) explains in his band’s crowdfunding video. “We have played literally hundreds of shows, rehearsed for hundreds and hundreds of hours, and have finally found ourselves and found our sound. [We’ve] written some songs — and we’re all writing now — that we really feel proud of.” Assisting the band at Echo Mountain Recording this October will be engineer and producer Eric Sarafin, who has worked with artists like Ben Harper and Amy Grant, and recently took notice of the Hustle Souls after viewing some performance videos online. The group aims to raise $9,000 by Saturday, Sept. 23, to fund the recording and release of its first full-length album, Color.

Urban Dharma’s move

After being told that their leased space was up for sale to a new owner, Urban Dharma’s leadership decided to move the Buddhist church to a new location: 77 Walnut St. “Part of the plan of the future landlord involves transforming the second floor of our current location into condos — a transformation that will be too disruptive to our programs and activities,” reads the organization’s crowdfunding page. Though rent will actually decrease, the volunteer-run church is seeking $9,000 in support to cover the moving and renovation costs, pay several one-time expenses expected for 2018 and establish a “rainy day” fund for the church. This, the page continues, will allow Urban Dharma to continue “to provide a sanctuary of peace, quiet and sanity in downtown Asheville; to offer our regular spiritual and wellness programs; and to sustain a Buddhist presence of wisdom and compassion in our increasingly troubled social fabric.”

Image from campaign page
Image from campaign page

Poetry Cabaret’s success story

In June 2017, Asheville’s Poetry Cabaret collective completed a crowdfunding campaign, raising $2,125 from 33 financial backers. The impetus for the project, as founding artistic director Caleb Beissart explained online, was to send the interdisciplinary group to Washington, D.C., where they’d been invited to perform at Capital Fringe.

“The shows went great,” Beissart reports. “We did six shows in D.C., at Capital Fringe, and one show at Staufferstadt Arts in Strasburg, Va., on our way back. Our collective of poets, musicians and a comedian performed alongside burlesque dancers and acclaimed poet Teri Ellen Cross Davis. Highlights included seeing the other Fringe shows, riding with Clyde Ensslin and frequenting fine Ethiopian establishments. We also found out that Mike Pence enjoys haiku, but only if his wife is present.”

Through crowdfunding, the group was able to cover some travel expenses and work on branding and merchandising. Beissart says he and his peers will likely use the online platform again, though they’d tweak certain aspects on their end — for instance, setting a higher goal, since participating artists had to pay for many expenses out-of-pocket.

“We would like to continue to raise money for performance projects, including taking the show to other cities, residencies, universities, Fringe festivals and perhaps even the big Fringe in Edinburgh someday,” he says. “Poetry Cabaret is a truly unique show that we feel could connect with audiences in many different places. [It] delivers entertainment but also inspiration and deeper conversation through poetry.”

He continues: “The trip established Poetry Cabaret as a touring force capable holding our own on the national stage. The show received two excellent reviews in D.C. media, and we scored a radio interview on an FM station. We also made valuable connections with whom we hope to reconnect in the not-too-distant future. Look out for our upcoming announcement of Poetry Cabaret shows in Asheville.”

SUBJECT MATTER: The artists in Asheville performance collective Poetry Cabaret were particularly excited to present their politically-charged material in the nation's capital.
SUBJECT MATTER: The artists in Asheville performance collective Poetry Cabaret were particularly excited to present their politically-charged material in the nation’s capital. Image from campaign page

Send your crowdsourcing campaign news to kmcreynolds@mountainx.com. A limited number of campaigns will be highlighted each week, at Xpress’ discretion. Campaigns must be locally based and should represent a current project with an achievable goal. Conditions are subject to change. Read about more Western North Carolina projects here.


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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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