Zubin Kanga on the power of collaboration when fundraising
We spoke to pianist, composer and 2017/2018 MATCH Lab Recipient Zubin Kanga about working closely with collaborators and key donors during his campaign.
Congratulations on such a great tour! Tell us about your experience with MATCH Lab leading up to crafting such a successful crowdfunding campaign.
The MATCH Lab clinic in January was invaluable in preparing me for the campaign. I had never used crowdfunding and the workshops informed me on many aspects I had not given much thought, like the unique differences between social platforms, and how to sustain a fundraising campaign for many weeks.
The discussions about how to foster relationships with major donors were particularly valuable, given that most of the funding was raised on seven significant donations.
The pitching workshops were very helpful in honing how I describe the project to donors who might not be familiar with my work or even the whole field of contemporary music.
Your project celebrates (and explores) the fusion of music and digital culture. How did your campaign strategy educate potential donors about Piano Ex Machina?
The technological and artistic innovation of the project were its big selling points, as well as the strength of the collaborators. Thus the campaign was based mainly around the unique artistic personalities of each composer and the particular way they would combine the piano with new technologies. This took the focus off me and highlighted the many beneficiaries of the funding and the importance of the project not just to me but for the whole Australian contemporary music scene.
It also suited the structure of a campaign of about a month with one or two composers featured each week.
The composers have many different types of supporters and they each had key aspects to their projects – Kate Neal has a strong base in Melbourne and is well known for her combining of music, theatre and animation, Ben Carey and Tristan Coelho have strong bases in Sydney and are known for their expertise with interactive new technologies, with Coelho known for rhythmic, virtuosic instrumental writing, while Carey is known for more immersive electronics and visuals and integration of AI. Jon Rose is a respected elder with an international audience for his unique approach to experimental improvisation and use of motion sensors.
Finally, my own work was discussed as an added bonus, focusing on the combination of piano and analogue synths, as well as discussing how it was a really important step for me in my artistic development.
The size of the tour (national and international) and the range of technological approaches were also highlighted during the campaign. Use of photos and films of past performances were also vital for communicating the innovative nature and high standards of my previous tours of this type and showcasing how it would be a completely different type of experience to a traditional solo piano concert.
Your project involved several collaborators and prominent Australian composers, how did you involve these collaborators in the campaign?
All the collaborators helped out by providing photos and other useful materials to use online (such as behind the scenes videos them working on the piece). They were also happy for me to document our development workshops with photos and videos and these were particularly useful for the online campaign.
The collaborators all had different levels of social media presence – for most of them when I tweeted and Facebook-posted about their work, they would retweet or share it to spread the word. Some also posted independently about the project. There were also other social media accounts (such as the Australian Music Centre, and composers I’ve worked with in the past) who were very supportive about retweeting and sharing information about the project.
Your campaign offered exclusive updates and experiences for your donor circle – can you talk us through this?
All supporters received news about the project in the leadup to the tour, and to launch the tour, I held a soiree event in Sydney, with drinks and canapes, where each of the Sydney-based composers introduced their work and the donors could socialise with all of us.
Donors were offered tickets, programmes and sent the performance films so that those who couldn’t see the project live could still experience the event. For our high-end donors, I continue to meet them individually to discuss the outcomes of the project and future plans.
All donors received acknowledgement in the concert programmes as well as the scores.
Why was it important to you to build authentic relationships with your donors?
You need to make an extra effort to make donors feel part of a music performance project. Unlike a visual artwork, there isn’t a single ‘object’ to own, and the outputs can seem very ephemeral. So it’s important to show that the performances of all works are continuing and that I’m developing further, more ambitious collaborations with all the composers for future projects so that the ‘project’ has a life beyond the initial tour. And the concert films, all meticulously shot and edited, are essential as a permanent documentation of the project for those who donated to it.
Many donors value the personal connection with the artist, so events like the donors’ soiree, as well as meeting and greeting all the donors after each of the concerts, were very important in building these connections.
What advice would you give artists interested in applying for MATCH Lab?
I’d recommend MATCH Lab to all artists working as individuals or running small ensembles, as long as they have a great vision and a good work ethic. If you’ve been fostering good relationships with your fans, you already have a network of people who’ll be keen for the opportunity to support your project, so don’t be too daunted by the prospect of crowdfunding.
The clinic is also a great educational opportunity for any artist. Fundraising is a constant aspect of being in the arts and the skills and strategies for private fundraising gained in the clinic will continue to be of benefit long after the MATCH Lab project has concluded.