Web helps isle singer reach goal


POSTED: Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Could you spare at least five bucks to help a local singer-songwriter record her album?

Sabrina Velazquez isn't about to beg, but she would like some financial support and she's getting closer to her goal with the help of Kickstarter.com, a New York-based Web site that helps creative people across the country collect pledge money for their respective projects.

Velazquez's is an LP project, and to date she's been pledged $1,955 by 34 backers toward the $5,000 she's hoping to raise for the recording. The catch is, she must raise the remaining 72 percent by Nov. 30, or she gets nothing.

The 30-year-old singer-songwriter is doing her part to save up money for the project, as well. The Web project manager at the Honolulu Academy of Arts is augmenting her income with a weekend waitressing job at the Contemporary Museum.

Velazquez—whose music is all independent rock—heard about Kickstarter.com through a Twitter user who follows independent music.

“;I looked at similar Web sites to see what is being done in other cities,”; she said, and decided to pitch the relatively new site that launched in April.

Site co-founder Yancey Stickler said he and his two friends launched Kickstarter out of simple necessity. With the company taking a 5 percent fee out of the money raised from successfully funded projects, “;we feel very good about our growth and our path,”; Stickler said via e-mail.

Some of the site's recent successes include getting art supplies and books to an Indigo youth movement in South Africa; funding a folk architecture tour that goes from Washington state to Texas, and a documentary about the nation's public schools; and helping a New York fashion designer fund a mural that, when complete, will be cut into clutch-size pieces to make into one-of-a-kind handbags.

A former Hawaii resident who used Kickstarter before Velazquez also vouched for the site's usefulness.

Erin Westfall, originally from Paia, Maui, and residing in Washington, D.C., was introduced to the Web site by her brother.

“;I had the idea to write a Hawaiian (food) cookbook in Japanese back in May when I had just graduated from college,”; she said via e-mail. “;I didn't have a job yet and knew I wouldn't have much money to buy ingredients to test the recipes and such.”;

The response Westfall got from Kickstarter was that “;most of my backers would have to be from my own networks,”; she said. “;I initially thought people would browse through the projects (on the Web site) and donate to ones that they liked. It turned out to be more of me spreading the word through social networks and through my family for donations.”;

THAT'S WHAT Velazquez has done herself by utilizing her Twitter, MySpace, Virb and Facebook sites.

“;I also sent e-mails to all my friends here and in California. On Twitter, while some people tweeted back that they couldn't give me any money, they were willing to re-tweet my message to other friends who might help.

“;I like Kickstarter's clean interface and the interactivity. ... Through this project, I've learned about the generosity of people,”; Velazquez said.

But, as Westfall said, “;Kickstarter isn't free money. Because you promise your backers rewards for donating to you, you must finish your project.”; For instance, Westfall sent out homemade cookies with each $10 contribution, and promises a free copy of her cookbook (when it's done) for a $25 gift.

If and when Velazquez gets the funding for her project, she's already committed to e-mailing supporters either a single track or a digital copy of the album a week before its release, and listing her $100 contributors in the liner notes.

(No one, so far, has pledged $5,000 or more to get the deluxe treatment of additionally getting a personal thank-you phone call from Velazquez, her singing a song of the contributor's choice for their answering machine or voice mail, getting their name drawn on her guitar, writing and recording a song on a topic of their choice and singing that song to that person while delivering homemade cookies, plus playing a private show for that person and his or her friends.)

VELAZQUEZ ADMITS that she's a tried-and-true starving artist, but with a can-do attitude.

“;Even though I'm not a person to ask for money, I just loved the whole idea of having people discover my music with the help of this site and, for as little as $5, get involved in the whole process of helping make my album.”;

Thanks to the February release of her debut EP, “;The Anomaly,”; she's gotten a bit of a buzz both here and on the Internet music landscape. Velazquez plans to record early next year, whether she gets the financial help or not.

“;I will do it, only it will be a lot harder. It's going to take eating a lot of Top Ramen to save up the money,”; she added with a laugh.

While her work can't be called “;island music,”; Hawaii figures into her lyrics.

“;My songs pretty much reflect my experiences here. My life has always been part of the 50th state.”; Velazquez is part Hawaiian, Caucasian and Mexican.

“;I live in Kaneohe and my family's from Punaluu. I write on the uke, piano and guitar. I grew up listening to mariachi and Spanish ballads. At the age of 5, I learned to play piano with Ellen Masaki, and from the age of 7 through 17, I played the violin. At 19, I picked up the guitar while I was a student at the University of Southern California.

“;Being from Hawaii, it's not easy to tour and play my music for others outside of the state, so that's why I rely on recording music,”; she said. “;What I showcase is a different kind of music from Hawaii.”;

Check out Velazquez's music at www.myspace.com/sabrinamusic or read her blog at www.listentosabrina.com. You can find her Kickstarter LP project page at www.kickstarter.com/profile/sabrina.