TLC, one of the biggest groups of all time, has turned to Kickstarter to get their final album made. And they’ve managed to raise $110,000 of the $150,000 goal in just a couple of days. Among the big donors for the album: Katy Perry, who gave $5,000 and is getting a slumber party with the “T” from the iconic group — Tionne “T Boz” Watkins — as a result. That’s one of the prizes offered for donating. Others include a onesie ($5,000), a photo shoot with the group ($7,500), and a workout class with Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas ($2,000).
TLC had four number 1 hits in the 1990s and sold 65 million records in their heyday. The third member of their group, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, died tragically in 2002.
The group experienced a resurgence in 2013 with the release of a Vh1 biopic, CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story. (“CrazySexyCool” was the name of one of the group’s hit albums.) Since then, interest in the group has reached a new high, according to Chilli. She tells Billboard:
I got on Twitter later than most. I already had fans asking, “When are you coming back? We need more music!” Then once our biopic came out, the requests were just overwhelming. Fans have even been sending ideas for what they want a new album cover to look like — they get so creative. They have so much love for us, and we thought, “We gotta do this, and we have to involve the fans.”
She says the group worked with a record company to produce a song for the biopic, but working with Kickstarter affords them creative control and allows them to work closely with fans.
“While major labels offer artists multimillion dollar recording and marketing budgets, they don’t often give artists complete control of their own music. It is ESSENTIAL that we create our final album completely on our own terms, without any restrictions, with YOU,” says the Kickstarter pitch.
TLC isn’t alone among celebrities who have turned to crowdfunding sites for help with projects. The film version of Veronica Mars is famous for raising enough to go into production. And Zach Braff famously took a lot of heat for asking for donations for his film Wish I Was Here.
What fans are paying for is the opportunity to engage with an entertainer they admire. TLC has been around for 20 years. They say this will be their last album. The most devoted fans have been waiting for years for new music. Having the chance to play a role in that music (and receive a prize for their donation) has a good deal of value to them, perhaps more, in the minds of some, than the money itself.
That’s the key to making these sorts of campaigns work for celebrities. In the minds of many, celebs have access to people with big bucks and have a lot of money themselves. So going to fans can seem like a scheme to avoid paying for their own project.
But when you offer an experience and a voice to fans, they’re excited for the chance to take part. TLC is giving everyone who loves their music a chance to play a role in their swan song. For those with the means like Katy Perry, it’s an opportunity worth thousands.