By Pim Betist, founder of Africa Unsigned

You don’t have to be an economics wizard to see that turmoil in the financial markets has made loan money scarce and expensive. We are facing the worst financial crisis in 80 years, but what do you care if all you need is $2,500 to finish your studies?

Christina Christopher of Adelanto, California, started to panic when she maxed out her Stafford loans and needed $2,500 more to finish her M.B.A. She was rejected by all four banks to which she applied for a private loan. In desperation, she posted a profile on Greennote.com, a site that helps students get loans from people who believe in them. She emailed just about everyone she knew. Within three weeks, friends and even a few strangers chipped in enough for Christina to pay for her last class and graduate.

Greennote is a great example of a website that is allowing peer to peer lending or crowdfunding (if you’re hip). The phenomenon is occurring for a variety of purposes from poverty relief to citizen journalism to political campaigns. Kiva.org let’s you lend to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Spot Us, is using its Web site, to solicit ideas for investigative articles and the money to pay for the reporting. America’s new president, Barack Obama was financially backed by more than 1 million donors.   As Jeff Howe, editor for Wired Magazine put it: “Obama, a game changer in so many other ways, has become the first crowd funded president.”

In theory the crowd funding phenomenon has been around since the Romans invented money. The Internet is bringing it to practice. The Web enables people or organizations to network and pool their money together on a global level in order to support efforts they believe in. Websites are harnessing the enthusiasm as well as investment of strangers. In the pre internet age markets were bound by geography.  Now on the Web markets are clustering based on interest and beliefs. If their belief is strong enough, people are willing and able to support, even financially.

Crowd funding works best when it reaches people on an emotional level.  Music is very personal and therefore touches all of us. When the music industry struggled to adapt to its new business landscape, profits took a plunge and budgets had to be cut. As a result new talent was left to control their own destiny. This is why I founded www.africaunsigned.com.

Pim Betist over Africa Unsigned from sociaal ondernemen on Vimeo.

There is a huge diversity of authentic amazing styles of African music, created and played by a young generation of African artists. I see this generation as being neglected and mistreated by the traditional music industry. Less than 1% of the global music market is accounted by the African continent. If we leave out South Africa we are left with almost zilch. I believe in the potential of The New African Sound.  My feeling is, if we invest in it and nurture it, we can add significant value to changing the perception of the African continent on a whole. Although the crowd funding phenomenon is quite new small support from a large group of people is a good way to constitute this change.

Critics say giving anybody, experts and amateurs, access to money is killing our culture, assaulting our economy and destroying time-honored codes of conduct. “Instead of a dictatorship of experts, we’ll have a dictatorship of idiots,” says Andrew Keen, author of “The Cult of the Amateur”.  It is hard to disagree with Keen that the amount of poorly written or produced material has expanded a million-fold. But what better way to filter the quality by voting with ours wallets?

About Africa Unsigned

Africa Unsigned is a joint initiative by producers, artists, music promoters and managers who believe in the future of African music. Currently there are approximately 30 of us scattered across the globe. We are present in Europe, in South Africa, West Africa and in East Africa.

We provide an alternative way of producing African music. Unsigned artists record their music, funded by fans. A new movement of talented African musicians and a a global team of passionate music promoters hope to create a new chapter in the rich musical history of Africa.

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