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Crowdfunding suspicions understandable: Pete Brown

April 7, 2015
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It’s not surprising that beer drinkers are becoming suspicious of crowdfunding, given the dubious nature of some of the schemes put before them, says UK beer writer Pete Brown.

Brown was speaking to Radio Brews News about the crowdfunding campaign on unbound.co.uk for his latest beer book, ‘What Are You Drinking?’, which he feels has been somewhat misunderstood.

“I think there’s a misconception that I’m asking people to pay for me to swan off round the world and travel before I’ve actually written the book,” he said.

“I don’t actually get an advance under the unbound model. What I do get is a much much healthier share of profits once the book is published than I do under the conventional model.

“I’m not asking people to give me a lot of money, before I’ve written the book. I’m asking for people to pay the production costs of the book, so it can come to market,” said Brown.

Crowdfunding or begging?
Brown said crowdfunding is now so widely used in so many different ways that it is to be expected that consumers are becoming confused and wary.

“Over here right now we’ve got a brewery that is being sued for trademark infringements by another brewery, that is crowdfunding its legal costs,” said Brown.

“Basically that’s just charity, that’s effectively begging, and I think that’s quite an ill-advised move.”

Brown was likely referring to Norwich brewery Redwell’s indiegogo campaign to raise £30,000 to defend itself in a trademark dispute with Camden Town Brewery, which finished on March 1 with just £1,670 raised.

But a similar situation has now unfolded in the US, where Innovation Brewing is crowdfunding its defence of a trademark dispute with Bell’s Brewery, a fellow Michigan outfit.

Speaking with Brown, Radio Brews News‘ Matt Kirkegaard commented that crowdfunding has proven fraught in the beer arena generally, with a campaign run by Stone Brewing and a campaign by Camden Town Brewery both having attracted their share of flack from consumers.

In this context Brown said it is inevitable that when people hear the word ‘crowdfunding’ they will question his motives, or assume that he is going down that route simply because he couldn’t find a publisher.

“There is a risk that people are going to think that. But this model really is quite different,” he said.

“People pledge a certain amount and they get something directly in return for that amount. I’m not asking someone to give me £100 and you then own the copyright to the bottom half of page 275, which you never see any benefit from.”

“I’m basically asking people to buy a book and pay for it a little while before they actually get the book.”

Brown said this is how publishing used to work before there were established publishing houses.

Tough questions posed to BeerBud
Earlier in the crowdfunding-themed podcast, Kirkegaard grilled BeerBud’s Mark Woolcott about whether there was genuine value for beer drinkers in his site’s campaign to “crowdfund the world’s best beer”.

“It sounds like the crowdfunding is really a way to derisk your business approach as opposed to provide a service that is not already there,” Kirkegaard said.

“We don’t see it like that at all,” responded Woolcott.

Radio Brews News Episode 47 is available here.

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