My Crowdfunding Campaign: Meet the composer who’s raised $100,000 to make music for cats

Welcome to On Small Business’s series spotlighting interesting crowdfunding campaigns. Every week, we’ll feature a new company or individual attempting to raise money through these new online portals.

David Teie, who is composing music for cats, in his apartment. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Who: David Teie, 60, a long-time cellist in the National Symphony Orchestra.

What: Music for cats. Teie has been writing tunes for animals since 2003, and is hoping to raise money to create his first full-length album for felines.

Where: Northwest Washington

Raised: $102,016 (as of Nov. 6), exceeding an initial $20,000 goal on Kickstarter. The campaign began Oct. 29 and goes through Nov. 28.

What’s the pitch?

For years, David Teie has been turning the bathroom in his Georgetown condo into a recording studio, hanging rugs and blankets on the walls to muffle sounds, to record music for cats.

His first two compositions, released in 2008, were big hits: 77 percent of cats had favorable reactions to the tracks, according to a study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science in February.

Now Teie wants to make a full-length album and is looking to Kickstarter for help.

“Making this music next-generation, I want to do it better: That means a recording studio, that means musicians,” Teie said in an interview.

It takes years of scientific research, as well as trial and error, to find the secrets behind animals’ preferences, he said. So far he has been composing and recording feline tracks in his free time, in between his jobs as a soloist at the National Symphony Orchestra and a lecturer at the University of Maryland School of Music. His hope is to raise enough money to work on music for animals full time.

What makes music for cats different from music for humans?

A lot, says Teie. Humans’ concept of music is shaped in the womb, where sounds like a mother’s heartbeat provide the first hints of rhythm, according to the research he published in a book called “Human Music.”

Cats, however, get their musical bearings outside of the womb, based on sounds such as the chirping of birds or their mothers’ purrs. Teie recreates those rhythms with musical instruments and records them in the frequency range used by cats.

“The reason harp notes play in rapid succession (23 per second!) is because that’s the precise rate of a cat’s purr,” he writes on his Kickstarter page. “The result? The purrfect way to relax your cat.”

Why crowdfunding?

It is very difficult, Teie says, to get people to pay for music. Once a track is released, it’s only a matter of time before it is shared freely across the Internet.

Typically, he says, musicians make money by touring, “but live concerts are just not going to work for cats.”

That’s where Kickstarter comes in. It’s a way to get people to pay for music and to fund future compositions, either by donating $5 in exchange for a digital download or $25 for a CD of the full album.

It’s been working: As of Nov. 5, one week into the campaign, more than 3,100 people had backed the project.

“The truth is, cat owners are just a lovely group,” Teie said. “People are happy to pony up for their pets.”

How will the money be used?

Teie originally set a modest goal of $20,000 to raise money for his next album.

He met that goal within a day and a half. Just one week into his campaign, he has raised nearly four times what he was seeking.

The extra money, he says, will go toward creating even more music for all kinds of animals.

“If I can support a family just doing this, there will be a lot more music for cats and dogs and horses,” he said.

Editors note: Our coverage in this series does not constitute an endorsement. For more information about crowdfunding, please check out this SEC Fact Sheet.

Spotted or running a cool crowdfunding campaign? E-mail us here.
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Last Updated:4:57 PM 07/23/2019

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