The Dangers of Crowdfunding Handpan-Related Projects

With the rise of websites like Kickstarter, and Indigogo, “Crowdfunding”, has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way for internet-users to come together to help facilitate the creation of innovative new products, and services.  And the world of Handpan has not been completely untouched by this relatively new phenomenon.  Though unfortunately, to date, the success of crowdfunded Handpan related projects, is something that has frequently been brought into question.


The first attempted crowdfunded Handpan-related project that was brought to our attention here at HPM, was that of U.S. Handpan-producers, Tzevaot, who back circa 2011 started a campaign to raise funding for tools and materials to kickstart their Handpan-building venture.  The campaign received a large dose of criticism from the core Handpan community at the time, primarily due to them (for right or for wrong) being labelled as being “big business”, in comparison to the primarily artisan-centric movement of the times.  And the Kickstarter campaign was ultimately cancelled.  Leaving Tzevaot to fund their venture through other means. Nobody (other than arguably Tzevaot themselves) lost out financially due to the failure of this campaign, but Tzevaot's reputation took a bit of a beating just as they were starting out, and in some circles, it has never really recovered.


Next came the crowdfunding of the Oval - an instrument that billed itself as being “the first digital Handpan”.  And while at time of posting the first Oval’s are beginning to make their way into the hands of those who crowdfunded the development of the project, estimates provided at time of funding for completion and delivery proved to be somewhat optimistic.  Leaving many backers irate, waiting over a year longer than originally expected, to get their hands on their instruments.  So that while the project has ultimately seemingly proven to be a success, there are definitely lessons to be learned here, for those considering throwing their money at a product that at time of funding is little more than a concept. i.e. delivery estimates are estimates only - and you could be left waiting much longer than expected.


A similar project to the Oval above, production and delivery of this crowdfunded product has already fallen behind schedule.  Re-confirming what we said above about estimates being just that - estimates. Meaning that while this will hopefully still turn out to be an awesome piece of kit when finished, should your patience not be pretty flexible - crowdfunding might be something that you’d be better off steering clear of.

Kaizen Drums

Kaizen have been producing steel tongue drum since at least 2012, and for a while they had a pretty solid reputation.  However, a crowdfunding campaign to raise the cash needed for new tooling that appears to have occurred in 2015, has seemingly changed that.  With the Kaizen makers reportedly having welshed on all of their promises, leaving many of those who funded the project out-of-pocket, and without their Kaizen drums.


A similar story to that of Kaizen above, though arguably much much worse, is the cautionary tale of Cosmopan. When former PANArt affiliated steel pan tuner, Werner Egger, launched a Facebook-based crowdfunding campaign to produce affordable Handpan built out of Thailand in 2015, many got on board with the project. With funding of $20,000 - $40,000 reportedly being raised (with some claiming it was considerably more than this).

Seemingly production was for a while moving forward as expected - with tooling being purchased, and a number of photographs appearing online showing the proposed Cosmopan in various stages of development. However, come late 2016, early 2017, things appeared to have gone horribly wrong with the project. With the man at the centre of it all, Werner Egger, reportedly having vanished off radar. No longer responding to communication, leaving all who had invested in the production of the Cosmopan unknowing of the projects fate. And without their promised instruments.

So that while the story of the Cosmopan possibly might yet not have reached its climax. At time of posting, the Cosmopan project serves as the ultimate cautionary tale of the dangers of crowdfunding Handpan-related projects. Particularly, when conducted outside of one of the websites established for such means - where there is little chance of any intervention, and/or mediated resolution.

Hamsa Handpans

If you were thinking that this was going to be yet another tale of woe - you’d be wrong.  Because while there are evidently issues with the concept of crowdfunding in regards to financing Handpan-related projects, sometimes, it does all go as planned.  As can be seen with the crowdfunding campaign of Hamsa Handpans.  Who have seemingly been delivering quality instruments to their happy and content backers as expected.  

Why did the Hamsa Handpan campaign work where others encountered problems, or outright failed? Prior to launching Hamsa Handpans, and the financing campaign that went hand-in-hand with the new company, Stevan Morris, the man behind Hamsa Handpans, had spent a good few years working under seasoned steelpan tuner, and Handpan-maker, Dave Beery, of Dave’s Island Instruments. Equipping him with the experience needed to begin building and tuning Handpan from the very beginning - with only the funding required to get started lacking.  

With the lesson being, that crowdfunding can be a useful and mutually-beneficial way to aid in getting more of these beautiful instruments out into the world - but, if the money you're investing isn't money that you can afford to throw away - you'd better be sure that you're backing the right horse.

© HandPans Magazine