One of the hardest challenges a musician faces is writing a song. It’s an incredibly difficult, personal and frustrating creative process. Sometimes the moment strikes you and you just have to capture it. Other times you sit plunking away at a piano or strumming a guitar aimlessly, just hoping to have that moment occur. It takes an incredible amount of creativity to get this accomplished. But what is fascinating is how often this same creativity is not applied to raising financial support to release a new project. Crowdfunding (via Kickstarter, IndieGogo, etc.) has used technology to make this easier than it has ever been to get backing from friends and family to get into the studio to make a song.
Below are some of my thoughts on how to put together a successful crowdfunding campaign. These are just some guidelines, so let this spark some additional creativity in what you do next.
One objection that I know a lot of bands and musicians feel is the “my fans will think this is just a money grab.” This is a false narrative that we need to kill right now. You friends want to support your goals, your family wants to support your goals, and your fans absolutely want to see you succeed so that you can keep creating music. This is their opportunity to be involved directly in your success. Don’t cut them out of the process.
Define the Scope / Set a Budget
Before you ever start asking people for money, you must have a clear vision and purpose. By having the expenses clearly identified to potential backers, they can identify two things. First, it demonstrates you have clearly put a lot of thought into your project, which makes you much more likely to deliver on your promises. This provides some comfort that the money is going to be used for its intended purposes. Second, the “donor” can clearly see how their money will be used to help produce your music. This provides satisfaction in helping an artist accomplish their creative vision.
Some things to consider when budgeting:
Production (tracking, editing, mixing, mastering)
Manufacturing (CD duplication, Vinyl)
Digital Distribution (CDbaby, Distrokid, Tunecore, etc.)
Graphic Design / Photography (artwork, press releases, posters)
Advertising (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
Video Production (behind the scenes, music video, etc.)
Merchandise (t-shirts, buttons, other items that are part of the benefit)
Shipping Costs / Taxes and Fees
If you are looking to get your recording project going and want to get an idea of where to set you budget, contact me here and we can have a conversation about the cost of the music production portion.
Provide Great Incentives
As we said before, we need to change the story about feeling like this is begging for money. In reality, this is a pre-order with additional benefits. But to really get this crowdfunding campaign going, you have to provide great incentives and bonuses. Obviously, you will offer the physical (CD, vinyl) or digital copy (mp3) of your music. But you need to get more creative than that to really have a successful project. Here’s some ideas to get you started:
MP3 of demos of your songs
MP3 of unreleased material
An acoustic show in the patron’s living room / full show in the back yard
Record a personal voicemail message for the patron to use: “Hey, this is Johnny from Middle Age Sharks, Janet is busy dancing to our music, so she will have to call you back.”
Private Facebook Live event to ask questions of the band
Personal, unique hand-drawn artwork
Singing telegrams / Valentine’s day grams
I intentionally tried to stay away from the obvious ideas (merchandise, etc.), because I want you to think creatively about what can be offered to your fans. What will they get excited about? What will they think is unique or interesting?
A Compelling Welcome Video
Get a good high-quality video of yourself or the band sitting in front of the camera explaining what this crowdfunding campaign is for. Make sure you have good lighting and a high quality camera (not just on your phone). If you have live / studio footage that you can use (and some video editing skills). Be sure to include that. If you’ve got a friend who’s into videography, maybe they will want to help. Also, make sure the script is well thought out and clearly articulated (no stammering, dead spots, talking over each other). Here’s a few things to consider including in the video:
Thank the viewer for coming to your page and considering contributing to your campaign
Explain what you will be doing with the money raised
Why you want to do this with the support of you friends / family / fans
Show how they can directly help you meet your goal
Explain the anticipated schedule
Also, I would like to have something available right then for someone to download. It can be very basic and simple (an acoustic performance with one microphone), but just having something there to provide some immediate satisfaction can be beneficial.
Start at the Right Time
The day and time of the initial launch can be a big deal. Statistics show that most pledges occur on a Wednesday. Because of this, most campaigns launch on a Tuesday and then end on a Thursday. For the best time, 1:00 PM EST is when the largest number of pledges occur, so starting an hour or two before this peak time as it ramps up is probably ideal.
Once the campaign is underway, make sure you post regular updates on the crowdfunding platform as well as your social media accounts to make sure this stays on everyone’s mind. This can be done with little video updates, pictures, or graphics. Just because someone doesn’t contribute right away doesn’t mean they won’t later. But for that to happen you need to keep showing up periodically. The biggest push in raising money will come at the very beginning and end of the campaign. Don’t be surprised if things slow down in between.
After Completion: More Updates!
Once the campaign is complete, the job is not over yet. Make sure to keep your supporters updated with progress on completing their content (merchandise, recording, etc.). Communication is the key to keeping everyone engaged.
Also: A breakdown on the different crowdfunding campaign sites and which one might be right for you!