Money can’t buy everything, but it sure can help out a lot. For those of you familiar with the term starving artist, you know that no musician or artist gets into the music business for the paycheck. We all hope we’ll strike gold and one day be able to live the lifestyle of a rockstar, but in the meantime, the grind is rough and underpaid, and many of us (even while working one or two jobs) simply do not have the money to do what we need to do to reach the next level.
I wanted to take this month to talk about music crowdfunding, especially as I am coming off the tail of my second try at it. Through trial and error, I’ve been able to gather together a few things that work and don’t, and maybe it’ll help those artists in my position for future.
My first crowdfunding campaign was back in 2011, trying to fund my first EP, “All The Good Songs”. The goal was $5000, which would cover recording six songs, mixing, mastering, and production of physical copies. I did this campaign through Kickstarter.com. The site has its benefits for sure, but I chose not to return to it for my second go around. For any kind of crowdfunding campaign, I would avoid sites that adopt an “all or nothing” policy. This means that, if you are unable to meet your goal in the time frame specified, you do not get to keep the funds already raised. I was successful, but barely, and could have walked away with nothing. The danger of this is that, if you already solicit a fanbase for funds and your goal is not met, it is a lot harder to garner support from the same people the next time around. You need to allow for adequate space (sometimes years) before coming back with another project.
My second visit to crowdfunding was this year, November of 2018, with an ending date of December 24th. I shot for a larger sum of $10,000 which would cover recording and marketing costs for the new year. I did my new campaign through a website called Bandtwango.com which had a flexible time frame (we moved the end date from the 18th to the 24th) and a policy where you keep whatever is raised, regardless if the campaign reaches 100%. While, as I’m writing this, the campaign deadline is still three days away, I’m currently at 56% funded (around $5600) with 136 contributors. Here are some things to consider:
A compelling, yet brief campaign video about what you are trying to do AND a call to action for your fans: A 1-3 minute video is going to hold the attention span of the viewer as well as inform them where their money is going. A lot of people forget the call to action, which is actually extremely important. You want to tell the potential supporter exactly what you need from them and by when. A time clock always motivates better than if they think they have endless time to contribute “in the future” (note: 9 times out of 10, “in the future” means they forget about it five minutes after they click on the link).
Incentives that are unique to you but also don’t break your bank and spend all the funds you just raised: Incentives are effective in campaigns because the people who support you love your music and want to see it succeed. In exchange, they like to be able to be a part of your journey. While swag like tshirts and mugs are cool, they aren’t the most cost effective, especially when you factor in shipping costs. I’ve found that people like a more personalized approach, such as signed hand-written lyric sheets or a Skype concert. You’ll reach your audience in a meaningful way while still being able to devote most of your campaign money towards your intended project goal.
Personally reach out to each potential donor: This is the part I hate. I loathe asking people for money because I feel like I’m putting them out in some way. However, for a successful crowdfunding campaign, unless you’re an already established artist, it is NECESSARY. Daily posts on social media are great, as is a quick email to your mailing list, but nothing will drive donations better than personally writing a message to specific people asking for help. It’s time consuming for sure, but it’s harder for someone to ignore a message personally addressed to them and clearly not copied and pasted. At the very least, you can usually motivate them to share the campaign if they cannot donate. In addition, if you make your ask amount low (ex: if you give $5, it will be such a huge help to me), it is harder for them to rationalize a refusal.
Varied Promotion: One hard part of doing a crowdfunding campaign is constantly keeping it on people’s minds during the campaign period without wearing people out. I’ve found that varied promotion helps it seem less like you’re beating everyone over the head with it. Do this in the form of pictures, live streams, YouTube videos, and even the fulfillment of incentives from people who have already donated (for example, one of my incentives was having the donor choose a cover song for me to post along with a shoutout. I recorded one of their covers before the campaign was over to show others the benefits of hopping onboard). One day, give them an acoustic sneak preview of a song you’ll record once the project is funded. The next day, focus on the swag they can get for donating. This not only keeps your social feed interesting instead of tedious, it is a more effective method of promotion.
I believe time of year worked against me during this current campaign. I launched it right around the holidays, and people’s budgets are pretty tight from travel and gifting. However, using what I learned from the previous campaign, I believe I improved my traction with my fanbase. After all, everyone wants to be a part of success. The more people you can convince to share your journey with you, the more likely you are to reach your goal.
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year! 🙂
My campaign page: