How to Kickstart Your Music Project with Crowdfunding

How to Kickstart Your Music Project with Crowdfunding

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Tips that’ll help turn your funding campaign into a winner

Drop by Kickstarter and you’re likely to get fired up. The stats are so encouraging: 7.3 million people have funded a Kickstarter project. 2.2 million of them have helped bankroll two or more campaigns. 257,000 folks have helped fund 10 or more projects. With 17,825 successful music projects having raised $128 million thus far on Kickstarter alone, surely there’s an audience ready to fund your band’s project too!

Not so fast. The reality is that nearly half of all crowdfunding campaigns fail. Despite the fact that Kickstarter campaigns have collectively pulled in a billion bucks in pledges, the ones that succeed are the result of clear-headed strategizing that’s steeped in reality.

Read on to learn how to wage a winning campaign.

Pick your Platform; It’s Not Just Kickstarter Anymore

Although Kickstarter is far and away the biggest crowdfunding operation, consider these other sites; they may be a better match for your project and style.

Indiegogo » With competitive fees, fixed or flexible funding campaign goals, and social media tools, it’s worth a look.

Music Raiser » As a music-only crowdfunder it pulls in a more concentrated audience for your campaign and claims a funding success rate of 70%.

Pledge Music » This music-focused site attracts some well-established acts and puts a lot of emphasis on making campaigns a collaborative effort between artists and their audiences.

Assemble a Team and Brainstorm

The adage that two heads are better than one is especially true when it comes to creating a campaign. According to Indiegogo, campaigns with two or more team members pull in 94% more money than those that are run solo. Bouncing ideas around, floating trial balloons and getting multiple points of view is a crucial part of shaping winning campaigns.

Also, the greater the number of people involved, the greater the reach of your campaign as participants bring their own virtual networks and communities to the effort.

Assess What You Want and How You Plan to Get There

Sure, the short-term answer might be something like “raise funds to record and promote my new EP.” But creating a well-designed crowdfunding campaign is simply one step in a series of efforts to get your music out into the world.

The good news is that much of the work and soul searching that goes into creating a great Kickstarter pitch can be used for other promotional efforts too. The suite of audio, video and written communications you’ll be creating can help form the backbone of all your marketing and booking efforts. And your crowdfunding work will inevitably grow your network too.

Before you launch your campaign, you should have some pretty clear answers to these basic questions:

  • What marketing savvy and technical skills do I need to create a campaign and how many of those do I possess?
  • Who can I recruit to help develop and run the campaign?
  • How much time do I have to devote to my crowdfunding effort? (Be realistic)
  • Who is my target audience?
  • What existing networks can I reach out to and how much can I reasonably expect  to receive from them? (Be really realistic here—see the next paragraph.)

Don’t Count on Strangers

The last bullet point above is especially important. Many musicians mistakenly believe that crowdfunding sites are crawling with people seeking worthy projects they can help fund. The reality is that nearly all your funding will come from the friends, family and fans that you already have.

Total up the number of individuals you believe you can count on to help. Then halve that number and multiply by $60 to approximate what a well-executed campaign might realize. (Based on successful case histories, $60 appears to be a reasonable average amount on which to base your projection.)   

Plan on Busting Your Butt

While broadcasting your campaign via social media and emails on a limited basis is fine, ultimately one-on-one communications are those most likely to produce results. Sure, you can post and tweet about your campaign daily on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, but all that’s likely to do is cause disengagement. Likewise, frequent email blasts will probably do little other than generate lots of unsubscribes.

Examine What Works—and What Doesn’t

Put aside time to do lots of exploration. Every crowdfunding site is rife with winning campaign case histories. As you browse these efforts, look critically at the elements that went into making them a success. Study each site’s featured campaigns also.

  • What were the perks they offered?
  • How clearly did they make their pitch?
  • What media did they use to buttress their appeal?
  • What tactics did they use to help contributors feel directly involved?
  • How similar is their project and audience to yours?

Kickstarter and the other crowdfunding sites have spent a lot of time analyzing the things that winning campaigns have in common. Make their tutorials and case histories an important part of your education.

Be Honest

That means being realistic in both what you say and do. While it’s good advice to present a preliminary budget in your pitch that shows you’ve thought through finances, be honest with yourself and your donors by earmarking some cash for the contingencies you might not envision up front. The same goes for timing. Allow sufficient time to be sure you’ll be able to deliver the perks you promise.  

Honesty also means acknowledging that you don’t have all the answers. Most contributors recognize that as an emerging musician you’ll be operating to some degree by the seat of the pants.

Build a Compelling Media Portfolio

An engaging campaign video that spells out your project’s goals will help attract support. Don’t be too concerned with producing the smoothest, glitziest clip ever seen in crowdfunding. Authenticity will help balance out technical shortcomings and low production values. Other campaign elements include:

  • Great audio clips and downloads are also critical. After all, it’s about your music.
  • Reviews and testimonials can help help build your credibility.
  • Behind-the-scenes content and stories will help potential contributors feel connected.

Offer Right-Sized Rewards

A one-perk-for-everybody strategy is likely to fail. If you can, scale perks to match various contribution levels. For example, top-level contributors might get a special, limited edition of your CD that includes bonus tracks and is signed by the artist or band.

Take the Time to Do it Right

Don’t paint yourself into a corner with an unrealistic timetable. A successful Kickstarter campaign takes time—lots of it.  Build plenty of room into your schedule to get educated before diving into the nuts and bolts of your campaign. The same goes for the timeframe for the campaign itself—allow sufficient time for it to gain a head of steam.

Don’t Despair

Many campaigns take a while to build momentum, and it’s only in the final days that a rush of contributors show up to make it a success. Follow up with the people who said they’d help, but haven’t so far.

Build and Use Your Email List

Personalized emails that target your fan base will usually pull in more and bigger pledges than those garnered via social media. After all, these are the people who’ve already said they want to stay in touch with you and your music. Have a signup sheet handy at every gig. Stay in touch with your audience with emails as your campaign progresses, giving them a sense of involvement.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

Just like learning to be a competent musician, waging a successful crowdfunded campaign is a process of trial and error. The skills you’ll learn by asking for the money translate into the the guts you need to develop in order to ask for and book gigs. The planning, perseverance and materials you develop in creating a Kickstarter campaign are for the most part transferable to every aspect of your marketing and promotional efforts.

If you miss your goal the first time out, avoid the temptation to wallow in despair. Instead, look critically at things you could have done better, and begin planning your next campaign.

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