Most often crowdfunding is used by musicians to raise money for new recordings, but touring vehicles, video budgets, new gear and even tour expenses are common causes for these campaigns. While there are many platforms for raising money, the most popular and longest established sites for songwriters are Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
For a time, “Kickstarter” seemed synonymous with crowdfunding, with 5.5-million monthly visitors in the US. Nonetheless, Indiegogo, with about 1-million visitors a month, was established first, in 2008. Both platforms — and other alternatives like GoFundMe — offer detailed instructions on how to use their services on their homepages.
They work on similar models using videos and social media links, but there are important differences. Kickstarter has an “all-or-nothing” funding model. If you don’t make your goal, you don’t get any money — period. Indiegogo lets its users keep whatever funds are raised. Some believe the all-or-nothing model sparks a sense of urgency that drives donations. Both take a percentage of the funds raised. Indiegogo has a smaller community of visitors, but its music-based funding is growing by more than 100 percent annually. And Kickstarter only funds creative projects — no college tuition fundraisers, dog shelters, etc., while Indiegogo supports a wider range of campaigns.
Plan Your Campaign
Crowdfunding is a competition, with thousands of projects battling for page views and pledges at any given time. It’s your responsibility to drive people to your campaign.
Talking to experts and examining successful campaigns, some guidelines emerge. Overall, well-planned campaigns succeed while others fail. An effective campaign requires making an excellent pitch video, clearly and carefully defining the rewards that donors will receive, writing crisp and intelligent copy that explains exactly what you’re planning to do with the money and generally making a case for yourself as a smart, creative and dependable talent who can deliver the goods with some financial help. Nobody wants to donate to a campaign or project that seems destined for failure, which a sloppy Kickstarter or Indiegogo page telegraphs.
Don’t overwhelm potential donors with choices. Provide no more than eight rewards, starting at a low-dollar mark that gets contributors the finished CD or a concert ticket and T-shirt, and then offer a few exclusives at the top, like an autographed instrument or an executive producer credit. Check successful completed music campaigns, which are featured on the homepages of Indiegogo and Kickstarter, for inspiration in composing your own rewards list. You don’t want people to think about giving — you want them to give on the first visit to your page.
Asking potential key donors to make donations within the first 48 hours of your campaign is a good strategy. When people visit your site and see that you’ve quickly been able to generate a significant amount of pledges, they are more likely to make their own donations. Everybody wants to ride on a fast-moving train.
Use Social Media — and the Phone
“If you’re going to conduct a campaign, it’s important to have it tied to your socials,” says Amanda Cates, director of on-line marketing and digital strategy at Nashville’s Spalding Entertainment. “You also need to have an email strategy — which is why it’s important to have a place on your website where people can sign up for your email list and to collect email addresses at shows. You want to be sure your project is well represented on your social media, but emails are more personal and direct.”
Cates’ client Canadian country artist and BMI songwriter Terri Clark released her first album via an Indiegogo campaign, and Facebook, Twitter and email played a big part in getting the word to fans. “You have to create engagement in a way that let’s people understand it’s not just about the money. Let them know that this is a way for them to be part of a creative project.”
Go old school, too. You should connect with potential early or major donors by phone or in person, and you should be doubly certain to do that with family members and friends. Personal contact is important, even in the digital era.
Make a Killer Video
With very few exceptions, successful crowdfunding campaigns have a great pitch video. Videos provide the clearest and most direct explanation of your project. They also let potential donors get to know you. That feeling of personal contact with the artist is something all donors —and fans — want.
Static “talking head” videos are boring; the more action the better, with multiple settings if possible. Nashville-based blues artist Stacy Mitchhart raised more than $20,000 this year — with donor levels ranging from $30 to $5,000 — for his new album Live My Life, thanks in part to a warm, convincing video that simply told his project’s story in a few settings. And be sure to script your dialog, so you don’t forget to mention important details.
Good videos are hard to make. If you don’t have the know-how, ask a friend or consider paying somebody to make a video for you. The investment should return dividends.
Alert the Media
Part of getting the word out is coverage in the press. While it’s unusual for print media to cover an indie artist’s campaign, blogs and other online publications are more amenable. Contact journalists and bloggers who’ve championed your music in the past and ask them for help getting the word out. Also, design a page on your website — or use an existing page, like a blog — to feature your campaign and to offer downloadable photos for bloggers and journalists. Make it as easy for them to find details about your campaign and write or post about it. Don’t rely exclusively on Facebook. If you have a press list or access to one, you can even write a press release about your campaign and send it to media.
Don’t Ask for Money First
Explain your project and why it’s important in your pitch video and campaign page copy before you ask for money. Nobody likes getting hit up for cash immediately. It’s a turn off. And everybody already knows why they’ve been invited to the party. In your video, devote about 60 seconds to tell your project’s story before you start asking for funds — but remain aware that your video should be no more than three minutes long. And always remember that supporters are interested in getting something back — whether it’s a copy of an album, a house concert or simply the feeling that they’re helping to bring important work to life. Use language that is inclusive and talk to them directly.
If you’ve already developed a strong fan base, communicating with potential supporters and explaining why they should donate to your project is easier. Peter Zimmerman, publicity director for Toolshed, a San Francisco-based online promotion, publicity and marketing company, says it boils down to engagement.
“If you’ve got your mailing list and your social media in order and use them frequently, you’re already in touch with people who are likely to support your crowd source campaign and they already have a sense of engagement with you,” he relates. “That really opens the door to a successful fundraising campaign.”
Stay in Touch
You should communicate often with donors, potential donors and your fan base during a crowdfunding campaign. Whether it’s good or bad news, any news will keep them engaged. Post on your crowdfunding page, your website and on Facebook. Tweet, or make a video explaining where the campaign is at and post it. People want to be brought into the process, and the more you chronicle the campaign the more it will show up in their feeds and on search engines. Also, keep them up to date on how the project is going after the campaign is over. If they see you’re making good on your promise to make an album or launch a tour, or fulfill their donor rewards, they’re more likely to continue to fund your work in the future.
by Ted Drozdowski
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