How doing the right things in the right order
can get you more backers and funding
IN OUR August “Get Funded” Master
Class, we described various options for
funding your project, from sponsorships to
patronage to grants. This month, we’ll dig
into crowdfunding, which has become a
popular way for musicians to raise money
for recording, touring, or producing major
projects. Crowdfunding engages your fans
beyond simply asking for donations or getting
them to buy your merchandise; a successful
campaign makes them feel like active
participants, captures their enthusiasm, and
helps you spread the word.
The key to success is organizing
your crowdfunding project to maximize
fundraising. Musicians who dive straight in
without following the simple steps below miss
out on providing the “social proof” people
need in order to decide to back a project.
Campaigns that use these techniques capture
the momentum of successes to move past the
initial goal into higher, “stretch” goals that
bring in more money. To launch your own
successful campaign, all you need to do is
follow our recommended sequence.
1. Prepare Your Campaign Preparation can
mean the difference between failure and success,
so perform these critical steps at the outset. (We
can only cover these in brief in this article, but
will go into more detail in future articles.)
Choose the project: Choose a compelling
project that your fans will want to be a part of.
The more concrete you can make it, the better.
Typical projects include albums and tours, but
if you can be unique and concrete, and give
fans something that they would want to see
or hear, you will stand out and possibly gain
backers just for the novelty.
Choose a crowdfunding platform: While
Kickstarter (kickstarter.com) is the most
popular crowdfunding platform, others like
IndieGogo (indiegogo.com) have different
rules, such as the ability to keep the proceeds
raised from a partially funded campaign. Each
platform charges different percentages and
fees, so do the research before you choose.
Choose the funding goal and at least one
“stretch” goal: The first goal should be the
lowest amount necessary to fund your goal. Don’t
forget to add in the platform’s cut, or you’ll find
yourself short. Announce your stretch goal on
day one, because it might encourage people to
pledge beyond the minimum.
Shoot a video: Video goes viral in a way
that no other media can, so it’s the most
critical component of your project. Spend the
time to do this right.
Make a list of promoters: List bloggers,
friends, other musicians, and anyone with
an audience who can help you get the initial
Plan rewards: The right rewards are
2. Get initial backers. Make a list of initial
backers—people who you know will donate
on day one. Get their promise to contribute
before the project even starts. These initial
backers will help you “seed the tip jar” and
provide social proof that your project has
supporters and momentum, and is achievable.
People like to join in on projects that they
think are going to be successful. Your goal is
to trigger this psychological reaction by using
your initial backers effectively in the first days
of your campaign.
If you can, try to get celebrity or high-profile
backers. This can also help provide
additional proof that your project deserves
support. If you are not well known yet, their
names will help you establish credibility with
3. Choose the start and end date. Studies
show two things: 1) Most funding occurs at the
beginning and end of a campaign and 2) Four-week
campaigns tend to do best. The start date
should be on a Monday or Tuesday. This allows
a “soft launch,” and provides a few days for your
initial backers to pledge before you publicly
announce the campaign. Also, plan your end
date so it doesn’t fall on a holiday or a time
when people would be less likely to contribute.
4. Do a soft launch on a Monday or
Tuesday. On your launch day, ask your initial
backers to contribute but hold off announcing
your launch until Wednesday afternoon. (See the
next step below.) This initial backing provides
social proof that you already have people who are
willing to contribute money to your project. This
is no different from dropping a $20 bill into your
tip jar before playing at a venue. People are more
willing to tip when they see someone has already
done it. And if they see a bigger bill, they are
more likely to tip with a bigger bill themselves.
5. Kickoff the official launch on
Wednesday at 3PM. Why launch on
Wednesday at 3PM (in the timezone of most of
your backers)? Research shows that this is the
day and time when the people reshare the most
on social media. On Wednesday mid-afternoon
they are most likely to take a break from work or
school and get on the Internet. Use this research
to help get the word out about your campaign.
Your video is at the center of this, and should be
as sharable and viral as you can make it.
To achieve this, share the video and
announce it on all your media channels. Ask
promoters, initial backers, and any media you
know that has a significant audience to share it
on that same Wednesday.
6. Make announcements at appropriate
points. As the campaign progresses, you will
want to keep your backers informed. These
announcements can reach new backers, but
are also aimed at convincing existing backers
to contribute more (for example, to help you
make a stretch goal you are close to reaching).
• At the beginning, middle, and end of your
campaign. Also, perform weekly updates.
• When you are close to your main goal,
or any of your stretch goals, to encourage new backers or more contributions from existing
• When achieving a goal (in which case,
announce the next stretch goal).
• If you have gained a high-profile backer
or notable media coverage.
• During the last few days, to encourage final
contributions. (Remember, you’ll get the most
contributions at the beginning and end points.)
• When the campaign has ended.
If you are getting a lot of activity, keep the
announcements to no more than once every few
days unless you have noteworthy news to share.
7. Close out the campaign. Make the final
announcements, and then, if you’ve achieved
your funding goal, make sure to follow
through! Each person who has backed you
now feels like a part owner of your project,
and will want to hear your progress and see
the final result. Also, make sure to talk to
your accountant. Crowdfunding campaigns
are taxable income, and are reported to the
Crowdfunding is a great way to make
money for your music projects. It will get
your fans excited about the project in a way
that no other technique does. If you run
your campaign with the right sequence ,
you’ll get the most out of your backers
and build a deeper relationship with your
Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan are
authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide (St.
Martin’s Griffin), now in its second edition.
Unique Rewards Yield More Support
When the band Pretty Broken Things used Kickstarter to
fund their debut album, they demonstrated the way inventive
incentives will draw fans and money to a project. Here are some
of the award levels they offered.