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 word out.
Plan rewards: The right rewards are critical;
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 potential backers.
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). Make announcements:
• 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 backers.
• 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 government.
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 fanbase.
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.