[This article was written by guest contributor Mindy Gledhill.]
Crowdfunding. It’s a scary word for a lot of musicians out there. Yet it seems to be just about as common as dirt these days. From the DIY musician to the major label artist, crowdfunding is a fast-growing trend that allows an artist’s fanbase to take part in the release of their project by pledging money to that artist during a specified time frame. In return, pledgers get special incentives that vary depending on the amount of money pledged.
The most common scenario in the case of a musician is when an artist releases a new album. Through crowdfunding, they offer an array of products and experiences to their fans (exclusive updates throughout the project, a signed or pre-released copy of the new album, t-shirts, posters, a lunch date, shopping trip or even a private concert).
Often, these products and experiences are things that fans normally wouldn’t be able to get from an artist. That’s where a crowdfunding campaign is unique. It encompasses a handful of one-time-special-offers. The brilliance of a crowdfunding campaign is that it’s like a built-in PR campaign that raises money for a project while your fans are helping you promote it through their involvement. Because fans are a part of exclusive updates throughout the project and because they are truly invested by pledging to it, it becomes a very personal experience for them that they will likely want to share with others.
The definition of “crowdfunding” may not be new information to many of you. But it’s certainly a hot topic right now among musicians and many are asking: “Is it worth it? And how do I run a SUCCESSFUL crowdfunding campaign?”
As an independent artist who just finished a successful crowdfunding campaign through Pledge Music’s platform, I’d like to offer some valuable advice whether you’re thinking about launching a crowdfunding campaign or you’re already in the thick of it. Here are 5 tips for making crowdfunding a positive and successful experience.
1. Share Your Story
Developing and telling your story is the heart of your whole campaign.
There are thousands of artists out there raising money for their next album. What makes your project special? Why do you stand out? How will people feel fulfilled by joining you on this journey and pledging their money?
A huge part of my story involved not only raising money for my project, but raising money for my community at the same time. My local music scene is very important to me and to my community. We have a summer concert series on the top of a parking structure called “The Rooftop Concert Series.” This year it was in danger of being shut down because of a lack of funding. As part of my effort to raise money for my new album, I promised pledgers that I would give 30% of the proceeds to the Rooftop Concert Series to help save it and keep it going for our city. This provided an extra level of involvement from my grassroots fan base because it gave them not one, but two passionate reasons to contribute.
2. Pick a number
Deciding on how much to raise is a struggle for a lot of people. I don’t recommend solely relying on a crowdfunding campaign as the financial backbone of your career. Crowdfunding is a project-based concept that has a beginning and an end. You don’t want to set a goal so high that it’s unrealistic, and at the same time, you do want to set a goal that will give you the momentum you need to execute your project.
Find out what the average pledge amount is from the platform you want to use with your campaign (Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Pledge Music, etc.) Divide the dollar amount you have set for your goal by the average pledge that people donate on your platform of choice. The result will give you a rough idea of how many people will need to pledge in order for you to reach your goal.
For example, if your goal is to raise $10,000 and the average pledger on your platform pledges $50, you’ll need to make sure that roughly 200 people pledge to your project. Ask yourself if you feel that you can realistically call that many people to action with the following you already have through social media and email list subscribers. Make sure you also take into account the commission that your platform keeps as well as any possible percentage you might be donating to charity through your campaign.
3. The Power of Video
Seeing is believing. Creating a quality video of you pitching your story is essential. When people can see you and feel your passion, they will want to connect with you. People are investing in you as a person as much as they are investing in your project. Take videos throughout your campaign to show your viewers how things are progressing. Progress encourages positivity and positive energy converts to pledges. Never beg for money or complain that money isn’t coming in as quickly as you might want it to.
4. Simplify Your Incentives
This is one aspect of my campaign that I would re-do if I could. I offered a lot of incentives. For the potential pledger, this can be a psychological stumbling block. Our brains want to do what is quick, easy and gratifying. Having too much to offer can clutter up your campaign.
Additionally, when fulfillment time came for me, I sold my soul for an entire summer to fulfill all of the different incentives and personal experiences I had to offer. On one hand, it was so great to meet so many fans in person, on the phone or over Skype, and on the other, I was burned out and my family started to feel strained by my “fulfillment schedule.”
This brings me to my next piece of advice . . .
5. Plan Ahead
Make sure you leave room in your schedule for fulfilling all of your incentives. This is the part of a campaign that will take the most time. Much more than most people realize. Also, take into account the costs that will go into packaging, shipping and any possible travel. Being prepared to tackle fulfillment will help lessen the workload that comes when your campaign is through.
Finishing a crowdfunding campaign is a deeply satisfying and fruitful experience when you approach it with a positive outlook and all the passion that is in you as an artist. Get ready to work hard, wear your heart on your sleeve and watch your fanbase grow.
Part of being an artist is the never-ending hunt for a spark. Mindy Gledhill’s relentless search has led her all over the map— from recording a wildly successful independent album in a Los Angeles backyard with Juno-nominated producer Stuart Brawley (Lenka, Emmy Rossum) to creating her brand new record in the creative epicenter of East Nashville with acclaimed producer Cason Cooley (Sixpence None the Richer, Katie Herzig, Matthew Perryman Jones).
Sparks flew when she was featured on a Grammy-nominated album (Kaskade’s Fire & Ice), and when her songs debuted on primetime TV (So You Think You Can Dance, Bones, 20/20), and in commercials (Fruit of the Loom’s Olympic ad campaign). The sparks she gathered throughout these journeys spilled out onto notebooks, napkins, paper plates, and–finally–her latest album, appropriately titled Pocketful of Poetry, which recently released on September 10th. It’s an enchanting and intoxicating amusement park ride through the candy-red View Master world of her childhood, the sepia-toned sentimentality of leaving the nest, the rollercoasters of love and loss, and following the bread-crumb trail back to the childhood home that had never left her heart.
Available at www.mindygledhill.com and on iTunes.
[Crowdfunding image from Shutterstock.]