[This post was written by guest contributor Dave Kusek of New Artist Model.]
In the past, the only way to get an album recorded was to have a record label throw money at you. The cost of recording was so high that many bands simply couldn’t afford it themselves. These days, things are a little different. The cost of recording equipment has gone down and the tools are out there to fund your own recordings if you have a plan. Here’s three different ways you can fund your recordings.
Crowdfunding is the obvious answer if you find yourself short on cash when you want to record an album. However, it’s not a quick and easy way to raise money. In fact, it is a huge undertaking and requires a ton of planning before the campaign even starts. If you’re ready to put in the work, crowdfunding is a great way to fund your album and it provides you with a great opportunity to engage with your fans and connect with them in a new way by offering exclusive interactions and content.
The first thing to remember about crowdfunding is that it takes a crowd. You probably won’t raise hundreds of thousands of dollars if you only have a few thousand fans, so plan your goal accordingly. Next, you’ll need to make a budget. This not only includes the cost of your album, but also the cost of creating and shipping rewards, taxes, and the platform fees. If you don’t take these extra costs into account you’ll find yourself unable to complete your album.
On any platform, the rewards you offer should reflect you and your fans. On top of just the money, crowdfunding is really about building a stronger connection with your fanbase. What can you offer them here that they can’t get anywhere else? Have a good mixture of lower-end rewards like digital downloads, and more exclusive rewards like a private house concert. Always remember to give your fans what they want. A primarily teen fanbase may like exclusive, unreleased Instagram-style photos from behind the scenes; an older fanbase may like vinyl.
The platform you choose is entirely dependent on who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish. You should have a reason for the platform you choose – don’t just randomly pick one.
Pledge Music is a music-specific platform that combines pre-sale, crowdfunding, fan engagement, and community building to really help you grow your career as a musician. They also have tons of great music industry connections. Patreon is a great option if you want to fund a continuous stream of smaller projects like single songs, cover songs, or music videos. Kickstarter is a platform for a traditional crowdfunding campaign where you fund an entire project, album, or tour.
2. Small release
Especially when you’re just starting out, recording a full-length album in one go may seem financially impossible, and a small fan base may put crowdfunding out of the picture. That doesn’t mean you can’t release new material though! When you’re just starting out and trying to build a fanbase, waiting around for someone to hand you money to record will get you nowhere. You need to be constantly putting out great material to get the attention of music fans.
So how do you do that if you’re on a tight budget? Try releasing smaller EPs or, even better, single songs. We talked about the single-song release in this article. Basically, you release a single song once a week, month, or whatever you can manage and use your social media, website, and mailing list to execute mini marketing plans for each song.
A constant stream of new material keeps you at the front of fans’ minds and gives them tons of opportunities to listen, buy, and share. On top of that, it also gives you the chance to learn from every single release. You’ll be able to see what kind of songs your fans really dig and which ones they’re not so in to.
The cool thing about this strategy is that it’s a lot easier to afford. Think about it, instead of having to put down a huge amount of money, you can spread it out over a whole year and fund it as you go. If you’re releasing a recording once a month, just play a some gigs that month and use some of the money you make to record.
The subscription model is for musicians who have started gathering a dedicated fanbase. Instead of releasing one song a month to all your fans, set up a subscription service, charging $10 or $20 per month to get exclusive access to each month’s recording. You can choose to release one original song, a few original songs, or a combination of originals and covers each month. At the end of the year, you can use the original songs you sent out to your subscription members to release a full-length album.
Like the small release strategy, the subscription strategy allows you to pay for the album in smaller increments. You can use the subscription fees to pay for that month’s recording instead of having to save up a huge amount of money for a full album. As described above, Patreon is a good option for this kind of funding as well.
Setting up a subscription service does require a bit of work. You’ll need to set up a member portal on your website and spend a lot of time working out the offer. The price and number of songs you offer your subscription members will differ. Teens and younger audiences may not be able to afford $10 or even $20 a month, while an older audience may have enough disposable income to make it worth their while.
You also want to make sure you have other content going out in addition to your subscription songs. Otherwise, it will appear to non-subscribers that you’ve stopped making music. Keep a steady stream of covers going on your YouTube channel to attract new fans and conversation going on your social media. Use your website, email list, and social media channels to promote your subscription service. You could release short teaser clips telling fans they could get the song now or wait for the album at the end of the year.
The New Artist Model is an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers and songwriters. Our classes teach essential music business and marketing skills that will take you from creativity to commerce while maximizing your chances for success. Get 2 free ebooks by Dave Kusek, founder of Berklee Online, and Rick Barker, former manager of Taylor Swift.
[Picture of mixing console from Shutterstock.]