Crowdfunding these days can be for musicians and fans both a blessing and a curse. With the accessibility of crowdfunding platforms and the unlimited project ideas out in the world, the abundance of such campaigns can become a little overwhelming.

That said the whole nature and ethos of crowdfunding can be one of the most rewarding and creatively beneficial sources of artistic funding there is. So how as a band or musician do you cut through to your fans and help build a successful crowdfunding campaign? We spoke to three industry professionals (two musos and a publicist) to find out ‘how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign.’

Steve “Stevic” Mackay is the guitarist of Twelve Foot Ninja, whose music video crowdfunding campaign raised over $52,000+ . Gaining over 500 supporters and making 116% of their target it was one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns to date. The money raised went towards their ‘Ain’t That A Bitch’ video (watch the directors cut here). Thanks to such a successful campaign the band then toured the country in support of its release. If you’d like to see their campiagn pictches/ viseos you can check it all out via Pozible.

Dallas Frasca is the front woman of Melbourne blues rock three piece (of the same name). Dallas and co. set up a crowdfunding campaign in order to finance her third independent album Love Army. After raising about their target amount ($20,000) the band were able to use the excess money to help fund their ‘Lizard Boy’ video and tour nationally. To watch the pitch/ check out Dallas’ campaign you can visit Pozible.  Dallas is currently putting the final touches on her new LP, which is set for release later this year. For more info visit her Facebook page. She’ll be visiting Adelaide this weekend to perform as part of Follow The Sun festival.

Ash Sambrooks is the owner/ director of Higher Plains an independent online music publicity label who works alongside a number of self-funded independent artists and labels. The artists he works alongside are always thinking of alternative ways to raise much needed funds. Over the years he has worked with a number of acts who have run successful crowdfunding campaigns including Saskwatch’s ‘Get Saskwatch to Glastonbury’, ‘Milk! Records 10″ Vinyl Compilation’ and Rainbow Chan’s ‘Long Vacation EP on vinyl!’ project. Though Saskwatch, Milk! Records and Rainbow Chan all built an audience long before launching their crowdfunding campaigns, working as a publicist Ash is able to see patterns emerge between such successful campaigns.

Do Your Homework

Dallas: Before we started, we researched a tonne of successful campaigns and used similar language when describing things and most importantly applying our own touch. We watched other current campaigns at the time to see what they were doing to keep their momentum going rather than being disheartened in times when there wasn’t much movement towards our goal. It’s always about keeping it fresh and being creative! Again read up on how Amanda Palmer reached out to her fans.

Have A Clear Video pitch And Campaign Message

Ash: “This could be the most important section of your campaign so it’s imperative that you get it right. And to make things even harder, there isn’t really a ‘one size fits all’ approach to making a pitch video… except that it MUST connect with your audience.

Check out the Milk! Records pitch, it immediately invites people in with a ‘behind the scenes’ video featuring the Milk! Records ‘crew’ recording the 10” vinyl they’re about to sell you. Boom! The story of the project is clear and honest too. Easy. Again, Milk! Records built an audience long before they launched a crowdfunding campaign, so their pitch approach may not work for everyone.

Here are some important points that all three of the mentioned videos nailed:
– Show yourself in your own video pitch.
– Get the mood of the video right.
– Be your wonderful self; a musician… not an industry schmuck.
– Evoke trust and empathy from people.
– Engage with fans.
– Keep your pitch copy honest, meaningful and clear.”

Dallas: “The video to promote your campaign is super important, we spent some time and thought on that itself. We don’t post many vids online of the band (except for music videos) so it was a good chance for our fans to get to know who we are as people and who we are behind the instruments, so make it a good one and be creative. Think of it as a ‘get to know’ session with the band.”

Avoid The Charity Perception

Stevic: “It’s worth making this clear in your ‘sales pitch’ to potential supporters – you’re not asking for donations, you’re (hopefully) offering value for money. It is a transaction not a hand out. The majority of people who contribute to your crowd funding campaign will be fans of what you do, but you still need to provide tangible value for their contribution.”

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Disclose How Much You’re Hoping To Make

Ash: “Benji Rogers, the founder of Pledge Music said “when you show a financial target you either look desperate or needy. One of the things we found is that if you hide that financial target fans spend more”.. so there you go. Though personally, I love the transparent relationship that crowdfunding offers between the artist and fan, and when bands do disclose financial targets, it feels like you’re doing more than just buying a t-shirt, you’re contributing to something special, you’re flying the independent flag, right? Yes!

If you do decide to disclose your financial target, you should ask for the minimum amount needed to start and fulfil your project. For example, with Rainbow Chan’s vinyl campaign, the target amount is set to cover the project costs… and if you raise more then all the better.”

Know Your Ideal Time Period

Ash: “Unless you have an interesting goal to share with people like Saskwatch did, try limiting yourself to 4-6weeks instead of 2-3 months. In the case of Saskwatch, the 9-piece were invited to perform at Glastonbury Festival, but needed the funds to get them there. The Pozible campaign had genuine initiative and a great story angle.

Initially you want your friends and family to drop early ca$$$sh on your project, but you should allow enough time for your crowdfunding campaign to reach out to your local music community and beyond. Again, it all depends on your project and audience, but Neil Young said it best, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away”, so aim to keep your momentum going by keeping the campaign tight. Turns out that old mate Neil is pretty good at this crowdfunding stuff too.”

Rewards: Go Above And Beyond, But Be Realistic

Stevic: “Be prepared to over deliver; The last people you want to disappoint are your supporters (especially if they’re contributing their hard earned money to your mission).
Whether it’s adding something extra to rewards (like a personal touch) or providing “experience” based rewards – you do not want those who contribute to regret their decision, so go above and beyond whenever possible!”

Ash: “The devil is in the details. Before you start coming up with the most inventive rewards imaginable, stick to your campaign plan and think about what you actually want to sell the most of. What are you communicating to your audience? With Milk! Records, the core of their campaign was to fund and sell a 10” vinyl compilation, which they did very well.

Make it personal! Saskwatch sent 63 handwritten postcards out to fans while they were touring Europe, which proved to be more popular than their digital/physical album reward. Oh, it’s probably wise to make sure you can commit to the rewards available on your campaign. I wonder if Josh Freese ever did take anyone to Disneyland with Twiggy?”

Dallas: “We started off our campaign planning by putting a realistic budget together of what we needed to cover our recording expenses and then came up with creative fun ways to connect with our fanbase: ie; One on one lessons with band members, signed albums, skype sessions, rare vinyl offers, personal letters from the band, clothing items, items we used to record the album in the studio and even a dinner with the band where we cooked and then played a show.”

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Be Honest About Your Projections

Stevic: “You need to be realistic as to whether there is an actual demand for what you want to create e.g. Do people come to your shows and buy your merch who aren’t your close friends or relatives?

Do any of your social networking statistics indicate strangers are getting into what you do without being forced? If so, you might want to use the 1% rule of thumb and apply it to your Facebook likes. If you have 10,000 Facebook likes you could roughly forecast that about 100 people will contribute on average between $20 to $50 provided the rewards you are offering service a clear demand. Hypothetically, if you were to chose a number in-between that figure, say $35 x 100 = $3,500 then you might conservatively set your target at $2,000 in the hope that you surpass it. But remember this is just a rough estimate and one size doesn’t fit all.”

Don’t Forget About Deductions

Stevic: “Don’t forget to consider the costs it will take to create/deliver your rewards, as well as fees that crowdfunding platforms charge.
Using the example above of setting a target of $2,000 . . .
Crowd funding platform commission: Approx. 5% of gross ($100)
PayPal and Credit Card transaction fees: Approx. 2.5% of gross ($50)
Declined transactions: Allow a conservative 6% of gross – some people have good intentions but bad credit! ($120)
Then you have to weigh up any reward expenditure: manufacturing, postage costs etc say 4% of gross ($80)
= Your initial $2,000 is starting to look more like $1,650 that you can actually use.”

Publicise, And Know How To Do It (Right)

Ash: “If you do nothing once your project goes live -then nothing will happen. Firstly, tell your friends and family about your project and ask them to share it. Talk about your project (in real life) with other bands and start heating up your social media channels and mailing list.

Unless your campaign is a runaway success, it’s probably best not to update your social media channels more than twice a week throughout the duration of the campaign. If you’re super close to your target with only a few days remaining, then by all means blast the hell out of it.

If you can, aim to align your crowdfund campaign with a new track/release. Rainbow Chan (and Silo Arts) released an exclusive song that encouraged music sites/blogs to write about the vinyl campaign. The more ‘natural’ PR support you can create the better. Here’s a neat interview with Benji Rogers from Pledge Music, and some awesome tips from Pozible.”

Dallas: “Of course at the start of the campaign, it takes off quite quickly, but when it starts to slow down, that’s where you have to get imaginative. Along the track we added new things to entice people, we thanked people via video which encouraged people to share it online (broadening our outreach) and tagging throughout the social media to get people involved, we reached out to other musicians/people with high profiles to plug our campaign by sharing online with their audiences and then BAM we did it!! We reached our goal (not without pulling hair out and biting our nails off first). ”

Finally – Deliver

Stevic: “If your mission is to record an album or make a music video: make sure the money you raise can actually pay for the end result. Do your due diligence and cost everything out as accurately and conservatively as you can, then assess (as objectively as possible) whether the demand for what you want to create is proportionate to your financial assumptions. A lot of bands confuse their enthusiasm to do something with everyone else’s.”

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