Steve Rennie Chats with Karen Bair & Protest The Hero
Karen Bair is "Head of Music Development at the innovative crowd funding platform" Indiegogo.
Protest The Hero requested $125,000 for a new album via Indiegogo and received pledges of $341,146.
Note: The above video is probably not viewable if Firefox is your browser of choicer. Sadly, they seem to be continuing their downward spiral.
[Originally published at Hypebot in August, 2012.]
Rock band Murder By Death recently achieved the honor of having the third highest funded Kickstarter music campaign after Amanda Palmer and Five Iron Frenzy. Exceeding their $100,000 goal, their final pledge total was $187,048. I spoke with lead singer Adam Turla over the weekend and he shared the details of the campaign.
Murder By Death, based in Bloomington, Indiana, first got together as Little Joe Gould in 2000 and have gone on to release five full length albums and numerous other shorter works on vinyl in addition to CD and digital versions. Along the way Adam Turla took over business management and so decided to run the campaign himself.
Murder By Death Kickstarter Campaign Video
For their upcoming release, "Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon," they decided to use crowdfunding to support the production of a vinyl edition and also to do some things that would deepen their connection with their fans.
Care For Your Fans & They'll Care For You
Turla explained that they've been handling the vinyl releases themselves, even when working with labels on CD and digital releases. They knew from past experience that they had a strong group of fans that would preorder whatever they put out. As you can see from their Kickstarter campaign page, the rewards include such offerings as a Postcard Club, an MBD Book Club plus personal events such as house shows. In addition to being unique, such rewards keep them in direct touch with their more supportive fans.
Murder By Death has always made a point of connecting with their fans including hanging out after shows for pictures and conversation. They strive to show their fans that they care about them and Turla believes that's evident even from the stage. He feels like the success of the campaign was almost a reward from the fans for that caring.
Budget As Best You Can, Set Prices That Feel Right
I assumed that Turla's experience with vinyl gave him a real edge over newcomers in budgeting and pricing. But he said that there are always surprises and that sometimes the quotes they received for special items such as the Zoetrope (pic on the campaign page) were less than the final product cost. More importantly, one never really knows which rewards will attract the most attention. That means that it's hard to predict costs because you don't know till the end of the campaign which items will take off.
Beyond budgeting as best as one can, Turla also revealed that pricing was not set with a particular margin in mind. There were times when aesthetic choices overran profitable ones and the pricing reflected that. Turla says the final call on pricing came when he posted the rewards on Kickstarter prior to making them public and doing a gut check to see if they felt right. Having contributed to numerous Kickstarter campaigns himself, he knew from his own experience that overpricing items wouldn't feel right and that sometimes the right price wasn't the most profitable.
Turn It Into a Game
Murder By Death's status as the third highest music campaign on Kickstarter came about almost by accident. Turla just happened to check the "Most Funded" categories on Kickstarter on the last day and discovered that they were in striking distance of being third. They immediately notified their fans and he said it became almost like a game for them.
Many chose higher rewards or simply upped their pledges as well as notifying their friends. He says if he'd checked sooner, they might have gone for second place but even so the response from their fans was overwhelming. He didn't attempt to turn it into a game but fans responded as if it was and that suggests the power of gamificaton when people care about what you're doing.
Adam Turla's Advice for Other Bands
Now that they're Kickstarter heroes, Turla says other bands are asking him for advice. He noted that bands should assume they have only one really big campaign possible, as opposed to crowdfunding multiple times, and that they should work really hard. For his part, it may have been a mistake to do it all on his own (my interpretation not his) especially since the campaign wrapped up as they were heading out on tour.
Having every hour of one's day devoted to touring, interviews and dealing with the work of a crowdfunding campaign is overwhelming. But even if you're not going out on tour, recognize that a successful campaign requires a great deal of work. It's not something that can succeed on its own.
Turla was most moved not by getting a bunch of money but by the personal response from fans. The campaign gave them a reason to reach out and express their feelings about the music of Murder By Death. He says he's written a huge number of emails in reponse but that it was incredibly gratifying to hear stories of how their music had affected their fans.
Be sure to check out the campaign video above as well as the Kickstarter page. The video, photos and text are all well done and give one a sense of a band that can take care of business without losing their personal touch.
I realize the need to be artistically congruent with your identity and what your fans have come to expect from you, but people who like to laugh still like to know what the f&*k is going on. The Moral of the Story: Distraction free communication and laser focus is your friend when you’re trying to make a sale.
The Sammus Theory shows us that we need to have a relationship with our fans. This can set up your project for a HUGE start and can set you up for long run success.
Michael launched his first Kickstarter on a wing and a prayer. He thought “yeah man, $2500 would be great”, but he failed to start by making a list of his Circle of Influence.
Kickstarter/crowdfunding is a fantastic tool in the career of an artist! Of course, it alone can’t make your career but it really, truly is a tool that, when used well, can help advance your career in a significant manner.
In the early stages of your artistic career, people won’t buy the product you make, they’ll buy why you make it. Stacy couldn’t be a better example of this philosophy.
Musicians like you and I get inspired and easily excited by our visions, but you have to put in the day to day work to see the vision through.
By Levi James of Launch & Release.
12/08 Your Music Kickstarter Recording Budget
Know your album budget inside and out before trying to choose your Kickstarter Goal Amount. Assess your minimum viable project (the smallest version of your project that you can live with) and then set Flex Goals with two or more tiers of success.
When using a flex goal approach to increase your odds of success, be 100% sure to clearly communicate the flex goals you are using.
12/06 Drew Kennedy Connects Fans to His Art
Connect your fans to the artistic process making it a shared mission to raise your odds of success. Pay careful attention to communicating this connection in an explicit manner through your spoken and written words.
12/05 Can You Get Strangers to Back Your Band’s Kickstarter?
It’s possible to get pledges from strangers, but you need to be savvy and methodical for it to pay off. Know that the overwhelming majority of your pledges will be from people you’re already connected to.
12/04 How You Can Fund a Kickstarter Without a Mailing List
First, increase your marketing efficacy by carefully cultivating a trusting relationship with your fans. It doesn’t matter if you use email, Facebook, or smoke signals, this advice holds.
12/03 Death of Paris-A Purpose Worth Backing
Carl says to prepare beforehand, treat it like a full time job, and reach out for tangible interaction. He also uses the flex goal strategy.
I also wrote about Launch & Release in a post for Hypebot:
First Music Crowdfunding Panel at noisy Musicworld
[Guest post by Mario Putzar founder of 50K MUSIC, an online mag that supports crowdfunded independent music.]
Last Friday at noisy Musicworld a group of crowdfunding experts met in two panels to discuss the role of crowdfunding in disrupting today's music business and the chances for musicians. The first panel was about introducing two international (SellaBand and PledgeMusic) and two national crowdfunding platforms (VisionBakery and INKUBATO). In the second panel we saw six experts among them Dirk Wilberg, promoter of Amanda Palmer, and Robert Drakogiannakis, singer of Angelika Express (the first band ever to use the crowdfunding approach in Germany) discussing the marketing of successful crowdfunding projects.
In the afternoon my colleague Simone Janson and I gave musicians advice about how to use social media and PR to promote their crowdfunding projects.
But what are the lessons we've learned from this workshop?
Crowdfunding can trouble today's music industry
… but won't destroy established structures and conventions. In the future musicians who crowdfund their music will still use music industry's infrastructure, e.g. for promotion or distribution, maybe they are even reliant on doing so.
Many artists don't know about the chances and benefits of crowdfunding
There are loads of chances especially for unsigned musicians if they decide to crowdfund their music. It's not only the financial aspect but also the chance to build up a true fan base and spread the word about their music. On the other hand many musicians are afraid to ask their fans for money and don't know how to explain to them why they use crowdfunding. So still a lot of explanatory work to do. By all means musicians have to develop an individual marketing, PR and social media strategy before they start their project. Also the communicational efforts are often underestimated.
With uncommon and unconventional messages musicians attract attention
… especially when they start a crowdfunding project and want to motivate fans to give money for an unconventional way to produce or promote music. But that includes the risk of not delivering what was promised: so, for example, if you say "Ciao!" to your label or other radical things like "This is the future of music" or "We are the media" in your pitch video you should mean it. Otherwise you might lose your fans' trust in what you're doing.
Crowdfunding projects can get hard to handle
...not only because there's a lot of communicational work necessary during a crowdfunding project, but also if you offer special rewards or even a financial participation. Robert Drakogiannakis reported about the Angelika-Aktie (share) issued in 2008 offering fans an 80% stake on the project's profit. The distribution of money was a big challenge, he related. So sharing and distributing the rewards should be planned well and deliberately as well as executed efficiently.
New forms of crowdfunding will develop
The panelists also talked about how crowdfunding could develop within the next years. There was a consensus about the fact that it will reach mainstream sooner or later and that there will be new forms of crowdfunding in the future, e.g. a patronage with regular (maybe monthly) payments to support artists in contrast to today's more project focused approach.
Related Crowdfunding For Musicians Coverage:
all2gethernow Organizes Music Crowdfunding Workshop at noisy Musicworld During Berlin Music Week
Katie Powderly: Slips of the Tongue Campaign Video
Carell Casey recently talked with musicians from Madison, Wisconsin about their crowdfunding experiences in a post titled: Kickstarter is Punk as F*ck: Crowd funding in a DIY world.
Except for some initial macho nonsense spouted by Martin Atkins (former drummer for Public Image Limited, Ministry, Pigface and Killing Joke), it's worth a read. And, to be fair, his otherwise solid advice is scattered throughout the piece.
Katie Powderly raised $15,738 on Kickstarter, exceeding her goal of $12,000. She describes her campaign as an "act of desperation" that forced her past here "fear of failure." Whatever her state of mind, the above video is a nice example of one way to do it right.
Now she's not only a Kickstarter success but she's adding a new revenue stream with a Kickstarter consulting service. Plus she's taking her new album on a 50-state tour in an RV!
"He attributes his campaign's success to the large and loyal fan base that he's been building for over a decade--and making up all kinds of fun and outrageous premiums that people shared with their friends online just for the sheer entertainment factor."
I Am Dragon raised just enough to produce their debut ep. They advise:
"Send out lots of updates, messages, thank-yous, personal emails, and even letters to grandparents who are not internet savvy. 'Let people know you believe in what you are doing and that they are appreciated.'"
Anna Vogelzang also exceeded her goal. She felt that being on tour during the campaign gave her a great opportunity to spread the word.
Check out the article for more on the above campaigns as well as some useful advice from Martin Atkins.
Image of the Proposed Jimi Hendrix Sound Wave Wall
I'm not here to be mean or make fun of people but, when a seemingly worthy campaign is totally undermining itself, sometimes you just have to point out that the Emperor's missing a few pieces of clothing.
They're attempting to raise $285,000 for construction of the "iconic Sound Wave Wall in Jimi's image" pictured above. That's a smart move. They're taking one aspect of the overall fundraising campaign that would appeal to the general public and crowdfunding that aspect.
But, though the ultimate reward is obviously completing the wall as part of the larger Jimi Hendrix Park project, one still has to treat donors with the respect they're used to especially when you get into large donations. In this case, they're actually insulting all donors with rewards that are incredibly skimpy.
Here they are:
"Every dollar counts! Thank you for being a part of the Experience."
"We are forever grateful to all donors! Thank you for being a Friend of Jimi Hendrix Park!"
"You will receive a personal thank you email."
"A personal thank you email and a Jimi Hendrix Park pin."
"You will receive a personal thank you email and your name will be listed on our Facebook fan page."
"For a gift of $5,000 or more, The Friends of Jimi Hendrix Park will send a hand written thank you and your name will be listed on our Facebook fan page."
"For a gift of $10,000 or more, you will receive a hand written thank you, acknowledged on our website and Facebook fan page."
"Your generous gift of $100,000 or more will be acknowledged on our website, Facebook fan page and you will receive a hand written thank you. You will also be invited to the grand opening ceremony and honored as a Major Donor at Jimi Hendrix Park."
These rewards are kind of a slap in the face. If I'm paying $500 or more, I expect my name on a brick or something onsite. If I'm paying $1,000 I expect an invite to the grand opening ceremony as well. Am I overreaching? Ok, can I get an invite for $10,000? No?
At this point you either see it or you don't. Don't disrespect your donors by offering rewards for relatively big donations that take a minute to fulfill and are expressed in an email or tucked away on some Facebook page. That's just sad.
Yet there's still hope! This campaign is in the early stages and can be easily fixed. Think about the fact that your donors are funding something you think is incredibly important and then treat them accordingly. Start with a digital reward for $1 donors and work your way up from there. Your donors deserve that much respect.
Clyde Smith on Crowdfunding Music
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