As a vocalist and co-writer for 3 very cool electronic projects, Balligomingo, Sleepthief and now DJ Ryan Farish, I have had songs on the Billboard charts and videos with over 100,000 views. I have been able to be a part of creating and releasing music almost yearly. It’s been super rad and I have LOVED all of it but deep down inside I am also a solo artist and have been writing my own material the whole time as well.
Last year I decided it was time to start demoing my own material. Our household income goes to caring for our family and with nothing left over for my addiction to creation it fell to me to barter, trade and find the budget to demo. I was able to get a good footing and some action on 4 songs but when the $500 I had scraped together had run out and I needed at least another $300 to record pianos and re-do some vocals my friend and co-producer Scott Ord suggested I look into crowdfunding. The light bulb went off and the next year of my life was in wonderful motion. I explored the crowdfunding platforms and chose PledgeMusic. These are the 5 mistakes I made during my campaign and how to fix them.
All eager to succeed and get my music out there I figured I’d raise the money in less than a month, record immediately and have a finished product mixed, mastered and manufactured in no time.
My campaign went LIVE in November 16th, 2012 and the last of my exclusives/CDs were put into the mail on October 29th 2013.
Keep in mind that when all goes well it’s possible to get your record finished and delivered in no time but things pop up from producers having other better paying projects running long to computer issues when designing your cover. Give yourself time to honestly deliver your product to your fans. They’ll appreciate your honesty and awareness. Also make sure to keep them up on what’s happening and they’ll be pretty forgiving.
2. Underestimating cost and setting the right ‘Posted Goal’ amount
As much money that you might be able to raise keep in mind that you could always use more. With Pledge you don’t get your money until you hit your posted goal amount so keeping it lower to ensure you will get funding is great but then once you hit your 100% people think you’ve raised all the money you need to record and pledges can slow down immeasurably. Remember that one song really could prosper with the use of real strings or that you might have to retrack the piano when you get home from LA and pay an extra $500 for that day in the studio.
It’s a fine balance between how much you think your fans will kick in and being realistic with how much you’ll need to accomplish what you’re setting out to do. Between those 2 numbers you’ll find the right ‘Posted Goal’ so you’re able to get your funding as well as afford the record you want to make.
PledgeMusic is a great service and wonderful opportunity in the new music industry model, however they don’t work for free. They take 15% of all the money you raise. Beyond that you can also agree to give a % of your pledges to a charity of your choice. I agreed to give 10% after I’ve reached my posted goal to a charity. As my ‘Posted Goal’ was too low to actually record a full album now I also had to earn an extra 25% to meet my expenses.
I had a friend who pointed out to me ‘Why are you giving it to charity when you’re already the charity’. I had to laugh because he’s right. It’s great to give back for sure but perhaps keeping it to a lower amount or making yourself available to play shows for or at your charity makes more sense. So do give back but again remember your costs of recording, mixing, mastering, designing, manufacturing, and SHIPPING, sometimes to fans who live on the other side of the world, adds up and as wonderful as it is to give to a charity if you can’t complete your project and deliver it to your fans you’re shooting yourself in the foot to really be in a position to give.
What is it you really have in you to make for your fans? I offered handwritten thank you notes and lyric sheets as 2 different exclusives. I love that idea! But as the day came to start fulfilling those pledges I was completely reminded of how I fractured my hand at the age of 11 and now decades later all the writing I do is barely legible and only for creative purposes. Anytime I have to write for more than 10 minutes in a way that people can read what I’m writing my hand cramps and the pain sets in. Next time I will keep this in mind and offer only a set amount of them for a larger pledge amount making them more of an exclusive exclusive and offer other items I am more able to create without pain. Lol.
Also I’m more aware now of what it is that I can offer that is exclusive to who I am as an artist as well as a person that my fans might enjoy. Be aware of what you really want to be making for them so you can do it joyfully and in good time.
This is not an exercise in stress or disappointment! You’ve got to be open to go with the flow and trust the unfolding of your record.
There will be challenges and hold ups but all in all your fans are there for you and helping you do what you love to do! So be grateful and enjoy the process because if you’re lucky you’ll get to do it over and over again.
A few weeks ago I attended an inspiring CD release party for the Aury Moore Band‘s new CD, Here I Am. The AMB is a female-fronted indie Seattle rock band whose latest CD was produced by Stevie (full disclosure). I’ve been fortunate to be a part of Aury’s inner circle, and even to feed her a few music marketing tips. She’s an experienced and accomplished musician and marketer herself, and I wanted to share the story of this 12-song CD.
This article is the first of a two-part series. In the first post, I describe how Aury used Kickstarter to successfully raise over $20,000 to record, promote and pre-sell her CD. In Part II, I outline how Aury followed up with a highly successful CD release party and what might lie in store as she continutes the process of marketing her newest release.
The promotion of this CD began even before it was produced. A well-executed CD release, launch and promotion process is ideally 12-14 months, and a crowd funding campaign with Kickstarter (or via another crowd funding platofrm such as PledgeMusic, IndieGoGo or RocketHub) is an important and powerful marketing and pre-sales technique.
A Creative and Lively Kickstarter Campaign
The AMB Kickstarter campaign ran August 6 through October 5, 2012. Of course, it raised funds to enable the recording and marketing of the CD, but it also generated a lot of excitement and momentum for the band. Remarkably, Aury did not have a website or mailing list during this time, nor was the band very active on Twitter. Aury has a very active Facebook page, though, as well as more than 10,000 fans on ReverbNation. And she worked them!
There are so many things Aury did right. She raised $20,852 with 247 backers. That’s an average of $84 per backer, almost $15 more than the average Kickstarter pledge of $70.
Some key elements of the campaign:
"I wish I could have figured out a way to get more people to WATCH the video. Of all the people who pledged only 41% watched the video. No actually it is pretty cool that 59% of the people pledged without watching the video but… I can’t help but believe if more people would have watched the video, they would have likely shared it and I think we would have raised a lot more money. People who didn’t even know us, who watched the video pledged simply bcz they loved the video."
"The pledge items were fun! The ones that people loved the most were the really personal ones. We had a package for $222 [Aury is obsessed with this number, for reasons too long to go into here]. For your pledge of $222 you received a night of me cooking you dinner. We of course made a point to let you know that I can’t cook… We had 13 people pledge for me to cook them dinner anyways! A few other cool items were Eddie’s Hats. During our shows our drummer has this little shtick of him changing hats during the shows. The fans are constantely trying to catch him changing his hat… it is fun… well… Eddie gave away 12 of his hats. We also let someone shave his head and I gave away 2 hard board posters from my first CD release party. there were only a total of 3 made. 2 with autographs from all the people who played that show with me including Alan White of Yes and Mchael Wilton of Queensryche. I have one of these for myself but I gave away the other 2 in my Kickstarter campaign. One with autographs and one without. People liked the one of a kind items. I also added more pledge packages by request from people who wanted to pledge. People asked me to add shot glasses and tshirts that would be autographed that were not the ones made for the campaign. I also had people negotiate with me… they offered to pledge if I would come out and perform a song with their band. I did this on two occasions."
"Everytime someone pledged I personally thanked them for their pledge. I made some silly pictures that had the Kickstarter information on it as well as our slogan “You Pledge… We give you cool stuff!” and our other slogan, “Be a part of the AMB!!” If you were a Facebook friend I would make my thank you public by posting this silly picture on your Facebook page for all the world to see. This also helped us with pledges. We attached the link to these pictures so people could check it out."
"Also, something I am very excited about is that the AMB WILL be spending a day in Seattle, passing out pizza to the homeless! We had a pledger from Florida make a deal with me… on the stipulation that the band would take a day and give out pizza to the homeless. In addition to his pledge he will also be supplying the pizza .Once we hit the goal I decided to pitch in and buy some pizza as well. Now many of my friends want to be a part and this day. It is looking to become a great event. We are even toying with the idea, if people want to join us, cool, and we encourage them to help by maybe bringing other items these people may need. Blankets, Coats, Socks etc. We all have items we no longer use… I am excited about the possibilities. I actually spoke with a friend of mine who is homeless. He gave me advice as to what to do to make sure when we do this, people in need will be aware! I am especially excited about what that day is going to bring. It has been a good motivator for me. I am thrilled knowing this is actually going to happen!"
"What did I do wrong? For some reason I struggled getting all the band members to buy in to what I was doing. I don’t know if they really got all that I was doing in order for us to be able to complete this CD. If I could do it all over again I would try to figure out a way to get the entire band to buy in to the campaign we were doing. I think if they felt like they had more ownership in what we were doing we may have raised more money."
There’s a lot to be learned by studying other bands’ Kickstarter campaigns. It’s important to note, though, that Aury’s campaign was successful because she was just being herself – an honest, straighforward and generous person. She didn’t do it all herself – she has a group of people, her superfans, her informal “street team,” who have helped her. However, like any successful entrepreneur, Aury did her research, she planned in advance, came up with some very creative ideas, worked extremely hard, executed well, and inspired her team to work hard for her. The success of her Kickstarter campaign shows the fruits of that work.
In Part II, I detail the CD release party for the Aury Moore Band’s new CD, Here I Am, and give my take on the elements that made it another important milestone in marketing for Aury and the band.
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:
Clyde Smith on Crowdfunding Music
Send Music Crowdfunding News To:
Crowdfunding For Musicians is a
Project of Flux Research
Awesome Banner Image by
Tawny Rockerazzi (c) Kate Patten