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5 Kickstarter Killers Your Band Should Avoid Like the Plague

Great news!  According to Kickstarter, 54% of all music Kickstarter campaigns are successful.  The bad news is that 46% FAIL. How can you avoid these terrible odds?

Over at the Launch and Release blog we’ve interviewed over 60 bands who’ve launched Kickstarter campaigns to help us collect and analyze data that we’ll be releasing in the coming months.

I’ve also launched multiple pre-order campaigns prior to Kickstarter opening it’s doors and I’ve launched multiple successful Kickstarter campaigns in the last two years for my two bands.

When looking at why projects fail, we almost always find one or more of these 5 things to be the culprit.

1) Lack of a Purpose Worth Backing

Most people think that the reason a band’s Kickstarter fails is because they don’t have enough fans.  This is simply just not true.  Almost anyone is connected to enough friends and family to raise a reasonable amount of money.

Failing to show those friends, family, and fans that their money is going to a worthy cause is often times the deal breaker.

This happens when a) you have a worthy cause but you’re just terrible at explaining it (bad marketing) or b) you don’t actually have a compelling project that gets people excited.

2) Choosing a Goal That’s Too High for Your Circle of Influence

One big misconception is that Kickstarter is a community of people looking for cool projects to back.

With music Kickstarter projects, you are relying 99% on your existing personal connections.  It’s imperative that you assess your Circle of Influence by literally making a list of friends, family, and fans you expect to back you. Add them all up, assume that less than half will back you, then multiply by $60 (the average pledge per backer).

As a side note, we constantly hear people say “the ones I thought would back didn’t, and the ones I didn’t think would back did”.

3) Failure to Work Hard

Your Kickstarter is a personal project that requires you to reach out and connect one-on-one with many people.  Simply sending out a mass email and spamming your Facebook page for a month will not lead to success.  You need to send personal emails, engage in face-to-face communication, and tell people exactly what you need them to do.

Almost every artist we talk to admits to being afraid to directly ask for money.  Don’t beat around the bush and take the passive route.  You need to show people that you believe wholeheartedly in what you’re doing by getting out and working your butt off.  When they see your passion they’ll respond by backing your cause and spreading the word for you.

4) Giving Up Too Early

Most Kickstarter projects have a huge last minute rush.  If your goal seems too far away on the third week of a 30 day campaign, don’t assume it’s a lost cause.  Dig in and campaign harder than you ever have.

According to Kickstarter, “While 12% of projects finished having never received a single pledge, 81% of projects that raised more than 20% of their goal were successfully funded.”

5) Imperfect Rewards

Backers pledge at their level of fanhood or engagement in you and your project, not necessarily at the level they find a favorable reward. It’s your job to make sure that all types of backers are able to contribute at the highest level possible.

If a backer is willing to show you their support at the $35 level but you jump from a $20 package to a $50 package, you’re loosing out on potential dollars because they’ll settle for the $20 package.

Reward design is an art and requires a deep understanding of your following and how you plan to frame your project.  In other words, are you framing it as a pre-order where it’s important for rewards to match their real world perceived value or are you framing it as a fund raiser where it’s more acceptable to offer the physical CD for $35?


As you plan to launch your first Kickstarter project for your band, pay close attention to these five things so you can lower the odds of the dreaded “FUNDING UNSUCCESSFUL” badge that will forever grace your Kickstarter page, never to be taken down or hidden. Always there to remind you that you should have done a better job of studying before trying your hand at Kickstarter.


About Levi James
Kickstarter Jockey, Launch Artist, renegade filmmaker, champion of passionate artists on a mission and founder of Launch & Release, a start-up dedicated to the study of music crowdfunding and the art and techniques of making a living with music.


References (1)

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Reader Comments (6)

Thanks, Levi.

Bands and artists should definitely plan and coordinate their crowdsourcing campaigns for maximum effect. As you noted, you can't just post on Facebook all day (although that may be a small part of it) and email a few people. Take the time to connect with individuals. Address them personally and directly.

November 28 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Wiebe

Thanks for the comment, Andrew!

Most bands we've interviewed only email their list once or twice over the entire fundraising period! They're afraid to abuse their list, but as far as I'm concerned, if they're on your list, your Kickstarter is probably the best example of what they want to hear about.

My prescription for email list use? A weekly email with a one or two line update on how the fundraiser is doing (something interesting for them) and then a one line call to action with a link.

November 28 | Registered CommenterLevi James

This is great! If anyone is serious about running a Kickstarter campaign for an upcoming album or something similar, I wrote a comprehensive piece on How I Made $13,544 In a Month with the dos and don'ts. It's extensive... so read on if you're serious!

Ari Herstand
(The Business Behind Full-Time Independent Music)

November 28 | Unregistered CommenterAri's Take

This is great! If anyone is serious about running a Kickstarter campaign for an upcoming album or something similar, I wrote a comprehensive piece on How I Made $13,544 In a Month with the dos and don'ts. It's extensive... so read on if you're serious!

Ari Herstand
(The Business Behind Full-Time Independent Music)

November 28 | Unregistered CommenterAri's Take

Love #2 and #5. There are strategies for rewards so read,study and look for good and bad examples people before you start creating your kickstarter page.

If you're already in the marketing phase of your Kickstarter campaign, check out my article:

Crowdfunding: Things That Will Piss People off

November 29 | Unregistered CommenterMarion Unified

Thanks for the comments Marion and Ari,

We post a new music Kickstarter project analysis every day at

Head on over and sign up for our email list to raise $500 to $5k more money just by studying the right band Kickstarters.

Ari, it would be fun to profile your Kickstarter project since your article provides a lot of context. I may email you next week with a few questions.


November 30 | Registered CommenterLevi James

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