From no-name garage bands to established rockers like The Dresden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer, crowdfunding on sites like Kickstarter—where artists of all stripes offer fan-friendly incentives to get their followers to essentially executive produce tours, albums, music videos, and so on—is becoming an increasingly effective model for bankrolling endeavors in lieu of ever-decreasing record label support.
Rather than scrounging up loose change to release an album, artists are turning to their online fan base to help fund upcoming album releases. In the end, everybody wins.
Here are five tips to help you successfully reach your project goal using such platforms.
Set a Realistic Goal
On Kickstarter you can only collect your funds if you surpass the goal sum of your project. To avoid wasting your backers’ time and energy, do some research before launching your project. Create a realistic, bare-minimum budget for what it will cost to deliver the end product, and then set out to make nothing more. If all goes well, you will reach your goal and walk away with a bounty of excess funds that you get to keep!
Set a Realistic Deadline
Getting the word out about your project and enticing your fans to financially back it takes time. So give yourself enough of a head start to make sure you aren’t racing against the clock to drive pledges. And make sure you budget enough time to make good on your album’s proposed delivery date, as well as honor any and all commitments you’ve made to your backers.
Get Creative with Your Incentives
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the crowdfunding model is that in a world of ever-dwindling record sales, it’s the only way you can sell a physical copy or download of a brand-new album for literally thousands of dollars. Sure, you can court your backers to plop down $10 for a single CD, or $20 for a signed CD. But offer up an opportunity to, say, shake a tambourine on your record or name all of the tracks, and your most well-heeled die-hard fan might make a pledge that fulfills your goal in one fell swoop. Not only that, but potential fans who’ve never even heard your music might make it to your project page simply to entertain themselves by reading about the wild and crazy incentives you’re offering—such as agreeing to be their personal Sherpa during an ascent up Mount Everest for a pledge of just $100,000.
PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE
Like any other endeavor in your music career, you’ve gotta hustle to make people care and make people aware. Do you make up flyers for your shows and post tour dates online? Do you try to get new tracks posted on blogs and featured on other sites? Do you do everything you can to get your music on the shelves of your local record stores? Well, your Kickstarter campaign is no different. Promote it rigorously online and lobby your most loyal fans to follow suit.
Make a Great Video
Video is perhaps the most crucial and instantly engaging promotional tool in the viral landscape. Make a good one to run as a homepage trailer on your Kickstarter project page. Then post it on YouTube and Facebook as well, and tweet it as much as you can without annoying your followers. This is harder to do if you don’t make a great video, so get creative there as well.
Let’s face it, rallying your fans to throw down their hard-earned cash on an album that you haven’t even made yet is asking a lot. No matter what lengths you’re willing to go to in order to garner high-dollar pledges from your fans—from doing their homework, to writing songs about them, or even playing concerts in their living rooms—you’re still essentially asking for their charity. It’s difficult to project that air of cool confidence and rock ’n’ roll swagger when you’re basically begging for their loose change. And it’s even harder to boast a larger-than-life image when you’re bending over backwards to be accessible to them.
Then again, if the music comes first (as it should), then nothing is more paramount than getting the music made—and getting it made by any means necessary.
Daniel McCarthy is the film crazed, music loving, marketing mastermind and co-fouder of TheMusicBed.com. TMB has one of the largest libraries of ready-to-license relevant music on the web for filmmakers and photographers. Some of their hand-picked songs can be seen in the incredible works of Philip Bloom, Shane Hurlbut, Joe Simon, and production companies to independent creatives world-wide.