For many years, I’ve held some doubts about Kickstarter and crowd sourcing in general. For some artists, I thought it was a great fit for the culture of the band. However, for my personal band, I had some more reservations. I thought it could make the band look desperate or be a huge embarrassment if we ended up being pitifully distant from meeting the goal. However, we had a serious of setbacks that required large, quick funding and decided to give it a chance. Our band was able to raise $14,511 of our $10,000 goal for a new bus in 20 days. Here are some general thoughts, tips, and lessons learned:
Your fundraising campaign begins long before you even join Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or any other fan funding website. The most important part of having a successful campaign is having a dedicated audience who are vested in your art. You should be building relationships with your fans long before you make the “ask.” Kickstarter is more of a vehicle for you to work with your existing fans, not a platform for you to find new ones. This is why Amanda Palmer was able to meet her goal of a $100,000 within hours of the launch and ended up raising $1.2 million by the end of the campaign. Her campaign wasn’t just the 30 days the project was live. Her campaign began the moment she began playing live and making fans one at a time.
Build Alliances to Help You. A large part of our success was having an army of fans, sponsors, promoters, people in the media, and especially other artists who were happy to tweet/share/post the link and encourage people do donate. We were giving out digital albums for even $1 pledges just so people could be a part of the movement. Before and during the campaign, we supported other Kickstarter projects and did a lot of cross-promotion work to have people support the arts in general.
The Goal: Don’t worry about making the goal as high as possible, make it as realistic as possible. What will it take to fully fund your project? Don’t try and pad it, thinking you can use the extra money for other things. Many people prefer to donate after a goal has been met because they want to be a part of the success. However, use the goal to motivate people.
Don’t Treat Pledges Like Donations. The emphasis should be on pledges, not donations. Remember, backers are investing into your art and they will get concrete rewards in return. If you treat it more like an album pre-ordering campaign where fans have the chance to be intimately involved with your music rather than a project asking for sympathy, people will be more receptive.
Get Creative with the Rewards. Explore as many other projects as you can. People are willing to give more if they are able to get something exclusive, unique, fun. If you have other skills, bring them into this. Can you cook? Offer the chance for a private party and cook your fans some dinner. Can you paint? Have some rare canvas pieces. You get the idea.
Make Every Feature Count. There are many features that Kickstarter Offers. Use them all. Spend the time preparing your video – make it short and sweet., make it compelling. Post frequent updates to keep fans excited, treat it like a blog. Post photos or videos of your progress.
Match Your Brand/Process. For example, I use Twitter often. For the campaign, I created a hashtag trend and posted an update every single time someone made a pledge. I looked up Twitter names of people who pledged and tagged them, began conversations about it. Fans started tweeting celebrities, actors, bands, media contacts, etc. asking them to RT our link.
Make the most of your campaign by spending as much time to prepare as possible. I spent more time researching, studying, learning, building a fanbase, and preparing for a Kickstarter campaign than I ever spent running it. If you take the time to build your audience, they’ll help make the campaign successful for you.
Simon Tam is owner of Last Stop Booking and author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at www.laststopbooking.com. He is on Twitter @SimonTheTam