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The Crowdfunding Quandry: Sales Vs. Art Vs. The Little Voice Inside Your Head

“The In-Crowd” is an inside look at crowdfunding, with Ariel Publicity Artist Phil Putnam and co-founder Brian Meece.  Each Monday, the boys are giving us an honest look at a crowdfunding project in action and dish on how things are going each week. From time to time Ariel weighs in as well. What is crowdfunding?  Find out here.

What does it look like?  See here.
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Ariel Says:

I have been watching this project since it has started.  Full disclosure Phil works with me and I see him a few days a week. Here we are at WEEK 9(ish):  60 days in, with 15 days remaining.  Phil has $3,888 raised (39% of the $10,000 goal), and $6,112 needed to get to his goal. It’s been a journey to have a front row seat during this process.  As you may know I believe that crowd funding is a vital tool that artists will be using for the foreseeable future and I have been blogging a series here on MTT called in Defense of 1,000 True Fans, where I have been interviewing artists who are proving the model and creating sustainable livings from their music.  Phil points out that 200,000 people have been exposed in some way to his campaign and that 0.0003% people engaged.  I would like to point out a few other things.

First of all I want to commend Phil: To have 60 True Fans or “Super Fans” (the amount of people who have contributed to his campaign so far) is no mean feat.  Especially since Phil very rarely performs live and he has not had a mass exposure event (such as a placement on a major TV show).  These are two factors that seem to make major impact for artists, according to the interviews I have conducted so far.

 The Rule of 7

The marketing aphorism that your message must be seen at least 7 times before people take notice is probably truer today than ever before.  With the thousands of messages we see I bet is more like 10 or more before people really take notice.  There is a great article on that here: that I want to refer to because it brings up another very important point:  I love this article by Andrea J. Stenberg What is the Rule of Seven? And How Will it Improve Your Marketing? because it addresses:


“So why do prospects need to hear your message so many times before taking action? If you are doing your marketing well…You have created powerful marketing materials that use language your target audience relates to. You speak to their major problems and how you can solve them. Why don’t they jump to their feet and grab what you have to offer the first time they see your message?”

One MAJOR problem here is the fact that music unlike marketing a problem doesn’t exactly solve “major problems” for fans.  Music won’t help you lose weight, or keep your house clean or whiten your teeth.  People have to have an emotional connection to music in some way, which in my opinion can be largely fostered from having people see you play live.  So, the fact that people heard Phil on one podcast didn’t motivate them to invest heavily in his campaign because it was only one touch.  He did reach a lot of people but not enough.

Here’s the second thing: The way this process can make an artist feel.  Phil won’t say it because he tends to be one of the most positive people I have ever met however I could see as his friend, his publicist and his work colleague that this campaign felt confronting on many levels because asking friends and fans and family for money conjures up the little voice we all have inside our heads that tries to convince us we don’t deserve it, or we aren’t good enough or smart enough or whatever your little evil voice says to you.

And, it’s not what an artist signs up to do. An artist wants to practice, create music and play not market sell and constantly ask for money and unfortunately in this world of 7 (at least) you are all forced to ask over and over again no matter what your circumstance.

Phil my friend, It’s not over yet and I commend you for your braveness.  I think that what you did is amazing because so few artists make $3,888 from selling their music. So maybe this year you don’t get to your goal but next year you WILL.

And in the end, win or lose I’m proud of you that you took yourself out of your own comfort zone and asked yourself to grow and expand in many ways that you probably can’t see just yet. Many people will benefit from your honesty and your effort. And Quit?  Not your style at all….  


Phil Says:

Having been raised in a WASP-ish household, I grew up understanding that social graces matter.  RSVP to invitations.  Never arrive at a party empty-handed (extra points if what you have in your hand is vodka).  A drunk bride is unforgivably tacky.  Don’t overstay your welcome.  Wear clean underwear, in case you get hit by a car, go to the hospital, and the medical community concludes that you’re a filthy slut.  And above all, handle every circumstance, good or bad, with style, satin wit, and grace.

You gotta recognize when people aren’t laughing at your jokes.  You gotta know when you’ve lost the room.  You just gotta be able to see when they’re not interested.  And that’s what I’ve done.  In general, people just aren’t interested in my crowdfunding project.  Besides the 60 sensational, faithful, deeply cherished friends and fans of mine who have supported the project, the rest of my community of fans/friends just don’t care.  Well, maybe they care, but the best I can see is that they’re indifferent.  Indifference speaks.  Caring acts.  Over the past 60 days, over 200,000 people have heard about this project directly from me, whether during podcast and radio interviews, videos they’ve viewed, facebook posts they’ve commented on and liked.  Over 200,000 people are aware of this project, and only 60 have taken action to support it.  That’s a 0.0003% response rate.  Three thousandths of a percent.  There’s no pretty way to paint that; it’s just not happening.  They’re just not interested, so I’m just not trying to push them to be.  Not anymore.  The party has crested, I’ve grabbed my coat, and I’m making the goodbye rounds gracefully.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not quitting the project before the full 75 days have passed.  WASPs don’t quit.  Good lord, WASPs just don’t quit.  Anything.  Quitters never prosper.  Quitters don’t go to Yale.  Quitters lose their country club membership.  And now my grandfather is crying.  Nice.  See how quitting tears families apart.  I’m not quitting, but I have essentially stopped pushing the project to my fans/friends.  No more new videos, no more facebook posts, no more “Please get involved” status messages and tweets.  Once it became clear that they weren’t interested, I started doing this cost/benefit foxtrot in my head, which you also will instinctively do if you’re ever in this situation.  I could see that it would take a massive promo push to have a chance of raising all the money, and I could also see that my fans/friends would become seriously aggravated, and then alienated, if I kept shoving the project at them.  I looked beyond the end of this project, this phase that is one short piece of a very long career still in front of me, and saw that it’s not worth souring their future allegiance for the sake of this present project that is, by all reasonable expectations, going to fail.  I want my community with me for the long haul, and to make that happen I have to let this one go.  So I did.  I have.

Barring some astonishing miracle of hellacious generosity, I will not raise all $10,000 and the Songs About You album will not be made.  That’s cool.  I’m okay with that.  The RocketHub team and I worked our asses off for this and it didn’t work.  Some projects fail.  Sometimes they fail publicly.  I have no problem failing publicly.  I’m content to fail because I love to learn, I love to grow, and I love to share my experience with others so that they can learn too.  Hence this blog.  There are still 15 days left in the countdown, and still a couple more entires to come in this series, in which I’m going to genuinely enjoy gathering up the good that has come from this journey and gratefully proclaim that nothing is ever a complete loss.  I’ll take warm delight in being that well-heeled gentleman who departs right on time and thanks the host on his way out the door.

We musicians can take a page from the WASP handbook.  We can handle every circumstance, good or bad, with style, satin wit, and, above all else, grace.

Brian Says:

One of the fun things about Crowdfunding a music project on RocketHub is that it allows you to gauge project demand, test the market without risk and tweak accordingly.

Phil has a very high-concept album project framed around co-writing songs about his fans.  So far the demand has been good, but not overwhelming for this particular project and this is valuable information to have.  To gauge and test without risk, the funding method is “all or nothing” so if Phil is unable to raise the goal amount within the selected time limit, the project is scrubbed and contributed funds are credited back to Fuelers. This protects his fans from getting a sub-standard product – and protects Phil from having to make something when the demand (and funding) is not in place.

To be clear, Phil has had a high number of people contribute to his project  - over 60 so far.  Phil has also managed to raise close to $4,000.  These are solid numbers for any musician.  Plus Phil still has two weeks to raise roughly $6000 – which is also not impossible.  The bigger picture happening here is that Phil is getting valuable feedback from his network regarding this project – and this feedback will serve him well regardless of the campaign outcome.  This makes Phil a winner for taking the plunge and putting his emotions on the line.

Want to participate?  It’s not too late!


Reader Comments (14)

Bravo, it takes a brave person to admit defeat publicly like this.

Reaching 39% of this goal is probably more than the majoirty of the rest of us self proclaimed "artists" could ever dream of attaining. Of course, seeing that figure will make many write it off as another justification for not going for it. But think about how much money he would have made if he never made the leap, never took the risk of putting himself out there, never made himself vulnerable.

This is the first I've heard of this project, but it is pretty inspiring. Again, what an awesome story.

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterMark D

Great seeing the 1000 true fans model ellaborated on with crowdsourcing ideas, best of luck getting to the $10,000 mark!

DON'T GIVE UP!!! I have been following campaigns for a while on Kickstarter and MOST seem to hit the majority of their contributions in the final stretch... urgency matters! I see pretty frequently the 30-40% mark hit and then the last week or two things really ramp up. I don't know if that will happen for him, but I see it AT LEAST 75% of the time in what I've been following for curiosity''s sake.

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Gilboe

No defeat Phil, you can't expect a dime from anyone for anything, especially music. Why pay you to make music they are just going to steal from you anyways? Just find a cheaper way to do things. With a good a/d/a interface, fast compute, reliable recording software and 1 condenser mic you can record by yourself then your only big expense is pressing cd's or vinyl which you don't need to do. I'm on both FM radio and TV once a week so I know the value of non-targeted "exposure" is nearly worthless. I would call your .0003% response rate pretty good by internet standards. The most successful people who do this kind of thing get people to care, not about their music, no no, but about some other cause and then they pull a bait and switch. If you want to be successful at this strategy, glom onto some other cause like "green" or a kids charity. Feign some altruism and get people to think by supporting your basement recording project they are saving endangered wildlife in the rain forests. Target your exposure to people driven to your pretend altruistic cause and you'll have a better closing rate closer to 1%. The unfortunate truth is; on it's own, no one cares about music, except musicians, who really only really care about their own. Personally as a musician I don't like doing it that way, benefit concerts and collaborative CD's make me cringe because I know the smarmy marketing that drives them. Well, as for my feelings you know what they say "nice guys finish last.", so Phil what are you?

CrowfeatheR ~

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterCrowfeatheR

Speaking as an internet marketer (I've been a pro piano player and producer for 40 years).... I would look at the $4000 raised and KNOW, that it's just a matter of tweaking the system 'til it works correctly.

I understand it is difficult to move from the artist mentality to marketing. I have also done it And even though Ariel believes Phil is a very positive person, I wonder how tough it is for him to make that mindset change from artist to marketer? Would Phil's situation be better if someone else was representing him and his mission. Hard to know.

Ever since my wife and I interviewed Derek Sivers, it has been on my mind to find a way to connect internet marketing products/concepts to artists trying to sell their wares. Derek spoke so very highly of Ariel, and I hope our paths cross soon. I wake up every morning dreaming of new ways and/or systems to help artists sell art.

I think it's entirely possible to do this Crowdfunding, but I think there is room for more outside the box thinking to make it work better.

There were 60 people willing to help Phil raise money. That is FABULOUS! What were they offered for their buy in shares?

If 200,000 were contacted about 2 or 3 other products that Phil could also sell to his fans, could there have been a better response?

Can we separate the need to have money from the need to make money selling only this one musical product? Will Phil only be satisfied if he makes money from selling this particular concept? What if he noticed people might respond better to a different offer? What if Phil sold special guitar pics along with the record, that became the hot ticket? Would he still care as much about making the music?

Can the 60 fans who buy in, also become resellers, affiliate marketers?

Is Phil's song content idea(Songs about fans), a perfect fit for the crowd? Would a different subject matter get a better response from his peeps? Often times fans want to put the artist on a pedestal... Could writing songs about them been a downer?

I don't know, I'm just asking because I CARE! I want Phil to be able to sell his music! I also want anyone to be able to sell enough to keep making art.

these are just some random thoughts that hopefully give you reasons to wonder how it could still work!

Steve Soucy

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Soucy


Great article about crowdfunding. The more we talk about this the more comfortable the mainstream gets with this concept as a viable and accepted means of sustainability.

Its important for an artist to consider all the options that are available. We recognize and understand the rockethub platform as an acceptable approach. If Phil had done his crowdfunding through he would have received the money raised no matter what. Reaching your goal is admirable, but walking away with something for your efforts is practical.

Keep up the good work!

Feed The Muse

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterJamie Lokoff

Wow, Phil you have my admiration. I bow in your presence. I must say though this is maybe the 2nd time I've heard of this and it's mostly of my "trusted source", Ariel, that I'm now paying attention. May I suggest that it's not only the frequency of interactions but the quality and channel in which these interactions are initiated & *maintained* that matter.

I love the Alexa Woodward campaign on Kickstarter. I have no personal connection there except of being a fan in how she approached this. Quick, dirty and fun...and the amount was not too huge or intimidating.

Phil, you have MADE IT to virtually 40% of your goal. When was the last time a batter hit .400??

More to the point, having recently read an article on the top ten highest paid people on YouTube - all making over $100,000 p/yr - the key was how many video views they had. I believe they all were in the hundreds...of MILLIONS.

So your percentage of "closes" isn't the issue (though Steve Soucy's questions above and a very objective review of HOW and WHAT you are promoting is logical). You just need more exposure (targeted, as CrowfeatheR notes).

Simple as that. So why freaking quit, man??

Step back. Re-assess. Re-adjust.

For SURE use a fundraising vehicle where it is NOT all or nothing - sorry, but that is just plain. The one mentioned above apparently isn't, niether is ChipIn (I think), and likely there are others. Or just do it on your own through your website - not sure a company is even necessary.

So get to figuring out what your fans might like more (ask them - a lost-sale analysis, so to speak), and GET MORE TARGETED EXPOSURE.

You are closer than you think.

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

Phil's campaign is interesting because it highlights some of the common dilemmas that fundraisers encounter early in their campaign. Good fundraisers DECIDE to reach a goal and then PLAN various ways of meeting it. It is never a question WHETHER a goal will be met, only WHEN and HOW. This means that you need to meet with your fundraising team frequently to plan NEW ways of meeting your goal by directly appealing to different kinds of audiences and commitment levels. This is a process - a method - that has new campaigns starting as others are bringing in returns. Some will be more successful than others. It may take a bit longer than you expect and it sometimes requires a seemingly herculean effort to achieve a goal in a short period of time, especially if you've never done it before. I highly recommend learning from the pros - non-profits like your local YMCA, churches and schools, who raise large amounts of cash each year using various fundraising techniques - it's great way to learn what works and helps the community out at the same time. It's also true that it's easier to raise money at the beginning and end of a campaign - in the beginning, you can appeal to your most enthusiastic supporters, at the end, your prior success breeds your future success - people are more likely to invest in something they are reasonably certain will succeed. This is true of investors as well as grants from foundations. At this point, Phil has demonstrated he has a supportive base, but he needs to proceed to a wider audience with new activities to get him through his next push. This is where having an experienced team is helpful. Write new music, sell T-shirts, do concerts, write a radio jingle for a local favorite restaurant, talk to the press, have a block party, apply for a grant, do a fundraiser for a charity, talk to business people, get the locals involved in your success, above all - DO SOMETHING! and don't quit, keep trying new things until the goal is reached.

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterCathy

Ya gotta wonder if Cathy has been following along with this. It isn't like Phil HASN'T been doing promotion.His outreach has been pretty amazing, really. It's TOUGH out there, baby!

I believe Ariel nailed it when she mentioned that music is not really fixing a 'problem, or urgent
need'. The equation goes a little beyond "find your market and ram it down their throats." (old-style
marketing). AND it doesn't help that there are Quadra-Zillions of shiny discs out there, when
most expect by now to get music FREE anyway.

And yes, YouTube stars get MILLIONS and MILLIONS of views. Passive views.
The people just watch, and boink, they're off to another thrill. BUT, the subscribers GET TO
KNOW them (the stars, or 'artists') or FEEL LIKE they get to know important factor,
And another thing. Music instruction kicks boo-tay on ENTERTAINMENT, (like listening to CD's,
etc.) I know, I've been paid good money to teach "Smoke on the Water" over and over to folks
who are quite happy to keep coming back..... Fair?......Strange?....

Phil, we're all learning from your, and your crew's efforts. thanks, -Dale-

August 28 | Unregistered CommenterDale Morgan

Great article and I am very impressed with the amount raised! I used to think that these type of funding things were a bit odd, but now that I see more of them happening and more goals being achieved it really does look like a viable way for indie musicians to go.

Congrats Phil on the amount that did achieve!!

August 28 | Unregistered CommenterHelen Austin

Dale, I'm glad you brought that up. If I got the impression that Phil was scaling back, perhaps it was because of this comment from Phil: "I’m not quitting, but I have essentially stopped pushing the project to my fans/friends. No more new videos, no more facebook posts, no more “Please get involved” status messages and tweets. " It's not wrong to stop doing something that isn't working anymore, that's really good, but this new strategy pretty much ensures failure unless it is replaced with some other effort, and if I missed the new direction, that's really something his marketing team should address. This particular fundraising model by rockethub functions like a grant from a foundation, but instead of being handled by a small group of deciders, it's managed by random people. If you look at the national stats, foundations contribute about 5% to causes and organizations with the remaining funding coming from OTHER fundraising activities. Phil has achieved 40% of his goal from this one foundation-like source, which is way above the norm. He's done exceptionally well, but needs to find other lines of revenue for his project. There were no takers on the highest levels of investment - perhaps those should be modified, or the projects' audience.

Dale, you are so very right about YouTube. It's a mistake to think that youtube or anything on the internet is a substitute for actual face time, and it's especially true for fundraising. It's very frustrating, for the non-performing musician especially, but most people who look at youtube don't go there with a credit card in hand.

August 29 | Unregistered CommenterCathy

I shall re-itterate for all who missed it.

Targeted "exposure", or marketing is necessary in any campaign. Scattered non targeted exposure is almost worthless or in Phil's case, .0003%. Define your customers, finds your customers, then target them for solicitation. Certain people tend to like certain types of music, if you are a middle of the road rocker you're going to have a hard time. Niche marketing is easier and niche-niche marketing even easier. The industrial metal band will have an easier time targeting potential customers than the average basement, rock band. However on the converse the average rock band has more potential customers, they are just harder to locate and target. Next, like I said before, is getting them to care once you find them.

~ CrowfeatheR

August 31 | Unregistered CommenterCrowfeatheR

Great article. I find crowdfunding a really interesting idea with serious potential, and I'm surprised that there haven't been more success stories.

Having artists focus so much on marketing themselves is going to take away time they should be using to make music. Ideally artists shouldn't have to handle every aspect their marketing themselves.

Hope Phil gets to make his record.

September 13 | Unregistered CommenterChris King

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