Crowd Funding Sites: Another Way To Get Money For Your Independent Project
Although advances in digital based technology and the internet has made it easier and more cost-effective to be an independent recording artist, the truth is you still need some money to, at a minimum, market and promote your project. You need money for photo shoots, recording or rehearsal studio time, touring related expenses, manufacturing CDs and merchandise, etc. Assuming you want to raise money the legal way and not the “ski-mask” way, you might consider seeking investors or reaching out to your immediate family and friends to help you out. Or you might go the Amanda Palmer route and utilize “crowd-funding” to raise the capital you need!
If you’ve heard of Amanda Palmer, then you probably already know what crowd-funding is , but if you haven’t, she’s the singer who, with the help of Kickstarter.com, a crowd-funding website, raised over $1.2 million dollars (!!!) to record three albums – you read that right – over ONE MILLION DOLLARS! In fact, her second Kickstarter campaign set records with $1,192,793 pledged from nearly 25,000 financial contributors surpassing her original fundraising goal of $100,000. If you don’t know what this crowd-funding thing is all about, allow me put you on!
SO WHAT IS CROWD-FUNDING?
Crowd-funding is like passing around the proverbial hat in church for money, except that crowd-funding uses social media. For an artist or an indie record label, crowd-funding provides an alternate way of raising money for recording projects, touring, manufacturing CDs and merchandise, etc. rather than seeking a record deal or investors or hitting up mom and dad. Popular crowd-funding websites include: Kickstarter.com, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects, which raised $20 million for musicians in 2011; Crowdtilt.com, which “makes it easier for groups to do things together,” allowing users to create fundraising campaigns for just about anything; Fundable.com, for start-up businesses; and international platform, and, IndieGoGo.com, which allows you to “keep all the money you raise, even if you don’t meet your target goal.”
HOW DO YOU CREATE A CAMPAIGN?
While each crowd-funding platform has different rules and restrictions to fund a campaign, there are a few general and basic steps to follow.
First, select a project to fund. Most likely that would be your next EP or album or shooting a video. Second, write a brief description or proposal of the project and select the goal amount. Third, after the campaign is accepted by the crowd-funding platform of your choice, use social media or word of mouth to advertise about the crowd-funding campaign and project and solicit contributors. It’s relatively simple! For an example, check out this crowd-funding campaign for a band that is in the process of recording their debut album.
THREE KEY ELEMENTS NEEDED FOR A SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN
Starting a crowd-funding campaign is fairly simple, but maintaining a successful campaign- one that actually raises the money you want to complete your project – can be very difficult. Here are three key elements that you should keep in mind for a successful crowd-funding campaign:
Know your fan base.
Crowd-funding relies on relationship-building and communication with your fans. The process depends on trust and reputation—you’ll need to build and maintain both with fans who will vouch for you and spread the word. Also, the most common reason that campaigns fail is lack of a meaningful brand identity. Pitching a hard-core rap project to your church friends probably won’t get you the support that you need because you are pitching a brand inconsistent with your audience.
My advice – reach out to the right fans in your existing social media network (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your cellphone contact list, Myspace, Tumblr, etc.), the ones who support you and your creative work. Put them on and then make them ambassadors of your brand to their friends. Convince them that your project deserves to be created (or marketed and promoted) and how their contribution will play a part in that process. Keep your movement going and keep growing your network. Another tip, keep your fundraising campaign short. Scott Steinberg, author of The Crowdfunding Bible, suggests an ideal time frame of 30 days for a single campaign, which makes sense because your fans are more likely to give if the need is immediate.
Keep your contributors involved using frequent updates and social media.
The best crowd-funding campaigns keep their fan contributors involved and engaged with updates and reminders. This falls in line with the old adage: “out of sight, out of mind” – if your fans don’t see or hear from you, then they will be less likely to contribute to your campaign. Sending emails, tweets and Facebook messages is a good start, but it isn’t enough. You will need to engage your fans with a running dialogue of your progress. Consider providing exclusive rewards, videos (especially on YouTube), special recognition for contributors on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or your artist website to raise awareness about your project and keep your fans engaged with you. Also think about getting a little press on a blog or printed media that caters to your fans.
Keep your funding goals reasonable!
There are two reasons for keeping your fundraising goals reasonable.
First, unrealistic fundraising goals may scare off supporters. Ask for $5,000 to record your album, and you’ll likely meet your goal. Ask for $5 million and chances are you’ll never record that album! More importantly, make sure you deliver to your fans/contributors what you promised. As a recent New York Time article reports, crowd-funding platforms are not usually responsible for making sure a project is completed. While project creators are legally obligated to fulfill their promises, if they do not, the platform has no mechanism for refunding the money that was pledged. Keep in mind that, supporters are essentially putting their trust in the project creators, giving them cash in return for the promise of a future reward, so don’t betray their trust!
Second, some of the crowdfunding sites (e.g., KickStarter.com) won’t give you the money unless you reach your fundraising goals. That is, these crowd-funding websites will refund money to your supporters if you do not reach your financial funding goal. For example, if your goal is to raise $5,000.00 in 30 days and by the end of the last day, you’ve only raised $4,999.99, Kickstarter.com will refund all the money back to your supporters! However, note that IndieGoGo.com, for example, allows you to keep the money you raise even if you have not achieved the stated financial goal. So based on the previous example, you would be able to keep the total $4,999.99 that was raised at the end of the 30 day period. So, if your fundraising goal is unrealistic based on your network, size of your project, brand identity etc. you may never get fully funded!
If you keep these tips in mind when creating your next crowd-funding campaign you may end up being the next “Amanda Palmer!”
*The foregoing article is for information purposes only and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to provide legal advice.