We’ve all been wowed by crowdfunding campaigns that have surpassed their goals by thousands, and we’ve all been bummed for the folks whose effort raised drastically less than what they hoped for. The thing is, crowdfunding—the hit-your-goal-and-then-some type, at least—is really difficult.
Loads of work goes into running a successful campaign, from strategizing and launching to constant upkeep throughout. The way you present your project and the motivations behind it truly matter; in crowdfunding, those factors are almost as important as the music itself.
Read on for seven tips that’ll help you lay the best possible foundation for your campaign and guide you through making the most of it while it’s running.
1. Get your social media presence in order first
The goal here is for as many people to see your campaign as possible, right? Then, obviously, it’s paramount that all your channels—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and whichever others you use—are up to date before launching.
You aren’t promoting this campaign to only fans, friends, and family. Ideally, some of your backers will find you through the campaign itself, rather than through your music—and they’ll want to know more about you.
Additionally, if you’re starting from a solid social media foundation, then you’ve got a good chunk of the media you’ll need for your campaign already taken care of: band photos, music available to stream, show dates listed, and a publicly projected sense of who you are and what your band’s about in general.
Note: If you’re crowdfunding your first-ever EP or album and you’ve yet to record anything, consider putting up some demos or gathering live footage of decent quality.
2. Set a realistic goal—and explain it
Backers want to know where their money is going. Sure, they want cool rewards—but what exactly are you spending their money on? The more organized you are in explaining the cost of your project, the more likely people are to support it with their hard-earned cash.
Make sure your cost breakdown is easy to understand, even for folks who aren’t versed in what you’re funding. Detail every last dollar of the goal you’re hoping to meet; it helps people understand why you genuinely need it in the first place.
3. Carefully consider your purpose
There’s the immediate goal of recording an album, filming a video, or funding a nationwide tour, of course—but in any musical endeavor, there’s a greater purpose. What’s yours?
For many, music means catharsis. Contributing to and participating in a local scene provides a sense of community. Maybe your band is one that also raises visibility of an underrepresented group or issue.
It’s possible that your root goal in creating music is simply to make listeners happy, to facilitate fun and enjoyment, and offer relief from their everyday—and when you think about it, that’s actually a pretty grand and complex purpose on its own.
As you shape the story you’ll present on your campaign page, think about what this project means to you, as well as what it could mean for the supporters once it’s fulfilled. Why do you need the money, beyond the fact that you don’t have it? Give background info and provide context to convey that meaning in a compelling way, and you’re more likely to earn support.
4. Perfect your campaign video
Best-case scenario: a skilled, creative friend creates a top-of-the-line video for your campaign, free of charge. That’s not totally impossible—in fact, you’ll find that good buds are helpful in these situations, and they’ll graciously lend their talents in support. Reach out to your network, or even put a call out to your fans. The chances that someone generous will help you out are higher than you’d think.
In the case that nobody turns up to help, however, you can totally make your own video. It’s 2017, you know? There are tons of free video editors, many of them free or low cost, that make it easy for even beginners to compile smartphone clips, text, and music into a short and snazzy video.
If you don’t feel your skills are up to par, though, consider bartering with a friend or enterprising creative. What you’ll offer in return depends on the situation, but free merch, guest list spots, or the promise to commission them for a later project at the full rate could be enough. Worst-case scenario (that’s really not so bad): Find someone who’ll make the video at a fair cost, factor that into your campaign funding, then reimburse yourself later.
Here’s the thing, though. It’s not about how perfectly executed the video is in terms of style, but rather that it conveys your purpose, your message—basically you.
There are a few common sense guidelines you should follow—in particular, that it really shouldn’t be longer than two minutes (a minute and a half is ideal). Most importantly, though, in that short time, it’s crucial that you convey the full breadth of the compelling purpose you’ve shaped. Be concise, choose impactful words, use images and footage that help drive the point home, and include snippets of tunes as its soundtrack. You might find it useful to map out a storyboard before filming anything.
5. Make the most of perks and rewards
Don’t offer the same merch available at your shows or in your online shop as rewards! Stickers, buttons, and T-shirts are pretty standard rewards for any fundraising band, and you should definitely include them. Those types of merch sell, so of course they’ll work as rewards—but they’ll be even more effective if the designs are campaign-specific. Limited-edition items mean there’s only a small window of time in which to procure those items, and people tend to be drawn to that kind of exclusivity.
Outside-the-box rewards can be stellar additions to the staples. You can slap a logo on just about anything, from USB drives to koozies to hats to underwear. Just ensure that the items make sense for your band and the project you’re pushing.
What else could you offer, though? There are more possibilities than downloads, physical copies of albums, and branded items, of course. What about a private, personalized set for one backer and their friends? What other talents or services—beyond playing music—could you or your bandmates offer? Your friends or family might also be willing to donate or offer discounts on services or at their businesses as rewards. These kinds of rewards add variety, but they also speak to—and ultimately strengthen—the community you’re part of.
Keep in mind that that the most popular amount to pledge on Kickstarter is $25, so make that reward a good one. Additionally, a lot of platforms allow you to add perks later in the campaign process. Toward the middle, momentum tends to slow, so save a special reward or two for that stretch to get a boost. (In fact, according to Indiegogo, 20 percent of repeat contributions are from perks added later in the campaign.)
6. Make a plan for press and endorsements
Just like you’d advance an album or alert press to an upcoming tour, you should map out a press strategy specifically for your crowdfunding campaign. If you’ve thoughtfully considered your purpose, then you’ve already got an angle for pitching and potentially piquing the interest of music writers.
If you can, work in advance, announcing your confirmed launch date with at least a month’s notice. Your press release should outline your project, but also reflect your purpose. And if you’ve got any events tied to the campaign—a launch party, for example—be sure to include those as well.
The press list you use here will look a lot like any other, but finetune it by adding or eliminating outlets and writers based on the likelihood they’d cover a crowdfunding campaign like yours.
Another way to up the visibility of your campaign is to partner with other bands, artists, groups, or businesses who are willing to voice their support. That could mean sharing the campaign on their own pages, providing a quote in support, or—this one’s extra helpful—filming a clip in which they profess their love for your band and encourage folks to support your campaign.
Any press or affirmation, of course, should be shared as an update in your campaign, then shared to social media. (Keep reading for more on that.)
7. Update your backers regularly (and potentially gain new ones)
Another Indiegogo fact: Campaigns that post at least three updates throughout the process raise 115 percent more than campaigns that don’t. There are a few reasons for that.
Those progress posts keep your backers in the know, further solidifying their support for your project, and that can translate to long-term loyalty to your band, period. Some might even double up and contribute a second time!
You can also share those updates on social media—that’s new content that promotes your campaign outside the funding platform, increasing your chances of attracting new backers. It’s another tool for fighting the mid-campaign slump, too.
Your updates—of which there should be at least one each week, maybe two—should include media whenever possible. At the very least, you should definitely include a quick clip at some point thanking everyone for their support so far.
Lastly, don’t forget to encourage sharing in those updates. Be grateful for the support so far, but remind everyone that there’s still work ahead. Even if you’ve included a section on your campaign page devoted to other methods of contributing besides monetary donations, let your fans know that it’s incredibly helpful when they share your campaign.
Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music and culture writer based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She regularly contributes to Remezcla, and has written for Impose, Paste, Noisey and more. Follow her work, musings and party times via Twitter: @jhonijackson.