My debut record consisted of original music for the solo classical guitar. People, Places, and Monsters is a CD/DVD that includes the 5-movement Monster Suite, beautifully animated by Bay Area animation virtuoso Gabe Wexler. With the addition of a book of scores, this was a large and ambitious project, so I turned to IndieGoGo to try and raise money. I raised $4,890 or 75% of my goal, and actually wound up raising more offline (I'll get to that later).
About a year and a half later I went back to the well to fund my Quartet Plus record. This album has music for my quartet and nonet and was recorded at one of the Bay Area's finest studios, 25th Street Recording in Oakland. Again, a large and ambitious project. This time I have to say I even surprised myself a bit, raising $8,184 (or 102% of my goal).
Before you get too happy for me - don't worry, I still spent plenty of money out of pocket! But any way you slice it, the $13k+ I raised on IndieGoGo played a huge role in getting my records off the ground. I was happy to spend above and beyond to make the best records I could possibly make.
Here are 10 things that helped me successfully crowdfund two records:
1) Read up. Whatever your crowdfunding platform, read their FAQs, read whatever helpful collateral they have to help people maximize their campaigns. Some of what I say below is from those guides. Find these guides, read them, and heed their advice.
2) Research campaigns. Find campaigns similar to yours, both successful and especially unsuccessful. Read. Watch their videos. Observe. Think about what dollar amount might be best for your campaign. Remember that it will cost you money to fulfill the perks you're offering and pay fees to your crowdfunding platform and PayPal.
3) Create a 2-3 minute video and a compelling description. The video doesn't need to be fancy, but it DOES need to be short.
4) Think about perks. You'll probably get the most contributions at $25 and $100, so make those perks attractive to your fans. For my campaigns I gave signed CDs at $25 and a bundle including 2 tickets to the CD release concert at the $100 level.
5) Send personal emails. Sure, it's ok to send a mass email if you have a substantial fanbase. But when it comes to your PERSONAL connections, approach them tactfully with a personalized message about your project. Tell them about it once, and follow up maybe one more time before time runs out. This takes time, but don't be lazy - send emails to everyone you know.
6) Utilize social media. Create buzz around your project by sharing your milestones and publicly thanking people on social media. Ask people to share your campaign because while not everyone can contribute money then CAN help spread the word. Don't overdo it - once every 1-3 days is plenty. There's a fine line before it gets obnoxious.
7) Promote at concerts. I wanted to make sure that I was ready to record People, Places, and Monsters, so I did a series of house concerts for free. I printed a program for the evening and on the back printed info about my campaign. Although my main motivation was to practice the material I was about to record, I also gained some new backers this way.
8) Consider offline crowdfunding. I said earlier that I raised 75% of my goal for People, Places and Monsters, but that doesn't count what I was able to raise offline. A couple of people who saw that I fell short of my goal organized a concert for me so that I could raise more funds. I offered the same perks as are available through my IndieGoGo and wound up raising about another $1,300 at that concert.
9) Let your people in! Your friends and fans want to be on the ground floor of your album. Let them know that you value their contribution, give them occasional updates (album art completed, CD release concert booked, pictures from the studio, etc) while you're in campaign.
10) Put out a killer album. In today's climate where it's hard to sell music for $0.99, the people that are chipping in $10/$25/$100/$300/$500+ to your campaign are giving you huge votes of confidence and are buying a whole lot more than just your record. Make it count. Do everything in your power to knock it out of the park. Spend to the max and (if you can) then some. Don't cut corners. Over-deliver. Promote the record and let your people know of your successes, because your success is their success.
The best part of crowdfunding beyond just receiving funding is that you get to connect with friends and fans on a deeper level. If you do a good job during the crowdfunding stage, there will be buzz around your record release. Backers will want to know what you're up to. This is a great and organic way to build relationships and build momentum for what you're doing.
Feel free to ask questions or comment with your own thoughts and experiences on crowdfunding.