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Published on February 24th, 2015 | by Chelsea Wilson

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Melbourne Guru Column: This popular phenomenon called crowdfunding

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I wrote a 2-part column on crowdfunding for the January and February editions of Melbourne Guru Magazine - I’ve compiled both articles here for you below. Best with your fundraising! Chels x

Crowdfunding is an alternative and popular means of raising funds for a particular project via the Internet. When donating, fans can choose a reward based on how much money they’ve donated. This could be anything from receiving a vinyl of the very thing you’re supporting or getting VIP tickets to a gig.

Planning a national or international tour? Struggling to find the money to produce your debut album?

Vocalist, songwriter and broadcaster Chelsea Wilson is here to answer all your crowdfunding queries and point you in the direction of a successful campaign.

This year I ran two crowdfunding campaigns – one for the pressing costs of my debut album I Hope You’ll Be Very Unhappy Without Me and a second campaign on behalf of Women of Soul for our compilation album featuring Kylie Auldist, Christina Arnold, Florelie Escano, Lisa Faithfull, May Johnston, Stella Angelico and Rita Satch (to be released May 2015, woop!). I’ve been involved in arts fundraising through my role as Music and Interviews Manager at PBS 106.7FM and have experience asking for donations and memberships on air for my wee radio show ‘Jazz Got Soul’. However, crowd funding for my own music projects was definitely a new experience and was a completely different approach.  If you are thinking about launching your own crowdfunding campaign here a few tips that might help.

Re-set your mind and get over the cringe.

Crowd funding is not begging or busking!  It is a platform that enables participation with your fans, activates the initial marketing campaign for your project and allows people to pre-order/purchase your music. It is providing an opportunity for those early-adopter types to be your super hero fans. In the current climate it is rare for record labels and publishers to pay advances. Recording albums and organising tours are expensive; crowd funding is a tool that can be utilised to fill this gap. I know a lot of musicians who feel apprehensive to try crowdfunding, as they feel embarrassed about ‘asking’ for money. It is hard and I understand first hand how difficult it can be to put yourself out there and ask for support. However, re-think what your crowd are receiving for their pledge and think of it as a pre-order system for your wares rather than a handout. The money is for a project, not for your personal use. If people believe in the project they will want to see it succeed and support you. Believe in yourself and work hard on making your product good and people will feel inspired by your dedication and want to support you. Try and distance yourself a little bit emotionally from the project if that helps.

People like to help! The gift of giving is a good feeling not only for Christmas.

There are so many people who are extremely passionate about music and supporting independent projects and new artists and love being the first out of their friends to discover and support new acts. This is an opportunity to reach those people.

If you make your supporters feel appreciated they will feel like they are part of something; they will feel good about supporting you. Why not create an opportunity for people to feel good? These people can become your hero fans and they will spread the word about you to their friends. They will be at future launches and tours telling their friends ‘I pledged to their first ever crowdfunding campaign’. See crowdfunding as an opportunity to build these relationships and connect with your audience in a new way.

I included a hand written note to each pledger and people were really touched and felt treasured. I included tea bags in my reward bags and other little Australiana goodies in my international pledgers packs. Bit daggy perhaps but my American supporters adored the Aesop hand cream samples and little vegemite samples. People took pictures of the packs and posted them on Facebook and Instagram exclaiming their excitement, which generates more (free) publicity for the project.

Keep your rewards plan simple so you don’t stress out post campaign – you wont regret it! 

Make your rewards as fabulous as possible but keep them time effective to save yourself post-campaign agony. Download codes and electronic gifts are cost effective and easy to deliver so I highly recommend them. It’s great to create personalised messages and hand made items but think carefully about how long it will take you to create these items and how much of your budget will it cut into. If you really want to offer these kind of time-consuming rewards, consider pricing these items up. For example if you offer a YouTube video cover song of the pledgers choice for $50 and have 45 people choose that reward do you really have time to learn, perform and film 45 new songs while you are trying to actually complete the project you are crowdfunding for? Possibly not. So perhaps make that a more expensive pledge so you won’t get caught out with a massive list of things to do at the end of the campaign.  It’s not great to keep your fans waiting either — I have a friend who put personalised sketches as a pozible campaign reward and because they took so long to produce, a year after the campaign people still hadn’t received them.

I produced tote bags to put the vinyl copies in for my album campaign that I screen-printed by hand. It took me four full days to get through the printing work (and I had to learn how to screen print as it was my first time!) and I had three girlfriends and my brother help out also. It was cheaper than getting the bags professionally made and it had a lovely personal touch, but that was four days I could have spent on the album project rather than screen-printing. It also took three full days of packing and sorting to post out all of my rewards. I enlisted my mum and step dad to help assemble the packs. I actually really enjoyed this process and I thought it was worth it. Do be mindful of the time it takes to deliver your campaign post closing time and consider your rewards carefully. Think also about your band if this is a group project — who will be responsible for what elements of the campaign delivery and will it create band issues/tensions if one member is doing more work than the others?

Take into account postage costs, fees and manufacturing costs in your budget.
Kick starter, Pozible etc all have fees for hosting your campaign. Make sure you take those fees into account. For example if you need $15k for your project but pozible will take 5% plus other fees (including bank fees) for hosting the project, your bankable amount will only be 14k. Postage is also a consideration; make sure you add up how much postage is going to cost in advance. If you need 10k for your project but postage will cost you $1200, you should set your target higher to take those costs into account.
Also consider international postage — for my album campaign there were a few international pledges for vinyl records, which was great. However the post amount cost more than what the pledger paid for the record so essentially I gave these copies away! (doh!). Consider manufacturing costs too.
T-shirts/tea towels etc are great, but if you need $10k for your album and have committed to spending 1k on t-shirt production, how are you going to pay for your project?

Communicate with your supporters.
Keep in touch with your audience and keep them updated as you go on with the project. Your early adopting supporters can help you spread the word and may even update their pledge and put more money in towards the end of the project to get you over the line. Thank them profusely for their commitment! It’s pretty special! A lot of people don’t buy albums these days, so pre-ordering an independent album is a pretty big deal I think. Treat the campaign as stage one of your project marketing plan and think creatively about copy, interesting images, videos and other content to get people to click on your Facebook posts and engage with the project rather than scroll past. Create a plan of what content you can put up and roll it out progressively. Share behind the scenes images, teaser clips, funny video messages etc. It all helps create awareness of your project and gets the promo ball rolling.

Make a schedule and stick to it.
Think carefully about how long it’s going to take to deliver this campaign and if you are in a band try where possible to split up tasks among the group. Creating a campaign video, writing the copy for the project page and promotion all takes time. Simply posting and packing might take 1-2 days depending on how many rewards you will post. Can you ask outside friends/family/fans to help? These campaigns do take work. You can’t just set it up, post once on Facebook and watch the money roll in. Ask yourself, do I really have the time for this? Pencil in dates to work on this and stick to it.

Use your networks and fight the good fight against algorithms.
It does feel hard asking for money (see part one) but if you want your campaign to succeed you have to bite the bullet and push the campaign every way possible. Put fliers up at your work. Send personal emails to everyone you know. Send texts. Make phone calls. Once you get to 50% try and get community radio or local media on-board to support your project. Don’t rely on one social media platform only. Be mindful of Facebook algorithms – not every one of your Facebook friends will even see your posts. After three weeks of promoting my album campaign with daily Facebook posts I still had friends saying they hadn’t seen anything in their feed. It will feel like you are badgering people on Facebook at times but honestly you aren’t. Some people might see your posts more than others but not every friend will see it every day. Be true to your message and focus on the end goal and just keep posting. Just do it. Pledges do slow down at the half-way point. Have a plan for what you will do during these slow times.

Ask your account contact for advice.
The staff at pozible, kick-starter etc WANT you to succeed. They are a passionate bunch of people invested in the arts and independent projects, (and they take a cut for their services) so use their knowledge and advice where possible. You should be able to drop in and chat, call them up or email them for advice. If their site crashes for a few hours or so ask them for an extension. I have found the guys at pozible brilliant to work with and very supportive.

Other tips:
• Buy your post boxes in bulk in advance. I use Kebet in Heidelberg for the vinyl boxes; they are great. I purchased jiffy Padded P1 recyclable envelopes for the CDs (you can order these online through a few office supply retailers). It works out much cheaper than buying at the post office.
• Make it easy for people to support you. Get some Facebook banners and profile shaped posters and fliers made that you can email out and people can upload them and show their support. I had some fans make their own banners for Facebook which was lovely of them but not my exact design aesthetic. If you like everything to be a certain style make some banners for them so they can use the ‘official’ pictures.
• Have a back-up plan. If you don’t get the funds how are you going to finish your project? Fundraiser gig?
• Set a realistic target! Check out similar campaigns genre wise to you and bands at the same fan base level as you. How many supporters did they get?

Good luck! Feel free to email me any questions – chelsea@houseofvaleriejoan.com


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