I promised a blog post about my experience of using crowdfunding to record and release my EP and here it is. In this post I will recount the up’s and down’s of running my campaign and share my tips on setting up your own.
Why I chose crowdfunding to produce my EP:
Toward the end of 2015 I set out to record and release a new EP called HALF-HEARD. As an unsigned artist I don’t have a record company behind me to pay the costs of such an undertaking. I wanted the record to be professionally produced and mastered. So I knew I had to either sell a lot of copies after its release or raise the money first. I chose the latter option because I selling records these days is not easy. I optimistically pressed 1000 copies of my first album and still have copies left. It didn’t help that I decided to change my artist name from FIN to Rob Finlay in 2012. The CD’s are now limited edition because they are branded FIN. So a bonus piece of advice is to press small runs of CD’s if you choose to press any at all.
My aims for the crowdfunding campaign:
A). Raise money to go toward recording and releasing the EP
B). Help to spread the word about Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL or SSNHL) which I suffered in the summer of 2014
So I used the crowdfunding project as a way to help connect with people who might feel a connection with my hearing loss experience.
Choosing a crowdfunding platform:
I shopped around a bit to find the best crowdfunding platform for my campaign. I looked at Pledge, Kickstarter and Indiegogo in the end I settled on Indiegogo for several reasons.
- It appeared to offer the best pricing model at the time I ran the campaign (Dec 2015)
- It seemed to have the broadest audience, which was a plus for me because hearing loss can affect anyone
- You can choose to keep any money you raise even if you don’t hit your target. For me this was important because I was going to make the EP no matter what, and anything would be better than nothing.
- I set up profiles with the other sites before committing, to see how they worked. I preferred the UX (user experience) of Indiegogo.
Preparing the crowdfunding launch:
In preparation of the launch I spent around two weeks preparing promotional assets including:
- A promo video (3:49 in length)
- Setting up the Indiegogo profile
- Preparing my mailing list
- Writing copy for: Indiegogo, Twitter, Facebook, blog posts and emails to my mailing list
- Planning the campaign perks and costs
Do not underestimate the importance of this part of the process, it takes time and you need to put in the work to get the results you are looking for.
Hitting the launch button:
If you think your job is done, think again, once you hit the campaign launch button the real work begins. You need to nurture your campaign on a daily basis. This includes undertaking the following activities:
- Thanking contributors in a timely fashion (ideally within an hour or so)
- Sharing updates on a regular, but not annoyingly regular basis. I shared four updates on Indiegogo, sent three mailouts, wrote two blog posts, wrote regular twitter and facebook posts as well as sending many personal facebook messages, emails, text messages and making phone calls.
- I connected with some relevant charities including Hearing Link and Action On Hearing Loss who helped me to share my campaign with their audiences
When things went wrong:
I had a few minor hiccups during the campaign that nearly turned into major problems. The first of these involved Facebook.
For some reason Facebook decided to start spamming my contacts, at one point it re-posted one of my posts about 20 times on my friends profiles. Some of my friends include music industry professionals and as you can imagine this didn’t go down well. Once I was alerted to the issue I deleted the post, but then things got worse as Facebook kept re-populating the post and continuing with its digital reign of terror. This was a bad time during the campaign and I know it did me some damage. Some people blocked me, some others removed me and I’m sure lots of others started to ignore me. As we all know there is a fine line between promoting yourself and becoming a pain the backside. Unfortunately Facebook pushed me well over the line into the latter zone. In the end the only way I could stop this was to untag everyone from the post and make it private (so I was the only person that could see it).
I contacted Facebook to alert them of the problem but never heard back or received an explanation. The only conclusion I can draw is that Facebook did not like me promoting myself without paying them for the privilege and they decided to penalise me for it. So my advice if you do post on Facebook is to be cautious and if you encounter the problem I faced use my technique ASAP to minimise damage.
Upset friends or family
One surprising consequence of running the campaign was that a small minority of friends got really cheesed off with me contacting them. I felt I made it clear that I didn’t expect anyone to contribute if they didn’t feel able, and that sharing my links or video would be just as appreciated as receiving money. However some people removed me from Facebook and others emailed me disgruntled messages. I dealt with these problems swiftly by phoning the people concerned and talking through the problems before they escalated. I have always been the kind of person who donates or contributes to friends fund raising causes when I can.. My advice is that you need to remember that not everyone sees the world the same way as you and sometimes people might just be having a bad day. So if you do encounter any issues with your mates or family try and talk them over if you value the relationship. On reflection I think some of it was down to people feeling a little left out of the process and having their feelings hurt on some level.
By the end of the campaign I had raised an incredible £1,777.00 which was 44% of my stated aim. It was enough to get me into the studio and start recording the EP. I then continued to raise money after the campaign ended by setting up a PayPal link on my website for a further month. Once the EP was finished I started selling it online immediately.
The campaign certainly bought me some new fans who did feel that my story resonated with them. They wrote to me during the campaign and we are still in touch now.
The campaign also gave me a reason to connect with and develop relationships with organisations like Hearing Link and Action On Hearing Loss who helped promote my campaign and my story generally.
Would I do it again?
On balance I don’t think I would do this again, at least not at this stage of my career. I did learn a lot about crowdfunding and it did help me to produce the EP. However, it took an enormous amount of time which I could have spent either working to earn money to pay for the project or building my fan base to buy the EP once it was released. I think if I did do it again in the future I would be more successful now that I recognise where the pitfalls and opportunities lie. You need to decide if crowdfunding is right for you, if you do decide to go for it I’ve summarised some of my tips and added resources and links below. Goodluck and let me know how you get on!
Crowdfunding Tips, resources and links:
- Spend time writing and perfecting your campaign copy, you will use this master copy to compose Facebook posts, Tweets, blogs posts and emails. Click here to see my campaign copy.
- Set your target figure a bit higher than you need, so that if you don’t quite make it you can still deliver what you promised.
- Get your tags and keywords right. On reflection I don’t think I focused enough on my musical style i.e. #Acoustic Folk, #Americana, #BritishFolk etc. and so I missed an opportunity to connect with obvious potential new fans.
- Involve as many friends in the process of setting up the campaign as possible. Ask them how they would feel about you contacting them and get their feedback before you launch.
- Cultivate some big contributors who will go a large way to helping you secure your target. At one point I was very close to securing £1000 from a friend who needed a video for their company. Unfortunately it fell through at the last minute.
- Once your campaign ends on Indiegogo you will not be able to update your project, so just before the campaign finishes you should add a final update, Click here to see my final campaign update.
- Keep raising money after the campaign on your own blog if possible
- Thank everyone who helped you on your journey (that’s not just the people who give you money but also those who shared links and supported you in any way)
- Produce a short video that summarises your campaign. Here’s mine:
Have you had a similar crowdfunding experience? Share your story in the comments below.