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Lesson 11 - Crowdfunding

 

Crowdfunding is probably the most ingenious system ever invented. It eliminates the distance between musicians and fans, and helps you create the art you really want to make, without the need of signing off your master rights to some faffy record label that can decide the fate of your career. It also helps knowing that you don’t need an unattainable capital anymore to make a record. 

 

However, this warm blanket is only available when you’ve already established a fan base. So go back to lesson 5 and implement all the aspects before starting a Crowdfunding campaign. 

 

Crowdfunding is a very real and down to earth way to connect with your fans, gain their trust and enable making art together. Instead of having a huge patron such as a label or a sponsor you’d have to abide to, the most known method of crowdfunding is enabling a select group of people to make the actual art by buying a copy in advance.

 

Psychologically, this works in 3 fold:

  1. Exclusivity
    You offer exclusive access to a select group of initial supporters, before the product is available to anyone else.

  2. A sense of belonging
    By investing in your product, people feel that they’re a part of your process, which is also true, and you are making something happen together.

  3. Freedom
    You as an artist are liberated from the liabilities to answer to a higher boss and are free to make the art you want to create.

 

I’d recommend you to take a look at Amanda Palmer’s TED talk The Art Of Asking if you want to learn how to make and keep things real. As she says: “When we Really see each other, We want to help each other.“

 

As I mentioned before, I’m a big believer in keeping people on my own website. The reason is that other platforms are flaky and we have no real control on them. Do you remember the renown Myspace? It was THE platform for musicians for about 7 years, and then it disappeared almost entirely at once. I already had more than 7,000 followers and all of a sudden it meant nothing.

 

Most people will go for a known and trusted website to launch their Crowdfunding campaign. Attracted by the offered credibility, familiarity, and the added value of (unmeasurable) exposure, people trust external platforms almost blindly nowadays, just because a lot of people use them.

 

In reality, these websites don’t really offer you real exposure, because the average Crowdfunding donors value their personal connection to the projects they support and the ability to highlight causes that might not get much attention from established charities. 

 

In other words: People will give if they already know you. So external Crowdfunding platforms are actually benefiting from the added traffic YOU supply while CHARGING you a commission for the customers you bring. 

 

Your credibility won’t change if you use an external website, because almost all your supporters will be from your very own mailing-list. It’s their choice to believe if you will finish the project or not. 

 

Another reason not to use an external platform is the risk of possible negative feedback. Most Crowdfunding websites offer an “All or nothing” approach, and if you don’t reach your goal within a designated time frame, your supporters will receive a failure message and you won’t receive the funds you’ve already collected.

 

This leads most artists to top-up the missing funds THEMSELVES in the final hours and having to pay a commission + bank transfer fees on top of their own funds JUST TO BREAK EVEN. 

 

By conducting a Crowdfunding campaign on your own website you can be flexible:

  • Choose your own time frame
    Personally, I conducted 2 CF campaigns and both of them weren’t limited in time.

  • Keep 100% of your profits.
    For my CF campaigns people could choose for a bank transfer or an online paying system. I didn’t have to pay the usual 5-15% commission for an external CF platform.

  • Only positive feedback for your work
    Collect all the funds gathered for your project, without the fear of letting your fans down, in case you don’t reach your goal. 

  • Keep your supporters’ contact details.
    Your supporters email addresses are worth a lot to you, much more than a single CD sale. An external platform won’t share them with you. By conducting your campaign on your website, you can communicate with them directly and freely, without the need of a mediator.

 

Rounding up

When rounding up your crowdfunding campaign, especially if it’s your 1st one, I believe an extra action is needed in order to make everybody feel like they did something that matters and that they are a part of something big and personal. 

 

When I finished my 1st CF for my album Love Migration, I was overwhelmed with joy. I expected to sell 175-200 CD’s and instead I sold 800. Every CD sold felt like a warm hug and I wanted to hug back. Therefore I sent an email to all my supporters, asked them to pick their favourite place in Amsterdam, and I came to meet them in person and gave them a CD and a hug. 

 

I got to hug 60 people that were a huge part of my journey but I never met before. I’m so happy that I got to document these encounters on this hug-video, on the backdrop of my song Waiting and my favourite city in the whole world. 

 

This is a comment I received about this video, from a fan on my youtube channel:

Noam, after seeing your video this is what I wrote a friend of mine with whom I have had a few conversation with about how CDs suck and are over. But your video helped me see something I needed to see. Thank you so much for this!!!

 

“Man, we can sit on our lazy couches and pontificate ’till blue in the face about how CDs are dead, we can curse the plastic they are made of and how they wear down and skip and pollute the world, we can wait for people to buy our songs on itunes (and grow old waiting for enough profit to buy a pizza)… 

 

Meanwhile, just outside our door is Noam Vazana, getting Crowd Funded for her album (in CD form in this case) then personally going to meet with each person who funded it and connecting with them face to face with a radiant smile and warm embrace. It don’t get no better than that yo. That’s the sh!t man. Word.

 

CD or no CD, LP or no LP, flash drive, it doesn’t matter, but it needs to be something physical that you can hand to someone (and not just a lame download card that they leave in their back pocket which then disintegrates in the washing machine the next morning) which then opens the door for the human connection/hug/memorable moment/listener for life.

 

Thank God for young people, ignorance really can be bliss, being young enough that you have not been programed enough yet to see all the reasons why you CAN’T and only believing and seeing that you CAN, you CAN change the world. 

 

Sometimes it’s best not to know too many details (like the fact that CDs are becoming a dead medium) because our minds so get in the way of what our heart is leading us to do and if we can just listen to our heart we really can change the world. Less really is more: Less head, more heart.”

 

A few words of caution:

  • Only crowdfund when you must. Don’t ask for help because you can. Ask for it when you need it. Otherwise you’ll exhaust your audience, their trust and their resources.

  • When Crowdfunding, don’t spam people every week with requests. It’s enough to send a newsletter informing about it once at the beginning and once at the end of the campaign.

  • Most support will be gathered at the  beginning and once at the end of the campaign anyway.

  • I wouldn’t crowdfund more often than once every 2 years. 

  • Make sure you have an engaging offer to justify Crowdfunding.
    Make a campaign for a new and exciting album or a music video, 

  • Make sure to offer tangible perks/rewards

  • Don’t expect to gather new supporters from social media. Most people who have never heard of you before won’t help make a donation to your campaign. There are paid campaigns methods to reach new fans, but they will cost you about €20 per person, so such a campaign has a different incentive and you’re unlikely to cover this cost + raise funds for your cause by CF. 

 

TASK:

 

  1. Start your own database on an email server and send your 1st newsletter within a month. This will help lay down the groundwork for your 1st Crowdfunding campaign.

Good Luck
Keep Calm
& DIY!