Saturday, June 28, 2014

Deep in The Kickstarter Trenches, Part 4

The Jazz & Blues Revue is now 27 days into our 40-day Kickstarter campaign. Yesterday we crossed the $11,000 mark on our way to the $18,000 goal.  We are 62% funded, and with only 13 days to go the pressure is on. 
My back is aching from too many hours on the Internet, sending emails, posting blogs, sharing in groups.  But I feel a sense of calm.  The events of the last week have made me more certain that we will reach our goal in the next 2 weeks.
Part of actualizing the result is having a complete vision of the final product.  This week I interviewed (and booked) a Grammy-award winning studio in Los Angeles for the recording session, started confirming the musicians and the album art. As they say, "What you think about you talk about, and what you talk about you bring about." The more complete the picture, the easier it is to bring it to reality.
Four weeks in, and more lessons:
1.    Engage - engage - engage
Remember that people are not just buying a product; they are participating in an experience.  Our job is to engage people in the process of creating the project, raising awareness of WHY we are doing what we are doing.  Continuing to write this blog, sending a personal thank you email to each backer, and posting regular updates on Kickstarter are all part of that process.  The most "out of the box" idea: Posting short videos on YouTube, answering people's question about the project (Here is one I posted, answering the question "What ARE you going to do with all this money?"
Next week's video is going to be a visit to the recording studio!
As Captain Pickard on Star Trek says "Make it so - ENGAGE!"
2.    One more time to go wide, and then we have to go deep, and ASK

I had read that when you do a Kickstarter project there is usually a lull in donations in the middle of the campaign, and we have experienced that this last week. Next week is the first of the month, so it is time to send out my monthly newsletter to the whole database - one last blast to remind people to get on board.  After that, with 10 days left it will be time for the final push. This will involve real targeted marketing.

There are people in our database that we know planned to donate, and they have not done it yet.  Some people are waiting until the end, so they can be the "hero" and come to the rescue.  That time is now!
There are people that we know that have the financial capability to donate at a sizable level if they choose to.  Its time to reach out to them, and actually ask them to pledge at one of the higher levels - as an executive producer or to hire the band for a future event they may be planning.  Someone really famous once said, "Ask and it will be given to you", and my Uncle Moe once said, "If you don't ask, you don't get!"
3.    Keep the energy up
We have a new slogan, posted on the refrigerator:
"All I ask of you is to greet each day with a level of exuberance never before witnessed by mankind."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Deep In The Kickstarter Trenches - Part 3

Lessons learned in the middle of a Kickstarter Campaign
By George Kahn
The Jazz & Blues Revue is now 21 days into our 40-day Kickstarter campaign. We have reached the half-way mark, and we are basically on track, having raised almost exactly half of our $18,000 goal. 
We are close enough that I am confident we are going to hit or exceed the mark, and make our album.  I am now starting to finalize plans for the completed project.  This is the fun part: scoping out recording studios that we can use for the album, and interviewing people to do the album and poster design.
We are not there yet, and the energy needed to make it to the finish line on July 11 is daunting.  This last week brought some new revelations, as well as some lessons that you may find helpful in your crowd-funding adventure.  Here are the four biggest "A-Ha"s of this week
1.    Keep people involved in the experience
Now that we have over 100 backers, it is important to keep these people involved and committed to the project.  Kickstarter gives you a really simple system to send updates to your backers, either as a group or individually.  Each week I have sent individual thank you messages to new backers.  Now I am also sending out group emails as I research the studios, and add new "rewards" for people who support our project. Remember - people aren't just pre-ordering a product.  They are buying an EXPERIENCE, not just a disc of songs.
2.    Keep the web page fresh

This week we added two rewards by special request.  One was a way for people outside the US to order our music, and the second was a chance to have the Jazz & Blues Revue sing you a "Happy Birthday" message.  People who visited the site requested both of these, so I knew there was a need that I could fill. Adding rewards, or posting more pictures or answers to FAQ's (frequently asked questions) keeps the site fresh, and gives you a reason to tell people to visit again.  The master of this idea is Muertos (Dayof the Dead Playing Cards) Throughout his campaign, Steve Minty kept adding product, photos and videos as they hit new targets.  His original goal was to raise $13,000, and in the end he had 2,793 backers and raised over $159,700.

3.    Keep people engaged OFF the internet, as well
Our music (a living history of Jazz & Blues music from the 1940's to the 21st Century) attracts people of all ages, but honestly, a lot of our fans are older and not as plugged in to Facebook and the Internet.  This week has been a lot of outreach into the "physical" world - passing out flyers at networking events, meeting people for lunch and asking them to participate, etc.  Today we have another house party where we will play our music and have iPads set up for people that want to donate.  I have also found that many people love our Kickstarter site, but do not feel comfortable pledging money on the Internet, even when handles the "back office".  So I have set up alternative ways that people can donate without having to create a Kickstarter log in, or deal with the Internet at all.  We keep a log of the donations, and a list of their respective rewards.  Then one of our band members "pledges" the money, so it shows in our Kickstarter totals.
4.    There is no "Magic Bullet"
Somehow I had the belief that "crowd-funding" and "viral marketing" meant that I could post a great project, tell a few key people, and then somehow the Internet would work its magic and suddenly hundreds of total strangers would be throwing money at us.  Guess what?  If that sounds like a dream, it is.  So far about 10% of the backers have come from discovering us on Kickstarter.  The rest have come from our databases, our outreach and our hard work.  There is no "magic bullet".   Like in any business proposition, it is whom you know, and knowing when and how to ask for help.  We can dance around the subject, but in the end we are FUNDRAISING, and it is challenging and rewarding work.
I still love the Kickstarter platform - it gives credence to our project.  People recognize the brand and are willing to check it out.  The systems they provide make running the campaign easy.  But I can't forget - it is a campaign and I am running it - it won't run itself.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Horace Silver dies, 85 years young

One of my heores in Jazz piano, Horace Silver, died today.  He was the source of a lot of my jazz inspiration over the years.
Here is the LA Times OBIT
And here is a sample of his music

Monday, June 16, 2014

Deep In The Kickstarter Trenches - Part 2

Lessons learned in the middle of a Kickstarter Campaign
By George Kahn
The Jazz & Blues Revue is now 2 weeks into our 40 day Kickstarter campaign. Although I have released 7 albums on my own, using my boutique record company and CD Baby for distribution, this is the first time I have used crowd funding to finance a project.  Here are 4 tips that I have learned this week that can help you have success with Kickstarter
1.    It starts with a sprint, and turns into a marathon
Last week I spoke about  "first followers".  It is important to have key people lined up to get your project off to a fast start.  Getting traction, and being "in the race" is important to attract others to join your vision and goal. We had a very successful launch, and after 2 weeks we are 33% to our goal of $18,000 to fund our new album.  Now the strategy shifts - we are in a marathon, and perseverance and endurance will be more important than speed and flash.
2.    It takes a village
Hillary taught us that it takes a village to raise a child.  In the same way, it takes a village to raise money on Kickstarter.  You need to get a "buy in" from the members of your group, so that everyone is involved in promoting the project and asking people to get involved.  Each person will have their own strengths they can bring to the project.  One band member may be great with viral marketing, another with writing copy, and another with having a rich uncle.  Find each person's strength, and let him or her bring it to the table.   Everyone in the group needs to own the project for it to succeed.
3.    Use different platforms
When it comes to Internet marketing, the more the merrier.  Social media continues to evolve, and the more places you show up the more likely it is that people will notice you.  Posting on Facebook is the obvious place to start, but you can also post to your groups, and send individual requests to your friends.  Over the last year I joined every LinkedIn group I could find related to music, jazz or blues.  I am now sending these Kickstarter blog posts to these groups.  I also manage four other blogs, and am using them to spread the word.  In a similar way, Twitter has various levels of involvement.  I don't do Pinterest or Tumblr, but the more you can be on these various platforms, the better your chances for people to find your project.
4.    Time to ask
Now it is time to not just go wide, it is time to go deep. This is the hard part for many people.  Picking up the phone and asking for help brings up feelings of fear and rejection, and may even bring up concerns about self worth and your relationship with money.  Remember, this is no time for "paralysis of the analysis".  You have already sent the mass emails.  Now is the week to send personal emails to the people you know most likely to support your vision.  Then, if their pledge does not show up in a couple of days, a follow-up text message or phone call is appropriate.  Time to put on your Nike shirt and shoes, and Just Do It.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Get On Board with our Kickstarter Campaign!

We are one week into the campaign, and we want you to join us for the ride!
 Just click here!

Deep In The Kickstarter Trenches

Get On Board with our Kickstarter Campaign!

Perhaps you have thought about using Kickstarter to finance your next (or first) album.  I have released 7 albums on CD Baby, and now my new group, The Jazz & Blues Revue is using Kickstarter as a platform to bring our album to physical reality.  We are 7 days into our 40 day campaign, and I wanted to share with you some of the lessons I have learned and am learning as the process unfolds.  Here are 9 tips that will help you have success.
1.    Do your research
I spent about 6 months looking at and pledging money to various Kickstarter campaigns to see how they work.  Which ones were successful?  Which ones failed, and why? What was a typical financial goal for a music album project? Kickstarter says that the average pledge amount per person is about $75, so do you have enough fans to help you hit the goal you set?  What makes an attractive video (attractive enough for me to get involved with a total stranger)?
I highly recommend pledging to one or two projects, not only to see the process that your fans will go through, but also to see how the people you back keep in touch with you during their campaign.
2.    Put thought into every aspect of the Kickstarter page
Your Kickstarter page is going to be the main sales tool to get people to back your project, so every aspect of the page must be designed for maximum effect.  You have somewhere between 30 seconds and 2 minutes to hook a person into backing your dream.  The cover photo has to be strong and attractive.  I embedded a music sample into the page, so people can hear what they are going to get when they receive our completed album.  The "backer rewards" need to be fun, varied and compelling.  (Remember, people are always more interested in what they GET, not what they GIVE.  You have to stress the rewards they will GET for their money.  This is not a charity, nor is it a traditional "return on investment".)
The first edit of our Kickstarter video was 7 minutes long.  It was like "War and Peace"!  Tolstoy might have loved it, but no one but the band members would be willing to sit through it.  After two more edits, we got it down to a little over 5 minutes, and I made sure that all the really IMPORTANT information happens in the first 2 minutes
3.    Start promoting at least 30 days before the launch
I send out a monthly email newsletter to my database, and so about 2 months before our launch, I started mentioning it in my newsletter.  If you think of your Kickstarter campaign like a movie or CD release, you need to create interest and awareness BEFORE you launch the project.
4.    Line up your "First Followers" in advance
Derek Siver introduced me to the idea of first followers (watch the "Dancing guy" video if you have never seen it: ).
People are attracted to success.  To get your project noticed on Kickstarter it needs to look successful from the very start.  After all, you only have 30-60 days to make this happen.  So make sure you have some "first followers" lined up for the day of your launch. It might be family, band members or other "super fans".
5.    Throw parties!
What better way to get people involved than to throw a party? We scheduled a "Kickstarter Kick-off Party" the night of our launch date.  We had a house party, served some food and drink, and had computers and iPads set up for people to pledge.  By the end of day one we had raised almost $3,000! We have another house party and a club gig scheduled during the campaign, to keep interest up and get people involved.  Remember, people just want to have FUN!
6.    Once you launch, watch out for salespeople
Like anything on the internet, once you raise your hand, people will try to grab it.  The day after our campaign launched, I started getting emails from people and websites that promised to boost my visibility on twitter, or to pledge $1 if I gave them $5.  I have avoided all of these, except for one, Backercamp, which seems like a righteous group.  They only take payment once my project reaches its funding goal, and they have been sending me daily ideas on how to keep the project growing.
7.    Create weekly action plans
I am a keeper of lists - daily, weekly and monthly to do lists.  For the Kickstartercampaign, I started with three lists - Before the launch, During the launch and After the launch.  Now that I am in the "during" unit, I have created WEEKLY action plans: starting with what I plan to do this week, followed by activities scheduled each week the campaign runs.  The future weekly action plans are pretty sparse right now, but as they get closer I know they will get filled up.
8.    Watch your language, and say "thank you"
In setting up the campaign and in all communication now I am very careful about my use of language.  I don’t ask for help, I ask people to "get on board".  I don't want people to "donate", I want them to "pre-order" the CD or "get involved" with the project.  And now that we have over 50 backers after the first week, I am sending personal "thank you" emails to each person. Our campaign will only be successful if we got "wide" as well as "deep". I want to reach people that have never heard of us, and I want to turn each backer into a "raving fan" that will spread the word and introduce me to other people that love jazz and blues.
9.    Its not over till its over
The start of this campaign has been like a sprint. Now, with 30 days left to go, we are in a marathon.  It takes training and perseverance, and a lot of time.  But what a wonderful way to spend the next 30 days - contacting people I know, sharing my passion, and bringing a dream to reality.  There's more to come, I am sure of it. We are on our way!