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: http://sivers.org/ff ).
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!