Who hasn’t been in a situation where they could use more money? Unfortunately, musicians often don’t earn big bucks at the DIY level. It’s frustrating for the band, as well as the fans if you can’t afford to release albums and offer merch, buy a van, or have the necessities to make a solid go of it. But, are you a douche bag for using crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is an amazing tool when used properly and to its full potential. It allows fans to be part of the creative process. Unfortunately, many bands often shy away from sites like gofundme and Kickstarter, because of the way they’ve been misused by others. Many artists fear that they’ll look like beggars or scam artists, taking advantage of people.
However, that doesn’t need to be the case. The platform can be an imaginative and effective way to connect and collaborate with your fans, making them feel like their voices are heard…IF it’s used properly. Exactly what does that mean? How does one ask people for money without sounding like a huge dick?
First of all, it works best when you’ve already created a fan base to approach.
Trying it when you’re a new band without merch or other incentives to offer seldom produces results. And, with no traction, you won’t have access to many fans you can pitch it to. I mean, you can ask your mom for money without doing a Kickstarter. Here are some tips to help you succeed:
- Treat it like a pre-order. Don’t just ask for money; nobody likes that. Treat people more like business partners than donors. They’ll eagerly participate if they feel part of a joint venture or collaboration. The idea of “investing” in you appeals to fans.
- Share your business plan in the description. Timelines, progress and what can be expected make you look professional, which is important when asking people to give their hard-earned money!
- Offer incentives. Most bands (70%) attempting crowdfunding don’t give rewards that appeal to fans. Think about your own favorite band; and ask yourself which items from them YOU would pay big bucks for. People like tangible GIFTS. Limited edition merch is ALWAYS a safe bet. Signed items are appealing too. Fans who are treated like VIP’s will be your biggest supporters.
- Don’t make lame offers like virtual hugs for $20… I’ve seen bands do it; and, though your mom may bite, that’s not going to entice a fan who doesn’t know you. Some bands offer things like “for $200, we will record a video of any cover you want” which is weak for bands on the DIY level. If you are Clutch and giving a shout out on Youtube, it’s a different story; but for the average band, PHYSICAL STUFF is your best option.
- Make sure what you offer is worth what you are asking. One motivator that works well is the “For XX amount, we will play a free show at your house.” Putting the people who help out in your liner notes is also a great idea. Everybody likes to be acknowledged publicly. They get excited when you make them part of the process in an official way. Everybody desires to feel special and important. And remember, you’re not just treating them LIKE VIPs, they really ARE VIPs.
- Meet in the middle and don’t make the mistake of asking for donations without putting something into it yourselves. For instance, you want to release a record, so YOU pay to have it recorded, mixed and mastered. THEN ask your fans to help with just the pressing costs. People are likely to pitch in when they see they aren’t the only ones with skin in the game. Make it a collaboration, asking them to be INVOLVED in the process. It’s rude to ask fans to fund an entire project. And, after all, it’s not their project. It’s yours; you having a financial stake will make others feel better about putting money in too.
- Share your offer. Once you have worthwhile incentives like limited edition vinyl, shirts, posters, and all sorts of cool shit people will likely contribute for, you need to tell them about it. Doing that without being pushy can be tricky. Share on all your social media why they will want to be a part of your great offer. Message people, you know well (without being annoying). You could say, “We’re working to get this record out for our fans and it’s tough. We could use your help. If you can’t pitch in, a share with your friends would be appreciated.” Be respectful and don’t pester. If they share it, say thank you. Keep sharing every day and interact with the people who donate or share.
I used to think these things were begging and poor form.
But a friend gave me his take after they tried it, and that changed my perspective. The reality is that, if you make it more of a collaboration than just a plea for money, your fans will respond positively. My band raised funds this way, setting our goal for $2500 to press CDs and vinyl. We planned to invest our own money for the other expenses, but the campaign did SO well that we not only could pay the entire cost for CDs and vinyl, we ordered stickers and posters too, and we gave them free to all the people who participated. In addition, we did a free show with discounted merch, to thank those who helped.
I went from being dead set against crowdfunding, to be all for it.
It’s all in your delivery. So next time you’ in a situation where crowdfunding could help, use the opportunity to involve your fans and treat them as partners with the band, rather than nobodies at shows. The more they identify with you and feel like peers, the more die-hard fans they will become.
Guest post written by Tom Jordan.
Tom is the singer/guitar player for the death blues band, 20 Watt Tombstone. 20 Watt Tombstone is an internationally touring band based out of Northern WI. They tour consistently with hundreds of dates per year. They have hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify, and a prominent following on social media. Tom is also endorsed by several manufacturers including Orange Amps, and Gretsch Guitars. Check out their website for more info: http://20watttombstone.com/