One of the most powerful aspects of crowdfunding is the direct connections to fans that make it possible. But too many crowdfunding campaigns default to an old school music industry model that even the music industry has been leaving behind. First you get the money and make a lot of noise, then you retreat into the studio to make your record, then you reappear with a campaign for the upcoming release and try to get everybody excited again. Instead you should plan an integrated album campaign that includes direct contact with fans from beginning to end.
Musicians crowdfund a lot of things but albums seem to be the most popular. Other forms of crowdfunding have related dynamics but often differ in important ways.
I'm inspired to write about this today after finding a recent PledgeMusic post about what to do when you hit 100% of your goal while crowdfunding on PledgeMusic and then entering the presales period before album release.
PledgeMusic uses different language for all this but if you step back and look objectively at what they've been offering, you can see that they offer crowdfunding and presales as features with the ideal being to run the whole campaign on the platform from initial announcement to final delivery.
Part of PledgeMusic's power is that you don't have to focus on the pieces. They're integrated in a manner that allows you to focus on the whole.
But not everybody is going to use PledgeMusic and there are lots of tools and services for knitting together your own album campaign.
Maintain Ongoing Communication
While major crowdfunding platforms do usually support updates or some other kind of direct communication with fans after the campaign is complete, why would you want to continue communicating from a platform that is no longer making you money?
Instead you should be finding ways during the campaign to encourage your supporters to sign up for your email newsletter. This will be a lot easier if you already have one.
Do keep doing updates through the platform but keep in mind that your campaign is intended to build your career.
Have Your Presale Set To Go When Crowdfunding Ends
This is another thing you'll want to get organized before you start your crowdfunding campaign. Crowdfunding's a lot of work. You want everything in place or the odds increase that you'll drop the ball.
I've written about a variety of presales options, not limited to these, but I think Limited Run is an especially good example for DIY artists.
Though there are lots of ways to sell things, Limited Run is an excellent example of a music-focused D2F sales platform that continues to develop based on artists' needs.
Currently I don't know of any pure play crowdfunding platforms that report to SoundScan so that is one place PledgeMusic outperforms. But Limited Run and numerous other retailers do offer SoundScan reporting so you'll definitely want to consider that issue if you expect significant sales.
Limited Run also offers some flexibility. So you can handle digital sales with downloads from their platform as well as physical sales (you handle fulfillment) as well as do things like bundling. They do offer preorder specific options and they can also be used as a flexible solution to support other platforms. For example, you could do a digital album/singles presale on iTunes and then use Limited Run for everything else including additional digital options.
Note that when crowdfunding and presales are so obviously separate phases of a campaign, you can actually benefit from the distinction. Successfully achieving your goal on one platform provides the basis for a fan-driven campaign during the presale period. Take a look at what we did together" approach encouraging others to join in and help us make this an even bigger success."
Do It All On Your Own Website
These days if you're not building your band's homebase on the web, you're essentially homeless and that's never really a good thing. It's easier for others (e.g., Facebook) to mistreat you while providing services or to abandon you (e.g., SoundCloud) and push you on down the street.
But crowdfunding is one of those things that you'll probably find it easier to do on a crowdfunding platform especially if the platform is recognizable to most people as is Kickstarter for the most obvious example. It confers third party authority which might be easy to downplay but think about how many people need somebody else to validate something before they can be comfortable responding and you'll start to see what I'm getting at.
I think it would also be very difficult to do so on your own site successfully if you haven't already built a sizable fanbase. Crowdfunding without a fanbase is possible but I think unlikely on your own site.
If you have a fanbase yet also have a history of show cancellations or release date delays, you might want to avoid crowdfunding entirely but especially on your own site. Trust is a slippery creature and if people love your act but don't know if you'll be at the show to which you bought tickets, how could they support such a campaign?
That said, there are a growing number of options for self-hosted campaigns, including a variety of Wordpress crowdfunding themes and plugins to get you started.
But unless you've got a fanbase and, honestly, a team in place, I would encourage you to leverage the power of third party platforms and services that support D2F approaches while using the campaign to help build your email list.
And for those who follow album releases with tours, like in the old days, connecting that part to your album campaign is still on you.
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