Lock-down has thrown off the plans many musicians made this year. We aren’t touring, many of us can’t go to the studio, and incomes from both day jobs and our creative pipelines have been sliced and halted. However, the news is not all bad!
Now is a perfect time to start preparing to make your next project, whether it’s an album, EP, video—or even a tour. Crowdfunding is still going strong through websites like Kickstarter or Patreon. It’s even growing, through the recently-added music-crowdfunding resources on Spotify, Bandzoogle, and Seed&Spark! There is a lot that musicians can do right now to get ready to launch a campaign when the time is right. So don’t get frustrated; get working!
1. Spend time with your fans online
More people than ever are spending time at home and in front of their computer screens right now, looking for something to do. Why not spend time with you? The most important thing a creator can have before launching a crowdfunding campaign is an engaged audience. An engaged audience is one that has spent hours listening to a band’s music, watching videos, scrolling through social media, listening to podcasts, reading stories, and tuning in to online shows.
I recommend creating a “hole” of content that your fans can dive into, whether that be cheap-to-produce music videos on Youtube (like the ones my band made before we launched our $80,000 Kickstarter campaign), improvised acapella tunes on Instagram (like Lynn O’Brien’s), livestreams on Twitch (like Meri Amber’s), or something uniquely “you”! The more time your fans can spend with you online, the more your art becomes part of their identity. That’s important for community, and it’s vital for crowdfunding.
2. Make a mission statement for your art
Why are you making what you’re making, and what do you want your audience to get out of it? Describing their own music is sometimes a musician’s least favorite thing, but it’s important, especially if that musician wants to make it in the DIY scene.
Spend some time making a “mission statement” for your music, or at least for your next album. Answer this question: “Why this project, why now?” Write it down and hang it on your wall, somewhere you can see it. You’ll use this so many times: writing social posts, writing your bio, pitching your crowdfunding campaign, planning your priorities for the year, even making important budget decisions. Knowing your “why,” and agreeing on it with your team, is vital!
3. Build a discovery-ready website
A good website is a hub for new fans, superfans, bookers, and press all to get the information they need about your music. I can say with confidence, however, that most band websites are not that good. Take some time making sure your website, especially the top of it (“above-the-fold,” as they say in newspaper lingo) is just one click away from all the info that your potential visitors might need. Can a new fan find out what you sound like? Can a potential booker grab a bio and photo? Can a superfan spend some time with you through content? Build a discovery-ready website, and use it as a hub and a model for all your social media, too!
4. Set up your e-mail list and tell them your story
The first thing people should see on that discovery-ready website is your mailing list! I can tell you—and I have data to back this up—all of the most successful campaigns I’ve run have been absolutely dominated by mailing list donations. Start a mailing list early, promote it often, and talk to those people often; not just when you have something to sell or promote. Give them free stuff, tell them your wins and your story!
5. Plan a campaign you can launch… now!
Planning a crowdfunding campaign, whether it be for Kickstarter, Patreon, or another site, is a logistically heavy process. Get started now, pricing out your costs, brainstorming rewards, and talking to your audience about what they’re into!
While you’re at it, don’t be afraid to launch sooner than later. According to stats being compiled by Backerkit, creators have been slightly more timid about launching projects during lock-in, but backers are not at all more timid about backing them. I’ve launched four of my most successful Kickstarters ever during this time. People are at home looking for something positive to do and something fun to participate in. If you can provide that, do it!
Laser Malena-Webber is a touring musician, author, crowdfunding coach, and one of only twenty consultants officially endorsed by the Kickstarter Experts program. They have raised over $1 million for independent artists through crowdfunding, and their book, Crowdfunding for Musicians, was published in 2019.