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The Crowdfunding Manifesto for Music

By Published: December 13, 2010
Adapted from The Crowdfunding Manifesto on RocketHub.org

Introduction

Welcome to The Crowdfunding Manifesto for Music. The purpose of this article is to educate and inspire you on the strategy of crowdfunding your music project. We define music projects broadly—to include traditional categories such as EPs, full albums, live concerts, music videos, tours, etc—and also fields such as publicity, legal assistance, personal website development, and other music-career related endeavors.

First off, what is crowdfunding? In a nutshell, it is leveraging your network and audience for funds, awareness, and feedback. Crowdfunding is based on the belief that the power of many small contributions in aggregate can become significant. There are a few different variances of crowdfunding—some are purely donation based, others are rewards based. We believe that for the modern musical artist—the rewards-based model offers the most sustainable path to funding projects.

Why are we seeing this phenomenon now? For starters, musicians are more connected to their audience and network than ever before. Modern social networking makes reaching out simple and virtually free, while the costs of music production and distribution have gone down. Meanwhile, the old-guard institutions of music labels, publishing companies, large studios, etc. are in transition. A new revolution is emerging on the grassroots level of the music business. Crowdfunding is the foundation of this New Creative Economy.

What does this mean for you as a modern artist? The tools for funding and publicizing your projects are available right now. This manifesto is here to help you succeed.

The Crowdfunding Manifesto consists of the three pillars of success:

1. The Project
2. The Network
3. The Rewards

Each is equally yet uniquely important. When each pillar is strong, the probability for success grows.

The Project

Every person owes it to him or herself to build something great. Make sure your music project matters—and remember it does not need to be big to be important.

To truly make a dent in the universe, you need passion. Build a music project that is worthy of your time and other people's attention. Crowdfunding success comes from emotional connection—both to the project and to the individual/team leading the project. Stand for something and you will be noticed.

When describing your music-based project—such as an album or music video—be sure to describe why it's important to you. If the why is powerful enough for you, it will likely resonate with others. Be clear on the why.

Make it the best project possible. A compelling project takes both emotional and intellectual effort.

The Network

Crowdfunding is based on trust. A musician's first-degree network—the family and friends—are usually the first contributors because the necessary trust has been established a long time ago. The second-degree network—the fans—jumps in afterwards. They contribute after the right trust signals have been sent—i.e. after enough money is already in the tank, after a robust discussion has emerged, and after intimate communication is in place.

The larger your network and the deeper your relationships with your community and fans, the more power you have. Most small and medium projects can succeed purely from the first and second-degree networks. You likely have enough connections take the first crowdfunding step.

Large projects need the third-degree to fully fund. The third-degree network—essentially consisting of people who have no knowledge of you or your work yet—are the most numerous and financially powerful group. Winning their trust—and thus their hard-earned money—requires work. It requires an introductory message that is personal, authentic, and that strikes an emotional chord. It requires regular updates, complete engagement, and full dedication. It is the ultimate sign of trust to give money to a (near) complete stranger. Your previous work and reputation as a musical artist play a large part in this trust.

It is difficult to predict how much impact the third-degree network will have. Consider it a "wildcard play" that becomes more likely if you have an exciting project or a large first and second-degree network and fan base.

Rewards

One of the key elements of a successful modern crowdfunding music project is the Rewards Menu. This is a list of goods, services, and experiences that funders receive in exchange for participating in your project.

The rewards serve as the foundation for the exchange—enticing fans to contribute at various price points. Having the various price points is key to effectively monetizing your network and fan base. The different levels of rewards let all those who wish to be involved participate in your crowdfunding campaign—based on their financial means.

The Rewards Menu should read like a good restaurant menu. Every reward should be fun to read and must contribute to your brand as an artist. Think of what you can offer beyond the obvious—e.g. as a musician that can bake cookies you can tap into your culinary skills to develop original rewards. The rewards give power to your network and fans while offering the opportunity to influence the creative process and end results.

Example rewards include digital goods such as MP3s, images, art, etc., physical goods such as CDs, T-Shirts, pins, stickers, etc., mementos such as hand-written post cards, lyric sheets, poetry, etc., and experiences such as lessons, live shows, and other special events.

Conclusion

Reaching your financial goal is just the beginning. To make the most of your crowdfunding experience it is important to celebrate, communicate, and deliver.

Celebration
Acknowledge and publicize reaching your goal. Be grateful and celebratory as your begin the follow-through process of creating your work.

Communication
Keep your fans updated on your progress. Set the appropriate expectations for timing and delivery of rewards. Use multimedia—images, videos, etc.—to document your process. Ask for input from your fans and allow them to continue along the journey that was begun with your crowdfunding campaign.

(Over)Delivery
Deliver your rewards and ask your contributors to document their reactions—with the goal of broadening your audience. This is different from a typical retail experience—there is great deal of emotion involved so over-deliver on your promises. Leave a good taste that sets the stage for your next crowdfunding project.

Crowdfunding is a new path. It allows musicians to be profitable, to be fair to fans, and to be piracy proof. If done correctly, it is a sustainable way to attain funding and a larger audience. Welcome to the New Creative Economy.





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