Kickstarters are rapidly become a key aspect to any young and hungry bands record release cycle. Even more established bands like Protest The Hero and Anamanaguchi who have multiple world tours under their belts are coming to rely more on Kickstarter as a tool to release their music. And this is great. A lot of bands have been able to use this with great aplomb and some of the great art of our age has been supported by the geniuses over at Kickstarter. Of course – everyone wants a piece of this pie – the real question is figuring out the best way to execute. As with everything else in this industry, you need to keep your expectations low and above all realistic.
One thing that drives a lot of Kickstarters into the ground before they are even started is having goals that are way too high. If you’re an established band with a following then maybe it makes sense to set a thirty thousand dollar goal to get a truly top flight product. Of course – if you are really at this level then it makes sense to ask for this much. Beyond getting top notch producers and promotion you’re probably used to getting a little bit of money in advance for your work. This is fine, that’s how big name labels work. The thing is – if you’re a smaller band trying to make a name for yourself asking for that much money is only going to get you laughed at. The bands who ask for tens of thousands of dollars are probably investing a lot of their own money for the PR campaign for their Kickstarter putting them in the hole before they even really get going – trusting that their fanbase will help them recoup their investment. So first and foremost – while figuring out the scale of your Kickstarter you should not consider your own needs, but rather what you think your fanbase would be willing to give. Yes ten super fans might fork over five thousand dollars between them, but it’s best to make sure you have ten super fans before embarrassing yourself.
What I’m trying to say is that if your band is on a local level or maybe has a national tour or two under their belt it’s frankly ridiculous to ask for that much money. Unless you recently had a viral video that is making your popularity explode or some similar sort of peak then you are simply dooming yourself to failure before you even start. Why? Because people know how these things go – they don’t want to invest in a project that they know will fail. That’s part of why it’s crucial to have a professional looking page and pitch video – one that makes you look like a real group of musicians and not a couple buddies who are scared to put their own money into their work.
Tied into this is the crucial notion that you need to have a lot of different options for your fans. Anamanaguchi, in their massively successful campaign had multiple options at almost every price point each with very different appeals. Some catered to nerdy fanboys, others to rich kids who really identified with the music and still others to the casual fan. They took advantage of every aspect of their image in order to craft an ideal campaign. People want to support the arts – but they want it to be in a way that is easy to do and caters exactly to their needs and desires. It’s crucial that you realize that the fans, not you are the priority whilst organizing any sort of crowdfunding campaign to support your group.
A lot of the best Kickstarters that I’ve seen feature everything from a one dollar single download, to a ten thousand dollar performance at your house for you and all of your friends. Some people are willing to quickly chip a buck in, other people are superfans – you need to embrace this, and remember that the superfans are going to help generate a large percentage of your income. You also need to remember that people often go to Kickstarter because they hope to get a deal on exclusive merch and feel like they are a part of a special club. Having Kickstarter specific merch is crucial because it helps to provide incentive to fans to donate now rather than say that they will just buy a shirt when you go on tour.
As a final note – it can also be a good thing to set up some really cool stretch goals, especially if you are afraid you might not hit your target. Maybe if you make an extra 50% on your initial goal you will put out another Kickstarter exclusive EP. Or perhaps you can use the extra money to fund a tour. If you can help to provide incentive to go above and beyond your initial goal then you might end up making more money than in your wildest dreams. The initial goal should be a baseline – it’s the stretch goals were you can start to envision some truly ridiculous stuff and help to drive your music over the top. They say slow and steady wins the race and nowhere is this more true than in the music world.
Simply put – you need to bog down your fans with reasons to donate. You need to offer discounts, cool packages and once in a lifetime opportunities you can’t just expect your Kickstarter to end up getting listed as one of their “Projects We Love’ and ending on that. You don’t necessarily need an expensive PR campaign either – if you structure you Kickstarter properly and run it through a few journalists who you are close with then you should be fine. Just remember – a failed Kickstarter will have people making fun of you and leave you up a river of excrement with no means of locomotion. You CAN make a lot of money off of this and help to propel your band to new heights – you just need to be careful in execution and realize that this could be one of the most important things your band will ever do.