Music Crowdfunding Without A Fanbase

Launch-and-releaseIan Anderson and Levi James created Launch and Release to document and share what they were learning about crowdfunding music. They've put in a great deal of work and one of the more interesting discoveries they've made is that numerous artists are successfully crowdfunding in the under $10,000 range without the fanbase that one might assume is necessary. I spoke with them last week about this topic.

I wrote about Launch and Release last year and have been following the blog ever since. Now co-founding bloggers Levi James and Ian Anderson are getting ready to launch an online class titled "The Music Crowdfunding Course for Intelligent Artists." Based on our discussion last week and their clear and direct writing at Launch and Release, it's likely to be well worth your time if you're planning a music crowdfunding campaign.

Crowdfunding Without a Fanbase

Last week we discussed the topic of crowdfunding without a fanbase and what they've learned from numerous campaigns and musicians who don't have huge numbers of social media followers and, in some cases, don't even have mailing lists.

They clarified that those are definitely things you want to have to build your career as a musician and to raise larger sums of money. But they also found that musicians who connect directly to the people they do know can successfully raise funds in the $1 to $5000 range and the $5 to $10000 range.

They maintain that smaller campaigns for artists funding their first album are generally more about supporting the individual rather than the particular project. The individuals that successfully achieve such goals are the ones who don't just post about their campaigns on Facebook and the like but reach out directly to individuals with whom they have direct connections, especially friends and family.

But the artists have to be willing to sit down and think through all the different groups of people they know and be willing to contact each individual and follow up to encourage pledging. This work will be much more productive than attempting to expand one's fanbase during a campaign and to solicit funds from new fans.

Even larger campaigns ultimately rely on the people with whom artists have already established a connection to achieve their goal.

Didn't Their Dad Just Cut a Check?

One of my biggest questions going into the interview was whether or not these artists were being funded by a few rich family members. Though they usually see at least a couple pledges in the hundred dollar range for such campaigns, many are successful without having any big donors.

We agreed that not every artist is situated to pull this off. Some people have serious blocks about asking for support, another topic about which they have plenty of insight, and others are simply in impoverished settings which reduce the likelihood of gaining financial support.

Another issue that many musicians discover when they first tell friends and family that they want to go pro is that sometimes your biggest critics are people that are quite close to you. That's a hard lesson but both Ian and Levi agreed that crowdfunding gives you a way to identify your true supporters and establish a base on which to build.

Nevertheless a surprising number of artists are finding support without substantial followings.

Here are some places to start if you want to dig deeper:

Rob Harris Funds Album on Indiegogo in 5 Days With No Fan Base

How You Can Fund A Kickstarter Without A Mailing List

Music Kickstarters: Personal Connection Trumps Presentation

How To Fund Your Band’s Kickstarter When You Have No Fan Base

We covered a lot more ground and raised some points to which I plan to return but, based on what they've seen and learned from the musicians with whom they've spoken, the bottom line for successful music crowdfunding campaigns is that a good plan, direct communication and a solid goal will lead to higher pledges.

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The Music Crowdfunding Course for Intelligent Artists


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. We’re honored to grace the pages of Hypebot. Thanks Clyde!
    According to Kickstarter, around 75% of all music crowdfunding projects raise under $10,000. We’ve also seen that many of these projects under $10,000 seem to be for debut albums.
    There are a lot of people funding their first records with crowdfunding, but there are way more people doubting that they have what it takes to make the bold move of launching a crowdfunding project without fans, Facebook, or a mailing list.
    Not only is it possible to do this, but tons of people are funding music projects this way every day.
    We’ve found the six things that most of these successful projects have in common, and then we used Tony Polecastro as our lab rat (willing musician) to prove our approach.
    Tony doesn’t believe in Facebook (no personal profile or page), has never even been an “artist” (he’s only been a side man in a few bands) so he had no mailing list or fans. He doesn’t even play solo gigs (he doesn’t sing, just dobro, banjo, and acoustic guitar instrumentals).
    He raised $9500.
    We’ll be releasing his full case study soon.
    Anyway, I hope that helps. Cheers!
    Levi James

  2. Hey Clyde,
    Thanks for reaching out and bringing this important topic to light.
    Everybody has been saying that “the internet is changing everything”. Helping launch artists is one huge way that it is changing the rules of launching a music career.
    To echo what Levi said, so many musicians have inspiring dreams but potentially crippling assumptions, one of the bigger being the necessity of a fan base in order to crowdfund.
    But if you are a smart and diligent artist, that assumption does not hold.
    Heck, I only WISH my band could’ve crowdfunded our first album instead of setting out with 1,000 CDs and $10,000 of debt.

  3. If you’re going to ask friends and family for support there’s really no reason to use Kickstarter.
    We raised money for our latest album through house concerts, e-mail and phone calls. Here’s what we learned:
    1. It’s not easy asking for money. It’s even worse going back to someone who’s turned you down.
    2. Set up a separate bank account for the project. Preferably at a different bank than yours. Tell your donors what you’re doing and keep them posted on progress.
    3. Thank everyone…in person if possible. And really let the few donors that go above and beyond just how important they are. And of course, everybody gets CD’s.
    We recorded in a home studio and raised enough money for mastering, duplication and a little something for the band. The rest went to postage.
    “Townes”, from “Americana Motel”, won Best Americana Production at the New Mexico Music Awards.
    You can hear our work on our SoundCloud page:
    More info about E. Christina Herr & Wild Frontier at http://echristinaherr.com/

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