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Lessons Learned From Three Successful Kickstarter Music Campaigns

Julia-nunes-albumCrowdfunding has been around long enough now to begin to recognize patterns of successful campaigns. Different music campaigns reveal different aspects but, if one compares notes, certain principles seem to emerge.

When comparing the lessons learned by successful Kickstarter campaigns for hip hop group Progress Report, indie web star Julia Nunes and unsigned rock band The Lighthouse and the Whaler, certain success factors seem to hold true across the board.

Progress Report: Establishing an Independent Music Business

Hubert Sawyers III, manager of Progress Report, helped raise over $5000 to complete their debut album and support their marketing efforts. Sawyers suggests approaching crowdfunding as a "micro-funding campaign for your independent music business."

With that in mind he says you should have the following in hand before launching a campaign:

  • "A vision / executive summary"
  • "A general / high-level business plan connected to the first bullet"
  • "A sizable network of people that actually like you or what you do"
  • "An actual project - completed and ready to distribute"

By planning your campaign as the establishment of an indie music business, you are pushed to understand your overall goals and how your initial project for which you're seeking funding will help establish your foundation to meet those goals.

Julia Nunes: Establish a Large Following

Alandis Brassel examined Julia Nunes' wildly successful campaign to take music that she was working on in the studio and complete an album that she described as an "extension of my youtube videos." Her goal was to complete the project and then use additional funds towards marketing so, though she did not have a completed project in hand, she did have a huge following and was clearly attempting to take her career to the next level.

Brassel made three observations:

  • "Having a large following when you start your project helps. Spend time building a true following and the promotion will fall into place."
  • "Fans will pay for the rewards of EXCLUSIVITY and PERSONALIZATION."
  • "Authenticity and genuine connections always win. Always. Knowing what your followers like about you and your music is key."

The Lighthouse and the Whaler: Less Than 2% of Your Fans Will Donate

Nunes' campaign also illustrates two points made by Caren Kelleher, manager of The Lighthouse and the Whaler, related to their successful Kickstarter campaign.

Kelleher maintains that:

  • "Fans often want influence, not swag."
  • "You need big donors."
  • "Most fans won't donate, no matter how hard you try."

The first point was based on a "sample of thirty recently-successful music projects on Kickstarter." It would be nice to see more about that sample and how the information was generated but it's something to consider when developing rewards packages. Though that claim isn't clearly illustrated by Nunes' campaign, certainly having influence could be described as a form of exclusivity and personalization.

But the second is certainly evident in the visible pledges for Nunes that had a small but significant number of backers going for the highest pledges.

Kelleher revealed that "just 1.3% of The Lighthouse and the Whaler's online fans contributed to our Kickstarter campaign" as the basis for her third point that most fan's won't donate. Given that 1685 individuals pledged for Nunes and yet she was described as having 172,440 YouTube channel subscribers at the time, she received support from less than 1% of her YouTube subscribers.

Taken as a whole, these insights suggest the following:

  • Make your crowdfunding campaign part of a larger plan to further your career and communicate that larger vision.
  • Develop a sizable fanbase before launching your campaign with the assumption that only 1 to 2 per cent will donate.
  • Tailor your pledge rewards to the needs of both small and large funders.

More: A Guide To Crowdfunding Music Using Mike Masnick's CwF + RtB = $$$ Formula

Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) maintains a business writing hub at Flux Research and blogs at Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.