What’s up people of The Hen House!?!

Money issues and music. They just go hand in hand, don’t they?

You spend money you don’t have trying to put together a quality recording. Then you don’t sell nearly enough copies to cover costs which leads to the band paying it off over the following year; which then hampers other ambitions like touring and getting your next release together.

Its a really negative cycle that can slow a bands ambition to a crawl.

I don’t want crawlers at The Hen House Rehearsal Studios. I want runners, sprinters even! I want you guys kicking ass, getting better and accomplishing your goals. This is why crowdfunding is really interesting to me.

Crowdfunding: the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.“musicians, filmmakers, and artists have successfully raised funds and fostered awareness through crowdfunding”

Now alot of people would be familiar with the huge success people like Amanda Palmer and even local legends Eskimo Joe both had with crowdfunding. To me though this wasn’t really that surprising. Both acts had large dedicated fanbases that were passionate about the music they been creating for many years.

Palmer asked for 100K and ended up raising 1.2million (ok that is actually pretty surprising). Eskimo Joe were aiming for $40K and reached $60K in no time at all. Both campaigns were executed brilliantly and deserved their successes. But this is all well and good. 99% of bands don’t have fanbases anywhere near as large.
What I want to know is what does crowdfunding for your band look like at the asbolute street level. Small band. Starting out. Living in the most isolated city in the world.

The great news…I have one such band that has taken on the crowdfunding challenge. Only 18 months old, Vez and Bailey from Lionizer set themselves of raising $4k through popular Crowdfunding site Pozible.

At this point I’d like to pass you onto Bailey for this Guest Blog Post as she explains what Lionizer learnt from running their Pozible campaign.

Over to you Bailey…

BAILEY: On Wednesday 24 July, my band Lionizer launched a pozible campaign to raise $4000 towards our debut EP. As of today, we have reached $4228, and did it with with 4 days left. Over the course of two months, we went from barely having two dollars to rub together to being overfunded, all as a new band with just a handful of fans. We made a lot of mistakes, but we also learnt a freak-load about the fan-artist relationship, the difference between asking and begging, and the nature of support. And we made a lot of new friends!

While crowdfunding continues to be a growing trend for musicians across the world, there still are many myths about how bands can or should be making use of it. So what did Lionizer learn? Well for starters…

1) Have a good answer for ‘why should I help you?’ – you’ll be hearing it a lot.
Most guides to crowdfunding start off by saying ‘have a good project video’, and while that’s definitely a good thing to have, it’s putting the cart before the horse. Before you can ask people to check out your campaign, you need to know why they should bother getting involved in the first place.
When we were planning the Lionizer EP Fundraiser, we mistook this question for ‘what incentives are we offering people?’ – we thought we were putting objects on a shelf and asking people to buy them. Instead what we really wanted was for people to buy into us, our band, our plans and hopes. We wanted peoples support and involvement, but we’d only asked for their money.

The video you make will be up there to be viewed for the entire duration of the campaign, so make it good. But also make it on point and direct and inviting. Make sure it answers that fundamental question – why should people help you? – and answers it well, because…

2) Your fans will help you if you ask them
Your fans are willing to help you if you ask, not beg. Or sell, for that matter. Sure, some will say ‘oh I just wanted to get the poster/shirt/patch/whatever perk, and having these different levels and rewards are certainly important, but they can’t be the be-all end-all. You fans want to feel involved, connected; a part of something cool.

Asking for help is hard.. There’s that feeling of ‘once is asking, twice is begging’, but this is why creating some special for your fans to be involved in is so important. You can promote that involvement more than the campaign itself, and invite people to be a part of it via donating.
Your supporters are special, make them feel that!

3) Let people support you in more ways than just money!
One of the main assumptions Lionizer made going into our campaign was that our family/friends actually had money to donate – this just wasn’t the case. A few people we expected to be primary supporters ended up unable to be involved financially. Others didn’t have credit cards/paypal accounts. Some wanted to make donations via bitcoin and not the available formats, and hence we couldn’t accept their donations. But this didn’t make them useless or unimportant – anyone who wanted to get involved with our band was crucial to us. So how could we make people feel special if they couldn’t make a donation?

The key was to create new options outside the campaign itself; acknowledging the people who like and share your facebook posts, the people who start following you on twitter, or who listen to your music on spotify. Keep note of how everyone interacts with you and your band. And then invite them to offer support in other ways – hold shows, run merch tables, or take photos. Don’t be a dick about it, just keep in mind that a poor person can’t help you even if they want to, if all you ask for is dollars.

Some support you with money, others support you by telling their friends. Some support you by just running up to you in the street to tell you they like that one song you wrote. Let them! Encourage them! Thank them!

4) No one will be interested if your perks are boring.
This is the hardest myth to break, as it just seems so obvious – if people aren’t interested in what your selling then why would they want to be involved? And so the question for artists becomes ‘how can we be interesting?’, and the whole campaign becomes an excerise in appealing to the majority.
The question you should be asking is ‘what is interesting about our band?’ What’s the fascinating part of your art, what makes your songs special and unique? Who’s likely to check you out and why?

This is one area where Lionizer was actually positioned to the advantage from the get-go. One of the main tenets of our band is a DIY work ethic; creating everything ourselves and promoting everything ourselves. So asking people to be a part of that, to join us in being DIY rockstars, and to form a community around that idea, was easy and effective.

Perks and rewards are important and do help your fans feel involved, but we saw a lot of people either not picking perks, or making a donation based on what they felt like giving rather than what they wanted to get. The ‘reward’ wasn’t always the tangible item, in many cases it was simply people wanting to be a part of what we were doing.

Perks should act as just one means for fans to add their support; the different levels encourage people to be involved in your campaign in the way that they want. Cool perks like shows, answer-machine-messages, or even guitar lessons can be a great way to foster that sense of community, and are often more effective than shirts or posters. Because even though your campaign is online…

5) You need to go face to face with fans
So, so, so many people believe the myth of the one-way fan-artist relationship; the fan consumes what the artist creates. While this was never really the Lionizer approach, we definitely had the expectation that we could put our campaign out there online and people would come to it. But that’s not how it works.
Crowdfunding is about community engagement; that’s how the whole thing works, and you need to be just as involved with your fans and supporters as they are with you. This means you need to be out there, networking and talking to people, making new friends and fans, hanging around areas where people who like your music might normally hang out.

For a local band, the obvious first step is just going to more shows (not just the ones you’re playing) and talking to more bands. Become a part of the scene, become known and talked about, and actually be involved. Be real. (EXCELLENT POINT HERE BAILEY – ROB)

If you are actually engaged with your audience and your scene, especially as a small-scale band, you greatly increase your chances of scoring donations. Talk to people at shows, go up and say hi and thanks and all that jazz. Engage, invite, respond.

When we reach out and build a community of people who enjoy and relate to the music and the band, that’s when we create value. Not in dollars, but in engagement. That’s worth something, it’s worth supporting. It’s worth something different to every person, but if you give every person a way of being involved with your band they will support you.

A crowd funding campaign can be a great way to raise cash for your project, but if you play it right, you can get a whole lot more. Remember your campaign will end, but the fans and support you gain from it can and will last. If you let them.

Bailey Lionizer

ROB: Thanks so much for the fantastic insights Bailey! So much really actionable and useful advice. Brilliant post!

Take a look at their Pozible page here – Lionizer Pozible Fundraiser

Shoot them a message or listen to a song here – Lionizer Facebook

Take a look at The Eskimo Joe Pozible page – Eskimo Joe Pozible

Have a look at Amanda Palmers record breaking $1.2m crowdfunding page – Amanda Palmer Kickstarter

Hope that helps.  All the best gang!

Rob Nassif – The Hen House Rehearsal Studios