As an emerging voice in the local Portland music scene, repeated calls for a full-length record was in full effect.
But, as is always the million-dollar question, how does one fund a recording project without a: going in debt b. avoid sitting on a ton of CDs forever because you order a ton because you saved a nickel per CD
But, I digress. It’s a digital world now and the ability to harness this new technology to not only warehouse your music, but to also crowdsource your project.
Knowing how much it was going to cost her to make the album alongside the timeframe set to make the album was cause for a moment of pause to discuss how this could be done in a way that was affordable, timely, and offered an opportunity to her fan-base to come along for the ride.
The result was to do a Kickstarter campaign to crowdsource funds for the project.
Crowdsourcing is the act of sourcing tasks traditionally performed by specific individuals to an undefined large group of people or community (crowd) through an open call.
What is Kickstarter? (from their website)
Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects.
We believe that:
• A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
• A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.
Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.
I love this all or nothing approach as it really can separate those who are serious from those who are not with regards to funding their projects. When my friend decided to go all in, it was just fun to sit back and watch her use this opportunity to mobilize, inspire, connect, educate, and empower her fan base to join her on this journey to fund her album.
In this, a key ingredient to success with using this platform is taking a clearly articulated goal and driving it virally through engagement, listening, and responding to ones community and donors.
Because of her success with this campaign, I recently asked her a few questions to reflect back on the pluses and minuses on it and using the platform itself.
But first, let me introduce you to my friend. She is, Sarah Billings.
(From her website, www.sarahbillings.com)
“The arresting Sarah Billings is the newest arrival to Portland’s well-established rhythm and blues scene.
The description has admittedly become tired, perhaps due to its overuse (or misuse), but Billings comes to the stage a legitimate old soul, a twenty-something sporting a more than mature vocal control, not to mention a more than impressive stage presence—one that is authentic, not postured; relatable, not chatty.”
Q: What was the project you were seeking to raise funds for?
A: Making the album
Q: Why did you choose Kickstarter as the vehicle to raise funds for your project?
A: It had a free, professional template, with clear, reliable way for people from anywhere to donate money electronically safely.
Q: What was the timeframe you set in order to reach your goal?
A: 30 days
Q: What was your strategy to reach your goal?
A: Personal “thank you’s” to each person who donated, follow up is crucial! Letting people know that what they contributed made a difference!
Also posted updates on small goal accomplishments and letting people know how much farther we had to go. Call to action, multiple times a day. Creating a sense of urgency. Humor, video updates. I really wanted to be visible, accessible, and just real.
I also tried to present different amounts to donate, and give different incentives for each amount.
In all, what was critical was to seek: Visibility, Relate-ability, Clarity, Approachability, and Responsiveness.
Q: How important was using social media for helping you achieve your goal?
A: Critical: Facebook, Kickstarter, Twitter, and You Tube were the platforms we used. In this, we just sought to encourage people through messages, status updates, video, re-posts, re-tweets, and responses.
Q: Did you reach your goal? And, how many people contributed?
A: Yes. 90+
Q: Now that you reached your goal, how important is it to maintain contact with your contributors?
A: Crucial. This area is an area I have suffered in, but have re-routed to encourage people who invested.
Q: How is the record coming along? What can we expect from the record as far as style?
A: GREAT! We are DONE! Mixes are finishing up and we are getting ready to release an exclusive live record for Kickstarter supporters only. Couldn’t be happier with a first project!
Q: Would you recommend Kickstarter to others? If so, why?
A: Yes and No. It really depends on the fundraiser’s inclination to utilizing their network. Kickstarter requires your sponsors to not only set up an account with Kickstarter itself, but also with Amazon. It was a HUGE deterrent for MANY of my potential sponsors.
It was a FULL TIME + management job to maintain over the course of about 2 months. Requires creativity, focus, determination, resilience, and a LOT of faith!
Q: Where can we learn more about your music online?
Please check out her website. If you live near a city where she is playing, make the plans to attend one of her shows. Whether see is singing for Oregon Music Hall of Fame member, Norman Sylvester, or with her band of beyond amazing talent… you will not be disappointed.
As for Kickstarter, I really like the ability to crowdsource your projects in an all or nothing format. However, just putting your project up there will not be enough. To be successful, you have to have a plan. You have to be able to articulate your objective. You have to be able to be accountable to those who participated. And most importantly, you must be able to have fun through out the campaign by engaging, listening, and responding to your community and donors.
When I travel around the world and teach my Mindset of Social Media workshop, I will share Sarah as an example of one who did all of the above exceptionally well. Not to mention, she is a pretty dang amazing music artist, too!