Tag Archives: crowdfunding

Sometimes When You Need Just A Little Encouragement

Image by Megan Lynette

Image by Megan Lynette

It’s the start of a new year. Most of us are busy setting to work on getting things really going so that we can achieve our New Year’s Resolutions, or more practically that goals we set to build on last year’s victories.

Are you with me on this?

Here’s something that keeps popping up here and there in just the 4 short days of 2016, and I want to focus a little time on it now with you so we can move forward to achieve our shared and individual goals AND enjoy the process.

Sometimes we need just a little encouragement.

I’m going to be tempted to get bogged down in details with finding the right THIS or the best THAT to use in employing strategic elements to reach my goals this year. And there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll see someone advertising on Facebook or soliciting on Google that they were able to build, grow and reach millions of new people with tons of new business, all in just 3 weeks (or something ridiculous like that), and I might feel like I missed the mark.

I’m still working on reaching the big goals I set 3 years ago as far as reach and I haven’t made it yet. But I will.

However, I’ll admit to you that I do get a little discouraged at the pace of growth sometimes. You might get discouraged too, right? Do you feel a little bit thrown off like you missed the boat when you see an ad or a pitch for an online course, Ebook, or webinar where someone claims to have done something that you’ve spent months or years working on, and they achieved it in days or weeks? Most of these claims aren’t entirely accurate (experience showed me this unfortunately, but that’s a conversation we can have later) yet the feeling is real.

Sometimes we need just a little encouragement to see that when we keep working, stay focused on our goals, and put to use the insights and ideas that even outside events show us, good things can hapen. We’ll see our dreams come to life, and we’ll celebrate the victories that accomplishing goals brings us.

With the notion that disappointment might try to sneak in and throw off my groove, I’ve been on the lookout for some small pieces of encouragement, and have successfully found a few. I want to share them with you, so that you can grab them when the little antagonizing voice of disappointment or failure comes sneaking up on you and tries to throw off your groove. Then you can punch it in the mouth with this great stuff.

Here we go.

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First, I’m a football fan and being from Houston I celebrate the Texans. Sorry Cowboy fans, it’s been a tough year for you guys. Hopefully something good can happen in the offseason.

The Texans made it to the Playoffs this year for the first time since 2012, beating the Jaguars yesterday 30-6. It was a tremendous game that saw the defense do things that would make for a full season highlight reel. The encouragement I found from this was more than just a victory, and more than just a trip to the playoffs. These guys had been written off as losers and a lost season just 8 weeks ago.

Think about that.

Most teams who start 2-5 don’t end up with winning seasons, and they also don’t make the playoffs. The coaching staff (led by Bill O’Brien) changed the way the team practiced, putting the decisions of game-time flow in the hands of the players instead of telling them what to do during the week. That changed everything. They went on to win 6 of their next 8 games, take the team to the post season and do what the sports world had said wouldn’t happen. That to me is encouraging. It means that when things aren’t working out, I can change something small, or something off the radar and get better results.

Switching from sports to politics might be a little off-kilter but that’s ok too. I don’t want to weigh in on the political race of 2016, because it is a bit of a divisive mess right now. However, it’s interesting to look at some recent news posted on the campaign of Bernie Sanders, the independent Senator from Vermont (who is running for the Democratic nomination). Like him or not and regardless of your political views, he should be someone that entrepreneurs, small businesses and especially musicians pay attention to because of his grassroots growth.

Remember that little temptation I mentioned earlier that most of us fall prey to, the one that tells us we’re failing if we don’t grow exponentially in our platform audiences in a short amount of time? Bernie has done something in his campaign that most crowdfunders dream of, let alone small business startups and DIY musicians. He’s raised millions of dollars appealing to people on a personal and real way.

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I took this little pic off of Facebook because it’s the easiest to illustrate. Again, I reference these stats and Bernie’s growth not because of his politics but because of how he’s connecting with real people. On a whole, I’ve talked a lot about the difference between building empires and building communities. I believe community building beats empires over time. It would appear that this is true based on these stats too, regardless of whether he wins the nomination for the Democratic party or not.

The encouragement I get from seeing this little blurb is that when you are real with people, appeal to individuals on a common level and not segregate others out or kick people out because of some jaded belief system, you can build strong and powerful bonds with people of different walks of life, different cultures, different beliefs, but shared values. Isn’t that what makes strong communities vibrant and thriving?

A more little note of encouragement on this piece-note that the average gift to his campaign is less than $30. That’s less than the average contribution to a nonprofit fundraising campaign, a public radio pledge drive, or a crowdfunding campaign for a tech startup. Again, it’s not about the size of the gift but the way that individuals are impacted. I can be encouraged by that. How about you?

Me with Iron & Wine in 2010, presenting him a Golden Fork Award trophy (the first ever made)

Me with Iron & Wine in 2010, presenting him a Golden Fork Award trophy (the first ever made)

One final piece of encouragement to start the year off, this time I’ll dive into a different realm in music. I confess to spending absolutely zero time looking at anything involving pop music. I admit to following the latest news with Adele and Taylor Swift only because of the impact of the music licensing royalties with Soundexchange and the new lawsuit against Spotify because it pertains to my work (both in radio and in working with musicians). Their shared impact on music streaming platforms is intriguing as well.

Plus, in an age when music streaming is the standard method of listening for most people, their success highlights the fact that people continue to buy albums. Musicians, make note of this.

I heard a little bit of both Adele and Swift’s albums from 2015. My conclusion? Not really impressed, and it’s not because they’re pop stars. I don’t get the heart, soul and powerful presence from them that I do from the albums by Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell (Sing Into My Mouth), Trevor Hall (who had 2 releases in 2015 and both were stellar) or Brandi Carlile (The Firewatcher’s Daughter). Only Carlile among them got national recognition (via a Grammy nom). Yet despite the lack of national attention, these artists continue to grow their audiences by making great albums, convicted to the notion that real music is found in a full album experience that they deliver time and time again. By the way, they’re all nominated for a big award I do every year and you can hear 2 cuts from their 2015 releases HERE.

In a music world (and industry) that seems to be dictated by flashy imagery and millions of social media imprints, here are 4 musicians who don’t fit the pop culture’s mold of success and yet they continue to write, perform and thrive. That my friend, is inspiring. Here’s the thing though, these are just a very small group of the many MANY musicians out there who are thriving and winning in this constantly changing marketplace for music, one where the industry is panicked. When you connect with real people by giving them a powerful experience, you will win. That’s the way it works.

What experience are you giving?

That’s the question I’m asking myself every week when I sit down to produce The Appetizer Radio Show. What experience am I providing? What experience do I want my audience to have? I think that every musician and every business owner should let that question pass through their brains at some point during every week, at least a few times. In the end, it’s the experience that brings people back to us, that we build community together with, and who help us reach the goals we set out for ourselves.

Did you need a little encouragement to start your week? Good. Now let’s move forward together!

Lessons Learned In Crowdfunding

Two months ago I launched my first ever crowdfunding campaign. It was, to say the least, an adventure. It was also a big learning experience in both communications, outreach, community building and fundraising.

I thought I was pretty good with at least 2 of those 4 categories, and I did learn new things in each of them. Since crowdfunding has become a more common approach to fundraising and project creation for both entrepreneurs, startups, and musicians, I wanted to share the lessons I learned in crowdfunding with you, so that you can have even more success with your projects.

What I’m going to share here in no way makes me an expert on crowdfunding. There are plenty of people who have run campaigns that raised 100s of 1000s of dollars and more. Our campaign was relatively small, but we did fund it successfully, while several similar projects have had a rough go at getting funded. Here is what I learned that you can and lessons you can take with you to make your campaign run successfully.

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  1. Do a lot of research BEFORE you start your campaign.

I did a lot of reading and asked friends who have done crowdfunders before how their campaigns worked, what they did right and what they would do differently if they could do it over again. I also read a ton of articles before we started the campaign. I did a lot of research before I picked which crowdfunding platform to use. Regarding tactics and strategies used, Amanda Palmer is one of my biggest mentors for this by way of her book The Art Of Asking.

I’m a big fan of PledgeMusic (even beyond having interviewed Benji Rogers for a kickass conversation) and what kind of connection-building platform they have, but the project we did was not something that we could necessarily bring our audience into the making of. Our biggest challenge on which crowdfunding platform to use came down to Indiegogo, Go Fund Me or Kickstarter.

Kickstarter has a more robust set of tools and more funders use it, which leads to a greater overall contribution total than all other crowdfunding platforms. However, there’s only 1 way you can raise money and that’s if you raise 100% of your goal. Indiegogo gives you to option to keep a portion of your goal, or whatever you raise. Initially, that was the deciding factor in picking Indiegogo, except that we ended up selecting the Fund All option (more on that in a bit).

2. Get a commitment for 20-30% of your goal total before you launch your campaign.

This was something that came up consistently in the research. Before you kick off your campaign, have some commitment from your fans, followers, audience, email list or family and friends who pledge to fund a portion of your campaign. I got this commitment via email 2-3 weeks before we started the campaign, with suggested pledge levels and a few insights into possible perks.

Suggested contribution amounts in that introductory email are important. Some people will contribute at the suggested level, while others will give a different amount. When we kicked off the campaign, we had a solid first few days where we eclipsed 30% of the goal in no time. It was a great launch to the campaign itself.

3. Be patient with the process.

The solid start led me to a little fear after the first week when we hit this lull and the contributions virtually stopped for a few days. It was agonizing. I mentioned getting a solid commitment from folks via email but there were several people who didn’t respond to the initial email message and I wondered if my message had been lost. The lull in campaign support and the lack of response to messages in those days made me question a lot about my ability to communicate effectively, the value of our project (the creation of The Appetizer Radio App, which will debut before the end of 2015).

Fear is common in fundraising but you have to remember that it is a 30 days process and not something that happens overnight. I was reminded of this fact when we had a final surge towards the end of the campaign and eclipsed our total goal well before the campaign end date.

Crowdfunding isn’t an overnight fundraising event, or even a week long pledge campaign. It takes 30 days (60 if you elect to run that long). My fundraising experience in public radio pledge drives lasted 7 days on end, and there were usually 1-3 days in the middle of those drives where the pledges and contributions were stagnant. I had to recall those experiences in the midst of this crowdfunder as a reminder that the beginning and the end of the campaign is when the majority of your fundraising contributions come int.

4. Crowdfunding is sales and it takes a sales strategy to be successful.

Like I wrote about last week, we are all in sales no matter what industry or career we’re in. Crowdfunding is a sales process too, even though the setup is different. The core sales aspect is that you’re campaigning to get people to buy into your idea, your project, and the benefits that funding the campaign will provide for them. You have to sell people on the campaign, the project, and above all on you. None of the process is a given and nothing is guaranteed (more on that later).

Sales strategy is very much a matter of clear communication, which has to be a commitment from everyone on your team. I had 3 people working with me on our campaign so that it wasn’t all on me to take care of. The other responsibilities included marketing and promotions on our blog and social channels, outreach to new people, followup on contributions, email marketing messages, and updates to the campaign.

I also added videos and images periodically through the campaign to show more of what the value of the project is to existing and new funders. These videos helped to strengthen the connection to the project and provide more incentive to give. The videos were easily produced using iMovie. Production time took about 1 hour per video.

5. Don’t buy the promotion pitches you’ll receive after you start.

This was a big mistake I avoided and am very relieved we did. Almost immediately after the campaign began, we started getting private messages on Twitter and through Indiegogo from all of these companies who claim to be able to put your campaign in front of millions of crowdfunding supporters.

We already had the campaign shared on every social platform a whole lot and had some other media talking about the campaign. We weren’t at a loss of publicity or people talking about it. Chances are you will have a lot of people talking up your campaign too. If you follow my previous advice you’ll be in good shape. None of the contributors to our campaign were from random people who just saw our campaign and thought “Hey that looks cool. I’ll give them $5 to help out.”

That’s not the way crowdfunding works. There are hundreds of campaigns going on at any given time. People don’t part with their money easily. You have to build a connection with them and give them a reason to support your project. The so-called social media promotion companies all charge $25-$150 or more to put your campaign out to their list of people. They will message you throughout your campaign with solicitations to buy their promotions. Save your money and focus your energies on connecting with the people you know and the communities you’re in to get support.

6. Followup is key before and after the campaign ends.

This is one of the biggest lessons you can learn in community building. Followup and strong communication pave the way for better connections and more fruitful collaborations. I’ve seen crowdfunding projects that are funded successfully and then spend months without contacting the supporters to let them know updates or news about the project. How detrimental to your success is that!

We’ve made it a point to not only post updates to our Indiegogo campaign through their site but also email our funder list periodically to inform them on the status of the app, questions about particulars for perk items, deliverables and new connection information. And we’ve made it possible to continue to support the campaign after it ended (what Indiegogo uses is In Demand). These people are not just your funders, they’re your strongest community members. Keep them in the know for ongoing success and connections.

In conclusion

Crowdfunding is not a guaranteed way to fund your next recording project or make up for the money you already invested in your big idea. It is a way to really connect with the people in your community and garner their trust. Crowdfunding is about relationships and networking, and it requires a strong skill set in relationship management to be successful. If you want to just make money, pick a different method. If you want to build connection with your community and expand your network for a project that you don’t have the funds for on your own, consider crowdfunding as a viable option.

If you need any help, tell me how I can serve you.