Tag Archives: The Art Of Asking

Bird Thomas On The DIY Artist Route Podcast

Bird Thomas, Community-Building Maestro

Bird Thomas, Community-Building Maestro

The DIY Artist Route Podcast continues on in 2016 and I’m so excited to present this conversation with you. Bird Thomas is one of my dearest friends who also embodies strengths that I am inspired by regarding connecting with people. To put it simply, Bird is a very uncommon person.

You can generally tell when you encounter someone who changes the way you feel in a moment’s time. Most people want to be associated with folks who make them feel good about who they are, excited about what’s going on, and enthusiastic enough to go out and get others to join in with the movement. That’s one of the things I first noticed about Bird that showed how uncommon and powerful she is as a community builder.

 

A little insight into Bird and why she’s on the latest podcast episode

She is the Curator of Fun Learning Experiences at the Center For Contemporary Arts in downtown Abilene, Tx. That job title is one of the best there is, and it says a lot about her heart towards the arts. She strongly believes in the power of experiences to shape our motives and actions, as well as the power of intention in all we do. These are 2 things we talk about more specifically in this new podcast episode.

When community building first became a realization for me as a creative entrepreneur, and was further inspired from reading Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, I started going through my Roladex of people I know who do this well. Bird is one of the best people I know. Spend 5 minutes with her and you’ll walk away feeling like the coolest person on the block. Few people have the power to cultivate that kind of impression on a first meeting. It’s something that can be learned, and in this podcast you’ll learn how she empowers others to join in with what she’s doing. This is the essence of community building.

There are so many great nuggets from this conversation. A few of the standout quotes (to go back and listen to again) are:

“If you will learn to just be, moment by moment, you realize that in that particular moment you are ok. Nothing is really threatening you. If you be, as human beings you are meant to do, you realize that everything is fine.”

“The way you achieve things and the way you create things is to first see it in your mind. Everything. Everything begins as a thought. The stronger you build the thought, the faster it becomes a reality.”

“You have to believe that you will achieve whatever you give thought to. You have to believe in yourself.”

If you want to experience what it’s like for the arts community to come alive and involve other members of a community, city or region, venture out here to Art Walk in Abilene. It’s a great way to see a thriving and supportive community in action.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 8.35.45 PM
Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 8.38.28 PM

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 8.38.03 PM

  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.

 

 

The Art Of Asking Is Community Building Manifesto

theartofasking_imageI’ve known the name Amanda Palmer for several years. I’ve known some of the music of Amanda Palmer for about the same amount of time. But after viewing her Ted Talk from 2013, I had to read her book The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Helpbecause her talk spoke to my soul in a way very few people have.

Subsequently, I did something I very rarely do. I bought a brand new book from the book store and paid cover price. You can call me cheap, and you’re right. I buy a lot of books (hard copy and paperback, not digital/Kindle) and my preferred sources are Half-Price Books and Goodwill. Amazon on occasion will do for hard to find stuff. It’s important that you know this little facet about me because I don’t buy new books hardly ever. I made an exception in this case and it was one of the best decisions made this year.

The Art Of Asking is billed as a memoir, and it is. But it’s so much more. Palmer is not your typical artist, both musically or visually. And her openness and honesty with her struggles, self-image, and relationship building pave a subliminal pathway to understanding how asking really works. I’ve struggled my entire life with asking for anything, especially for help and for money. Yes, the two things we as humans, as creatives, and as builders need more than anything are these two things and I have spent decades trying to do so much on my own out of fear of asking.

Asking is a fear shared by you and I and (really) everyone else

It turns out that I’m not alone in having this fear. There’s a strong chance you fear or are at least hesitant in asking for something, though it might not be what I am hesitant in asking for.  I can say it’s because of how I was raised or grew up or something or other, but at the end of the day, I’m the common denominator for why I don’t have what I want and why I couldn’t ask for it. And I have to take responsibility for that.

The Art Of Asking was like a blueprint for me in shedding off the old skin that told me that asking for help, or asking for money, or asking for anything was a sign of weakness or failure, that it would annoy and bother people, that I would be perceived as a taker and not a giver, and that the answer would always be NO. Having written and now looking at that last sentence I see how frail my thinking and ideals had been for so long, which is why I’m so thankful for this book.

It turns out that Amanda struggled with asking too, though her reasons were different, and despite being able to ask her fans for nearly everything from promoting a gig to having a place to sleep after a show (couch surfing as she calls it) , there were somethings she struggled with for a long time before she could ask for it. It took nearly losing someone very close to her for that fear to break.

How to build community the Amanda Palmer way

The headline for this article states that The Art Of Asking is a community building manifesto and it certainly is that. From the perspective of audience growth, there are only a few other artists who have done anything close to building the kind of high powered, passionate, loyal and worldwide audience that Amanda Palmer has. She details what her fan growth process was and it mostly involves being WITH people, giving her fans access to her outside of the music stage, having personal and deep conversations with people who are strangers at first and then become something more.

This is how communities are built. Communication, openness and trust are the pillars of what build the communities we are a part of, be those artistic, business, or the locations we live in. Closing ourselves off from people and only giving them a portion of ourselves, or only showing them our gifts but not our faults limits the power of the community and the people who build it. This is not to say that there aren’t methods of safeguarding yourself against people who don’t have your best interests at heart. Amanda does give a few good examples of where openness went too far, and how she dealt with it. But being afraid of everyone in your community being a potential fiend is not how you treat the people who are building with you.

The Art Of Asking could have also been titled The Art Of Vulnerability or The Art Of Loving Completely. There are some very profound and powerful quotes that are still moving around in my brain, like seedlings just starting to grow roots that will sprout into amazing new things. I want to share some of those quotes with you here in the hopes that it will have a similar effect on you at the very least, and even more, lead you to read this book.

“It isn’t what you say to people, it’s more important what you do with them. It’s less important what you do with them that the way you’re with them.”

“If you love them they will give you everything.”

“It’s about finding your people, your listeners, your readers, and making art for and with them. Not for the masses, not for the critics, but for your ever-widening circles of friends. It doesn’t mean you’re protected from criticism. But if your art touches a single heart, strikes a single nerve, you’ll see people quietly heading your way and knocking on your door. Let them in. Them them to bring their friends up. If possible, provide wine.”

Amanda does talk a lot about naysayers, and breaking free from the ideals or criticism of people who consider asking to be the same as “shameless self-promotion.” This is especially hard for artists (or for anyone) who aren’t naturally social. This is what leads many artists to try and find a promoter or label to do the asking for them. At times that’s a good fit, but too often it’s not because the art of connection is the art of communication, and even people who think they lack a social strength still need to engage directly with people in some capacity.

Overcoming the fear of asking for help

All artists and creators face a similar fear: the fear of rejection or the fear of criticism. That’s honestly what kept me plugging away in near isolation building my work for many years. Thankfully I’ve been blessed to have some incredible friends, colleagues, and family who are givers despite my unwillingness to ask. Chances are you have connections with people like this too. What is keeping you from asking? Let me know, I’d love to hear your story and build community with you.

If you want more inspiration, enjoy her Ted Talk that would eventually lead to the writing of her memoir.

*Yes there are affiliate links to Amazon.com in this post for you to buy Amanda’s book should you be so moved by my experience with it and want to have a similar experience yourself. I appreciate you reading and choosing to buy through this page. You can click on this image here to see more details on buying the book on Amazon (which is cheaper than any other bookseller, and free shipping if you’re a Prime member).