Monday, November 25, 2013

Composers and Kickstarter, Part II (7+ tips for a great Kickstarter project)

In my previous blog, I discussed four effective Kickstarter projects that involved composition-related projects.  In this blog, I offer seven tips for making a standout Kickstarter campaign. In full disclosure, I have not yet personally run a Kickstarter project, but plan to in the not-so-distant future and have been conducting research for my own entry into the Kickstarter arena. I present these seven tips from the premise that you have put together a compelling project and possess the musical skills to do what you propose. 

For all Kickstarter projects listed below, click on the project titles to link to the Kickstarter website.

1. You will connect better to your prospective funders if they see you and hear directly from you on the video. Watch Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 4: Bliss. Whitacre starts his video by looking at the viewer right in the eye; he also spends quite a bit of time in front of the camera throughout the video. I have found plenty of videos that lack this quality face time. Instead of coming across as an artist who is passionate about your project, you run the risk of having potential funders view your video like an informercial or documentary, particularly if you use only voice-overs in lieu of video footage.

2. Be genuine. Try to be relaxed on camera. If you appear anxious or you’re trying to be something you’re not, viewers will pick up on this. Once again, watch the opening of Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 4: Bliss. Notice how relaxed Whitacre is as he talks.  He doesn’t hurry his words, and he takes pauses between sentences. If you scan enough Kickstarter projects, you’ll start to see what works for you and what doesn’t.

3. Explain what you are requesting right away on the video, and at or near the top of your project description on your Kickstarter page. Don’t make the prospective funder wait until the end of the video to find out what you’re asking for, or make them scroll too far down on the screen. The funder could lose interest along the way.

4. Get creative with the pledge gifts. Every Kickstarter project offers an array of gifts offered to meet a variety of price points. Many projects have several typical gifts, such as pre-release digital downloads, autographed CDs, and printing a funder’s name on an organization’s website, CD liner notes, or concert program. While these standard gifts should certainly be included, don’t miss an opportunity to think outside the box. For instance, the choir Cantus (A new work for Cantus by composer Byron Adams) offered a signed and printed photograph of the entire choir holding up the funder’s name and the words “thank you!” Composer Rene Orth’s pledge gifts (The Red Thread) included Orth writing and recording the donor’s own personal theme song (very unusual and fun!). Composer Andrew Norman (Play) offered a composition lesson either in person if the donor lives in NUC, or otherwise by Skype. All three gifts are items that don’t take much of a composer’s or ensemble’s time, but yet can be very unique and meaningful for a funder.

5. Learn from other people’s projects. Find projects that you think are effective and figure out why. Look over projects that failed to reach their funding threshold and see what you can ascertain the cause. Kickstarter keeps all funded and unfunded projects on their server, so you can peruse past projects.

6. Consider donating to other people’s Kickstarter campaigns. When you create your Kickstarter project page, people will be able to see how many campaigns you’ve personally backed. Some prospective funders might be turned off by an artist who has never supported anyone else’s project. It doesn’t take much to be supportive of others, and being generous with others may persuade others be generous with you.

7. Study Kevin Clark’s website. Clark is a composer and a Kickstarter project guru. His website contains valuable insights and information about how to plan your budget, craft your pledge gifts, and cultivate your list of funders. He also includes a very useful Excel spreadsheet that you can download and use when you plan your campaign.

My last bit of advice is be sure to set aside time every few days while running your campaign to work on it. You’ll need to raise awareness of your project with your family, friends, and supporters. Depending on how much money you’re trying to raise and over what length of time, you will likely need to send out a steady stream of email/social media reminders throughout the campaign to get people to donate. One intriguing strategy employed by singer Patrice Michaels (Intersection: Jazz Meets Classical) was to give short-term goals for prospective funders, such as if she reached a target dollar amount within 24 hours, she would post a new video online of her singing a song from her upcoming album. She also offered to sing happy birthday over the phone (or emailed as an audio file) to three people of the donor’s choice for anyone who pledged $50 within a special promotion period. Michaels reached her goal and made it fun along the way for her prospective funders.

So get creative and craft your own Kickstarter project!