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Chelsea Wilson is here to answer all your crowdfunding queries

With Chelsea Wilson

Crowdfunding is an alternative and popular means of raising funds for a particular project via the Internet. When donating, fans can choose a reward based on how much money they’ve donated. This could be anything from receiving a vinyl of the very thing you’re supporting or getting VIP tickets to a gig.

Planning a national or international tour? Struggling to find the money to produce your debut album?

Vocalist, songwriter and broadcaster Chelsea Wilson is here to answer all your crowdfunding queries and point you in the direction of a successful campaign.

This year I ran two crowdfunding campaigns – one for the pressing costs of my debut album I Hope You’ll Be Very Unhappy Without Me and a second campaign on behalf of Women of Soul for our compilation album featuring Kylie Auldist, Christina Arnold, Florelie Escano, Lisa Faithfull, May Johnston, Stella Angelico and Rita Satch (to be released May 2015, woop!). I’ve been involved in arts fundraising through my role as Music and Interviews Manager at PBS 106.7FM and have experience asking for donations and memberships on air for my wee radio show ‘Jazz Got Soul’. However, crowd funding for my own music projects was definitely a new experience and was a completely different approach.  If you are thinking about launching your own crowdfunding campaign here a few tips that might help.

Re-set your mind and get over the cringe.

Crowd funding is not begging or busking!  It is a platform that enables participation with your fans, activates the initial marketing campaign for your project and allows people to pre-order/purchase your music. It is providing an opportunity for those early-adopter types to be your super hero fans. In the current climate it is rare for record labels and publishers to pay advances. Recording albums and organising tours are expensive; crowd funding is a tool that can be utilised to fill this gap. I know a lot of musicians who feel apprehensive to try crowdfunding, as they feel embarrassed about ‘asking’ for money. It is hard and I understand first hand how difficult it can be to put yourself out there and ask for support. However, re-think what your crowd are receiving for their pledge and think of it as a pre-order system for your wares rather than a handout. The money is for a project, not for your personal use. If people believe in the project they will want to see it succeed and support you. Believe in yourself and work hard on making your product good and people will feel inspired by your dedication and want to support you. Try and distance yourself a little bit emotionally from the project if that helps.

People like to help! The gift of giving is a good feeling not only for Christmas.

There are so many people who are extremely passionate about music and supporting independent projects and new artists and love being the first out of their friends to discover and support new acts. This is an opportunity to reach those people.

If you make your supporters feel appreciated they will feel like they are part of something; they will feel good about supporting you. Why not create an opportunity for people to feel good? These people can become your hero fans and they will spread the word about you to their friends. They will be at future launches and tours telling their friends ‘I pledged to their first ever crowdfunding campaign’. See crowdfunding as an opportunity to build these relationships and connect with your audience in a new way.

I included a hand written note to each pledger and people were really touched and felt treasured. I included tea bags in my reward bags and other little Australiana goodies in my international pledgers packs. Bit daggy perhaps but my American supporters adored the Aesop hand cream samples and little vegemite samples. People took pictures of the packs and posted them on Facebook and Instagram exclaiming their excitement, which generates more (free) publicity for the project.

Keep your rewards plan simple so you don’t stress out post campaign – you wont regret it! 

Make your rewards as fabulous as possible but keep them time effective to save yourself post-campaign agony. Download codes and electronic gifts are cost effective and easy to deliver so I highly recommend them. It’s great to create personalised messages and hand made items but think carefully about how long it will take you to create these items and how much of your budget will it cut into. If you really want to offer these kind of time-consuming rewards, consider pricing these items up. For example if you offer a YouTube video cover song of the pledgers choice for $50 and have 45 people choose that reward do you really have time to learn, perform and film 45 new songs while you are trying to actually complete the project you are crowdfunding for? Possibly not. So perhaps make that a more expensive pledge so you won’t get caught out with a massive list of things to do at the end of the campaign.  It’s not great to keep your fans waiting either — I have a friend who put personalised sketches as a pozible campaign reward and because they took so long to produce, a year after the campaign people still hadn’t received them.

I produced tote bags to put the vinyl copies in for my album campaign that I screen-printed by hand. It took me four full days to get through the printing work (and I had to learn how to screen print as it was my first time!) and I had three girlfriends and my brother help out also. It was cheaper than getting the bags professionally made and it had a lovely personal touch, but that was four days I could have spent on the album project rather than screen-printing. It also took three full days of packing and sorting to post out all of my rewards. I enlisted my mum and step dad to help assemble the packs. I actually really enjoyed this process and I thought it was worth it. Do be mindful of the time it takes to deliver your campaign post closing time and consider your rewards carefully. Think also about your band if this is a group project — who will be responsible for what elements of the campaign delivery and will it create band issues/tensions if one member is doing more work than the others?

Chelsea will be back next month to discuss additional costs, the importance of having a relationship with your supporters and campaign promotion.

In the meantime, she is open for questions at  chelsea@houseofvaleriejoan.com


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