John & Brittany: Crowd funding done right

Hello everybody!

 The beginning of this entry will be somewhat nostalgic. You know, we have been thinking. When the internet became available for masses in the early 90’s, we have been the first ones in our high schools to realize that a new era has begun. Nobody else but us (and that included our IT teachers!) paid attention to the first appearing forums, fans gatherings, web rings and early fan made HTML websites that would make your hair stand on their ends if you have seen them today. There was no Youtube, no Facebook, no Google and Twitter has not yet been invented. Mind you! Yahoo was just starting up and Altavista was the place to go. To listen to the new music, we had to stay up till 4 am and listen to Atlantic 252 (in Poland!) or Z-rock top 40 to record the songs from the radio while covering the speakers with our pillows and trying not to wake up our parents and neighbours. The bands we loved were as distant as the galaxy far, far away. We gathered and treasured every piece of information, a press article and interview we laid our hands on. If somebody would have told me back then that soon we would be able to know what the artists had for lunch or what they wore on their way to the dentist, I would have laughed. Celebrity gossips do not make us laugh at all but I hope you get the point. 15 years ago music industry was a magical thing. It was a different realm, million miles from you, ruled by the CD, record companies and The Billboard. Fans were important of course, after all they were the source of income for the industry, but they had little to say. As you know, things have changed. A lot.

John & Brittany ‘s Poster for the Kickstarter campaign. Used with permission

Some would say they have changed for the worse, some would say they’ve changed for the better. After several years of running e-commerce and social media campaigns for various artists and video games industry, we stand in the middle. We have seen the good, the bad and the (really) ugly side of this business. Since opening of the blog in 2009, we have been asked many times why do we keep on going. If you want to know, it’s because we love what we do. Maybe it’s because the good surpasses the bad. Or maybe because the fans are finally in control. And how much power they have!

John and Brittany, picture used with permission.
Please visit their website at: http://johnbrittany.com

Fan campaigns, pledge campaigns, Internet collective funding, fundraisers, crowd funding or whatever you want to call those projects, are on the raise. It’s not our intention to explain how the social funding works; you all know it by now. However, an effective campaign must be run properly to succeed. It must be well prepared, thought out and promoted. Without it, your campaign will fail and you will find yourself in a situation where you won’t be able to deliver what you promised. Believe us – broken trust has been the death sentence to many brilliant projects. What can you do? Learn from the best. Ladies and gentlemen – please take a look at the stellar example of a campaign that has been prepared right – and it pays off (literally!). Let us introduce you to John Faye and Brittany Rotondo – of Philadelphia duo John & Brittany.

1.Website

Don’t be angry, we are not stating the obvious. Before you even start thinking about gathering funds for your project, you will need a website. Forget about WordPress blog or Facebook page – they won’t do. Build a proper website with several sections, pictures, drawings, links and everything else that will help you explain who you are and why you need the support. Being lazy will turn away the prospective funders.  A single logo with the link to your Myspace/Youtube page is a suicide move. If you are in a band and the management is running your website, make sure they listen to you, otherwise fire them. Myspace is not popular anymore, anyway. You don’t want to hang out with the old news, do you? 😀

John & Brittany’s website. Screenshot by Rita Dabrowicz

John and Brittany know how to attract the attention. Their website has all the right buttons and all the hot stuff. The information about their campaign is also displayed in the centre – all eyes on it! You can pay them a visit and see for yourself: http://johnbrittany.com/

2. Social media

Facebook: God may have given us rock and roll, but Mark Zuckenberg gave us Facebook. It’s free so use it. You have several options here: you can create groups, community pages, or a profile. If you have a personal wall, make sure your friends and visitors know about it. Don’t be afraid to advertise yourself – the more people know about you, the better (but forget about spamming). Also give credits to photographers and fans. Talk to them, exchange opinions, post videos and snapshots. Have fun, but stay in control. Only you know how the campaign should look like and stick to your plan. A sense of humour is a great marketing tool as well. Did you know that John and Brittany write songs about robbing banks? Now you do!

J & B’s official Facebook page. Screenshot by Rita Dabrowicz

John and Brittany profile: https://www.facebook.com/johnbrittany
John’s profile: https://www.facebook.com/jfaye
Brittany’s profile https://www.facebook.com/brittany.rotondo.3

Events: The great thing about Facebook is that it allows you to create a multiple events and link them to your profile or community page. They are super easy to manage: you can activate and close them as you please, add and remove applications and you even see how many people you invited and how many have replied. Once you have several events, they make a nice little timeline too. Oh, and you won’t forget the dates either, Facebook will remind you that your event is getting closer.

Facebook’s event page for the Kickstarter campaign. Screenshot by Rita Dabrowicz

You can join John and Brittan’s Kickstarter fundraiser effort here:
https://www.facebook.com/johnbrittany#!/events/390393977672789/

Youtube: Youtube channel for a music projects is a must have. Make it look professional and clean. Again, something that should be obvious for all but it’s not always the case. Do not use band pictures/album covers as backgrounds here, it makes your channel look terrible and it’s hard to read anything. If you must, use graphic program and make them semi transparent or darker. On their channel, John and Brittany post special videos made especially for the Kickstarter event and acoustic covers – a perfect treat for their fans, as you will not find them anywhere else.  Updates are being posted every week- they build the interest in the band and make the people come back for more. This is how you do it!

John and Brittany’s channel on Youtube. Screenshot by Rita Dabrowicz

Official channel for John and Britany:
http://www.youtube.com/startsinning

Please take a closer look at the official trailer for the Kickstarter campaign prepared by the incredible duo. It can be viewed here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=983XqgfsZ8k&feature=plcp

Twitter: Twitter took the world by storm by offering short message service that can be sent and exchanged with others. You can post everything you wish: from simple hellos to announcements and business statements. Twitter golden rule is: be quick, straightforward and to the point, as you have limited amount of characters you can use. The life span of Twitter message is 20 minutes. It doesn’t disappear and will be visible on your own “wall” but this is how long it takes for a message to go out of the main page. When campaigning, you may want to post messages every few hours, especially in the last days of your fundraiser, just to remind people and build up the tension. You can also follow all your fav artists, newspaper, music magazines, industry people as well and even re-tweet their messages to your profile. Twitter is a great tool but must be used systematically. Posting once every few months will make you look bad. Really bad.

John Faye’s personal Twitter account used to promote the campaign. Screenshot by Rita Dabrowicz

There is also another good thing about Twitter. It works like good old IRC channel (remember that medium anybody?) It incorporates topics into “channels” that can be easily accessed with a hash-tag (#). Millions of channels exist inside the Twitterverse, some are popular, some are hardly used. It is good to know which ones to use to reach your audience. In our endeavours, we tend to use several groups:

–     General:  #Music #RockMusic #Alternative #Rock #Indie #KickStarter
–     Emotive: #RockOn #MusicthatIlove #KickAss  #HornsUp
–      Activity-based: #NowListening #NowPlaying #MusicIListenTo

Once you are set up on Twitter, you will be able to come up with your own tags or will discover new ones, but if you don’t know where to start, you are welcomed to use ours. Don’t forget to shorten links to save space in your messages. For that you can use www.tinyurl.com

John’s ever bust Twitter page:  https://twitter.com/#!/johnkfaye

Reverbnation – Reverbnation is a social network for music industry professionals. If you are promoting your band, setting a profile here can be very useful. It not only links you to two million other users, but also helps you to gather all useful information in one single place: Youtube subscribers, Facebook fans and likes, song & video plays and many others. Reverbnation allows you to contact prospective venues and clubs managers as well to book a gig. If you are successful, a map will be added to your profile showing your fans the quickest way to your concert.   Special button called “book the band” makes it easier for others to approach you too – the communication works in both ways! Another great bonus is the press section – you can post quotes from interviews or newspaper reviews to show where your name appeared in print. John and Brittany’s page on Reverbnation has been called one of the best among new coming bands.

Revebnation’s profile for John and Brittany. Screenshot by Rita Dabrowicz

Please take a closer look how the proper profile should look like: http://www.reverbnation.com/johnbrittany

3. The Campaign

All right, let’s say you have website and several social profiles ready. Now it’s time to present your idea to the world. The first rule is to choose a reliable website that won’t make people think that you are a scam artist. You have several options here like: PledgeMusic (www.pledgemusic.com), Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com), Sellaband (www.sellaband.com) or Artistshare (www.artistshare.com) to name a few.

John and Brittany decided on Kickstarter as it fitted them perfectly. Browse the Internet and look for reviews from other artists. Do not decide on a website just because a friend of yours recommended it. Be certain that this is what you want – we have seen a great campaign going down the drain just because the manager thought it will be a splendid idea. It wasn’t and it returned to bite the poor fellows in the rear.

Screens from the Kickstarter fundraiser trailer taken by Rita Dabrowicz

If you can finance the project yourself – do it! There is no need to collect the money from others when you have the funds. It will be quicker and will save you a lot of grief. The same goes if you have already acquired sponsors earlier. When people find out you had the money to pay for the project in the first place, the whole idea of community support falls through. In short – do it only if you really miss the vital funds. Take note that most campaigns work on the all – or – nothing basis. You either raise 100% and you receive the funds, or you wont receive them at all (if your targets are not met) hence it is important to really promote it. Sitting around and waiting for a miracle won’t do. It will only turn those who involved themselves into the campaign sour, your fan base will be divided or feel betrayed and in the end whatever was built, will crumble like a house of cards.

Main page of John and Brittany Kickstarter campaign. Screenshot by Rita Dabrowicz

John and Brittany know exactly what they want and they went for it. The results? Over 7,650 $ raised in nearly three weeks (remember – not every website will give information how much money were collected. PledgeMusic for example will only display % results of your campaign). Please take a look at the screen shot of their main Kickstarter page. It includes a very detailed bio, description of the whole project and the terms and conditions: what can you “buy” from the band, when the product will be delivered (estimated delivery) and how the band can fulfil their obligations (within 150 miles of Philadelphia or anywhere in the Continental US if you want the VIP package). The rules are clear and the band won’t have to worry how to transport their gear if the VIP living room gig is purchased by the Arctic explorers 😀

Their campaign can be seen here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/startsinning/john-and-brittany-start-sinning-the-new-record

John and Brittany’s campaign is featured on the main page of Kickstarter website. Screenshot by Malicia Dabrowicz

When your campaign becomes popular with the public, it can be placed at the first page of your chosen site. You’ll need a bit of luck with that but crowd founding websites are looking for successful stories so drop them a line of your achievements. John and Britt have been chosen as their campaign had an excellent start. We have taken a screenshot when they appeared in Discover New Music section on Kickstarter.

Staff members chose John and Brittany’s campaign as their favourite. We cannot blame them! Screenshot by Malicia Dabrowicz

The second screenshot was taken when the campaign has been picked by the Kickstarter staff. We do not know how can you influence them to be picked up (maybe send them a cake?) but it is considered a true honour. Staff picks up three finished and three ongoing campaigns for every city and the artists are displayed under the Discovery tab.

Campaign updates: Crowd founding is all about updates. They are the heart and soul of the whole project and without them your readers will forget that the campaign is still ongoing. Make sure you have something interesting to say at least once every two weeks. Adding pictures and videos will make them look even better. What ever you do, don’t post a single sentence updates – you know why and we hope we don’t have to explain!

John posts an update on Kickstarter campaign page, thanking fans for the support.
Screenshot by Malicia Dabrowicz

John and Brittany posted a long and detailed update with big thanks to those who donated.

John’s full entry can be found here:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/startsinning/john-and-brittany-start-sinning-the-new-record/posts

4. Store

You do not have to be a professional musician to sell your music. Opening an Internet store with your music can generate more funds for your big project and help people to become familiar with your previous albums (if you have them!). John & Brittany’s songs can be downloaded on iTunes. Go and buy them before they are replaced with something new!

John and Brittany’s iTunes store. Screenshot by Rita Dabrowicz

We hope you enjoyed this small report regarding crowd financing as it stands today. Perhaps it will inspire you to promote your favourite musicians better. Mal and Rita would like in this point to pay respect to the heroes who started the whole trend of self-financing, before self-financing was cool. There is a band that paved the road 12 years ago, when nobody even dreamt of Pledge Music and Kick Starters.

Thank you Marillion 😀

Please return soon as we have spoken with John and Brittany and we will be posting their confessions online very soon!

Xxxx
Rita and Mal

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