Funding School: Defining your campaign
Whether it’s a new CD, a music video, or a piece of equipment, the one trait that every MusicMerchNow! campaign shares is that it is a campaign. Defining, what your MusicMerchNow! campaign is, is the first step for every creator.
What are you raising funds to do? Having a focused and well-defined campaign with a clear beginning and end is vital. For example: recording a new album is a finite campaign — the campaign finishes when the band releases the album — but launching a music career is not. There is no end, just an ongoing effort. MusicMerchNow! is open only to finite campaigns.
With a precisely defined goal, expectations are transparent for both the creator and potential backers. Backers can judge how realistic the campaign’s goals are, as well as the campaign creator’s ability to complete them. And for creators, the practice of defining a campaign’s goal establishes the scope of the endeavor, often an important step in the creative process.
MusicMerchNow thrives on these open exchanges and clear explanations of goals. Make sure your campaign does this!
If you're unsure if your campaign is a good fit for MusicMerchNow! (or if MusicMerchNow! is a good fit for your campaign), we'd encourage you to read the MusicMerchNow! Campaign Guidelines and peruse recommended and successful campaigns in your campaign's category.
Funding School: Creating Rewards
Rewards are what backers receive in exchange for donating to a campaign. The importance of creative, tangible, and fairly priced rewards cannot be overstated. Campaigns whose rewards are overpriced or uninspired struggle to find support.
Deciding what to offer
Every campaign’s primary rewards should be things made by the campaign itself. If the campaign is to record a new album, then rewards should include a copy of the CD when it’s finished. Rewards ensure that backers will benefit from a campaign just as much as its creator (i.e., they get cool stuff that they helped make possible!).
MusicMerchNow! isn’t charity: we champion exchanges that are a mix of commerce and patronage, and the numbers bear this out. To date the most popular pledge amount is $25 and the average pledge is around $70. Small amounts are where it’s at: campaigns without a reward less than $20 succeed 28% of the time, while campaigns with a reward of $20 or less succeed 45% of the time.
So what works? Offering something of value, both for the successful and consolation tiers. Actual value considers more than just sticker price. If it’s a limited edition or a one-of-a-kind experience, there’s a lot of flexibility based on your audience. But if it’s a manufactured good, then it’s a good idea to stay reasonably close to its real-world cost.
One reward level, and one consolation prize!!
Example: CD Production
$20 Success - The new CD and a sticker
$20 Consolation - A thank you note and a band sticker
$50 Success - The new CD, a band sticker and two tickets to an upcoming show!
$50 Consolation - A band sticker and two tickets to an upcoming show!
$100 Success - The new CD, a band sticker, and 2 VIP access tickets to an upcoming show!
$100 Consolation - A band sticker, and 2 VIP access tickets to an upcoming show!
There is no magic bullet. We encourage every campaign to be as creative and true to itself as possible. Put yourself in your backers’ shoes: would you drop the cash on your rewards? The answer to that question will tell you a lot about your campaign’s potential.
DEFINING A CAMPAIGN
Funding School: Setting your goal
MusicMerchNow! operates on a rewards based "everyone wins" funding model where every campaign receives funds raised regardless of the goal being met or not.
Campaigns must set a funding goal and a length of time to reach it. There’s no magic formula to determining the right goal or duration. Every campaign is different, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
Researching your budget
How much money do you need? Are you raising the full budget or a portion of it? Have you factored in the cost of producing rewards and delivering them to backers? Avoid later headaches by doing your research, and be as transparent as you can. Backers will appreciate it.
Considering your networks
MusicMerchNow! is not a magical source of money. Funding comes from a variety of sources — your audience, your friends and family, your broader social networks, and, if your campaign does well, strangers from around the web. It’s up to you to build that momentum for your campaign.
Choosing your goal
Once you’ve researched your budget and considered your reach, you’re ready to set your funding goal. Figure out how much money you need to complete the campaign as promised (while considering how much funding you think you can generate), and select an amount close to that.
Setting your campaign deadline
Campaigns can last anywhere from seven to 60 days, however a longer campaign duration is not necessarily better. Statistically, campaigns lasting 30 days or less have our highest success rates. A MusicMerchNow! campaign takes a lot of work to run, and shorter campaigns set a tone of confidence and help motivate your backers to join the party. Longer durations incite less urgency, encourage procrastination, and tend to fizzle out.
Funding School: Making your video
A video is by far the best way to get a feel for the emotions, motivations, and character of a campaign.
It’s a demonstration of effort and a good predictor of success. Campaigns with videos succeed at a much higher rate than those without (50% vs. 30%).
We know that making a video can be intimidating. Not many of us like being in front of a camera. We also know that making a video is a challenge worth taking on. It says you care enough about what you’re doing to put yourself out there. It's a small risk with a big reward.
If you have computer access and a ready supply of enthusiasm, you’ve got all you need. Some videos are big montages and others are epic long takes, but most videos are just someone telling their story straight into the camera. You can spend days shooting and editing, or you can just knock it out with a couple friends on a Saturday. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be you.
No matter how creative or bare-bones your video, you'll want to:
Tell us who you are.
Tell us the story behind your campaign. Where'd you get the idea? What stage is it at now? How are you feeling about it?
Come out and ask for people's support, explaining why you need it and what you'll do with their money.
Talk about how awesome your rewards are, using any images you can.
Explain that even if you don't reach your goal, everyone who donates is still a winner and will get a reward regardless of the outcome of the campaign.
And don't be afraid to put your face in front of the camera and let people see who they’re giving money to. We’ve watched thousands of these things, and you’d be surprised what a difference this makes.
Another thing to remember: don't put any copyrighted music in your video without permission! Expensive lawsuits are never fun. Here are some music resources you can use when the time comes: SoundCloud, Vimeo Music Store, Free Music Archive, and ccMixter.
Funding School: Building Your Campaign
As you build your campaign, take your time!
The average successfully funded creator spends nearly two weeks tweaking their campaign before launching. A thoughtful and methodical approach can pay off.
Titling your campaign
Your MusicMerchNow campaign title should be simple, specific, and memorable, and it should include the title of the creative campaign you're raising funds for. Imagine your title as a distinct identity that will set it apart ("Make my new album” isn’t as helpful or searchable as “The K-Stars record their debut EP, Everyone Wins!"). Avoid words like "help," "support," or "fund." They imply that you're asking someone to do you a favor rather than offering an experience they’re going to love.
Picking your campaign image
Your campaign image is how you will be represented on MusicMerchNow and the rest of the web. Pick something that accurately reflects your campaign and that looks nice, too!
Writing your short description
Your short description appears in your campaign’s widget, and it’s the best place to quickly communicate to your audience what your campaign is about. Stay focused and be clear on what your campaign hopes to accomplish. If you had to describe your campaign in one tweet, how would you do it?
Writing your bio
Your bio is a great opportunity to share more about you. Why are you the one to take on this campaign? What prior work can you share via links? This is key to earning your backers’ trust.
Funding School: Promoting Your Campaign
An exceptional campaign can lead to outpourings of support from all corners of the web!
For most campaigns, support comes from within their own networks and their networks’ networks. If you want people to back your campaign you have to tell them about it. More than once! And in a variety of ways! Here’s how:
A nice, personal message is the most effective way to let someone know about your campaign. Send an email to your close friends and family so they can be first to pledge, then use your personal blog, your Facebook page, and your Twitter account to tune in everyone who’s paying attention. Don’t overwhelm with e-blasts and group messages, but be sure to remind your networks about your campaigns a few times throughout the course of its duration. Take the time to contact people individually. It makes a big difference.
Don’t be afraid to take your MusicMerchNow campaign out into the real world. Nothing connects people to an idea like seeing the twinkle in your eye when you talk about it. Host pledge parties, print posters or flyers to distribute around your community, and organize meetups to educate people about your endeavor. Be creative!
Stopping the presses
Contact your local newspaper, TV, and radio stations and tell them about your campaign. Seek out like-minded blogs and online media outlets to request coverage. Writers are always looking for stories to write about, and the media has a big soft spot for DIY success stories.
Keeping it real
Whatever channel you use to tell your campaign’s story, don’t spam. This includes posting your link on other MusicMerchNow campaign pages, @messaging people to beg for money on Twitter, link-bombing on Facebook, and generally nagging people you don’t already know. Over-posting can alienate your friends and fans, and it makes every other MusicMerchNow campaign look bad too. Don’t do it!
Funding School: Campaign Updates
Campaign updates serve as your campaign’s blog.
They’re a great way to share your progress, post media, and thank your backers. Posting a campaign update automatically sends an email to all your backers with that update. You can choose to make each update public for everyone to see, or reserve it for just your backers to view.
While your campaign is live and the clock ticking, keep your backers informed and inspired to help you spread the word. Instead of posting a link to your campaign and asking for pledges every day, treat your campaign like a story that is unfolding and update everyone on its progress. “Pics from last night’s show!” or “We found a printer for our book!” with a link to your campaign is engaging and fun for everybody to follow along with.
Sharing the process
Once your campaign is successfully funded, don’t forget about all the people that helped make it possible. Let backers and spectators watch your campaign come to life by sharing the decisions you make with them, explaining how it feels as your goal becomes a reality, and even asking them for feedback. Keeping backers informed and engaged is an essential part of MusicMerchNow.
Sharing reviews, press, and photos from your campaign out in the world — whether it’s opening night of your play or your book on someone’s bookshelf — is great for everyone involved. The story of your campaign doesn’t end after it gets shipped out. You still have a captivated audience that’s cheering for you. Communicating with them can be one of the most rewarding parts of the process.
Funding School: Reward Fulfillment
Once your campaign has been completed, the crucial final step is fulfilling the rewards promised to backers.
Sending out all of your rewards can feel overwhelming, but staying organized and having fun with it will make the process much simpler.
Getting backer info
Don’t worry about gathering your backers’ info until after your campaign is successfully funded. At that point the MusicMerchNow survey tool will help you create surveys to request whatever info you may need to deliver your rewards (mailing addresses, T-shirt sizes, etc). You can find this feature in your Backer Report. Backers are notified via email when you send out the survey, and their responses are automatically entered into your Backer Report, which can then be exported as an Excel-compatible spreadsheet.
Remember to take shipping costs into account before you start your campaign. It may end up being a bigger part of your budget than you thought. Keep in mind how you'll send each reward, how much they weigh, how many require international shipping, and how you will lug all of them to the post office. Don’t forget hidden costs (bubble mailers) or emotional ones (filling out 100 customs forms).
Do some research online. You can start with the basics like the USPS mailing guide, checklists, and bulk mail info, and then find out about other options that might work better for you.
Communication, communication, communication
Fulfillment might not be the most romantic step in doing a MusicMerchNow campaign, but it means getting your campaign into your backers’ hands. Take pictures of your packing party. Tell horror stories from the post office (backers love seeing photos and videos of their rewards being packaged). Ask for your backers to let you know when their stuff arrives. Invite friends over to drink wine and lick stamps. Cherish what are some of the last moments of the first phase in the life of your campaign.