Crowdfunding an Album: Can You do It? – Part 1

The internet has changed a lot of things in the music industry. It’s easier than ever for indie acts to get their music out into the world, there’s money to be made through streaming, bands can be closer than ever to their target audience, and artists can make and distribute their own material without having to wait for a label.

One thing that hasn’t changed though is that recording and distributing an entire album still requires a lot of time and money, even if it’s being done in a home studio and costs are kept at a minimum. Having the tools to record is just the first step.

Recording sessions are often long, and that’s time that can’t be spent doing multitasking. Artists that are recording a track, are artists that can’t be making money at a day job, which means they are likely losing money by recording something that’s not guaranteed to make the money back. Something very few struggling artists can afford to do. Then, once the recording is done, there still needs to be someone to mix the tracks. And after that’s done, the art needs to be done, and then after that someone has to be in charged of creating a distribution plan, and a promotion plan. Every one of those steps takes a lot of money.  It really is a lot of work and even if you decide to do everything yourself, you still need money. This is when crowdfunding starts to sound interesting, If you can get an audience to pay for the product before you even spend a dime, you have it made.

There are a lot of successful crowdfunding projects, but most of them are product-based. Music projects aren’t that successful. In fact, the most well known project has to be the highly criticized 2012 Amanda Palmer Crowdfunding campaign. Palmer has never been particularly well-received by critics or the public in general, so naturally her campaign to crowdfund an album was as controversial as the rest of her career. Here’s what happened: in 2012, the former Dresden Dolls singer wanted to be “the future of music” and set out to crowdfund her next record. She went to Kickstarter and got $1.2 million to make her record. She was offering downloads for those pledging a couple of dollars, art pieces for those closer to $100, and appearances and dinners to those pledging around $10,000. So yes, her campaign was successful, and she made the record, but she hardly changed the future of music and after a few years she actually said she barely broke even.

So, if someone relatively famous, with a long career, and a well-established fanbase actually managed to reach her goal and barely broke even, what’s left for the new indie artists looking to fund their first record?

Well, Palmer’s adventure in the crowdfunding word can actually teach us a lot and help us prevent some of the mistakes new artists make when starting a crowdfunding campaign.

Budget Correctly

One of the biggest mistakes Palmer admitted to making was not accounting for the shipping and distribution budgets of the rewards she was offering. And that’s actually a pretty common mistake for first timers, they put their goals way too close to the money they’ve estimated it will cost. Which sure, it’s a nice gesture, but it also doesn’t leave much wiggling room in case something goes wrong or someone made a mistake when calculating a cost. It’s always better to ask for a little more than you need.

Of course, budgeting is just the beginning. There are a lot more things that have to run smoothly for a crowdfunding campaign to be successful. Especially in the music industry, where it’s so easy for them to fail. Check out part 2 to see what else you need to do.