Now that I’m deep into the process of cleaning up and preparing to start a fund raising campaign for producing the reissue of my debut album Neon Apocalypse, I feel it’s finally time to reflect on what I did right and what I did wrong during the process of producing last year’s 10th anniversary release of my third album Lemonymous. I’ve spent a great deal of time as of late going through all the little behind-the-scenes details of how I made that project happen. But I haven’t really talked about some of the things that I think I nailed or that I think I could do better next time.
So here we go.
1. Campaign Strategy And Fulfillment
Running Two Completely Separate Crowdfunding Campaigns Confuses People and Makes Fulfillment Very Difficult
Originally, when I started producing the reissue of Lemonymous, the way I intended to raise money was very straightforward. I knew I didn’t have a lot of fans or followers. So it was very obvious to me that most of the funding was going to come from friends and family. Because I wanted as much of their money to go toward its intended purpose I ran the initial crowdfunding campaign via my website and collected the donations with PayPal (they take WAY less of a percentage on transactions than Kickstarter or any of the other crowdfunding sites). At heart, I think this was a great idea, and I think to an extent it worked.
The problem was that about three weeks in it was very clear that I’d reached a threshold in terms of how many donations I was going to get. And I wasn’t coming anywhere near my intended goal. As a result, I had to change gears quickly, changing things over to a Kickstarter campaign that ran for about another 3-5 weeks. Thankfully, running the campaign through there turned out to give the project more credibility. And though it all came together at the last minute, I was able to meet my goal (albeit barely).
The next problem was that in running two campaigns for producing the reissue, I had to ensure that I fulfilled all the orders that were made using two databases. In some cases, I got some double donations (some people were kind enough to donate to both campaigns). So there was some overlap there that could have gotten really crazy.
The thing is, I was able to get through it all (save for one thing that I’ll mention next), however, that’s because the donor list was very, very small. Had I been fortunate enough to have been overwhelmed with an enormous amount of donations, (or had I intended from the get-go to campaign for hundreds of donors), I could have easily found myself in some fulfillment trouble.
My next crowdfunding campaign is likely to take place through PledgeMusic. But we’ll see what happens. They have a very high success rate. But they base your goal on what you might expect to receive by reviewing your mail list, your social media, and your site analytics. It’s very smart, but because, again, my fan base is so small, I don’t know yet how much I can expect to make. Or if my (current) intended goal for Neon Apocalypse ($1500) is realistic.
2. Be Smarter About Your Reward Choices
Handwritten Lyric Books Sound Like A Cool Idea… But Not When You’ve Written Over 50 Songs
I based some of the things I offered in my Kickstarter campaign on items I saw other artists trying on PledgeMusic. One of those things was a personalized handwritten lyric sheet of any song. I thought, “this is a GREAT idea… what if I offered a whole book”! So I did.
I limited the amount of these that I would sell to 10, thinking that it was fairly realistic that I could sell that many. And I was happy to find that I had sold 4 by the time the whole thing was over. That number didn’t really surprise me and I thought it was pretty much on point. What did surprise me, however, was how long it took to write in these books. I actually thought that writing the lyrics – by hand – of all of my songs and then making fun and cute or whimsical little notes in the margins (about the songs or their backstory or what-have-you) was going to be so simple that I would be done with them within a couple months.
The campaign ended in May of last year and I got started on the books in June. I’m still working on them. Seriously. It’s the only item that I have not fulfilled yet and I have tried to be diligent about getting them done and ensuring that the people expecting them know I’m still working on them and that they’re coming. It’s just been way harder than I thought. Thank God I didn’t sell all ten. Who knows how long that would have taken?
In the meantime, I now offer only framed handwritten lyric for single songs. I will not be doing handwritten lyric books again.
3. Really, Really, Pay Attention To The Budget
I don’t mean to make this seem that I paid no attention to budget or anything like that. I simply didn’t hit it where I wanted to hit it. And it complicated how I would complete producing the reissue.
If that doesn’t make sense, let me see if I can explain it another way.
While there are many crowdfunding platforms out there, Kickstarter’s in particular is an “all or nothing” game. If my goal is $1000 and I raise $999 and the campaign runs out of time, I get none of that money. Considering how I ran my campaigns, I can see how that’s a big deal. I ran my campaigns with the intention of essentially raising as much as I could, and then footing the rest of the bill for producing the reissue myself.
In other words, if the budget was $2000 to re-release Lemonymous and the companion Lemonymix CD, I was happy to raise $1200 because then I would just be responsible for the other $800. That’s really what I had in mind, essentially, when I launched the first campaign using PayPal. When I launched the second campaign using Kickstarter, I set a goal that I felt was realistic. Even if ultimately having reached it wouldn’t pay for the entirety of the project.
What ended up happening was that even though I had reached my Kickstarter goal and had added my PayPal donations to it, I was still coming up short by a lot. And while I had initially prepared for that, I didn’t see how much finances could change over the course of the couple months that those campaigns were running. So I had to scramble to make sure I could foot the rest of the bill to get the project up and running in the time frame I’d promised via the two campaigns.
The lesson is, while IndieGogo’s “you get what you earn even if you don’t reach goal” concept sounds attractive because you get to keep your earnings, Kickstarter’s (and, I think, PledgeMusic’s) makes far more sense because if you budget and set your goal properly, you don’t get funding for a project that will only end up half finished.
In the future, my goals will be set in such a way that – if successful – they will pay for the entirety of the project.
Honorable Mention: Leave Mastering In Someone Else’s Hands
After getting some good mixes of the songs on Lemonymous ready to go I wasted nearly two months trying to master them.
Mastering is something I’ve done on my own for a long time and I’ve never truly gotten right or properly understood. Which is bizarre, if you think about it. I learned how to mix all on my own and, over the years, have gotten pretty good at it. Good enough that, should someone who knows how to master take things over, the end product will come out pretty darned good.
For the first time ever, I gave up on the mastering process and actually left it up to a machine called LANDR. The result was something pretty darned phenomenal compared to what I had been doing. And whereas my process took weeks, LANDR’s took minutes.
I know – no machine will ever eclipse a human being in understanding how to properly master a track. But for those of us who don’t have thousands of dollars to pay for that, LANDR is a great alternative.
There are still some tweaks and some equalization between tracks that need to be done after running through the LANDR process. But I can’t argue with the sound I got out of it.
TRY LANDR TODAY! HERE’S YOUR CHANCE!
As you’ve read above, LANDR completely changed the way I produced my music, and it helped me save time while also creating a final product I could be proud of!