Crowdfunding basics for first-timers

Lucy Briggs, marketing manager at Disc Makers, conducted an interview with composer, singer-songwriter, and branding/music business consultant Cheryl B. Engelhardt to talk crowdfunding and strategies.

Hi, I’m Cheryl, and I'm here to talk about my favorite thing… BOWLING! I mean music. I totally meant music. Quick background: my last two records were crowdfunded (including Inevitably) and I’m in NYC.

What’s the biggest challenge musicians face when it comes to executing a crowdfunding campaign?

Marketing the right opportunities to the right people and getting people to SHOW ME THE MONEY.

Do you think there's also a simple fear of asking?

It’s not asking, it’s presenting an opportunity to be a part of something. It can feel awkward, I think it’s still a new concept to a lot of people, but it’s really an opportunity to invite participation.

How has your view on crowdfunding changed over time? Do you still prefer your own site to outside funding sites?

My first fan-funded album was done using PayPal on my site. More than with a public crowdfunding platform, you need to have the fans to ask to do it that way, or your campaign just won't work. You don’t need a ton of fans, you have to offer them something in return for their financial support, and a few super fans make all the difference. The second time, I used PledgeMusic to compare the pros and cons for both. Both take a lot of work. On my site people knew it was me, payment is simpler, etc. Other platforms are new for some fans, but PledgeMusic is ready to go on the back end. Their customer service was great.

Did you look into Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Patreon?

Yes. I chose PledgeMusic because it’s designed for musicians, but the best one for you is likely the one your audience feels most comfortable with. Patreon is very different from PledgeMusic. One is constant content versus one project at a time. On Patreon, I’m working on making it a community for career musicians with networking opportunities. If you constantly create content, it’s is probably the platform to use.

How do you utilize and engage your email subscribers in your crowdfunding campaigns?

My fan list is always the first to know anything. That is my promise to them.

What’s the best way to develop your rewards tiers and stretch goals?

Don’t be afraid to ASK your fans what they want out of your next record creation process. Have something for everyone and then make sure you let them know so they can choose. And go big! I had some reward tiers that included ALL my released music, up to writing a song for them, or time in the studio while I recorded.

Did you ask fans what they wanted before you started the funding project?

The first time I didn’t, but the second time I did. I wanted to see what was missing, and what worked. I sent out an email blast. A VIP, exclusive listening event was pretty popular.

How much time do you recommend setting aside to campaign development and management?

A lot more time than you think. Seriously, it’s proportionate to how much you want to make. Say you make $5,000 a month putting in 10 hour work weeks, then UP the hours if you’re aiming to raise $20,000 a month fan funding. If you put in 40 hours a week reaching out to individuals, marketing to bloggers, and creating awesome content, you’d reach your goal. That’s not feasible, I certainly didn’t put that much time in, but I realized I had to do a lot more than just hit “launch.”

It’s hard to put in 40 hours a week on promotion, unless you make your full-time job just promoting the campaign.

Exactly. I'm using that as an example because a LOT of people launch a crowdfunding campaign and just LEAVE it. But it takes work!

Would you say it’s not worth doing until you have a real fan base?

Sometimes crowdfunding on a platform like PledgeMusic can help new fans discover you, because their audience is more targeted towards musicians and music fans. Listen to my 2015 interview with Benji Rogers, PledgeMusic’s CEO. He gives some stats that were helpful for me. Also, it depends on what you want and what your money and music goals are, what kind of project you're producing, who you want to attract, etc.

What does it mean to prepare an “elevator pitch” as it relates to your campaign message?

You should have a 1-3 sentence summary explaining how being a part of your campaign is an opportunity. It’s NOT asking for a handout. This pitch is really important.

How do you determine your campaign length and schedule your progress updates?

I updated fans once a week. My campaign ran about three months, ending just before the record release.

Do you think it's important to line up initial backers to “seed the tip jar” early on in your campaign?

It can help figure out your goal if you have an idea of what you can realistically make. But I don’t think it makes a huge difference.

How do you target your marketing and outreach messages to your different donor levels?

Understand that the people who give $10 want different things than those who give $500. It’s ALL about creating an opportunity that really caters to each level. Who is in each level? What problem can you solve? For the $10 level, what do they want to be a part of? Are their playlists old and boring and they need new music? For the $1,000-10,000 level, get them on the phone and find out what they want; whether it’s to invest in the CD or be in the studio while you're recording.

How important is it to connect with your fans in person before, during, and after your campaign?

Very important. My five-figure checks came from people who were fans of my music, of me, and the whole package. Be passionate about what you do and have a clear understanding of why you’re doing it. When you’re clear on what your purpose is and it’s obvious in your branding (websites, social, etc.), you’ll attract the right fans.

Cheryl B. Engelhardt is a composer, singer-songwriter and music business and branding consultant who prefers kicking butt over not kicking butt. Get going with her free music biz PDF download and learn more at