Pull back the curtain and engage your fans – now!

Imagine you’re planning to run for political office. How will you approach it? Will you cross your fingers and wait until election day in silent hope that enough people know who you are, have done their research, and will choose to vote for you? Not likely.

If you are seriously trying to win an election, you'll mobilize a team, get a feel for who’s on board with your ideas, and construct a game plan for the future and how to deliver your message.

Which is not unlike the direct-to-fan crowdfunding model, where you can go straight to your fans and take the temperature of their responses and then make informed, intelligent decisions based on what you learn. Doing so at the outset mitigates the menacing risk of the traditional model in which you (or your label) is powerless to do anything other than take a leap of faith and hope for the best.

Fan funding through a direct-to-fan platform like PledgeMusic puts you in the driver’s seat and enables you to make proactive decisions at every juncture. You don't have to wait until after your album release to see how fans are responding to it, to start really promoting it, figure out who’s going to buy it, and if you will in fact be able to recoup the costs you've accumulated recording, producing, mixing, mastering, marketing, and distributing your CD.

By getting your fans engaged and investing up front for the finished product, you know exactly what funds you have coming your way, can set your budget, and moderate the risk of financing everything yourself with no real guarantee of making your money back in the end. The direct-to-fan approach turns the traditional model around, giving power to the artist while simultaneously acting as an integrated funding, marketing, and pre-sale tool, establishing stronger ties between artist and fan while selling new music in the process.

Sound too good to be true? At PledgeMusic, we’ve witnessed the success of the fan funding model time and time again, as artists release fully funded, pre-ordered albums every day. And the beauty is the term “release” no longer means a blind jump off a high dive. For the artists who actively engage fans through the creative process, “release” means the continuation of a journey that’s already well underway.

How does this look practically? It means going directly to your fans and inviting them on your journey – telling them you’re about to create something new and exciting and that you want them to be a part of it.

In the most common fan funding campaigns, an artist lists out a number of exclusive experiences or items that fans can receive by pledging to their campaign. It might be dinner with the band, a signed vinyl copy of the album, or any number of things, depending on the price point of the specific pledge. Pledgers also get the new album when it's finished, as well as a series of exclusive updates from the artist as the project is in progress.

These are exactly the types of offerings fans want. Superfans absolutely will spend money for experiences they cannot get anywhere else, and while that means the artist is getting funding before the album releases, that often becomes the secondary focus of the campaign. Fan funding allows you engage and interact with fans in a way you weren’t able to before, which is hugely rewarding in and of itself.

Benji Rogers, PledgeMusic's founder and CEO, often tells a story of meeting a member of one of his favorite bands after a show and asking where he could purchase some of the new songs they had introduced that night. Rogers remembers hearing the same old, “We’re planning to release it early next year,” rather than inviting him to join a campaign in which he could get involved with the making of the record, get instant downloads, or pre-order the music. Instead of creating a superfan and snaring a customer, it was a lost opportunity.

What will you do when the time comes to release your next project? Will you go the journey alone and hope for the best, or will you pull back the curtain, invite your fans into the process, and fund your release before you hit the studio? The choice is yours, of course, but we’ve found the latter to be quite fun, effective, and much less risky.

PledgeMusic helps and encourages artists to participate with their fans in an exciting and unique way by creating an irresistible customized menu of exclusive content and experiences that integrates email databases, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and various other social networking sites. Learn more at PledgeMusic.com.