Secrets of Micro-Fundraising

by elizabeth | May 2nd, 2010

As many of you know, I raised part of the funds for my upcoming record using the online platform Kickstarter. This winter, NYU jazz professor Gabriel Alegria brought me into a master’s seminar at NYU to speak on this topic, and I’ve gotten many inquiries from other musicians, who wonder “What works?”

Elizabeth at NYU - March 2010

It seems many people are wondering how to make a career in music work! So how do you make a micro-funding campaign successful? Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you get started:

1. Do you have an email list? Friends? Family? Have you been reaching out to them regularly, even when you don’t need something from them?

2. Do you have a budget? Sit down right now and make one. How much money do you need? What do you need it for? Be specific and realistic. Pad the numbers, too … it will cost more than you think!

3. Do you have a story? Why are you raising money for this particular project? What makes it special? Why will people want to throw money at you for it?

4. Do you have a sense of what your audience can afford? With Kickstarter, you can set the levels of contribution at many different levels. You’ll also set a threshold; to make any money through the platform, that threshold must be met. So set it to something you know you can reach, and work to blow past that mark. If you don’t make the threshold, you can’t go back to your audience a month later and put your hand out again.

5. Do you have spell-checker? Run your draft by a few trusted friends before you set the promotional wheels in motion, at least one of whom is not in your industry. They will see things you will never see from the inside.

Here are a couple of successful micro-fundraising projects:

elizabeth! – Kickstarter
Natalie John – Kickstarter
Ethan Lipton – Kickstarter
Jill Sobule – Her own site (read Jill’s letter to Bob Lefsetz on micro-funding at all levels)
Josh Freese – His own site
The Ramblers – Pledge Music

What’s worked for you? What other questions do you have?

3 Responses to “Secrets of Micro-Fundraising”

  1. Great stuff! You’re making gears turn in my brain again, as usual.

    BTW, if you ever have a special on the “sad trombone” offer, hit me up! That would be so awesome :)

  2. great article elizabeth. when i did my fundraiser i just tried to make it as personal as possible (e.g. “watch an episode of full house with shwa” and “get a random object lying around shwa’s house”). in a lot of ways i think your personality is as important as your goal.

  3. I’ll freely admit that when I got your Kickstarter email, I was more than game to spend $15 to help fund your project and receive a cd as a gift. Afterwards I realized that if I had received a “buy my cd for $15″ I probably would have passed. Not a comment on your music (which is wonderful), but [I think] more a comment on our lives today: all of us (resources limited or not) have too many things to buy, but very few of of have enough actual real-live-flesh people to support. Philanthropy needs an object, and I think the idea of helping fund a project in progress (and, as Jill Sobule says, an ongoing struggle of a musician “navigating the murky waters” of an arts profession holds a lot more weight than just the product at the end. It reminds people that artists are humans, and have to go to work everyday whether they get paid or not. Even on a larger scale, microfinance organizations like Kiva (where you can put $25 toward a larger pool and help people in developing nations with specific projects), I think microfinance is a great way to capitalize on ordinary people’s desire to make a difference. Good luck to you, I, Jill, and everyone else looking to be a “lifer.”

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elizabeth! is a vocalist, trombonist, and songwriter working in NYC and Los Angeles. Originally from Vermont, she studied neuroscience at Harvard before moving to NYC to play, tour, and record with jazz musicians, indie rockers, pop stars and more. Her new album of original jazzy pop tunes was just released on Canopy Jazz!

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