Raising the money for my nine recordings has been challenging. I’m not Donald Trump – my hair is much better and I’m not an idiot – but I found a way to finance each one. Here are some things to consider for your own recording.
There are a ton of them. I really like how Kickstarter is set up and I know a lot of musicians who’ve had success with them. Make sure you do these things:
Register at a site and include as much about your music as you can — include a well-written bio (Contact me here if you want me to write it), web URLs, and videos.
Don’t ask for too much. Sure, we all want a million dollars, but really, how much will that studio cost? Sometimes it’s best to do separate campaigns for each portion of your project. Do one for recording. After that’s done, do another one for duplication. Later, put together something for promo.
Upload an entertaining and unique video telling your fans what you’re doing. Include some music if you want. I saw one band video where they were all playing a song in a shower. Made me want to watch the whole thing.
Have a concise mission statement. A general “We’re recording music, send dough” is probably not going to bring in anyone, but your cousin Emma who’s always liked you anyway. Tell them precisely where the money is going.
Offer great rewards. Think outside the box. I’ve seen musicians offer a mention in the liner notes, private concerts, free admission to shows, including the fan’s name in a song, having the fan sing on a song, writing a song with the fan, music lessons, swag (t-shirts, mugs, etc) and limited-edition signed CDs.
Promo to your social networking sites. DO NOT bug fans. If you post a dozen times every day, you’re only going to piss them off.
Announce at every gig that you’re raising funds. Don’t beg. Stay upbeat.
Follow through. After you’ve raised the money, don’t forget to thank fans and send them the rewards you promised.
The old fashioned way
I raised several thousand dollars for each of my projects by simply asking. I made up an order form where fans could check off their level of donation and include their contact info. I had those forms at every gig for a year or more. I always announced that I was raising money. Most folks don’t know how much it costs to do an album. I told them that it could take thousands for a major label to release one song, but I was only asking $X for my whole album. Putting it in perspective really helped.
Citibank probably isn’t going to give you a loan. However, your cousin Emma has a really good job and might have some extra funds to loan you. Write up a simple promissory note. You don’t have to be a lawyer or a banker. There are lots of templates available. I found one here. I haven’t used it, but it looks like it has all the necessary elements.
When you make those announcements from the stage, tell them you’re looking for loans, too. I always set a bottom limit, like $1000. That way, I avoided writing up a ton of promissory notes for $5. Not that my fans would do that, but you get the idea.
Be careful with loans. You need to be absolutely sure you can pay them back. Have a back-up plan if your band falls apart after the recording and you still need to take care of those debts. Don’t do your whole project on borrowed funds.
Use your own money
Save your dough. I know, no one likes to do that anymore. It’s possible, though, especially with small DIY projects.
Your mama loves you. Maybe she’s willing to give you a little money.
They’re a really bad idea, folks. Interest can kill you if you don’t pay them back right away.
Whatever method you choose, keep careful records. You may think that a $20 donation from a fan will be forgotten if you don’t release the recording, but think again. You don’t want to create bad juju. You want that fan to be excited about your next project, also.
Now go forth and make that recording. Don’t forget to be extra nice to cousin Emma.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or finance expert, simply a DIY musician who’s been at this since the eighties.
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