It’s not over till the fat lady sings. I know this.
I began this experimental crowdfunding campaign with PledgeMusic and Sound and Music called Compose Create Engage with huge enthusiasm. When asked why I’m taking part I answered:
“Freedom. Freedom to make things happen without going through our normal cultural gatekeepers whose decisions so often result in a ‘no’ to way too many amazing projects. Freedom to appeal directly to audiences and fans, and engage new people directly in what I’m doing and bring them on the journey with me so we can make stuff happen together. And of course the freedom to have a viable alternative to deliver projects in the future. Additionally I’m thrilled I can be a bit of a pioneer with this initiative and with the help of Sound and Music share with other composers the learning and experience that results so the that whole new-music community can benefit. And last but not least, an opportunity to make my own piano music recording project with Ian Pace happen”.
So that’s the motivation. It’s all fine and dandy and I still believe it!
Now, halfway through my campaign, it’s a good time to take stock and make an interim assessment of where we have got and what has been learned so far as well as my own assumptions around how it would proceed and develop.
- Oh boy, it’s far more work than I anticipated – almost another full time job, especially in the initial few weeks of launch – don’t underestimate this – make plenty of time.
- I would say that 80% of the total pledges to the campaign received so far materialised in the first 7-14 days of the campaign.
- A great many people were very happy to support the campaign with re-tweet and shared posts, which is great. Some of these people were pledgers, many more supported through shares but have not pledged.
- It is a truly wonderful feeling when someone pledges to your campaign and backs their support with cash as you realise they have made the choice to really invest in you and your work. That kind of affirmation and belief brings a warm tingly feeling with it. I want even more of that!
- I shared the campaign widely across Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn and Google+. I also sent personalised emails to around 300 contacts on my email list and around 200 personal messages on Facebook.
- I sent articles and information to third-party blog managers, especially those with a new music or piano interest audience. I had great success with some who very kindly posted blogs and offered further support through on-going promo and tweets etc. There were a number of others I asked and sent materials to who did not respond.
- I sent out some press-release style materials to a number of ‘news’ outlets locally but there was no interest shown at all and I didn’t have a single response to any of these. I guess new music isn’t considered particularly news worthy. This is quite a time consuming activity and one I will not repeat with this campaign.
- I made an assumption that with over 8,000 known contacts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, nearly all music related – performers, composers, organisations, artistic people, those interested in the arts, people I’ve worked with, supported, programmed etc., the conversion rate from contacts to pledges would be high. I realised that we would need 500 pre-order album pledges of £10 to reach our target [that’s the album pre-order level of pledge. There are many other exclusives that include the pre-order plus extras, available at greater cost]. The 500 pre-order pledges represents 16% of my 8,000 contacts, a figure I thought entirely achievable.
- I was incorrect. Out of 8,000+ contacts we have so far received 56 pledges – that’s about 2% of contacts actively pledging in response to the campaign.
- I also realised that out of the 56 pledges so far received, 54 were names already known to me as contacts. I concluded from this that whatever campaign materials were seen by those from different communities, like the potential 1,000,000 audience of pledgers on PledgeMusic, they didn’t respond or were not suitably captivated by the campaign. The same applies to third-party blog sites and anywhere else the campaign materials ended up; it was still people known to me who pledged. Of those people, some were extremely generous making additional donations to support the project.
- I also observed that certain actions designed to elicit a response or more pledges seemed to have little effect; these include exclusive updates to my Pledge Campaign that were seen only by those who had already pledged – articles on third-party blogs and direct promotion by Sound and Music or PledgeMusic [I think possibly one person responded with a pledge to a Sound and Music tweet referencing my campaign, mentioning SaM as the source that spurred them onto pledge].
- What did work were my initial personalised emails to 100s of contacts [but as previously mentioned, only with a very small >2% take up], the initial campaign on Twitter and Facebook – perhaps bringing in 90% of pledges so far and more recently a trickle of new pledges when I tweet or highlight the pre-order offer of £10.
- It seems that at this stage, any new actions about the campaign, no matter how presented [unique exclusives, blogs, videos etc.,] have reached a point of inducing audience blindness – people are not responding as they did and I have a feeling people may be growing tiered of seeing information about the campaign. As pledges have largely tailed off I too have drawn back from posting about the campaign so as to not irritate people with over exposure. It’s a very thin line to tread between too much information turning people off and enough to catch the potentially interested ones who may not have encountered the campaign yet. I have no previous experience on how to judge this balance!
- Having said that, I’ve also observed that there is no rhyme or reason associated with how pledges come into the campaign in relation to my campaigning activities. I can go for days, weeks even with minimal response to my adds and promos and then, as happened last week, a flurry of pledges resulted in the campaign moving forwards by a whole 5% in a matter of 3 hours. I wasn’t doing anything different to usual. It was great but I have no idea how to repeat the phenomena!
- This means I have found it hard to maintain the strong momentum I had at the start of the campaign as I frequently see the promotional actions I take not eliciting further pledges. This is also true when I have responded to direct marketing initiatives from crowdfunding experts with a wealth of experience. As a busy person there is a direct link between time invested in something and the returns you get to justify that time – that’s the psychology of it. It is very difficult to maintain high levels of activity and enthusiasm when faced with a very low or non existent return in the form of pledges set against large amounts of time to service the campaign.
So that’s where I am at the moment. Oh boy, I so want the campaign to succeed and will happily put more time into making it work – whatever it takes, really, but at the moment I feel as if the whole campaign has stalled and I don’t know how to reach all the people who I think would be interested to support us or whether I have already burnt my bridges by oversaturating social media with campaign materials. Motivation is a challenge.
If there’s a magic formula for success I’d very much like to know what it is!
Crowdfunding still remains a fantastic idea. I realised that in the past 6 weeks I have donated £10 to four other crowdfunding initiatives because I believe this is the way forward. I also believe that if I’m expecting others to contribute to my campaign I should lead from the front, by example and contribute to theirs! I’m also aware of at least two other campaigns that have successfully raised 100% of their targets with totals several £1000s more than I’m trying to secure. Perhaps their projects are more attractive to supporters or they have bigger networks or outcomes shared with larger groups of people who are actively campaigning for them.
I will of course continue with the campaign as I am committed to it. Even if we don’t reach our target, which will be hugely disappointing, we would have learnt something valuable from the experience that can be shared with others.
As I say – that ‘fat lady’ hasn’t sung yet, so there’s still everything to play for!
We are at 35% of out target. If you’d like to take a look at the campaign, you can find it here: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/the-anatomy-of-melancholy-download
And the wider campaign CCE, here: http://www.soundandmusic.org/projects/compose-create-engage-new-crowdfunding-experiment