Crowdfunding campaigns: what really works?

Let’s talk crowdfunding campaigns for musicians. Here’s what works and 3 examples so you can rock your next fundraising project!

At their best, crowdfunding campaigns allow fans to directly connect to the musicians they champion. Crowdfunding promotes a sense of community and for fans, a sense of participating in the creative process. For the musician, it can help you cultivate your network and grow your audience base. That’s the upside.

Unfortunately, the majority of campaigns (69-89% depending on the platform) do not meet their goals. What’s worse, musicians often set unrealistically high goals and then bombard their network with email and social media appeals. And if people in the artist’s network rarely hear from them and only when they’re asking for money or selling an album, it leaves potential donors understandably feeling dissed. In this scenario, instead of the campaign cultivating stronger relationships, it may actually do damage.

Are you campaign ready?

You’re ready for a campaign when you have most of these in place:

  • A project and mission that inspires others — especially non-musicians — and you can describe it in such a way that people want to be part of it.
  • A solid set of up-to-date email contacts. Not just your musician friends who have little discretionary income, but extended family, your own students, mentors, fans, former teachers, coaches, etc.
  • A realistic goal amount and a timeline that’s workable.
  • A detailed budget that others will understand. Note that the crowdfunding platforms take a commission (often 10-15%), so check carefully and factor this in to your budget.
  • A set of enticing donation rewards. Just be careful of offering rewards that are expensive to produce, because this will only add to your budget.
  • (You have) reviewed your options and have chosen the crowdfunding platform that best meets your needs.
  • A plan B for what you’ll do if your campaign is not funded or only partially funded. Kickstarter and PledgeMusic are “all or nothing” models and with Indiegogo you can choose either fixed or flexible funding.

What’s the recipe for a winning campaign?

Analyze 5 successful campaigns of people you don’t know—including non-musicians. What’s compelling in their message, their video, their rewards? Search your deleted emails to read examples of effective campaign reminders you’ve received and analyze these for tone and effective calls to action.

For your next campaign you need the following ingredients:

A short, engaging video (under 3 minutes is ideal). It doesn’t need to be professionally produced, but it does need to be well thought out and capture the imaginations of your viewers. It needs to combine you (and your colleagues) speaking directly to camera and samples of you in action in performances or rehearsals—use video clips, plus photos, quotes from reviews, etc.

A clear, concise, and compelling pitch. Be real and be personal: tell your story. Beyond the what, when, where, who, and how of your project, we need the WHY: the larger impact your project addresses. How will it benefit others?

Your reach: of course your inner circle of friends and family love you and want to support you no matter what. But your project should resonate beyond your inner circle. So think about how your project genuinely connects to larger ideas, issues, themes that are relevant to others and look for ways to emphasize this in your video pitch and in all of your campaign communications.

Be careful about the tone of your message. Don’t plead. Instead, you want to rally and inspire. In a sense, you’re recruiting partners for your project—so invite people to join you on your creative journey.

Rewards: these should be tied directly to your project. High value rewards might be a house concert in the donor’s home or being named as producer on your album. Lower level rewards may include signed CDs, a Skype lesson, your ensemble’s merch with its logo, etc.

Goal amount: be ambitious but realistic, based on the size and strength of your network. If your contacts are mainly students and recent grads with little disposable income, set your goal accordingly.

Timeline: 30 days is the recommended length. The deadline builds tension so that people are encouraged to help get you over the top to reach your goal. Your most enthusiastic supporters may contribute in the first days of the campaign. Others may want to contribute but are busy or distracted.

Your campaign may flat line for a week or more, so plan special messaging and added perks mid-campaign when you’ll need them most. In the last stretch, it’s about encouraging a last minute surge—stay positive, thanking and cheering your donors all along the way. Note: Indiegogo analyzed 100,000 campaigns and found that 42% of the funds were raised in the first and last 3 days of campaigns.

Promotion: this is the real work of a campaign. But the cultivating of your network should start well before your campaign launches. Schedule in your calendar when you’ll send email and FB reminders and updates.

One-size fits all blasts makes people receiving these feel like a number. So as much as possible, personalize your messages through your email management program. Reach out separately to key individuals. You’ll need to send pitches, multiple reminders, and many updates. Judging how much is too much is more art than science—get feedback and listen to your intuition. And keep in mind that not everyone is on FB so go through your list and tailor your communications accordingly.

Crowdfunding campaign examples—what works for you?

Here are 3 examples of successful musicians’ crowdfunding campaigns (they are all former clients) and they did a fantastic job on these: check them out for the tone and approach they used.

Joyce Kwon

Jeremy Siskind

André Carvalho

If you have other campaigns you found especially compelling, please send me the links! And I’d love to hear about your crowdfunding experience and what you learned in the process.

If you’d like to discuss your career goals, and find out how coaching can help you achieve them, let’s talk! Reach me at

Here’s to your success:



Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

Get More!


You're busy, so let me send the latest Music Career Byte direct to you each Monday. That way you won't have to find your way back to the blog to get more great career tips!

You have Successfully Subscribed!