How to Run a Successful Crowd Funding Campaign: Q&A with Shawnee Gilgore
In 2014, singer-songwriter Shawnee Kilgore raised $10,000 on Kickstarter. This money enabled her to make her album, A Long and Precious Road. In 2018, she raised $25,000 in 30 days for her next album.
Shawnee says, “As scary as the all or nothing method is, I think it really works. I made my goal this time with literally 5 minutes left on the clock and I didn’t hear until afterwards how many people had been texting amongst themselves the night before looking at the numbers and scheming how to help with the last boost. It really brings a community together, which I value so much.”
Joss Whedon backed her 2014 Kickstarter campaign, after he found the campaign by chance. This led to them collaborating on the writing and production of Shawnee’s EP, Back to Eden.
I’m delighted to have Shawnee on the blog to talk about crowd funding. If you’re thinking about launching a Kickstarter campaign, this is a must-read…
Why did you decide to crowd fund?
It’s a bit like college. Unless you have the means to pay as you go, you gotta get some help. It’s really the only way for many independent musicians to make albums these days. Especially with the studio I wanted to work in, I needed to have a full and solid budget or else it just wasn’t going to happen.
What did you do to prepare your campaigns?
I think the biggest thing was to find my true voice and use it. I wanted people to know how much my heart was in this thing and how much it meant to me, because when you donate to a campaign you aren’t just supporting an artist, you’re signing up to be a part of something and I wanted it to be something good. Letting friends preview the campaign and give feedback is a great prep tool. Often the feedback is that it’s too complicated, so definitely keep it simple. Your supporters will appreciate it, and so will you when it comes time to fulfill rewards. Don’t promise anything you won’t be stoked on doing later.
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How did you promote your campaigns? Was this different second time round?
I leaned more on social media ads this time around, and pushed myself to be creative with my content. People always worry about posting too much but I don’t think there’s ever been an instance where I’ve seen enough of someone’s campaign that I got sick of it or annoyed. Usually it’s the opposite, where I haven’t seen anything about it yet and it’s been up for weeks, or I go to find it and have to search hard for a link. Of course you don’t want to just ask for money over and over, you want it to be attached to something cool that people will enjoy seeing. I did a few ridiculous happy dances on camera when we hit milestones, and did some Facebook live videos of songs that would be on the album. People want to see that you’re excited and that you’re stoked on the work you’re doing. It pulls them in and gets them excited too. I did almost no direct asking on this campaign, which surprised me as it’s always been one of the things I tell people to do who are looking for advice. Whatever you choose, I think it’s most important to make sure your energy is clear and good, whatever that means for you. Don’t do anything that makes you feel icky. I’m all about the direct ask if it feels good, and it’s one of the most efficient tools you can use.
If a musician has a big target on Kickstarter but a small social media following, what advice would you give? What is the best way to find supporters?
Investing some money into Facebook ads is definitely a smart way to go, seeing as it’s for a campaign that will give you money back once it’s successful. I reached out to friends who have more experience with paid ads than I do and got help building ones that would be the most effective. Start them early to see what works and what doesn’t and adjust accordingly. Definitely reach out to your people who aren’t on social media as well. I think we all have a lot more of a community than we realize. You have to be realistic though, and there’s no real formula to calculate your reach vs how much support you’ll get. I believe Pledge Music does something where they help you plan and execute your campaign based on your social media reach, which could be really helpful for the first time. Also, definitely get out there in the real world. Go to shows, go to events, talk to everyone. Giving support is a great way to feel good about receiving it.
Were your supporters mostly people who already knew about you, new supporters, or a mixture?
They were mostly people I knew, even with paid ads that reached fairly impressive numbers around the world. And when friends share something they’re passionate about with other friends there’s a pretty compelling incentive to check it out and people were excited to support even though they didn’t know me personally.
What would you say are the three most important aspects of crowd funding?
I’d say first is enthusiasm. You have to be excited or no one else is going to be excited. You have to believe in what you’re doing and make sure people know you’re going for it with everything you’ve got. Second is consistency. It’s a full time job and there aren’t really days off. Your campaign needs to be a pretty steady stream. Not that you’re posting all day every day, but anyone hopping on Facebook for only a few minutes a day needs to have a decent chance of seeing something new from you. Related to that is being creative with your content. Give people something fun and inspiring to look at or listen to and provide a link to the campaign. You’re asking them for something but you’re giving something in return.
Did you do any crowd funding training before launching your first campaign?
No training but I studied up on what other people were doing. Always a good thing to do. See what other campaigns are out there, watch the videos, see what turns you on and what turns you off. Look at success rates, look up social media pages. I know there are tons of how-to videos and articles as well.
What would you say is a good time frame for a campaign to run?
Kickstarter suggests 30 days and I think that’s good. It’s tempting to go longer but a lot of what makes the all or nothing thing work is for people to feel like they’re invested and involved in the campaign and two months is just a long time to keep up momentum.
How have you found the experience? Do supporters message you regularly? Does it create a buzz when the album is released?
One of the coolest parts of the experience for me is to read what people say when they share a campaign. I’ve been moved to tears on many occasions by incredibly thoughtful and heartfelt sentiments that I know from experience can be easier to share with the world at large than directly to the person. One of my favorites this time was a friend endorsing me and my “songs genetically designed to destroy you.” How sweet is that?! Of course it’s also super cool that when the album comes out, you’re extra excited to share it with a rad team of people who you know love and support you. It’s a good springboard to getting it out to a larger audience, both logistically and emotionally.
Tell us about yourself. What are your plans for the new album?
The new album was recorded with Zachariah Hickman and Sam Kassirer of Josh Ritter’s Royal City Band, and it was such an amazing experience to work with them. We live tracked every song and I think we made something really, really special. I’m taking my time with this one. It’s always tempting to get something out as soon as possible because you’re excited about it but there’s so much that goes into a successful album launch and every time I learn so much about what I can do better. I really want to honor this one and do it right. (Stay tuned.)
Find Shawnee online:
Latest Kickstarter campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/731229671/shawnee-kilgore-makes-a-new-full-length-album
Back to Eden music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5ktlVlcVvc
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