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How music crowdfunding works

Music artists are increasingly turning to their audience for funding, convincing fans to contribute towards the release of an album or securing the services of a radio plugger or PR.

Selling one-off products and experiences to fans is now common practice. Playing live in a fan’s living room, writing a bespoke song or selling an appearance on your next album are now all potentially valuable revenue-raisers.

Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter formalise the fan-funding process. Through the artist or band's website and social media presence, fans are asked to contribute to the project. Musicians retain their rights and the website charges a commission once the agreed target has been raised.

As fan funding is usually managed through social networks, musicians should aim to build their fanbase online.

It’s important crowdfunding sites keep money due to artists from fans in an escrow account. You can check UK Crowdfunding Association (UKCFA) which has a code of practice for crowd-funding services.

How to use crowdfunding to release your music

Artists set a campaign goal (the amount of money that they need to record and manufacture the album) and then encourage their fans to pre-order the album. If enough fans do so, the project reaches its target and the artist records, manufactures and distributes the album within the pre-determined timeframe. If the goal is not reached, artists are not required to produce the album.

Crowdfunding platforms are also used by artists who have already financed an album, but who want to utilise the goal-setting and marketing tools in order to optimise support from fans. 

QRATES.com is a crowdfunding platform specifically for musicians who are not signed to a label and who want to press vinyl records.

MU members can seek the advice of their Regional Office in relation to crowdfunding agreements. 

If you’re considering releasing an album via a crowdfunding platform, it is worth considering the following:

Research crowdfunding sites

Research which is the best site for you and your music: Talk to other artists that have released albums via crowdfunding and also look at the different sites to see whose campaigns have worked well and what you like about the different platforms.

Estimate how much support you might need

How much support do you need? Whilst one site may offer a project manager who can help you to build your profile, price your items and plan social media activity for your campaign, others may not offer anything by way of a personal or bespoke service. If you find the process daunting or administratively challenging, choose a platform with a good support service.

Rates of commission

Rates of commission vary greatly, as do the timescales for payments to artists.  Weigh up the rate of commission against the service provided. Also take time to understand how and when you will be paid - It’s often the case that some of the money is only paid once you have fulfilled all of your orders.

Finding the right time

Give yourself plenty of time to launch the campaign and subsequently record and manufacture the album (if you haven’t already done so), and subsequently fulfil the orders. Most artists allow their campaigns to run for 2-3 months.

What can you sell in addition to your album? 

Crowdfunding sites encourage artists to sell a wide range of merchandise in order to attract as many pledges and purchases as possible. Artists often take the opportunity to sell their back-catalogue as well as artwork, handwritten lyric sheets, private gigs and the opportunity to be mentioned within the album’s credits. It’s important to remember that you will most likely pay a commission on all items sold, whereas you might currently sell some of these items, without paying commission, within your own websites/online stores.

Pricing your albums and merchandise

It’s important to take into consideration the amount of money that you’d like to make from each item and also the prices being charged by other artists of a similar standing on the same platform. You also need to take the commission fees into account.

​Spreading the word and repeating the message

In order to meet your target you will need to ensure that you generate enough traffic to your campaign page. Most sites encourage you to sync your social media platforms in order that automatic updates can be posted across your pages. However, be sure to use other means of communication such as e-mails to your database.

As most campaigns run for 2 or 3 months, you will need to tell your fans several times about your campaign. An initial announcement will generally result in the most sales in a short period of time, but telling fans around the end of the month (when a lot of people get paid) is an effective time to share your news.

You may also find that your fanbase like to pledge/purchase when your campaign is just about to reach a landmark figure – fans like to feel responsible for helping artists reach a milestone.

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