Barney has seen the PledgeMusic experience from all sides. Not only is he a valuable part of the PledgeMusic team, but he’s also a member of UK reggae rockers Sonic Boom Six. This means he’s uniquely suited to provide this helpful list of tips for a successful PledgeMusic campaign.
PledgeMusic sees hundreds of direct-to-fan campaigns a year on the platform, many of them from internationally renowned artists like Erasure, Bring Me The Horizon and Smashing Pumpkins. But there are also just as many emerging, unsigned and smaller bands coming in and smashing their targets by running well-planned and engaging campaigns. Having run campaigns from both sides of the desk – as a band and as a campaign manager – here are my seven tips to ensure that your project is a success.
PLAN YOUR CAMPAIGN
The most important period of a campaign comes before you press ‘launch’ on the project. Meticulous preparation is essential. Make sure that your numbers add up, that you have enough time to deliver your material, and all the possibilities are considered, including artwork, mastering and whatever else may come into play for your project. Remember to account for the production costs of your merchandise in the final figures. Ensure your profile has the images, links and music that you want to represent you and your exclusives.
The PledgeMusic staff will help you through every step of this process but ultimately, they can only work with what you provide them with. This is a partnership and, with proper planning, this platform is the greatest way to engage your fans you could imagine.
MAKE YOUR PITCH VIDEO A PRIORITY
Your video pitch is your first update and your chance to get the message out about your campaign. It’s the first port of call for visitors to your profile and will stay there for the whole project, so it’s worth getting right. Using programs like iMovie, it’s easier than ever to knock together a professionally captioned and edited video. An interview with you in a studio is the standard pitch –- and can really work — but it’s also worth thinking outside of the box.
My band, Sonic Boom Six, chose to do a new, original acoustic song about our campaign and then we remixed it and offered that as a PledgeMusic-exclusive free download. Exit International did a hilarious video involving, exercise, sexual pandas and nudity. Land of the Giants did an outdoor pitch involving cucumbers, kidnapping, rolling hills and nudity. You’d certainly be forgiven for thinking nudity is the common denominator for PledgeMusic success, but I can assure you that the key is anything that’s going to get shared on social networks, which will push your campaign beyond your immediate fans and as far as it can go.
ALWAYS KEEP YOUR PLEDGERS UPDATED
This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen acts begin their campaigns with enthusiastic updates and then slow down as the campaign progresses, especially as they got towards, or past, their targets. This is a bad idea because a campaign doesn’t have to stop once you’ve reached your target. In fact, many campaigns thrive afterwards, as some fans choose to watch from afar and like to have confirmation that the release is a certainty to jump in.
It’s later in the campaign that the updates really come in handy. As more of the Pledgers engage with, and discuss, the latest update in your campaign on social media, the more the fans on the outside of PledgeMusic AccessPass begin to want in to see the updates that they’ve missed. It’s only by building the library of updates across the whole campaign that you can make the currency of your updates a vital part of the fan experience.
THE PERSONAL TOUCH WORKS
It’s a part of the culture of a PledgeMusic campaign that the artist and the fans are united in the creative journey, so don’t be afraid of climbing off the stage and addressing fans personally. Fans will join a campaign if they get closer proximity to an artist, and you see the best results when you approach communicating with your Pledgers with a positive honesty rather than Rock ‘n’ Roll aloofness.
Being a relatively new concept, it’s only natural that some artists feel uncomfortable with the idea of direct-to-fan pre-order campaigns, so they may attempt to distance themselves from the projects. This is a bad idea. The most enthusiastic engagement from Pledgers — the lifeblood of the campaigns — comes when artists communicate personally with the people who are supporting them at the grassroots of their art.
USE CREATIVE EXCLUSIVES AND REACT TO DEMAND
Think long and hard about the personal, creative exclusives that you can provide, because these are the ones that really make the difference to the bottom line. An item like ‘your name in the credits’ will cost you nothing stock-wise, but get a hundred of them in your liner notes and they’re a great asset for your project, providing they’re reasonably priced. Offering guest vocals from your singer is an engaging, and outside the box, idea.There are no hard and fast rules for what a person will or won’t pay for a creative exclusive like a cover version or a personalised song, but you’ll need to be adaptable. Once the campaign is launched, be ready to listen to the feedback of your audience on comments and social media and don’t be abashed about getting in touch with the staff at PledgeMusic to react to, and adjust, the pricing and exclusives in your project. You’ve got the greatest market research of all – your fans – at your fingertips so use this resource and keep abreast of what does and doesn’t work for your unique fan base.
With the ever-changing face of the music industry, and ongoing debate about downloading and streaming, fear of the dreaded studio ‘leak’ persists, so artists can be wary about the idea of having demos bouncing about the web. However, as artists, instead of worrying about our music getting out there, we’d do better served shift the goalposts of our expectations and use sites like PledgeMusic to engage our audience with demos, remixes and outtakes.
If anyone’s enough of a fan to listen to a demo, they’re also going to be enough of a fan to want to contribute to your projects, and you can always set to stream rather than download if that’s your preference. Don’t worry about little things like having tracks playing in the background during your updates — in fact, use them to whet the Pledger’s appetites. Your fans will feel privileged to hear your works in progress. Think of it as getting them excited for the album they’ve already pre-ordered rather than satiated for one they won’t.
RELAX, BELIEVE IN YOUR MUSIC AND ENJOY THE CAMPAIGN
I know, from experience and from talking to artists that a PledgeMusic campaign can be a daunting proposition. Putting together a host of exclusives, crunching the numbers and figuring out the calendar and schedule are tricky propositions for most artists, with a lot of responsibility assumed. But when I speak to artists after a campaign, without fail, they say that if they’d have known how well it was going to have worked from the start, they’d have concentrated on enjoying the process rather than worrying about the outcome.
Remember that nine out of ten of our sign-ups achieve their intended target, so if you’ve set a sensible target – which PledgeMusic campaign managers will help you with – and followed the advice above to the letter, chances are you and your awesome music will smash your targets, utilise the platform to its fullest and get the most out of your next release.