As someone who recently raised a staggering sum of more than $15,000 for his most recent project through Kickstarter, Phoenix rapper Mega Ran is certainly qualified to offer his tips and tricks for success with the crowd-funding site, which has become an increasingly popular way for musicians to raise capital to record.
True to his roots as a former teacher, Mega Ran has written up a lesson plan to educate the masses on How to Win at Kickstarter, and he’s kindly allowed me to share it here to help spread the word. Enjoy and absorb the insight from a musician who seemingly never slows down.
At 11:24 AM on May 4, 2012, while preparing for a show in Wisconsin, I got a text message.
As of Saturday, May 4, I had just finished up my third Kickstarter campaign, and the third time was truly the charm for me, after raising $5,300 out of $2,500 the first time, and then $5,400 out of $2,500 the second time. This time I was asking for $3,000 to create a 3-part album, a comic and video game. I thought it could work out, but never imagined what would happen. So how did it go?
When the smoke cleared, the final total was at a whopping 516% of the desired goal. I beat my last two Kickstarters by an average of $10,000. It’s the third biggest comic book total raised on Kickstarter. I get at least three emails a day asking this question, so I figured I’d help you out by answering it publicly:
How did you raise all that money??
I’m going to tell you something. Although I think I’m a good rapper, OK producer and pretty cool performer, I’m not the best at any of these things. There’s a lot I can do better. Heck, I even hate my voice. But I’ll tell you something else. NO ONE will outwork me, at any level. A year ago this week (May 2012), I stepped away from my teaching job, not knowing if I’d ever have to come back or not. I was determined to make the most of my God-given talents, the biggest of which might be my heart. It was the scariest thing I’d ever done … and I think it was the fear that makes me work harder than ever, because I know that if I don’t hustle, I’ll starve, or have to return to a 9-to-5 job.
If there’s one thing I learned from all my years of teaching, it’s something that my first mentor teacher told me. The best teachers are the best thieves. That didn’t mean to steal pencils and paper from my fellow cohorts, but she meant that in order to stay on top in the classroom, you have to know what works and what doesn’t, and adjust quickly sometimes.
If another teacher does something that works, by all means, use it in your classroom … but do it your way, of course. I’ve watched a lot of teachers in my day, whether in the classroom or on stage, so I definitely picked up plenty of cool ideas to share.
So without further ado, here is Mega Ran’s version of How to Win at Kickstarter.
1. Be Realistic.
Let’s be honest – it doesn’t take $5000 to make an album these days. I have made countless albums for FAR less than that. Anyone asking for that much for a single album is being a little greedy. On the other hand, a Kickstarter project for a high-quality music video for less than that is selling itself (and its backers) short. Be honest and up front with people in the description. Be realistic about promises of delivery dates. Take shipping into account … remember that while it’s tempting to offer them the world for their help, you’ll have to pay for that stuff later.
Being realistic means asking yourself some hard questions.
a) Would I donate to this?: Time to step outside of yourself … is it interesting enough that if you weren’t involved, you would want to be?
b) Is my goal too much? Too little?: ALWAYS consider the fees and the fact that even IF you hit your goal, you don’t get the amount you see on screen.
c) Do I have supporters who would spend money on my vision?
d) The only way to know if people will spend money on you is past success. Musicians: do you travel? Is your music shared socially? Photogs/artists/game developers – what have you done that people know about?
e) Ask yourself, is 30 days going to be enough to get the project funded? It should be. Skip the 60-day option. That brings me to #2…
2. Timing is Everything
As with anything on the Internet, timing is super important. If I hadn’t made a song about Jeremy Lin right after Lin’s second great game and put it online, I would’ve never made an impact. By his fourth good game, there were at least 20 different Lin raps on the Internet. But since I was first, many press outlets, including ESPN, showed love to mine and refused to even acknowledge those.
Think about when your project will start and when it’ll end … is there a big holiday in there? Forget it. Go for the end of tax season if possible, haha.
When do you want to release your project? Consider that it takes two weeks after the campaign ends to receive funding. Give yourself time to fund the project and then to make the project even better.
If you have a friend who’s also an artist doing a Kickstarter at the same time, try to WAIT. Show a little common courtesy … Plus no need to spread your resources thin. You should even use your resources to promote his or her project for some karma points.
3. Seek help…The Right Way!
This past spring on The VS Tour with Willie Evans Jr, RoQy TyRaiD and DJ DN3, we ran into one of my favorite emcees, MURS, in a most unlikely location, Tucson, Ariz. – and at our show. When I asked what he was up to, he handed me a flyer. The flyer was for his Kickstarter campaign. In all the Kickstarter campaigns I had been a part of, we never utilized print media … I don’t know why, just never did. Learned something.
a) Social media promo is best, but also can be the worst – don’t overdo it. One plug a day was my max. Also remember to utilize all social sites – your Facebook friends don’t necessarily use Twitter, or vice versa. Don’t forget about YouTube! Post your Kickstarter video on YouTube as well.
b) NEVER post it on friends’ walls or @ message people direct asking for support. You’ll isolate people you like and eventually turn them against you.
c) Email blasts to your list are golden (if you don’t have a strong list, ABORT MISSION).
d) If you know others who can assist on your project, and are talented, get them involved. More heads working means more people promoting … hopefully.
e) Print flyers and circulate during performances or exposure opportunities (Thanks MURS!): This one helped me big time because I happened to launch the campaign shortly before a big performance and panel at PAX East in Boston. I had 1000 flyers ready to go, and littered the BCEC with them before the weekend was over. HUGE help.
4. Call Up The Homies
I’ll be honest – family and close friends will probably NOT support financially. If you do hit up close friends and fam, just ask them to post/blog it, or like it on Facebook … then be happy if they do put some change down.
Email or CALL people who have supported in the past (no text or Twitter/FB) – but make sure these people like you – or even better, have something to do with your project! See #3.
I hate to use the term “fans,” but if you have people that are very supportive of your art, then they’ll keep supporting if the project is authentic and can benefit them.
My second campaign was one that I somewhat regret – it was to get a ticket to play a show in the UK. I had a blast going, but that was a reward that would not benefit all of my supporters, only the ones there. I should have worked something in that would benefit everyone involved.
Any journalists, semi-famous artists or bloggers that you know should be notified of the campaign immediately … don’t ask them to post it, but if they’re down, they will.
5. Rewards and Research
When I started this campaign, I didn’t think about how far it would go, or how anyone would categorize it. I’d like to consider myself a pretty hard-to-categorize dude, considering that I make two very different styles of Hip-Hop at different times. While creating your campaign on the Kickstarter website, they ask you for your project’s category.
Considering that my “Language Arts” album idea was a music album, a comic book and a video game, I would have to choose one area and stick with it. I went with video games, because that was the aspect that hadn’t been started yet, and that I thought would be the part that would take the most effort to complete. I lucked out, because it turns out that Video Game projects earn the highest dollar amount on average on Kickstarter.
Talk to people who have been successful in each category. Ask them what worked and what didn’t. Look at the top funded projects in your category; today and of all time.
Give great rewards! Personalized stuff works. My best-selling reward in any category in the past two campaigns has been giving the backer a chance to choose the source material or video game we sample, and me writing an original song, about whatever I like, and then mentioning their name in there somewhere.
My friend MC Lars offers the opportunity for him to come to your home to hang out … and he’s a super nice guy, so that’s probably a blast. Offer things that don’t cost much but mean a lot to people. Sign your rhyme book and give it away. It’s no hassle to give someone a Twitter shoutout but it can make someone’s day!
Borrow reward ideas from as many sources as possible (again with the stealing). But you gotta remember to personalize it! People give shoutouts, I go to the next level and do a freestyle rap shoutout.
Research! Be a good student and browse the KS site for cool projects, either like yours or just very interesting. If there are projects like yours that haven’t worked, it might be time to rethink your strategy.
And there you have it. Not gonna promise that this will get you $15,000 or more in a month, but I can say that if you follow these, and have a great strategy, fanbase and campaign, you’ll do great. See you on the interwebs. Peace!
Raheem “Random” Jarbo