A few weeks ago I attended an inspiring CD release party for the Aury Moore Band‘s new CD, Here I Am. The AMB is a female-fronted indie Seattle rock band whose latest CD was produced by Stevie (full disclosure). I’ve been fortunate to be a part of Aury’s inner circle, and even to feed her a few music marketing tips. She’s an experienced and accomplished musician and marketer herself, and I wanted to share the story of this 12-song CD.
This article is the first of a two-part series. In the first post, I describe how Aury used Kickstarter to successfully raise over $20,000 to record, promote and pre-sell her CD. In Part II, I outline how Aury followed up with a highly successful CD release party and what might lie in store as she continues the process of marketing her newest release.
The promotion of this CD began even before it was produced. A well-executed CD release, launch and promotion process is ideally 12-14 months, and a crowd funding campaign with Kickstarter (or via another crowd funding platofrm such as PledgeMusic, IndieGoGo or RocketHub) is an important and powerful marketing and pre-sales technique.
- Spring 2012: Aury and her band came to Stevie, wanting to record a new CD. Aury had recorded in the past, and had actually begun the process with another producer, but he was tragically killed. She didn’t have funds to continue making the CD at the time, and was talking to a few individual fans about the possibility of them funding it. Aury and I talked about the idea of doing a Kickstarter campaign to raise money instead of relying on one or two individuals. I invited Seattle singer-songwriter Jean Mann over to my house to participate in a group discussion on music marketing for several of Stevie’s clients. Jean graciously detailed to the group how she had used Kickstarter to raise money for her CD. It was something Aury and her band had never done before, but Aury recognized the potential right away and started planning.
- Summer 2012: Aury researched Kickstarter, and then began work on the video and premiums for her campaign.
- August – October 2012: The AMB Kickstarter campaign ran for 60 days, ultimately raising $2000 above the original goal of $18,000.
- October 2012 – May 2013: Stevie, Aury and the band recorded and mixed the CD.
- June 2013: Aury Moore Band CD release party happens with over 400 people attending.
- July 2013: As of this writing, the new CD is available on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, etc. and they have sold about 600 physical CDs.
A Creative and Lively Kickstarter Campaign
The AMB Kickstarter campaign ran August 6 through October 5, 2012. Of course, it raised funds to enable the recording and marketing of the CD, but it also generated a lot of excitement and momentum for the band. Remarkably, Aury did not have a website or mailing list during this time, nor was the band very active on Twitter. Aury has a very active Facebook page, though, as well as more than 10,000 fans on ReverbNation. And she worked them!
There are so many things Aury did right. She raised $20,852 with 247 backers. That’s an average of $84 per backer, almost $15 more than the average Kickstarter pledge of $70.
Some key elements of the campaign:
- Creativity, transparency and humor. The entire campaign was a showcase for Aury’s personality, which is humble, straightforward and honest, focused on her fans. Her communications mirrored her down-to-earth personality. The pitch video was a spoof of a commercial beer ad, but it also highlighted Aury’s strengths as a performer with live footage of the band. It was well-edited and had great voice-over narration. It was re-done several times until Aury felt it was right. You can read more about the trials of Aury’s Kickstarter video making process on Launch and Release. Here’s what Aury had to say to me about the Kickstarter video (although I think 41% is a pretty good number!):
I wish I could have figured out a way to get more people to WATCH the video. Of all the people who pledged only 41% watched the video. No actually it is pretty cool that 59% of the people pledged without watching the video but… I can’t help but believe if more people would have watched the video, they would have likely shared it and I think we would have raised a lot more money. People who didn’t even know us, who watched the video pledged simply bcz they loved the video.
- Constant communication, always with a clear Call To Action (CTA). Frequent and artful promotion was the focus of Aury’s personal and band Facebook pages during her campaign. She also made several follow-on videos during the campaign and published 24 lengthy and detailed text updates for her backers on Kickstarter to keep them engaged. Aury was relentless about politely reminding people of the campaign deadlines and using every technique to amplify her message by offering incentives for her backers to promote it to their networks as well. Every communication, every thank you, always included a link back to the campaign and a request to pledge. “Don’t be afraid to ask” and “Then, make it super easy for people to give right then” were critical techniques behind the success of Aury’s campaign.
- A wide range of premiums. Aury had 24 different premiums, from the standard $25 digital download plus signed CD, to more creative and personal items that were limited in number, a testament to the marketing idea that emphasizing that something scarce will increase its value. Her premiums are a great example of the Whale/Minnow/Dolphin marketing segmented monetization technique, where offers are numerous and varied in price to draw in a wide range of contributors at all levels. Here’s what Aury had to say on this:
The pledge items were fun! The ones that people loved the most were the really personal ones. We had a package for $222 [Aury is obsessed with this number, for reasons too long to go into here]. For your pledge of $222 you received a night of me cooking you dinner. We of course made a point to let you know that I can’t cook… We had 13 people pledge for me to cook them dinner anyways! A few other cool items were Eddie’s Hats. During our shows our drummer has this little shtick of him changing hats during the shows. The fans are constantely trying to catch him changing his hat… it is fun… well… Eddie gave away 12 of his hats. We also let someone shave his head, using only the best electric razor, of course. I gave away 2 hard board posters from my first CD release party. there were only a total of 3 made. 2 with autographs from all the people who played that show with me including Alan White of Yes and Michael Wilton of Queensryche. I have one of these for myself but I gave away the other 2 in my Kickstarter campaign. One with autographs and one without. People liked the one of a kind items. I also added more pledge packages by request from people who wanted to pledge. People asked me to add shot glasses and tshirts that would be autographed that were not the ones made for the campaign. I also had people negotiate with me… they offered to pledge if I would come out and perform a song with their band. I did this on two occasions.
- Personally and creatively thanking every backer. Again, here is Aury herself on how she did this:
Every time someone pledged I personally thanked them for their pledge. I made some silly pictures that had the Kickstarter information on it as well as our slogan “You Pledge… We give you cool stuff!” and our other slogan, “Be a part of the AMB!!” If you were a Facebook friend I would make my thank you public by posting this silly picture on your Facebook page for all the world to see. This also helped us with pledges. We attached the link to these pictures so people could check it out.
- Knowing how to look good in front of a camera. This is something that isn’t talked about enough in discussions of band marketing. Aury posts many flattering photos of herself and the band on her Facebook page. It’s an important part of her fan engagement strategy. She knows how to work a camera, photo or video, for maximum effect. Having a wide range of great band photos is important for creating great marketing materials, too. As a former professional wedding photographer, Aury personally has a high bar for photos and videos, and she had a team of professionals (friends and family) who helped her get the video she wanted. Whether we like to admit it or not, it’s important to look professional. People want to give money to a band that looks like they care enough to make themselves look good in both pictures and video. There have been many articles written about making a good Kickstarter video, but I think one thing that gets confused is the idea of being genuine while still having high production value. The video should look fun and casual, but be well-produced. Aury’s video accomplishes that effectively.
- Adding new premiums and a stretch goal during the campaign. When Aury reached her initial fundraising goal of $18,000, she had a stretch goal already in mind of an additional $2K to create an add-on CD of jazz and standards. She also polled her backers and asked what kinds of premiums they wanted, or wanted more of. She added new premiums part way through the campaign based on that feedback.
- Cause marketing. Aury has been passionate about raising money for charitable causes for a long time, and she worked this in to her Kickstarter campaign as well. From the AMB Kickstarter update #15:
Also, something I am very excited about is that the AMB WILL be spending a day in Seattle, passing out pizza to the homeless! We had a pledger from Florida make a deal with me… on the stipulation that the band would take a day and give out pizza to the homeless. In addition to his pledge he will also be supplying the pizza .Once we hit the goal I decided to pitch in and buy some pizza as well. Now many of my friends want to be a part and this day. It is looking to become a great event. We are even toying with the idea, if people want to join us, cool, and we encourage them to help by maybe bringing other items these people may need. Blankets, Coats, Socks etc. We all have items we no longer use… I am excited about the possibilities. I actually spoke with a friend of mine who is homeless. He gave me advice as to what to do to make sure when we do this, people in need will be aware! I am especially excited about what that day is going to bring. It has been a good motivator for me. I am thrilled knowing this is actually going to happen!
- What she would do do differently. Here are Aury’s own words about that:
What did I do wrong? For some reason I struggled getting all the band members to buy in to what I was doing. I don’t know if they really got all that I was doing in order for us to be able to complete this CD. If I could do it all over again I would try to figure out a way to get the entire band to buy in to the campaign we were doing. I think if they felt like they had more ownership in what we were doing we may have raised more money.
There’s a lot to be learned by studying other bands’ Kickstarter campaigns. It’s important to note, though, that Aury’s campaign was successful because she was just being herself – an honest, straightforward and generous person. She didn’t do it all herself – she has a group of people, her superfans, her informal “street team,” who have helped her. However, like any successful entrepreneur, Aury did her research, she planned in advance, came up with some very creative ideas, worked extremely hard, executed well, and inspired her team to work hard for her. The success of her Kickstarter campaign shows the fruits of that work.
In Part II, I will detail the CD relase party for the Aury Moore Band’s new CD, Here I Am, and give my take on the elements that made it another important milestone in marketing for Aury and the band.
More resources for launching and marketing a CD:
- Chris Robley has written a series of detailed articles about the CD promotion process on The DIY Musician blog which I recommend every artist read.
Do you have other resources you’d like to recommend on funding and launching a CD? Experiences with other crowdfunding platforms, or your own Kickstarter tips to share?