After funding their last album completely independently, Enter the Haggis turned to Kickstarter for their new album "The Modest Revolution". In under 11 hours, they exceeded their goal of $20,000 in funding and doubled it in the next 8 days. We talk to Brian Buchanan from Enter the Haggis about treating your fans right, the future of music and starting your own campaign.
You made your $20,000 goal in only 11 hours, and $40,000 over the next 9 days, compared to a couple of months for your previous album. How?
I think that Kickstarter's system is set up really well for fan-sharing, and we had a TON of people sharing our campaign to their friends in the first couple of weeks. Our producer Zach McNees
and I also spent a lot of time scripting a Kickstarter video that we felt would be effective and entertaining, and we've had over 4000 views of the video so far - that obviously helps a lot. I think the fact that the amount of money raised and the goal amount are prominently featured is a good psychological push, too - every time we've neared a significant benchmark (like $20k, $30k) the pledges have accelerated noticeably. We helped that happen by promising fun and valuable bonus rewards at certain levels, too - free copies of our live album, free bumper stickers, exclusive downloads, etc. The best way to encourage and appreciate generosity is to give back every chance you get.
How did you go about building your fanbase before launching on Kickstarter?
There's no easy answer to this one - we've been touring extensively for 12 years. We've been very active online through our mailing list and more recently through social media, and we stay after every single show until every cd is signed and every photo is taken. We have the unbelievable luxury of traveling the world playing music we wrote, and more time off at home than any responsible adult has any right to, and the second you forget who affords you those luxuries they vanish pretty quickly. Your fans are your customers, sure - but they're also your lifeline. Always remember your musician friends at home who have to work jobs they hate to make ends meet while they hammer out covers in bars every weekend.
Given that you'd successfully crowdfunded independently before, why did you choose to use Kickstarter at all?
Our producer Zach McNees (who is also one of my best friends) saw some amazing success on Kickstarter with other acts he'd worked with or befriended, and he pushed me pretty hard to consider using their system. While we loved the total "indie" approach we took last time, there were a number of sophisticated elements that Kickstarter had integrated which we just couldn't do by ourselves. There are disadvantages, for sure: a higher commission price; we don't actually see any money until the campaign ends (which makes things like studio deposits difficult); the potential bad taste of a more "corporate" sheen when promoted to an indie audience. Overall it seemed like we could make it work with a good video and a really hands-on approach, and so far it's been more successful than we could have dreamed.
How did the experience of using Kickstarter compare with crowdfunding your previous album?
The momentum was insane - we didn't have any sort of bean-counter on the last fundraiser page, so it didn't gather steam so quickly. When it started looking like we might hit our goal of $20K the first day, our fans went nuts and hit every online outlet they could think of promoting on our behalf, just to see if we could all hit that mark together. Zach and I basically sat by our computers all day hitting refresh and shaking our heads in disbelief.
You wrote in your campaign “This is not a collection jar. This is a bake sale!”, can you explain that a bit more?
Sure. We wanted people to understand that our campaign should be looked at more as a limited-time exclusive merch store, rather than a charity. For me it's the difference between sitting on a corner begging for change and passing the hat after juggling chainsaws on a unicycle - both are depending on your generosity, but the performer understands that they're offering you something and allowing you to decide whether it's valuable enough to pay for. We've gotten a ton of pledges for MORE than the stated price of an item, with little notes and comments saying things like "My business has had a great year and your music has brought my family joy, so I'm happy to toss a little extra into the pot." It's humbling, for sure.
You've made the digital downloads DRM free, and even let people listen to your full albums on your site EnterTheHaggis.com. What impact do you think this kind of “free for all” approach has had?
I honestly did that because I was sick of having to chase down music when a band caught my attention. Honestly, I know I'm guilty of sometimes downloading an album for free because I'm not willing to risk paying for an album on the strength of one or two songs. If I knew that bands were confident enough in their music to let me listen to the WHOLE THING before I dropped any money, I'd be happy to check out a few tracks on their site and then head to iTunes (I've done this dozens of times). I don't understand the whole mentality of keeping the art locked away and expecting fans to pay for your album just because you assure them it's great - that's not the world we live in anymore.
I've been surprised at the passionate response of our fans to this policy, though - it seems to mean a LOT to them that we trust them and are willing to provide jukeboxes for them to listen at work or when they're away from their own music collections. It's sort of an unintended bonus, but the result has been really positive for us.
Given that you're not from the US or UK, why did you choose to launch on Kickstarter as opposed to IndieGogo. What did you need to do differently from US based founders?
We've got a couple of members living in the US and our band has a US bank account, so although it did take a couple of bank meetings and a few emails back and forth with Kickstarter to confirm that we were doing everything right, there weren't really any problems. That said... we don't actually HAVE the money yet... haha.
How did you go about actually registering for Amazon Payments, as non-US citizens?
We had a legal US resident in our band (our bass player Mark) and his name was on our US account. We honestly did it the same way everyone else does; as far as I can tell, if you don't have a US account or US-resident members to "run" the project, you're out of luck on Kickstarter. (Editor's note: Not strictly, true. A number of campaigns from other countries have found loopholes that still fit Kickstarter / Amazon's terms.)
What was the most unexpected experience of running your campaign?
We had a guy drop $2000 on an $80 package, just to help us out. That was mindblowing. We also introduced a package we thought might be a stretch - 2 tickets to an in-studio live recording in Kentucky for $100 - and it sold out so fast we had to add a second night, which also sold out within a week. You never know what people will respond to.
Will you be back to Kickstarter next time? Why?
I don't want to make any predictions for that. We'd love to get to a point where we had enough liquidity to finance our albums outright, but that's awfully hard as an indie band these days (records still aren't cheap if you want them to sound good). We also worry a little bit about "going to the well" too many times; our fans have been unbelievably generous but we don't want to seem greedy. Still, it seems like most music fans enjoy and support this new model of the industry, so it's entirely possible it'll work again.
You wrote a great piece on the future of the music biz on your blog, in 2010. Where do you think independent music distribution is going now in 2012?
Well, people like Bob Leifsetz have been predicting the death of the "album" for half a decade now and outside of mainstream pop it hasn't happened.
I'm personally surprised to see physical media like CDs still sticking around, but I think a lot of that has to do with the resurgence of the live music culture - you can't buy MP3's at the merch table (at least not easily). I think we're going to see super high-resolution uncompressed audio becoming the norm very soon, especially once our internet bandwidth explodes thanks to tech like Google's fi-op internet - once we start storing everything in the cloud, the only thing limiting audio/video resolution is speed of access. iTunes will start offering WAV files or some proprietary uncompressed format (which I'm sure they'll call AudioHD or something.. I should trademark that).
Bands who decide to continue offering physical packaging will have to be creative to incentivize their fans to make purchases - offer exclusive artwork, special-edition embossed packages for the super-fan, etc. Whether or not we agree with the ethics of it, digital content has essentially become free in the heads of our consumer base and there's no going back - DRM doesn't work and it penalizes the wrong people.
Beyond that - I have no idea. If I knew, I'd probably be rich. :)
What would be your advice to bands or other people just starting out, who are thinking of launching a Kickstarter campaign?
Be honest, be realistic - understand your fans and give them what they want while still staying true to your musical or artistic ideals. We're surrounded and assaulted by noise and compromise every day - as Mac said on The Newsroom a few weeks back
, "Be the integrity" people are searching for or you'll find yourself on the wrong side of the indie "us vs. them" mentality pretty fast.
On a less... pretentious note (haha) - fan-funding, crowd-sourcing, call it what you will, isn't for everyone. Mainstream art and music is a whole other world, and fans of Nicky Minaj don't feel the same sort of personal connection to her (in general) as they do to The Spring Standards
or Julia Nunes
. All in all, there are a ton of great resources online (like Crowdfunding Dojo!) and Kickstarter's boot camp is very worthwhile.
Finally: MAKE A GOOD VIDEO. Spend the time on it. Then think of rewards your fans or customers will really want, price them reasonably and stay engaged. Good luck!