How to crowdfund for your film, TV, theatre show or music album – an in-depth guide
Crowdfunding has been the way forward for many independent film, TV, music and theatre productions over the years, where perhaps traditional commissioning has not been possible. Hundreds of entertainment professionals – known or otherwise – have raised literally millions of pounds and dollars to see their visions come to life.
The Veronica Mars Movie Project – which struggled to find its feet with financiers – raised over $5.5 million (£4m) from 91, 585 backers, while hip-hop trio De La Soul raised $600,000 (£444,435) from 11,169 pledges in just 11 hours for a new album a couple of years ago.
Thousands of other lesser-known theatre, movie and TV projects have also come to fruition thanks to perfectly designed crowdfunding campaigns and the support of many.
But how can a creative individual or team create a campaign successfully? What does it take?
Mandy News takes you through the vital keys to launching a triumphant crowdfunding campaign.
Successful crowdfunding campaigns take time and energy. Making one can feel like a full-time job as you pull all your assets together. This feeling is absolutely normal and comes with the territory of succeeding. You don't get something for nothing, after all!
Be sure to set aside plenty of time in your schedule to dedicate to it.
Crowdfunding campaigns can not just be slapped together and put out into the ether with the hope that they'll do well. Time, energy, commitment and dedication are key.
All crowdfunding campaigns should be executed with a targeted audience in mind, regardless of how large or small that audience might be. Of course, we'd all like our projects to be adored by every person on the planet but the reality is that each individual has their own tastes and interests.
Work out who your audience is by analysing projects similar to yours. Regardless of how unique your project is, believe us, there will be similar projects out there, presently or historically.
See what those projects did or offered that interested or excited its audience. Find out that information and use it to your advantage.
Creating a solid pitch for your crowdfunding campaign is crucial to gaining the support you'll need from backers.
Presumably, you will have tested your idea among your industry peers to ensure it has the ingredients to engage and interest the audience you're targeting. If not, do so. Whether your project is an innovative new album of music, community theatre, an off-off-Broadway musical, short film or humanitarian piece of work for a good cause, you'll want to know that there is an audience for it. Ideally an audience hungry to see and support work like yours.
If – after casting your net wide and targeting potential backers – you're not receiving the love and enthusiasm that you'd hoped for, it might be time to reconsider the project or, at least, 'the sell' of the project.
When working on your pitch, put all of your energy into it. Create interesting videos, photos and write exciting, engaging copy. Offer references to other similar work that will allow potential backers to understand your vision. Include team bios, so that people can get to grips with who they're helping. Your audience are interested in the person they'll be backing just as much as the project.
Yes, this is all hard work itself but it should work wonders for you once your crowdfunding campaign goes live.
Whatever scale your production is, make sure your budget is completely thought through. Your backers won't necessarily want a penny-by-penny breakdown of what you intend to spend the budget on but they will want an overall idea of where the money is going.
Is the crowdfunding money going to a venue? Marketing flyers? Pre-production? Equipment? Paying crew and cast? Post-production? Beyond your own private budget spreadsheet, make sure that you clearly show what the raised funds will pay for, along with an explanation as to why those costs are out of your personal or collective reach.
Choose your crowdfunding platforms wisely. See what they offer and why and if they'll work for you. Look at what platforms have worked for projects similar to the one you're making.
You might find Kickstarter is most suitable or Indiegogo or Crowdfunder or JustGiving or Seed & Spark. Really deep dive into what's out there and what is best suited to you and your project, ideally considering the best platform for your art form.
Whatever you do, budget for the commission taken off your raised amount and make sure that analysing platform commissions are part of your decision-making process. Kickstarter take a 5% commission as well as a payment processing fee of 3% and $0.20/£0.20 per pledge from fully-funded projects. Indiegogo take 5% of any funds raised, a $25 processing fee for bank accounts located outside the US and potentially other fees for wire transfers.
If you haven't incorporated the 5%+ commission into your budget before launching your campaign then you could end up short of the amount you need to make your project happen.
Whichever platform you're considering, research the Ts and Cs before committing to it
Of course, crowdfunding did exist before the likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, so if you feel confident that you can raise the money without those platforms taking their cut then do go ahead. This might be particularly useful
Before starting your crowdfunding campaign, you'll want to work out what your backers will get in return. Scale your rewards up and down to match the amount you're receiving from them. Receiving a £10 or $10 pledge should offer something significantly different to £100, $100, £1000 or $1000 pledges.
So, what do they receive? A ticket to a show/screening? A goody bag? Exclusive access to a string of private content? Red carpet access? A DVD/digital download? Backstage access? A day on set? Credit on the production? Props? T-shirts?
Obviously, creating an exceptional end-product is your primary goal but inventing a string of appealing perks or rewards that incentivise potential backers to put money into your project is also worth its weight in gold.
Do bear in mind the differences between perceived and real values. A signed poster by an unknown filmmaker, musician, theatre director or actor might not pack the same punch as one signed by a known creative and might not cut the mustard with a random person who has stumbled upon your crowdfunding campaign. A 'Special Thanks' for £50/$50 may not quite be as appealing as you'd hope.
The best way to look at perks for your crowdfunding project is to step away from what you gain and assume the point of view of the backer and what they're getting for their money. Would you pay x amount for x, y, z? Is it worth it? Does it seem good value for money?
No creative or business venture should go ahead without adhering to the law. The last thing you want after completing your project successfully is to have it all ruined by getting into trouble, due to oversight.
Crowdfunding campaigns traditionally do not allow for tax breaks and are not seen as investments but financial support in exchange for rewards. The ROI (return on investment) is the end product and the additional trimmings/perks/rewards on offer.
If in doubt, always, always, ALWAYS look at the law in the country you are crowdfunding in and follow the rules! If investment and profit is what you're after then perhaps a traditional business structure might work better for you.
Creating your crowdfunding campaign is half the work. Once it's made, you'll need to ensure that it is seen by as many people as possible. You can not just rely on people stumbling upon your crowdfunding campaign and contributing. The internet is a competitive place.
See if you can get written about in local news or appear on TV channels. Try to get as many people as possible – whether part of your team or not – to put the word out.
There are a myriad of ways to launch your crowdfunding campaign but one of the best out there is called a 'soft launch'.
A soft launch means notifying your close friends, family and colleagues about your crowdfunding campaign before it goes live. This gives them – and you – the opportunity to ready themselves to share the campaign on launch day and, hopefully, back it, meaning you'll get off to a strong start and, all being well, build momentum.
Being pounds or dollars up on the opening days of your crowdfunding campaign says "success" to strangers and might just tip them over the edge into backing you.
Either way, you'll want to make sure – beyond sharing your campaign widely on social media – that you really put your all into making your crowdfunding campaign visible. Get all hands on deck. Don't just share, share, share on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – it can become tiresome, grating and seen as spam. Send direct messages, emails, letters, make phone calls. Constantly spread the word in real life and beyond.
Whatever you're making or promising, make sure to be consistent and deliver. Asking for money from strangers, friends or family is not a small ask and you'll want to assure them that their cash and support is in good hands.
Give consistent and informative updates, even if they include setbacks (all productions have some of some description). If you're going to go AWOL to produce the project, make sure that your backers are aware that they might not hear from you for a while. This should stand you in good stead for future projects and speaks volumes about your professionalism.
Communication is key.