A Kick in the Teeth for Starters

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If running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the release of your band’s album teaches you anything, it is this: there are more scammers and spammers on the internet than honest people. The kindness and support of “The Three F’s” (family, friends, and fans) for your artistry can be overwhelmed by the deluge of messages from people wanting to take advantage of your energy and elation at having produced something you’re excited for people to hear.

Here is just one example of the many approaches I’ve had to swat away this past fortnight. A woman – let’s call her Ms Hope, because that’s what she called herself, though the name was obviously fake and her LinkedIn profile was cloned from a real person – sent me a private message. She says she is a patron of the arts and she’s impressed with our work. She’s recommended it to two friends who shared her excitement and immediately placed an order each. And by golly, no sooner had she said that than my phone went ‘ping’ with a notification of two more sales. One of these friends she informed me was a very influential industry insider and ran a marketing agency for artists crowdfunding their releases. “Should she put us in touch?” she offered helpfully.

Now I wasn’t born yesterday, so I said that I had no marketing budget at all (true) but that if her friend was genuinely so impressed and wanted to help, this would be gratefully received. She replied that a simple starter campaign wouldn’t cost very much and would achieve impressive results. I told her that however little it cost, it was more than I had. She continued to nag and “follow up” and “just touch base” for the next few days. I ignored it. But let me tell you what would have happened if I’d taken the bait.

She would have had her “friend” upsell me from “hardly anything” to a few hundred dollars. This would have achieved some modest success and the new orders pouring in from her network of “patrons of the arts” would have more than paid for it. At this point I would have been persuaded to really go for it and to shell out a grand or two “to reach even more people”. I would have been assured that some Kickstarter campaigns earned hundreds of thousands of dollars with their expert assistance, networking, and marketing know-how.

I’m a humble musician. I’m a writer and designer. I’m an introvert. I don’t know much about marketing, and I’m uncomfortable doing what little I attempt. So many artists like me are in the same boat. And people like ‘Hope’ (so appropriately named I wonder if it is deliberate) are there to prey on us.

So, had someone – or someone like me – coughed up another thousand dollars or more they would have seen dramatic results. Astonishing results. The orders (or in Kickstarter lingo – “pledges”) would have poured in. The fundraising goal would have been met early. Champagne would have been broken out and plans for the future made. Most of all, there would have been elation at having succeeded in getting one’s music heard by a new audience.

And then one day, all these pledges, these orders, would have been cancelled and withdrawn. They would have disappeared like haunting phantoms finally at peace. The Kickstarter campaign, without these orders, will very likely have missed its goal and not paid out. I would have been left with no orders at all, no funding for my band’s release and over a thousand dollars out of pocket, just to add a grotesque insult to this grievous injury. It is an unimaginably cruel scam.

I was lucky. My decision to disengage the moment something seemed ‘off’ meant that ‘Hope’ finally gave up and her ‘friends’ cancelled their pledges, setting our campaign backwards, but at least more secure in going forwards.

We have 30 more days to try and pick up the shortfall by attracting honest backers who are genuinely keen to hear our new music. I’d rather have it this way than have fallen for Hope’s horrible trap, ready to spring… eternally.

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