Nov 12


This is an exclusive guest post from musican Derek Evans, who is currently using the PledgeMusic platform to crowd-source money for an upcoming album and 3 non-profit organizations.  I asked Derek to write this blog post to share with you his experiences of embarking on a crowd-sourcing project, as I think he has a multitude of valuable insight on the topic. I hope you agree.

Go check out Derek’s PledgeMusic project and say hi to him on Twitter with your questions and comments.

Derek Evans

My name is Derek Evans. I am a musician who started a project called “Music With A Cause.” A project to help raise money for my upcoming album, 3 non-profit organizations, and challenge myself to build a new audience in the process. Here is my story.

Today’s independent musicians have many advantages. Five years ago we did not have active tools such as Fanbridge, Add This, Facebook, ReverbNation, Soundcloud, Kickstarter, PledgeMusic, Band Camp, ArtistData etc. What I mean by “active” tools is that there are various ways you can easily create and maintain a solid business with little, but consistent, effort. At the end of August 2010, I decided that I was going to use PledgeMusic to combine two of my greatest passions: Music and Charity. However, I decided to give myself a challenge. Prior to launching my project, “Music With A Cause”, I spent about 3 months looking at other artists projects. I wanted to see how people were engaging their fans. I wanted to understand why others were featured and why some were left behind. It quickly became clear that the people who were doing well, for the most part, had their business module in effect. What I am talking about here is the modern day artist taking responsibility for the real work involved with a campaign/building a business.

Going into “Music With A Cause” I had the following challenges:

  1. I would not target friends
  2. I would not target family
  3. I would not target people currently on my mailing list
  4. I became ill in June 2010 and eventually had to have a tumor removed in September 2010 (Finally back to health in November 2010 with 13 days remaining as of today)
    • This created a greater challenge because I would be in and out of the hospital
      I did not have the ability to generate new fans from playing live shows
  5. I would be donating the majority of the proceeds to 3 non-profit organizations:
      Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinsons Research in memory of my grandfather The funds would go directly to a friend of mine who was recently diagnosed with cancer
  6. Understanding what kind of person I am and how that effects my business

The idea is that if I followed through the steps below accordingly, the project work by itself. Therefore, not having to worry that if I was ill and in the hospital and ultimately seeing if my challenge within the project would work.

First Step: I started by creating a new YouTube account. I did not want my fans to know about this project. Let me repeat, I did not want my fans to know about this project. When I first became ill I started something called “Ballads From The Bedroom.” In short, I would play a song everyday and post it on YouTube. I knew this could be one way to generate a new audience. After the first week I became bored with playing my old songs. So, I decided to challenge myself again and force myself to write a new song everyday and record it that day.

Second Step: I revamped my website. I used I did not want to build my website, use myspace, or any other social network. The goal was to have a website that fit my brand. For $10 a month I had my website. With the help of Add This, I was able to have Facebook, Myspace, Digg, Twitter, Email, etc at the top right of each page so fans could easily share anything from website AND lead followers back to your site. Add This allows you to analyze how people came to find you. Analytics/Insight started to be my word of the day…everyday.

Third Step: I started using Fanbridge allows me to import existing fans, rate them, and provide resources where I can interact with them(with ease). It also allowed me to provide an incentive for fans joining the mailing list. Anyone that joins the mailing gets a free download of one of my songs. I quickly decided to change the song each month. To be honest, these days that is not very exciting. So, I made sure that the tracks they would get were “rare”, “live”, or “previously unreleased” tracks.

Fourth Step: I created a launch video for Music With A Cause. I wanted something that was around three minutes that would tell viewers who I am, what my project was about, how they can be involved, and the incentive for being involved.

Fifth Step: Sign up with I created an account and immediately had some issues. What PledgeMusic does so well is helps you gather all the above information to give you a realistic goal. PledgeMusic is all or nothing. If you do not meet your goal, no one will be charged and you will not receive anything. PledgeMusic also takes 15%. That being said, they want you to succeed. As I stated earlier, I did not want to rely on existing fans, friends, or family. I basically had to give them nothing. While my original goal was going to be $18,000, I settled for $6,000 with hopes of greatly exceeding my goal.

Derek EvansFinally, 3 months of researching and preparing came to fruition. My project was launched leaving me with the question, now what? What do I do? How do I continue engaging fans? Would my passion for charity be enough? Would my new fans be my “A” fans? The ones who are street team material? Who are as invested as you are?

The reality is that this has been what I set it out to be; a challenge. However, I am more than confident I will, at a minimum, hit my goal.

The first week of the campaign I used twitter to gain traffic. I sent a tweet that said “Thanks to @virb I finally have a great website and as a thank you I am offering a free download.” Virb retweeted this to the thousands of followers. The traffic on my website shot to the thousands. Out of the thousands, I had about 30 new fans(think about that for just a minute). A week later, I sent the people at FanBridge an email about what I was doing and how they could help. As an incentive for Virb and Fanbridge, I offered every employee my album free if they wanted it(digitally)-therefore continuing to spread the word. The next day they sent me an email and made me an artist of the day. They told all of their followers on Facebook and Twitter about “Music With A Cause.” Again, I started receiving lots of traffic. That is when I decided that I needed to get my target audience as my main traffic. Regardless, I had more people on the mailing list.

Two weeks into the campaign I noticed that on twitter I had been regularly getting added to the “FF” or “FM”. People I did not know were tweeting for me to be followed. The same day, Fanbridge sent a note on twitter, I received an email from the program manager from Mix 102 in Providence, RI. He went to my webpage, heard about “Music With A Cause” and wanted to help in anyway. I spoke with him the next day and now I get regular airplay on his radio station…as an independent artist. At that point I had raised about 20% of my goal. Things were starting to move. It was at that point I had to put everything to a halt and have surgery. I had to have a tumor removed. It was a difficult surgery and the recovery was questionable. I sent an update before the surgery letting fans know that this is where they needed to take the reigns. I came out of surgery and recovery at 25%.

I am currently at 35% with 7 days remaining. On paper that is a scary number, but I am not worried. The reason why is that the last week of the campaign, in this type of situation, is the best. I had always counted on the last week to take me to the finish line(due to the circumstances). It is risky but, regardless of what happens, my work has paid off. The traffic on my website has increased 60%. I have fans from all over joining my mailing list almost every single day. Most of the pledges are from people who heard about the project word of mouth. My name and project is regularly being passed around to a good 500,000 people a day. On one hand that is nothing due to the average persons attention span. (Quite frankly, if you have made it this far, please join my mailing list!) On the other hand, I have a radio station, various online media sites, and a network of thousands talking about my project,listening to my music, making a pledge to someone that would normally feel like a perfect stranger, had it not been for the steps I took above. I have made 26 updates via the PledgeMusic site. I have to assume that if they were not engaging, then I would not have been asked to do a guest blog about my project.

Throughout this process I have learned quite a bit. I have learned how passionate I really am about helping others. Portions of all future cd sales will go to “Music With A Cause”- which will soon be a charitable organization benefiting many including:

Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinsons Research
Lemons To Aid
Cancer Research
Music Saves Mountains
and many many more. Most of my updates have everything to do with these organizations.

Final Thoughts:
Bottom line, if I do not reach my goal, then I can just create a paypal link and let all of my new fans know about it. I have a stronger fanbase than I ever had. I have toured for 6 years sharing the stages with Jason Mraz, Blues Traveler, The Paper Raincoat, Landon Pigg, Bob Schneider, Erin McCarley, David Ryan Harris, Jay Nash, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, among others. However, I built well over twice the fan base by staying at home in as little as 3 months. I have faith in my fans. We are sharing an experience together. I have let them into my world and we have become a community.

Below are the links to the “tools” I used throughout my experience. At the very least, if you use Fanbridge, Virb (if you do not have a website), and Add This, you will have simplified what used to trying task.

-Derek Evans