If you've ever run an all-or-nothing crowdfunding campaign, you know how exhausting it can be. It's not just the physical time and energy involved in publicising the project, updating supporters and collecting drip-drip pledges with increasing urgency; but the emotional cost of being a nagging terrier, begging for scraps, often from long-suffering family and friends. As the deadline approaches you might even secretly donate the outstanding amount from your own bank account in order to reach the target, collect the pledges and avoid humiliation.
Then begins the admin work of delivering 'rewards' to your supporters. How many tote bags, T-shirts or DVDs can you stuff into an envelope?
This is not to say crowdfunding can't work magnificently in the creative industries, not just to raise money, but to build a fan base and increase audiences for creative projects like short films, albums, zines, even craft beers.
Since 2006, when the word 'crowdfunding' first appeared in the lexicon (says Wikipedia), it has become a respectable strategy for raising budgets, even on high profile projects like the Miss Fisher Movie and the Emerging Writer's Festival. Government agencies like Screen Australia and Screenwest look favourably upon productions that engage this way.
But the adrenaline-fueled one-off cash injection isn't suitable for every artist or project. For this reason Australian crowdfunding platform Pozible announced last week its roll-out of an ongoing subscription format. The goal is to assist those with continuous projects, especially the small fry like podcasters, musicians, writers and game developers. Other platforms like the San Francisco-based Patreon already offer this with much greater profile, but Pozible says it's doing it with Australian dollars and a commitment to local artists and communities.
A focus on profile pages
'We found that there was a new group of local creatives like podcasters and gamers who were interested in the crowdfunding model and they couldn’t find a way to make it work for them,' says Pozible Operations Lead Gemma Bastiani. 'The whole idea is to focus on the creators themselves. They now have profile pages that they can run subscriptions off. There's still the option to run all-or-nothing campaigns, but these run off their profiles instead of being separate .'
We ask Bastiani what the title 'Operations Lead' actually means and she says, 'It's basically Head of Operations, but that sounds ridiculous when there's just four of us, including our CEO, in the office'.
That office is in Melbourne's inner city Collingwood, and if you've ever run a Pozible campaign you might have attended workshops in their open plan space, learning to set realistic goals and schedule your social media posts way in advance. 'Realistic' and 'sustainable' are words that come up a lot.
Pozible was launched in Sydney in 2010 under the name Fundbreak by Alan Crabbe and Rick Chen. The headquarters moved to Melbourne and the name changed shortly afterwards. In 2014, the company was listed as one of three start-ups to watch by the Australian Financial Review. Crowdfunding was at the height of fashion.
According to its website Pozible boasts the highest success rate of any major crowdfunding platform in the world, with a success rate of 56 per cent, where other all-or-nothing models like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo average between 30 and 40 per cent. The fully Australian owned platform has raised more than $62 million, assisting 14,905+ projects, with pledges from 105 countries. Projects can set their campaigns to receive funds in multiple currencies, though mostly these come from Australia. The fees range between 3 to 5 per cent of funds raised, but are only charged on successful completion.
Film projects are Pozible's second most popular category. Bastiani says many of these are short films and student films, and that the use of matched funding platforms sends many filmmakers to Pozible, because they have to crowd-fund half their budget. She also says the visual nature of film makes it an attractive medium to supporters. 'They can see what they're investing in, and there are so many great rewards you can offer for pledges, like tickets to VIP screenings, key art posters, DVDs and even pieces of the set, which seem to be a popular reward.'
Now that crowdfunding is not so new and sexy anymore, you wonder if perhaps Pozible's changed focus is an attempt to re-heat the business. Not so, according to Bastiani. 'We've actually had a really good year. September has been the best month since I started here a year ago. Our sister company Birchal launched in January with the introduction of equity crowdfunding, following the changes in the law in Australia to allow equity crowdfunding, and that's all going very well. Our launch of subscriptions is more about filling a need that we perceive rather than finding a new source of business.'
This rings true when you think about how much money the average podcaster or freelance writer might be looking at making, and then calculate 3-5 per cent of that as revenue.
Apparently there around 30 users of the Pozible profiles with subscriptions right now, with a number more in the process of creating their profiles.
Every little bit
So why should a local creative choose Pozible instead of something more well-known like Patreon? 'The big difference is that we're using Australian dollars and our fees are low,' says Bastiani. 'We're not charging platform fees to anyone who's earning less than $100 a month on the subscription platform.'
Less than $100 a month seems piddling and hardly worth the trouble, yet Pozible is actively encouraging such small creators to give it a go. 'If you're a local and you think you can get 10 or 15 people to jump on board for $5 a month, then definitely just try it,' says Bastiani. 'I personally have a couple of podcasts and I think even if you’re only earning $30 or $50 a month from it, that can pay your website fees. If it’s not working for you, or your audience isn’t interested in supporting that sort of platform, there’s no loss and no shame in having tried it.'
Read the room
Bastiani's advice to creators considering the subscription model is to research their market and offer incentives or rewards that reflect their interests. For example, a podcaster might offer bonus subscriber content like extra episodes, a live stream or access to the creators at an event. At the same time, she warns, it's important not to create rewards that are going to cost you too much time or money. 'If it's too exhausting, it's not worth doing. Remember you can always add to what you offer later.'
Under-promise and over-deliver remains an ever-useful mantra.
Bastiani says it's also important to consider that your supporters are committing to you for the long term, so be realistic in what you're asking them to sign up for. She says the the most common tiers for subscribers are $2 and $5 a month, but there's no limit on what you can ask, given your level of gumption.
The considerable side benefit of course is the mailing list you can generate from this process, and the direct access you get to those who are most interested in your work.
Making ends meet and connecting with an audience remain key challenges for every creator. Pozible's new platform probably won't make anyone rich, but it might keep them in coffee and make them better connected. Or maybe, just maybe, some of them will become as successful as Patreon's top podcasters and earn themselves around $40,000 a month. Dreams are free.
Pozible's Top Tips for Crowdfunding
- Research your audience. What do they want from you?
- Give your community what it wants
- Try not to create rewards that are going to cost you too much time or money
- Plan your campaign carefully before you launch
- If you're running an all-or-nothing campaign, set a 30 day limit rather than a 60 day one.
- Be realistic in what you're asking for
Find out more or start a profile at Pozible here: www.pozible.com.
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