Interview with Melanie Henley Heyn
As soon as I found out that HELLO STAGE
wanted to focus on crowd-funding and networking in the
April, I knew instantly who I
needed to interview:
my dear friend and fellow soprano Melanie Henley Heyn
Melanie recently raised over $37,000 (!) through
her Kickstarter campaign 33 divas / vol. 1.
Not only did she manage to exceed her already
impressive monetary goal of $33,333,
her project went on to become the
#1 Funded Kickstarter for a Solo Classical Artist.
Melanie’s outstanding success is a testament
to the power of one's network.
She asked for what she needed and her network responded.
The process, though, required much more than
just making a website and posting it on Facebook -
it took countless hours of hard work.
How did she do it? Read on to find out:
What inspired you to launch this Kickstarter project?
This project was born of a need to DO something,
rather than WAIT for something.
Last year, I started to feel artistically restless.
It seemed I was paying much more attention to what
I was SUPPOSED to do, rather than what really furthered my musical
goals. So, one day, as I was sitting at my piano,
I wrote down all of the roles that I want to learn,
and there were 33! After developing a number of project ideas,
(including learning all 33 roles in 3 years!),
I decided to launch a Kickstarter to fund a recording
with orchestra of arias from the first 11 roles.
Thus, 33 divas / vol. 1!
How long did you prepare before you launched?
What did you need to do?
I began planning in August of 2014 and launched
the Kickstarter in February 2015.
I essentially live on two continents,
so I was in the unique position of living
in a different place than most of the folks I was reaching out to.
Before the campaign was launched,
I travelled from Vienna to the US to
connect face-to-face with people that I know
and then went again during the Kickstarter
to perform concerts and rally supporters.
The general idea came quickly,
but it took a long time to dig around
and determine the deeper purpose necessary
to feel confident asking everyone I know for help.
It was also necessary to produce something
concrete that people wanted to own AND support.
A recording became the obvious choice when EVERY person
I talked to asked if I was going to make one.
I spent untold hours perfecting my video,
my images and even my pie chart but as soon as
I actually launched the project,
I realized that the MOST IMPORTANT THING
was to have my contacts in order.
I had planned to rely on Facebook to get the word out,
but the current algorithm has made it harder to
reach everybody at once.
For example, it is no longer possible to invite
more than 500 friends to an event, or expect to always
show up on newsfeeds that now include paid content.
I ended up sending an incredible amount of personal emails.
How did you determine your monetary goal?
The amount ($33,333) was both a number
relating to our 33 divas theme as well as
the estimated cost of the most streamlined version of the project.
(Remember that Kickstarter fees are
around 10% of your goal.)
Knowing what I know now, I could have saved myself
days of nail-biting if I had set a lower goal to
reach earlier in the campaign.
I would have then pushed for a clearly stated
“Ultimate Goal”, although there is no way to
know if I would have reached the same number.
Unlike other platforms, Kickstarter is all or nothing.
This means you must raise your minimum goal to be funded,
which helps to rally folks to get on board.
If you don't make it, no one is charged.
Melanie singing Sieglinde at her Launch Party in the Hollywood Hills.
While the campaign was running, what sort of work did you do?
I spent the entire time
writing personal emails to people that I know.
I also sang 3 concerts in 3 different cities.
The ticking clock activated some deep reserve
of willpower and I barely slept for those 4 weeks.
I would work through the night every other night
and often through the next day.
It was not necessarily healthy, but it got the job done.
It was important to me to contact each person personally.
If I had known how unwilling I would be to use
a template and how long it would take me to write each person,
I would have written these messages in advance and
then sent them during the campaign.
Any advice or tips for people considering launching their own campaign?
One thing you need to know about music Kickstarters
is they are NOT like other Kickstarters.
The normal rules DO NOT apply!
You will not go viral. You will have, at most 2-3 backers
that you don't know.
For example, my project reached
75,000 people via Twitter alone
and yet I still know almost every backer personally.
As a general rule, about 40% of the people you ask to donate will.
They will donate exactly how much they want
and around half will not ask for a reward.
They simply want to support you!
That being said, make sure you should still
have cool rewards and publicity to rally your supporters.
Personal contact is best! Do not be afraid to remind
people who you have already contacted.
On a side note, it is possible that crowdfunding is more
prevalent in the United States due to less governmental
support of the arts. Take this into consideration
if you are planning to launch in a country where the arts
are strongly funded.
Anything else you want to add?
Make sure you really ask.
You'd be amazed how easy it is to write an email
without actually asking.
Make sure you write in a positive mindset;
desperation makes for weird communication.
Let go of specific expectations of those you are asking.
You will be frustrated by people you were sure were
in your corner and amazed by generosity from folks
you least expect.
For me, this experience has illuminated the complexities
of human nature and expanded my own capacity for gratitude.
The confidence gained from succeeding at something so difficult
has immediately infused my art with new strength and clarity.
Think outside the box. Offer everything you have.
The results will astound you.
Click for more information on Melanie's Kickstarter.
If you would like to join her project, visit henleyheyn.com/kickstarter
Anne Wieben is a freelance operatic soprano, currently residing in Vienna, Austria. For more information, check out her HELLOSTAGE profile
or visit her website: www.annewieben.com!