Startup Grind
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Startup Grind

I’m finally ready to talk about my failed Kickstarter campaign

2015 was a whirlwind and honestly, kind of a shit year. Of course, all the challenges I faced were minor in the grand scheme of things — I live a great life filled with loved ones and friends. No matter what happens, I’m aware of and grateful for that. But from perspective, it was a challenging year.

Among the many challenges faced, was a failed Kickstarter campaign for A Song A Day — the music discovery community I started nearly two years ago by total accident (more on that here). For context, we’re a community of curators who send you songs based on your preferences to your inbox Monday through Friday. It’s song discovery through humans, not robots.

We raised $14,255 of the $25,000 goal.

The campaign as a whole was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done professionally. I did a lot of things wrong. I did a few things right too, but definitely more wrong. It’s true what people say about crowdfunding campaigns — you simply don’t know what you’re getting yourself into until you’re in it. There’s plenty of information out there on how to and not to run a successful crowdfunding campaign.

I’m not here to share lessons or tips. But if you do want to hear the specifics of what I learned, give me a shout — I’m happy to share them.

Instead, I‘m writing this to address the biggest mistake I made and why it was the biggest: I asked for too much money.

Funny side note: Almost every time the campaign or last year in general gets brought up, friends and acquaintances look at me with pity and respond with a simple, “yeah {pouty face}.” Makes me laugh every time.


Why did I ask for $25,000?

Because my plan was to quit my job or scale way down and focus on building A Song A Day full-time. And that’s how much I thought (with some math to rationalize it) I needed to do that.

But I didn’t feel comfortable coming out and saying that. I’m not sure why. My boss knew that building A Song A Day was my ultimate goal and we had an open understanding of that.

For some reason, though, I just couldn’t come out and say it. Fear or embarrassment, probably. Dumb.

The campaign was honest, but maybe not 100%. The funds would have paid for developer time to build the tool we needed, legal costs, and software just like we said. But it would have also gone towards my time managing and marketing all of that. The time it takes to build and scale a community. To build something a bit more robust than what we really needed right away.

I still wonder: if I just came out and said that the funds were to help me work on it full-time, would have we met our goal? I have no clue.

At the time, I thought that working on A Song A Day full-time was the only way to know if it had the potential to be a full-fledged business. I didn’t want to go after funding because I didn’t want the pressure that comes with investors. More truthfully, I didn’t want to give up control or dilute my vision with too many cooks in the kitchen.

The thing is, I wasn’t really sure what my vision was. I was also wrong about a lot of things.

How do I know I was wrong?

Because 10 months later, we’ve launched an MVP that does exactly what we needed for step one towards a sustainable business. We now have a backend that eliminates spreadsheets and manually scheduling 120 emails every week. It saves myself and the people scheduling emails hours each week.

We also streamlined our onboarding process to be self-selecting, saving me even more hours. And our curators now have a fun and rad-looking tool to use that they actually like using. All of our lives are now easier.

The best part is that the MVP was built entirely pro-bono by an amazing — and patient — developer (hi Alisdair McDiarmid!) If interested, you can read all about our updates here.

After the crowdfunding campaigns ended, I went freelance anyway. I was working half-time throughout the campaigns and the transition just made sense. I had a huge pile of debt that I accumulated over the summer and fall that needed to be paid and I needed to (ugh, vomit), hustle.

Nine months later, I’ve paid off most of my debt. I’ve bailed on my Brooklyn lease and traveled to five states, many of which I’ve spent an entire month in. I’m working with awesome clients. We’ve launched the MVP. We’ve added more curators. And we’ve exceeded 5,500 subscribers.

I’m now at a point where I can focus on what’s next for A Song A Day, and for me. I can think about monetization, about what matters most to our community of curators and listeners, about the mark we want to make and the opportunity we have.

My gut tells me that if we did raise the $25,000 — if I did quit my job to work on A Song A Day full-time — I would have fallen flat on my face. We would have built some giant thing without knowing if there is a market for it and would either be back to where we started or would have given up entirely.

Balancing freelancing, travel, and A Song A Day on the other hand, has forced me to be deliberate and thoughtful.

Most importantly, it’s forced me to be decisive and focused — two things that don’t come naturally to me. Two traits that are 100% imperative to building something — anything.

Seriously, if you take anything from this diatribe, let it be that ^.

Sure, if we raised $25,000, we would have launched much faster. We’d likely have a much more robust platform. We may even be making money by now. That is, if I didn’t fall flat on my face like my gut tells me I would. But I’m ok with taking it slow and small. It’s forcing me to be mindful.

Now that the MVP is launched, I’m excited for the future of A Song A Day. I’m excited to grow our curator community and focus on community events and projects. I’m excited to face new, even bigger challenges. I’m excited. Not stressed, not anxious. And that’s a first, arguably ever.

After the Kickstarter campaign ended, we did launch a much more lightweight Indiegogo campaign that raised $7,135. A bunch of that money went to taxes and reward fulfillment, and the rest is going to overhead costs (software, legal costs, future feature buildout).

I’d like to say a sincere thank you to all of our Kickstarter and Indiegogo backers for all of your support! And of course, to our curators, friends, and family for not letting me quit. For keeping this thing going and for dedicating your time to find awesome music for other people. You’re all amazing and an inspiration. ❤

I realize that this post is more for me than anyone. Sorry, not sorry. If you have any questions or if you just want to talk about your failed (or successful) crowdfunding campaign, I’m here to be your sounding board!



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Shannon Lee Byrne

Freelance writer, editor, & strategist covering music business, culture, creativity, entrepreneurship, and mental health. Host of