Interview: CousCous – Crowdfunding, Promotion and Concept Albums

German pop duo CousCous have just started their second crowdfunding campaign and openly share their tips and experience with us. With their new project “Tales” they take the idea of a concept album one step further, which will open new avenues for them. Find out yourself how CousCous combine new business models with successful old-school marketing.

Julian Angel (J.A.): After your debut album „Paper Tiger“ already showed traces of being a concept album you are now about to up the ante with „Tales“.

Moritz Eßinger (M.): These days recording an album seems quite unusual for an indie band. Many bands rather produce EPs or even just singles directly for Youtube etc. However, this has been clear to us right away: If we record a full album, then we need something that connects all the songs with each other. With “Tales” that’s a fairly tale which we have written during the composition of the songs.

Tine Schulz (T.): It started with a short story which has grown into a book of 80 pages. As a consequence the CD will not be sold in a case but as part of the book.

J.A.: That really sounds interesting, especially the book might open some new doors in terms of marketing and playing live.

M.: A book is timeless while CDs don’t seem to be for everybody anymore. That’s why the book will be of high quality so that it will appear attractive to readers.

T.: It will be exciting. We will be reading from our book during our concerts. We plan performing in bookstores and libraries as well, where the focus will be less on the music and the music will function more as a score.

J.A.: I already admired your focus on details on „Paper Tiger“. May I ask how the paper tiger model sheet is selling?

T.: The paper model is a big hit. We get regular orders through our online store. We used to add it as a bonus at the merch stand, which has always been a great incentive. It’s the ideal pet. Doesn’t eat or speak and looks stunning. You just shouldn’t bathe it (laughs).

J.A.: Then and now you have been using crowdfunding to finance your production, to which you add the printing of the book this time. Could you please share your experience with this method, especially how it has been accepted by your fans? It might still appear suspicious to some…

M.: Especially in 2012 when only few people had heard about it, reactions were really positive. Of course, you still have to explain what crowdfunding is. Even if it’s becoming more popular, not too many people are aware of the process and connect it with simple donations. However, it is easily explained that fans can receive nice thank-you gifts in return for their contribution. With our new concept of book, illustration and music we probably hit a nerv. We are currently getting lots of support.

J.A.: Crowdfunding campaigns have their own set of rules. Which elements of your campaigns have proven the most valuable and most efficient?

T.: Clear communication is key. On top you should be authentic and credible. But be aware that crowdfunding is never a no-brainer. It requires full-time dedication. Like a job, albeit the most beautiful in the world (laughs).

J.A.: Promoting a crowdfunding campaign even requires a marketing campaign itself. How do you spread the news?

M.: Many primarily connect crowdfunding with the internet. In fact it only works if you make it real and personal. Of course, a great pitch video and info text on the platform are important, but direct communication tips the balance. For example, we have sent postcards to all our previous supporters from 2012 as well as our most important contacts. Postcards, not email.

T.: A beautiful postcard is a nice medium, whereas a flyer is quickly dropped in the bucket. Many of our fans and supporters showed us pictures of our postcards hanging on their walls or refrigerators. We have sent close to a thousand postcards with a beautiful illustration taken from our book that reads ‘I want dreams. I want colors. I want music’.

M.: We’re also constantly on the road to promote our campaign. Besides some 40 concerts we even seize every opportunity to busk, call people or to write messages.

J.A.: According to Kickstarter up to 40% of crowdfunding revenue is generated through personal contacts. Could you roughly break down where your supporters come from? And are there really such people who search crowdfunding sites for new projects worth supporting?

T.: Yes, they really exist. Curiously enough both in 2012 and today the majority of our supporters are not personal contacts. I think we’ve reached most of our new supporters at concerts.

J.A.: You’ve already addressed the successful traits of old-fashioned methods. My favorite question is always that about a band’s ratio of physical sales versus digital. What does yours look like? 

M.: Next to playing live CD sales are our number one revenue stream. ITunes, Spotify and company pay for a nice dinner a month. After all (laughs). We have sold close to a thousand copies of “Paper Tiger” by now.

J.A.: That’s interesting because your music sounds timeless on one side, on the other it perfectly apeals to the younger generation who consumes music on handheld devices… 

T.: In fact, that’s astounding. When we write songs we never care about genres and styles and who likes what. Our audience seems to be age-independent. We have played gigs at student communities, health resorts and as of lately for a tent with children and their parents. We always get positive feedback.

J.A.: With about 80 gigs a year you are pretty active on the club circuit. Do your gigs function as paid cocerts or rather to promote your music, CDs and merch?

M.: Almost all of our revenue comes from playing live, directly or indirectly. Of course we have regular orders through our online store, too. Clicks and streams on the internet usually go up along with our presence in the media – and on the road.

J.A.: Finally your personal advice for our readers:

Both: Attend the MusicBiz Madness conference (laughing)

J.A.: Thanks for the publicity, the check’s in the mail…

M.: Seriously: Make contacts and maintain them. Build a network and support each other. Making it all by yourself is close to impossible and only provides half the fun.

T.: And create music that comes from the heart.

J.A.: …and now your „Famous last Words“:

M.: They are not ours but by Michael Ende: „Do what you want“.
Thank you guys for the interview.

Official CousCous Website
CousCous’ Crowdfunding Campaign
Photo credit: Markus Clauß.

 

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About MusicBizMadness

MusicBiz Madness is a Music Business Conference made for musicians. Creator Julian Angel is a chart-noted songwriter and film musician with Hollywood credits.
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