Merchandise is hard to get right, especially for podcasters. It is easy to waste a lot of money on boxes of shirts that collect dust in your garage. In this episode, I break down the recent fundraising episode from the Revolutions Podcast for takeaways for podcasters and YouTubers. Mike Duncan is one of the top history podcasters in the world and he knows how to do a good fundraising episode.


Transcription generated algorithmically by Sonix (Affiliate Link)

Intro: [00:00:03] This is the creative show podcast for Authors YouTubers, and podcasters who want to fund the work they love without selling out.

Thomas Umstattd: [00:00:15] I’m Thomas Umstattd Jr. The Patreon Patriot. Thank you for joining me today. We’re not going to be talking about Patreon though. We’re going to be talking about some other ways of fund raising. This episode of the creative funding show I would like to experiment with something a little [00:00:30] bit different.

Thomas Umstattd: [00:00:31] The show is brand new and so we’re still looking for our format. And one of the things I like to experiment with is taking a really great example of somebody funding their creativity a creative use of creative funding and breaking it apart kind of blow by blow and giving it an evaluation or analysis and kind of taking away takeaways in the first show. I’d like to do this with the revolutions podcast. So for those who don’t know Mike Duncan [00:01:00] many years ago started the history of Rome podcast which is one of the first successful history podcasts and he went on to write a book about it which was very successful and now he’s doing the revolutions podcast where he takes different revolutions in history and tells those revolution’s stories and how he funds the podcast he is advertising in each episode. But another way that he funds the podcast is with a periodic fundraiser. And what I’m going to do is I’m going to play some snippets [00:01:30] from his show and then I will kind of jump in from time to time with commentary. Please let me know what you think of this show format if you hate this. This may be the only time I do it. And if you like it let me know because I want this show to be helpful to you. Also if you like it and you find somebody else doing something really creative please send me a link to that video on YouTube or that podcast recording and I may do a similar show like this in the future. So without any further ado let me roll the [00:02:00] first bit of Mike Dunkin’s revolutions podcast fundraiser episode. Hello and welcome to revolutions. 2018 fundraiser announcement

Mike Duncan: [00:02:24] Hello. This is your official 2018 fundraiser announcement. If you’ve been around [00:02:30] this is the third one of these fundraisers that we’ve done and it’s all going to be working exactly the same way if you’re new well you’ve probably heard me talking about it before and now is your chance to get in on the action this fundraiser will run from tonight. April the 29th to Sunday June the 9th. So for just about six weeks it’s going to close up on June 9th. So the phone lines are now open and man is that ever an anachronistic way to put it that the kids even know that phrase I don’t think they do.

Thomas Umstattd: [00:03:00] All [00:03:00] right so the first thing I want to point out here is that he has this fundraiser for a limited period of time that may seem like a bad idea. You’re like well why wouldn’t he want this fundraiser to run all the time. Why not always be selling merchandising and things were going to be hearing about in just a second but running it for limited period of time just several really key things. One it allows him to focus his energy in dealing with fund raising related activities into a period of time and which when it’s done allows him then to focus [00:03:30] fully on his podcast. But the other and this is I think an even more important principle is that it creates urgency. It’s really easy with the podcast to say oh I’ll buy that T-shirt later I’ll buy that hat later. But when you’re like we know there’s a certain date and if you miss that date you will miss out. Suddenly you’re triggering FOMO. So not only does it help him with his creation. Also I think he’s going to ultimately help him sell more products and more merchandise. So that’s a really creative strategy that he’s [00:04:00] using. One more thing that he’s doing here that I think is really clever is that this is a standalone episode so it keeps all of this explanation from crowding his core episodes where he’s telling stories of various events in history which means for people who are kind of moderate to mediocre fans of his. It’s very easy for them to skip this entire episode. You know if somebody is a moderate fan they’re not going to buy a T-shirt from him anyway. So it allows him to keep his audience large which supports his advertising revenue [00:04:30] while the core fans are going to totally listen to the six minute dedicated fundraising episode. All right. Now let’s go to the next item.

Mike Duncan: [00:04:37] This year we feature four unisex t shirts. We have two new additions to the family and two rereleases shirts that are back by popular demand. The two classics are the Livia did it shirt and the gentleman Johnny’s party train North American tour 1777 shirt. Now these guys are both printed on slightly different colors. This time around to distinguish [00:05:00] them from the original run but now is your chance to snap them up. And when I went on the book tour one of the most frequently asked questions was when and how can I get a Livia did a shirt or a gentleman Johnny shirt. Now is your chance. Now added to the lineup is two new shirts. The first is to the barricades. Because it’s not like there wasn’t going to be a shirt about the barricades. And then finally there is one that is drawn from the Cato the Elder quote that I use to open [00:05:30] chapter 1 of this storm before the storm. Thieves of private property passed their lives in chains. The use of public property in riches and luxury.

Thomas Umstattd: [00:05:40] All right so you’ve probably noticed these are super inside references which is really smart. You don’t want it to be overly popular. The sort of thing anybody else would be doing because the whole point of this is that it allows insiders to proclaim that they are insiders so if you’ve been listening to the history of Rome in the Lydia did it [00:06:00] shirt or Livia didit shirt you know Livia is presumably poisoned like everyone in Rome when she was alive and it was kind of an ongoing joke. Every time somebody died of mysterious causes even hundreds of years later Mike Duncan was joking. Oh I think Livia did it because she was just such a prolific poisoner. That’s the sort of inside reference if you’re not listening to his podcast you wouldn’t get and that’s that’s good. And think about that when you’re creating merch for your own podcast her YouTube channel what are my inside jokes that [00:06:30] people would be want to proclaim that they’re on the inside of. Now one other thing that he’s doing here and this is a bit of a risk and will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Thomas Umstattd: [00:06:38] When he did this fundraiser earlier he said this shirt is for a limited time and once you miss out you’ll miss out and it’s your only chance to get this shirt. That created a great sense of urgency and scarcity made the shirt into a collector’s item. But then people were like oh I still want to buy the shirt. So what he’s doing here is he’s rereleasing the shirt. But in a different color. So it’s still exclusive the old [00:07:00] way he did it. I suspect no one will get after him for it. But this is a risk right. Some of the people would like I wanted my shirt to be a collectible and now you’re devaluing it. It will be interesting to watch. I don’t know how that’s going to play out. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem because of changing the color but just keep in mind when you make a promise about something being limited you really have to fulfill that promise or people will get unhappy.

Mike Duncan: [00:07:21] But getting back to the fundraiser each T-shirt is thirty five dollars. And please remember I will post one giant bulk order after [00:07:30] all the orders have been taken. So around the second week of June I will place the order and then they’ll start shipping after that.

Thomas Umstattd: [00:07:37] All right. This is a brilliant way to do t shirts. So by doing one big bulk order Mike Duncan is doing two things that’s really smart. One is he will know how many smalls and how many women Smalls to order for each shirt so he can order exactly the right number of shirts maybe a few extra to give away at events. And secondly it’s going to allow him to get his cost per shirt really low. So let’s [00:08:00] say he’s able to get the shirts for five dollars. That means that he is making potential in twenty five dollars per sale which is the whole point. The point here is that he’s got to make some money. There’s got to be some profitability here in his backers know that. And so you may like 35 dollars for a shirt. That’s a ton of money. It is. But really you’re making up 35 35 dollar donation to a show that you like and in exchange you’re getting this shirt that proclaims your insider access. So now the temptation would be again [00:08:30] like oh you can buy the shirt any time it’s on CafePress and he’s making only five dollars a shirt. This is a much much shrewder way of doing it if you’re wanting to really fund your lifestyle with Merch. All right let’s see what else he has.

Thomas Umstattd: [00:08:44] So in addition to the t shirts there is also now Appendix 2 of the history of Rome a collection of five new History of Rome episodes covering Roman adventures or more accurately misadventures in Hispania during the second century B.C.. These [00:09:00] episodes are doing double work for me because for one I was still in the relatively early days of the history of Rome when this time period came around and I moved pretty swiftly from the Second Punic War to the third Punic War to the Grocii brothers and then when I finished the history of Rome and looked back the Iberian wars were a rather gaping hole in the narrative. And I was reminded of this again when I started working on the storm before the storm because the Roman campaigns on the Iberian Peninsula had a lot [00:09:30] to do with setting up the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic. But when it came time to actually write the book all of that material I had researched had to get compressed into about 250 words in the prologue. So I am presenting it all to you. Now each episode is about twenty five minutes and you can either buy them individually for five dollars or get the whole set for twenty dollars which to be honest is what you should do. It’s about two total hours of new history of Rome material. It’s a steel.

Thomas Umstattd: [00:09:59] Now [00:10:00] what he’s done is he’s transitioned from merchandise which is what a shirt is to creating a product. And the easiest simplest product to create is more of what you’ve been giving away for free people. Your fans are already in love with what you’re giving them away for free and so you’re giving them opportunity to buy some exclusive part of that podcast. This I find is a very common amongst history podcasters they’ll have the main part of the narrative. You know you get to that episode of The History podcast that’s free but [00:10:30] some special bonus content you pay for and that’s how they fund the whole thing. And again you may be like oh my gosh this is so boring. You’re not in the target audience right if you’re not a fan of history. The idea of getting two hours of what Rome was doing in Spain. Man that sounds really boring but for a fan of history like me I’m like man I’m really curious how Rome handled Spain. And so I’m in the target audience and I’m using an example of a podcast that I like but this is a really solid way and the benefit of this for Mike is that his cost [00:11:00] of delivering those two hours of audio is basically free it’s no more expensive than what he’s already doing through his podcast. And so all 20 dollars goes into his fundraising fund which is really smart. So the margins here are even better than on the T-shirt. So while he has good margins with the t shirts the margins on the products are even better. All right let’s get back to Mike.

Mike Duncan: [00:11:22] Ok so the next thing is that if you listen to episode seven point thirty three already you know that Mrs. revolutions and I have embraced [00:11:30] the rather madcap scheme to move our family to Paris. This means moving into a very tiny apartment and we’re taking this opportunity to massively downsize and I’m moving on from most of my physical library books. So I thought that it would be cool if you wanted to own a piece of the show and support the show. I would do the same thing I did in the first fundraiser and put autographed copy of the books that I used to write the revolutions podcast up on the blocks so I have curated a collection of my favorite books [00:12:00] from each series and would be thrilled to move them onto a home where they would be loved instead of just having them wind up in some goodwill bargain bin. So it was a sort of bonus prize for donating at a hundred dollars. You get to pick out one of these books and it’s all yours.

Thomas Umstattd: [00:12:15] This may not seem like a very reproducible strategy of giving away books but think about the ingredients that go into the creations that you do if you do sketch YouTube videos. Maybe some of the props that you use in those videos can be valuable and to give away to [00:12:30] patrons know at the top levels. This is very popular in Hollywood. Some of the artifacts used in popular movies and then sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. You may not be able to get a hundred thousand dollars for a prop that you use or some other ingredient into your creation but you may be able to get a few hundred dollars and you’re able to get your money back. Maybe on what you spent creating that prop. So just think about as you’re doing fundraisers. What do I have that to me is trash but to somebody else is a treasure. In a sense he’s using his podcast [00:13:00] listenership as hundreds of thousands of listeners to do a little bit of Craig’s listing and these products there are these books are far more valuable to his listeners than they will be to anybody else. His signature is only valuable to people who listen to him. But this is really clever. So think about some ways you can do this for your own. All right let’s get back to Mike.

Mike Duncan: [00:13:19] So that’s the pitch for new shirts five new episodes of the history around to go along with the already existing five new episodes of The History of Rome. You can help support the move to Paris by buying up a piece [00:13:30] of my library and letting it go live in a better home and possibly win an autographed copy of the storm before the storm. Love you guys!

Thomas Umstattd: [00:13:45] That’s the fundraising episode. I did a little trimming here and there but that’s the core essence of it. And it’s not very long episode in its entirety I think was six minutes and he just makes a direct pitch and it’s very unapologetic. Notice he’s not apologizing for [00:14:00] why he’s asking for money. He’s been doing good work and he’s expecting his superfans to help him out if they want to. It’s totally optional. He’s not holding anything for ransom so to speak are threatening to cancel the show and he’s being very transparent about what he’s needing the money for he explains in the main show that he’s writing his next book about Lafayette and he’s going to Paris to do the research. So you’re helping that book happen by funding his move to Paris so he’s not just going to Paris because he’s wanting to live the high life he’s connected. [00:14:30] His trip to Paris with his podcast and with his history work. He’s like No I need access to the archives there into the histories that are only available in French. And so he’s asking his backers to be a part of that journey. And I think this is a great example of doing a fund raising episode and we will see how it goes. And I do want to hear from you what you think of this episode. If this seems super boring you are like oh my gosh I don’t want this. Please let me know. Again this is the early days of the show and I’m wanting to make adaptations [00:15:00] based off of your feedback and one way you can get feedback is to leave a review on iTunes. This really helps. We’re really hoping to hit New and noteworthy and you can help spread the word about this show. All you have to do is leave a review or if you don’t want to leave or if you just leave a star rating between one and five stars I’m happy for any number of stars just give it a rating and I will continue to work to make this show more valuable for you.

Thomas Umstattd: [00:15:25] Finding good examples of creators funding their art creatively. I’m Thomas Stan [00:15:30] Jr.. Thank you for listening.

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