Recently, Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman ran a project to fund a mini-tour they're embarking upon next month. Here, Amanda writes about her experience running the project, what worked, and what she might do differently next time. Originally posted here.
This recent Kickstarter that I did with Neil Gaiman (my husband) went really well, and I've definitely taken some education from it.
Here's the project:
We raised $133,341 of a stated $20,000 goal, though we knew we were setting a fairly achievable target.
Setting the "funding goal" was an interesting consideration. The actual amount of capital we needed was really pretty minimal — this project was basically a CD and poster pre-order, so I decided $20k was a good number to shoot for — it wasn't greedy and it wasn't ridiculously low. (Though, one thing I'd really love to know is how this project would have done if Neil or I had simply sold it as a pre-order on one of our websites... I have the feeling that we would have seen less than half the business.) There's just something magical about Kickstarter, the way it's set up, and the fact that everyone is using it as a common platform by which to do crowd-funding businesses. You immediately feel like you're part of a larger club of art-supporting fanatics.
I also think this campaign added a huge awareness to the tour itself (we launched the Kickstarter before the tickets for the tour itself went on sale). Portland and San Fran both sold out within a matter of minutes. I don't think all these folks would have known about the show if they hadn't already been seeing the buzz around the Kickstarter. It bodes incredibly well for the cross-promo possibilities of pre-ordering music and touring - if you time it right.
And as far as I'm concerned, once something becomes a common verb ("Hey dude, aren't you guys working on a new record?" "Yeah, we Kickstartered it last month, and we go into the studio next week"), it's a done deal. We don't search, we google. And from now on, we don't crowd-fund, we Kickstarter. Massive props to them for choosing a way less stupid word than "Google" — which still makes me cringe.
In the pitfall "well-we-learned-for-next-time" department, we should have been a little clearer with some of our wording. We had some wording in the general description of the project saying that this Kickstarter would provide people with "first crack at tickets" for the upcoming tour.... And people misinterpreted that to mean that ALL the Kickstarter supporters would have some sort of advantage over the general public when tickets went on sale. Not true: we'd been referring to the fact that you could pre-purchase high-level tickets as part of the Kickstarter bundles (there were packages at $250 where you could purchase a VIP ticket on-the-spot), all the other bundles were also available to the general public. That caused some confusion. We tried to alleviate it by adding a second show in San Fran (where most of the complaints were coming from) and giving the Kickstarter supporters the heads up before we announced the show and ticket details to the general public. That took the edge off a little, I hope.
One thing that I've been noticing about Kickstarter, and that was confirmed when I went in and had a meeting with the folks who work there, was that many people WANT TO SUPPORT and will simply SUPPORT AT THEIR DESIRED LEVEL, regardless of what's being offered. Often people will decline to even give their T-shirt size when Kickstarter sends the follow-up email — they didnt' want the shirt, they simply wanted to donate $100 and that level came with a shirt... and they already own 200 black T-shirts, they don't need another one. This is fascinating.
I also noted that my friend Sxip Shirey had THE MOST VAGUE BUNDLES in the history of Kickstarter: bascially for $25 you got his CD plus "a really cool surprise", for $50 you got "a REALLY REALLY cool surprise" and for $500 you got a MINDBLOWING SURPRISE. And you know what? It totally worked. People donated across the board at all levels. This confirms my ongoing theory that people LOVE helping artists and are willing to go along for the ride with the artist at the steering wheel. I can't wait to see what Sxip sends me in the fucking mail, by the way.