Guest Post: Reflections on a Kickstarter Project from Amanda Palmer

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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:

An Evening With Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer project video thumbnail
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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.

    1. Candice Westberg on

      This is wonderful information. I'm so glad that this experience was awesome for you. I would not have found Kickstarter if I hadn't seen it on your own pages. Thank you so much for taking a few moments to recount your experience here. I can't wait to see your show in Portland. (I was one of those who checked my computer obsessively a couple of hours before the tickets opened, just in case. ) *grin* Thanks again!

    2. Melissa Axel on

      Thank you so much for sharing your Kickstarter experience, Amanda. The "plus a [varying level of intensity] surprise" idea is very clever indeed! Cheers to your ongoing success! :)

    3. Scott Wahlstrom on

      Why did you have to ruin your reflection post with the last line of "...sends me in the f*cking mail..."? Are we 10 yrs old again? We have to cuss for no apparent and logical reason other than we can't come up with an intelligent alternate word? Seriously?

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      Sherry Parker on

      Scott, I agree. And she says 'Google' is stupid. She's know to have potty mouth.

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    6. David M. Brewer on

      Hey, I found the above post very, VERY, informative, and I was happily surprised to see it was from Neil Gaiman's wife. I have my own Kickstarter project going right now and I think this is just the kind of feedback to improve both quality and direction. As to the last sentence, relax Scott and Sherry, this is how people talk now, and remember, we're dealing with artists here... freedom is the last thing we want to rein in. There are plenty of projects that push the limits, and any type of censorship, especially in an open discussion, should be minimal (except maybe advocating violence, and obviously, anything that detracts from establishing a healthy childhood, or promoting racism/sexism -- are these not set out in the project agreements?). Golly gee, limiting freedom of expression is, dang-nabit, unhealthy galdurn repression.

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      Laurie Outlaw on

      Hmmmm. I originally chastised AFP and Neil for using this to fund their project, snarkily suggesting that "millionaires and their wives" should not be taking advantage of a site that was for starving artists to fund their projects because they had no other way to raise the capital. I see now that I was wrong. It is the best way for anyone to finance their art because it involves their own fans directly....the people who would be paying for it after the fact, anyway. Brilliant, actually. This will probably change the way everyone approaches their ideas from now on.

    8. Jenny Pope on

      How interesting that the vague awards worked! I suppose if people already have a following, then, their "groupies" trust that the "really really cool surprise" may be "really really cool." Thus far on my project, everybody who is backing it are people I know. I wondered the same thing Amanda about a campaign on my website, but, I love the platform, the ease of use, potential new audience, and impending deadlines of Kickstarter.

    9. Lake Street Films on

      This was a good post. Its good to feel the energy of people who've achieved their goal. I have my own promotion open right now and I'm on pins and needles. But quietly trying to spread word to the public and hoping the best. Glad for all who were successful in their endeavors!

    10. Rick Hamouris on

      I would have been disappointed if AFP became merely AP for this post... ;)
      Great job! Your success actually was the last straw in deciding whether to GO or not with my first campaign... I still have 20 days left in a 30 day campaign, but it's all gravy now... And I've reconnected with people who have been out of my life for more than 15 years, so yes... a great way to relate to your fans, this device :)

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