Earl Scioneaux’s Electronola is one of our favorite Kickstarter success stories so far. Earl, a musician and producer from New Orleans, has done everything right. His project video is personal, informative and incredibly winning; his rewards, which included a music lesson and an invitation to come to his house and have his homemade gumbo, have set the bar for creativity; and Earl has been documenting the whole process relentlessly, with excellent videos showing what he’s doing. Earl has earned his $4,000 for sure.
It didn’t look like he would make it. With two weeks left Earl’s project had stalled at around $2,000, and coming up with another $2k seemed a bit far-fetched. But Earl just worked that much harder, and in the last 48 hours he brought in over $1,000 alone.
Earl’s is the story of what it takes to hustle in the creative world. It’s how we all have to make it. It’s never easy and it’s filled with failure. But the real talents are the ones who persevere and do the work anyway. They aren’t compelled by money or fame but by the simple human need to create.
We are proud to be a part of Earl’s story. And if any prospective project creators are looking for tips on how to really make Kickstarter work, they’d be wise to look at what Earl has done. It’s remarkable.
> Tell us about your project.
My project will be the first album to bring the flavor of New Orleans live music into the electronic realm. I’m hiring some of the well known and established veteran New Orleans musicians that play with that particular character that is unique to music from here, bringing them into the studio one by one, and then tweaking and freaking the material from those sessions. In the end, what I hope to end up with fresh electronic music with a kind of classic and familiar feel.
> How many of your backers did you know before launching the project? Any idea where the people you don’t know came from?
I think I knew a handful of people would back it - my parents, a few close friends, etc. At the end of the project, I had 112 backers, and of those I think I know less than half. A lot seem to be friends of friends, and towards the end I got some local interest groups turned on to the project, so that really helped seal the deal.
> How did you spread the word?
I started with emails to people I knew personally, and I asked those people to help spread the word by passing the link along to whoever they felt might be interested. I’d make a Facebook post about it every day or two. I put it on Myspace a couple of times, but that just felt futile… I mean, Myspace is the new Friendster. I ran an ad in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge Craigslist pages in the “musician” section. I talked it up to people in person all the time.
I sent out press releases, though little came of that at all, and the things that did came too late. In hindsight, I should have made contact with press and had coverage ready to go before I ever launched the project.
> You worked hard to get a ton of backers right at the end. How much did you raise and how did you do it?
I was running short and running out of time. About 2 weeks from the deadline, I dedicated every waking moment to finding creative ways to hustle exposure for the project. I tweeted about it a lot. Somehow, through twitter, an online local music magazine caught wind and asked me to do an interview. That interviewer was tied in with the local netsquared group, net2no, and introduced me to some of that crew. They were kind enough to let me present my project at their meeting (2 days before my deadline), and with the subsequent twitter avalanche they created I reached my goal about 15 hours later. It was actually kind of amazing to see it happen. The internet is magic.
> What’s the next step for completing your project?
Well, even though I’m not yet past the 14 day waiting period for Amazon to release the funds, I was anxious to get started. So I came out of pocket a little and did the first session with Preservation Hall’s drummer, Joe Lastie, last week. I’ve been a hermit working on editing and tweaking the material from that session ever since. I’ve got more musicians lining up in the coming weeks.
> How are you going to be updating people as you go along?
I’m trying to frequently share video clips of the process of this album being made on my updates page here:
I may also post audio clips or even just text at some point, depending on what makes sense.
> Any helpful tips you’ve learned so far that you could share with others?
Let your big winners run! I originally capped my highest reward tier, $100, at 3 slots. They sold out almost immediately. Why the hell I thought it would be a good idea to limit that, I’ll never know. If I had to do it again, not only would I not limit the quantities, but i’d have a $200, $300, and maybe even higher reward levels. Give people the opportunity and incentive to be as generous as they want to be.
> What would you change about Kickstarter?
Chasing after the comments on each update post is tricky. I have to kinda keep a running tally in my head as to how many comments each one has so I can tell at a glance if there’s a new comment for any given update. I’ve got it under control so far, but I’m dreading what it’s going to be like when I have 30 or 40 updates.
> How did you decide on your rewards?
Well, backers getting a copy of the record seemed the obvious thing to me - the underlying principle being “I’ll pre-sell this record to cover the recording costs.” Perry suggested that I come up with higher tiers, and I had a hard time coming up with stuff. Because I wanted to make them relevant and valuable, creating reward tiers delayed my project launch by 3 days. A big source of inspiration was Josh Freese’s wild pricing and extras for his record (he’s got stuff like if you buy his record for $10,000 you get to hang out with him and drive away as the new owner of his Volvo). I couldn’t do anything quite so extravagant, but I liked the idea of doing things that put me more in touch with the people that were making it possible for me to chase my dream. I think Perry suggested having people over for Gumbo, and I loved the idea. I also thought that people might enjoy a chance to have a little piece of their voice on the record, too, so they can brag “Hey! - That’s me!” to their friends.
> Have you learned/discovered anything from the experience?
I feel like I could write a book about how much I’ve learned so far from this. The most important thing I think I learned is that there are a lot of amazing people out there that, when presented with a good idea, will really get behind it. I was overwhelmed by all of the positive feedback and the support I got from everyone, even total strangers. I think people really want to be a part of helping cool things happen.
> What was unanticipated about the experience?
I expected most people to back at the $15 level, just pre-ordering a copy of the record. Instead, I got a lot of people that backed at the $50 (gumbo) level and higher. I think I averaged just under $40 per backer. I’m going to be making a lot more gumbo than I intended, but I’m certainly not complaining.
> What, if anything, would you change about your project?
I’ve been staring at this question for 5 minutes and I can’t come up with any substantial answer. I feel like that’s probably a good sign.