Gareth Asher, a Georgia-based musician doing extremely well on Kickstarter, was on 92.9 DaveFM in Atlanta last week for an interview, and Kickstarter came up. Thanks for the hat tip, Gareth!
Earlier this year, former Nine Inch Nails drummer Josh Freese announced that he would be funding his new album directly from his fans, with some genuinely creative rewards that got him a lot of press. In addition to the standard download and CD offers, these included:
Josh washes your car OR does your laundry
Get drunk and cut each other’s hair in the parking lot of the Long Beach courthouse (filmed and posted on YouTube, of course)
Pick any 1 member of the Vandals or Devo (subject to availability) to accompany you and Josh to either the Hollywood Wax Museum or the lunch buffet at the Spearmint Rhino
Twiggy from Marilyn Manson’s band and Josh take you and a guest to Roscoe’s Chicken ‘n’ Waffles in Long Beach for dinner
Josh takes you and a guest to Club 33 (the super-duper exclusive and private restaurant at Disneyland located above Pirates of the Caribbean) and then hit a couple rides afterward (preferably the Tiki Room, the Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror)
At the end of the day at Disneyland, drive away in Josh’s Volvo station wagon. It’s all yours … take it. Just drop him off on your way home, though, please.
Josh will join your band for a month … play shows, record, party with groupies, etc.
If you don’t have a band he’ll be your personal assistant for a month (4-day work weeks, 10 am to 4 pm)
Take a limo down to Tijuana and he’ll show you how it’s done (what that means exactly we can’t legally get into here)
Wired did an extensive interview with Josh, and he talks a lot about his experience with this project. Some choice bits:
[T]he bottom line for me is, “How am I going to market this myself — literally, just myself, no marketing team, no company — on the internet to have people know that I’ve got a record coming out and talk about it. So exactly what I wanted to happen has happened, which is a bunch of people have taken notice of the fact that Josh Freese has a record coming out.
I’ve had folks ranging from people hitting me up on MySpace going, “I want the $50 phone call” or “I want to go have lunch at P.F. Chang’s” to a few people who have discussed the more serious packages, but no one’s officially taken me up on it. A friend of mine knows a big advertising agency out of Portland, and they said they want to buy, like, a $5,000 one where I write songs about their agency and put ‘em up on iTunes.
When I came up with these, like, someone goes, “Man, do you really need money or something?” It’s like, if I really needed money — well of course, we all need money, right? — but if I really was wanting to make money, I would make them a lot less [expensive] than I did, because I really — put it this way, I’ll be floored if someone buys the top package. I’ll be completely shocked.
Setting those prices so ridiculously high worked to get attention in a humorous way…. People that know me, and people that don’t know me, go: “This guy’s got a record coming out. Here’s his website.” If it means they get directed to my website and they spend seven bucks to buy the album? Great.
Some nice lessons to be learned from there. Well done, Mr. Freese! To buy the album, entitled Since 1972, do so here.
Amanda Palmer, the infamously fan-friendly artist who recently took a very public stand against her record label, has written an article detailing her experience leveraging Twitter and her fanbase into cash. You can read it here, and you should.
The gist is that Palmer decided on a lark to do a big T-shirt push via Twitter (earning her $11,000), followed quickly by a Twitter auction and selling tickets to a private concert. As the $19,000 tally makes clear, this was an enormous success, to say the least!
Palmer’s gambit worked for two reasons: 1) she interacts with her fans regularly and openly, generating a huge amount of loyalty and, most importantly, 2) she is not afraid to ask for their help. That might seem a trivial or stupidly obvious point, but it shouldn’t be.
As creative people, we have always been trained (and with good reason) to view money like an illegitimate child — don’t ever ever talk about it; if you have it, don’t admit it; and if you find yourself without, definitely don’t ever openly desire to have some. And from this we got a world of sharks and minnows, the major label system and all of the other injustices that have made pursuing creative interests while trying to remain clothed and housed a monumental undertaking.
We like to think Kickstarter answers that call and offers people an alternative. But it takes effort. And it takes being willing to fail and be vulnerable. We know these are not easy things by any means. But the payoff, as we see here with Amanda Palmer and have seen before with Radiohead, Jill Sobule and Allison Weiss, is so worth the risk and effort it’s not even funny. To be a creative force in this world now requires this mindset, this level of dedication. There really isn’t a choice anymore.
One last point: the next time you are looking to raise money, Amanda, use Kickstarter. You won’t have to spend the time and resources building a quickie site and Paypal store (which you had to do for your Twitter success), you can easily leverage your incredible online networks into action and you can offer different levels of reward based on the level of involvement. No need for one size fits all. How many of those folks who bought a T-shirt for $20 would have been willing to pay $50 for one autographed by you? Or $5 for a refrigerator magnet? Or $3,000 for a private performance, like the Rural Alberta Advantage managed to pull off earlier today? With Kickstarter, you can find out. Amanda — or anyone else reading this — get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.
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.
Watch to the end to see what passion and a critical mass (and Santogold) can do. From the Sasquatch Festival in Seattle.
We have another success story for you today, this one about a woman named Lindsey Murkel. Lindsey’s project is called You Are Among Friends: The Book for the Little Sisters I Never Had and its goal is to produce a zine for young women with some great guest contributors, and a podcast, too. With 33 days to go, Lindsey has raised $658, when she only sought $350. Nearly 200%!
I sent Lindsey the same questions we’ve sent our other successful project creators about her project and experience. Her response is below. (Pay close attention to her favorite band answer — it’s a good one!)
Tell us about your project.
I’m working on a book-length version of my adolescent-empowerment zine, You Are Among Friends, and will be publishing it this summer. I joined Kickstarter with the intention of gathering together enough money for preliminary copies, which will be sent to newspapers and magazines, as well as to publish copies to send to women’s shelters, Planned Parenthoods, and after-school programs nationwide. I gave myself two months to meet the goal, and then well surpassed it in about 24 hours, which is cause for a neverending dance party until I die.
How many of your backers do you know personally?
“Personally” is a little fuzzy when you’re an independent artist working primarily online! Who do I not know personally at this point? I’d say that about half of the names were familiar, and maybe 20% of my backers have been near and dear friends. For the most part, though, the project has been backed by total strangers who were either affected by the zine (or podcast), or who came across the Kickstarter page and were inspired to be generous.
How are you going to be updating people as you go along?
So far, I’ve been sitting with my mouth hanging open, filling an update box with silly little words that seem meaningless compared to how completely amazed and thankful I am. I’d love to make more videos, skywrite the numbers, whatever people want—it’s been an incredibly humbling experience so far.
Have you learned/discovered anything from the experience?
Learned that people are amazingly generous and that they are more than willing to share their money and their encouragement. Was reminded that the project I believe in—and that I sometimes falter in believing in, since it’s also something I make with my own two hands—is worthwhile and important. People have just been absolutely astounding.
What was unanticipated about the experience?
Ha, how much I’ve raised and how quickly people came from the woodwork to help! Also, how easy Kickstarter was to use. It’s so user-friendly, from both the project and the backer sides.
What, if anything, would you change about your project?
Nothing—I can’t wait to print the books in July!
Who’s your favorite band and why?
Right now, it’s Allison Weiss—because the girl seriously knows how to get it done. I’m away from home for three weeks right now, and while I’ve been gone I also followed her every move on a six-day tour with Lauren Zettler: daily video updates, a webcast of a house show, Twitter and Tumblr updates…her utilization of the resources available to her as far as connecting with her fans, both current and potential, is awe-inspiring. We should all—every DIY artist—be taking about a thousand pages from her manual. And she also surpassed her Kickstarter goal in less than a day!
You can find more from Lindsey here:
The Chicagoist just posted an awesome interview with Jacob and Michael, the kid geniuses behind Don’t Go Into the Woods, a self-made horror flick they have up on Kickstarter. They’re only looking for $500, and have raised $204 with nine days to go. The Chicagoist asked them about this small budget. Their responses:
Jacob: As far as the movie production goes, we don’t really have a budget. One of the things that Robert Rodriguez says in his book is that you should use what you have to make your movie. And that’s what we try to do. We kind of write our scenes around what we already have. That’s why our first movie took place in the woods. We have a woods on our property, so we decided to shoot it there. We had this creepy, old black dress, so we decided to make the killer in that movie an old lady. So we try not to spend much on things that we don’t have to.
Michael: The $500 dollars will be going toward a couple of things that we would have liked to done for our first movie, but didn’t think about back then. We used a lot of music and didn’t think about the fact that we need to have permission to use it. This time we want to get music legally and have the permission. We’ve looked into doing this and are saving $150 of the pledged money for that. Another $250 will go toward making a number of DVDs that we can send back to our funders, send to podcasts and blogs to review and then sell what’s left over. The last hundred will be put toward the costs of festival entries and conventions which we hope to attend. We shoot on a Panasonic DVCam that is pretty old. We hope that The Unhuman will be the one that lets us make the jump to HD for our next movie.
Just awesome. Don’t you want to help these kids and see what they come up with?