April Smith's Big Day

As we mentioned earlier in the week, Kickstarter’s own April Smith is on this weekend’s Lollapalooza bill in Chicago, and she took the stage earlier today. During her performance, a friend in the audience texted this:

So cool! Thanks April.

And continuing in April’s big day, Billboard ran a great profile on her today as well, and in a video piece, April performs her Dexter-inspired song and talks about Kickstarter! See it here:

Congratulations to April. Well done. And if you haven’t supported her project yet, you can check it out here.

Creator Q&A: Five Times August

Brad Skistimas’ Five Times August project is one of the more ambitious projects we’ve had on Kickstarter. The project, which will fund the recording and release of Brad’s new Five Times August album, is seeking $20,000 in one month. The project has raised over $7,000 so far, and funding ends on August 17th. Rewards include a copy of the album, dinner with the band, handwritten lyrics, and even a song written for you.

Brad is approaching his project the right way. As he told us, “I decided to go to the fans on this one… THEY are my record label for this album.” He also has some of the best advice we’ve seen on how to mobilize your network:

I’ve been using a lot of my social networking websites and the Five Times August e-mail list. I usually post one or two tweets a day reminding people to pledge. I think it’s all about repetition. A lot of people had to see the link a bunch of times before they went to go find out what it was, but now I have quite a few backers reposting the link to their family and friends, too.

Brad has been working his project hard on both Facebook and Twitter, and his project updates have been fantastic. Brad agreed to take a few minutes to answer some questions about how things are going, and his answers are a must-read for anyone making a project or thinking of making one.

Tell us about your project.
I’m attempting to raise $20,000 in 31 Days to help fund the release of Five Times August’s next album Life As A Song. FTA is sort of my “one man band.” I’ve accomplished quite a lot as an independent artist and after talking with quite a few major labels in the past I decided that wasn’t the right path for me. I believe with the way the music industry is going artist’s don’t necessarily need record labels anymore. There are a lot of hard working, talented bands and artist’s out there that aren’t afraid to do the work themselves, they just need proper funding. I decided to go to the fans on this one. With their pledges they are essentially pre-ordering the next album and getting a unique opportunity to be a part of the release. In essence, THEY are my record label for this album.

How’s it going so far?
It’s going well, I am a little behind schedule but I still think we can do it. I chose a large amount of money in a short amount of time, so it was a risky venture to start, but it’s a realistic goal, it’s all about getting the message out to the community. I’ve had a good time thinking of creative ways to get people to the project page.

What’s been your most popular reward?
The most popular reward has been the $25 tier. Those who pledge will get a digital download of the album two months in advance of the official release, a signed CD copy of the album when it comes out, and their name will be listed in the thank you list of the CD liner notes.

What’s your strategy for getting your project funded?
I’ve been using a lot of my social networking websites and the Five Times August e-mail list. I usually post one or two tweets a day reminding people to pledge. I think it’s all about repetition. A lot of people had to see the link a bunch of times before they went to go find out what it was, but now I have quite a few backers reposting the link to their family and friends, too. I’m also trying to offer some unique rewards too.

Handwritten lyrics to their three favorite songs, out of print/rare CD’s, personal video performances, guitar lessons, dinner together, I’m even offering a weekend camping trip! Also, every backer gets exclusive updates with mini-podcasts, and rare audio, pics, and video to enjoy along the 31 days while we strive to reach the goal.

What will you do with the money?
The money will help fund all the extra promotion, manufacturing, and publicity costs for the album. I’ve actually already finished recording, mixing and mastering, but I still need to get the physical CD’s pressed and manufactured, delivered to Best Buy stores, print tour posters, pay for the publicist, etc. A lot of people don’t realize more money goes into promoting an album than actually making it. Having these funds will help spread awareness and promote it to a larger audience, giving it the boost it needs to be a successful release.

Any closing thoughts?
I’m just really thankful a website like this exists. It’s a really great opportunity to be a part of. I love the idea of building a supportive online community to help make individual dreams a reality. That’s why I decided to make my own pledge to the project. If we achieve the $20,000 goal I will be giving back to the community by donating half of my CD sales for the rest of the year to a variety of charities. I think it’s important to help others once you’ve been helped, and that’s what I plan to do.

Hamburger Eyes Arrives

Our copy of Hamburger Eyes came in the mail yesterday, and we could not be more impressed. The photography is incredible — stark black-and-white spanning what looks to be the last thirty years — and the quality of the book itself is very impressive.

In an interview with creator Ray Potes that we posted here, he explained what impact Kickstarter had on the project:

When you publish something or make anything and put it out there yourself, it’s always hard to say if people get it or not. Does the world appreciate this stuff? Am I blowing it? Wasting my time? And with a site like Kickstarter, you have all the answers right away.

We’re proud to have had any role in this. Congrats, Ray! For more on Hamburger Eyes, check their website.

April Smith at Lollapalooza

Guess it must be Music Wednesday here at Kickstarter HQ, because we’ve got another cool bit of music news to share. April Smith, whose project has been doing very well, will be playing Lollapalooza this weekend in Chicago. That’s a serious honor on its own, but even cooler is that today Rolling Stone pegged her as one of the artists to watch. Here’s what they had to say:

We’ll be checking in with April to see how her set went, and we’ll be checking her project updates, too. If you’re new to April’s music, we shot a video of her playing earlier this summer. It was fantastic! Here it is:

Rural Alberta Advantage: "Eye of the Tiger"

Last night I caught the Rural Alberta Advantage — whose Kickstarter project finished successfully over the weekend — at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. It was packed, and as they always do, Nils, Amy, and Paul totally killed it. They finished up with an encore of Nils solo doing “Eye of the Tiger” and then they debuted a brand new song. My iPhone footage of both is above. Give it a look.

The Power of Quests, Pt. II

Yesterday we looked at three Kickstarter projects that involve quests, and today we’re going to examine three more. What these projects illustrate is the storytelling potential of the funding process, and how many projects have a built-in narrative structure that’s waiting to be discovered.

Think of every fantasy and science-fiction movie that you’ve ever seen or every RPG you’ve ever played — at certain key moments during the quest, the protagonist has to solicit assistance from people sympathetic to the cause to overcome key obstacles, to finally see things through to the end. Kickstarter projects work in the same way — it’s the backers that every project creator needs.

Building a New Ark: The Floating Doctors

A few years ago, a doctor visited a remote African village with a backpack of medical supplies. He sat all day under a tree in the center of the village, treating everyone who waited. At the end of the day, the doctor had run out of medicine, and yet many more people were awaiting care. Distraught, the doctor made his way to his jeep, where he cried for a very long time over what he had seen.

That’s the origin story for the Floating Doctors, and before doing anything else, take three minutes to watch their video, which explains the mission beautifully. The small crew will set sail for South America next month on the Southern Wind, a 76-foot boat donated by a couple who had planned to retire on it, but who decided that Dr. Benjamin LaBrot could put it to better use.

The Floating Doctors need $25,000 to launch their first mission, which will take them to remote Central and Southern America villages accessible by boat. It’s hard to imagine a more noble goal.

Sea to Shining Sea: Sarah Sharp Visits All Fifty States

A quest doesn’t need to save lives or cure society’s ills to be valid. What ultimately matters is its importance to the person seeking it, and, in Kickstarter’s case, whether other people agree. Both are obviously true in the case of 50 States, a project by Sarah Sharp with a familiar goal: to visit all fifty US states in one year. Sarah is doing more than visiting each state; she’s also making postcards for each state using her photography. Here’s one for Florida that she posted as a project update:

With nearly $3,500 raised of her $5,000 goal and more than a month left, Sarah’s quest looks to be in good shape, with an active community supporting her mission.

Honey I Shrunk Detroit: Jerry Paffendorf’s Loveland

Where to begin with Loveland? Here’s the premise: in the quasi post-Apocalyptic reality that is modern-day Detroit, a guy named Jerry Paffendorf came up with the idea to buy a piece of property on the cheap and turn it into a million square-inch grid. For $1, you can own one inch, with $12 getting you twelve inches, $100 getting one hundred inches, etc.

Loveland is part social experiment, part virtual world-style real estate, and all playful fun. Jerry will allow people to build on their inches — erecting miniature skyscrapers or pretty much anything else you can imagine — and his blog details his thought process on how Loveland will evolve.

The silliness of Loveland is a huge part of its appeal. Five years ago Loveland would be a comment on the ridiculousness of real estate; now it’s a reminder that maybe $1 for a piece of property is a fair price after all.

(A potential Loveland viewer)

Following along with Jerry’s madcap vision it’s clear that there’s no limit as to how grand he plans to make this. It’s not hard to imagine visiting Loveland in two years to find it expanding at an incredible rate (reminiscent of Synecdoche, New York), with Jerry as the Wizard behind the curtain. That’s $12 in inches well-spent.

The Power of Quests

If you want to go on a meaningful quest, you must be lacking in something. [T]he protagonist cannot focus on everything and thus must choose and discard priorities to define a preferred quest. Tyler Cowen, Create Your Own Economy

Last week we used Cowen’s quote about quests in relation to Geoff Edgers’ Kinks documentary project. This was no accident. In the film, Geoff repeatedly declares himself to be “on a quest” (he also uses the word “mission”) to reunite the Kinks, a phrasing that has a visible effect on people like Sting and Zooey Deschanel, who give his film and goal their endorsement.

“Quest” is a powerful word. Quests are Wall-E rescuing Eve, Frodo climbing Mordor, the Losties getting off the island. Quests are legends, bold steps into folklore, celluloid, and pulp. As even Don Quixote — and the mere existence of the word “quixotic” — illustrates so vividly, quests are burdens. Quests demand sacrifice and determination, a myopic focus on, well, something.

A handful of new Kickstarter projects are themselves quests. They are the works of individuals who felt a spark one day — we don’t choose our quests; they choose us — and abruptly realigned their lives in pursuit. They sail seas and climb mountains. They seek meaning in faded black-and-white. They awoke one day to find they were giants.

We’ll look at three projects today that embody this, and three more tomorrow.

The American Who Went Up a Mountain and Came Down a Hero: Chris Waddell Climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro

One man. One mountain. Chris Waddell attempts to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro without the use of his legs.

That quote from Chris Waddell’s project really says it all, doesn’t it? A five-time gold medal paralympian skier, Chris is the picture of determination and focus. Chris is raising $50,000 to fund his climb of Africa’s tallest peak using a wheeled rig that he hand-cranks up the mountain, each revolution of its gears moving him only three inches. It’s a chariot of his own design, and the brute force required to even operate it is Herculean — to make the five-day climb, he will have to turn that crank a staggering 528,000 times while traversing terrain straight out of Middle-earth. Chris describes the trek by day in his project description; here’s a sample quote:

2nd Day. Mandara Hut to Horombo Hut—Approximately 3,300 feet of elevation change and about 9.3 miles of distance. Leaving the forest and entering the heather, we will travel through the mists and the fog. Then the vegetation thins in the moorland. The trail stays rough and rocky with some big steps. The second day will be technical and difficult the whole time. It could rival the summit day for the most challenging. Horombo Hut Elevation: 12,205 feet.

Chris asks prospective copilots to consider backing his journey for a simple $1/revolution of his wheels. The ride downhill, he states, is on him.

Lascaux Meets LaPorte: Joe Beshenkovsky and Jason Bitner Decipher the Faces of LaPorte, Indiana

One afternoon not long ago, after lunch at a small Midwestern diner, I stumbled onto a forgotten archive…

That evocative sentence opens the description of LaPorte, Indiana, the documentary film created by This American Life producer Joe Beshenkovsky and FOUND magazine co-creator Jason Bitner. That archive contains more than 18,000 photographs of the citizens of LaPorte, Indiana taken from the 1950s-70s. Jason turned the photographs into a photo book released a couple of years ago, and in the time since the allure of the pictures has grown.

Using a copy of the book left in the diner, LaPorte’s citizens began identifying themselves and their peers. And it was then that Joe and Jason began interviewing these people some forty to fifty years after those initial images: the young couple in the wedding photo, the cowlicked boy with his fist raised like Huey Long, the woman who swore she would one day leave and never come back.

The interviews uncover this small town’s living histories, the happy days and tragic ends that are LaPorte’s folklore.

Around the World in Seven Hundred and Thirty Days: Emily Richmond Sets Sail

so in my head i know sailing really means storms, cold water, scary squalls, and the great unknown but today, in my heart, it feels like this:

— Emily Richmond posting on her blog, Bobbie Rounds the World

Emily Richmond is a 24-year-old woman from Los Angeles who has decided to sail around the world. Her two-year journey will swing her across the Southern Hemisphere. Here’s her planned route:

With stops in Cyprus, the Galapagos Islands, Trinidad, Morocco, and Bali (among others), Emily’s circumnavigation is straight out of a fairy tale. And the rewards she is offering accentuate the romatic appeal.

For $15, she will mail you a Polaroid picture taken over the course of the trip. In our minds, this instantly sparked images of a worn, mysteriously stamped envelope arriving one day, a strong scent of seawater accompanying its opening, the enclosed Polaroid capturing beauty as far as the lens can see.

Our other favorite is perfectly self-explanatory:

Whereas Magellan needed King Manuel to fund his journey and outfit his ship, Emily will share her bounty with us. A mere $8,000 and she’s on her way.

Coming tomorrow… Part Two.