The Gumbo Party

Back when we counted down the five best project updates so far, we discussed Earl Scioneaux’s Electronola project and its awesome studio updates. Earl has posted 22 updates so far from his New Orleans studio, detailing his backers about each step of the recording process as he records some of New Orleans’ most legendary musicians. (Just take a look at this post, with detailed recording notes, pictures from the session, and some raw audio with bassist George Porter Jr. So cool.)

Earl’s project also featured what is probably our single best reward so far:

Earl originally made just one of these available and, not surprisingly, it was one of the first rewards to go. So he upped it to ten, and after those sold out he realized he was either going to be making a whole lotta gumbo, or he should organize a get-together of some kind.

Last week Earl invited those ten backers to his New Orleans studio for some gumbo and some music, and this morning he posted a recap. Here are some pics:

And the legendary gumbo, of course:

People came from as far away as Houston and Atlanta for the get-together. Absolutely incredible. Check out the whole post here, and we highly recommend adding Earl’s project updates to your RSS reader as well (just add that link and you’re set). His project is a great one.

New Features: Media Editing and Info Requests

We’ve released another bundle of fixes and updates, with two notable changes for project creators.

Media editing.  You can now replace your project’s photo or video at any time by going to “Edit Project” from the Dashboard. Previously, creators could only edit images/video before a project launched.

Collecting backer information.  Many projects require collecting some additional information from backers — shipping addresses, email, shirt size, and so on.  In the past, this was done manually (and painfully) with a mass email.

Now, once your project’s successful, you can create a survey to collect the information you need from backers to fulfill their rewards.  After filling out the form (see below) and sending the request, backers will get an email notice that they need to fill out some info to get their rewards.

As they fill out their info, you’ll see their changes updated in the Backer Report.  All the information can be downloaded as a CSV spreadsheet, suitable for Microsoft Excel and Google Spreadsheets.

For popular projects with hundreds of backers, this makes fulfilling rewards much more palatable. Let us know what you think or how it can be improved.

Closing Soon

Three of Kickstarter’s most prominent music projects end this week, so this is your last chance to get an 8-bit tribute to Miles Davis, an exclusive 7-inch from one of indie rock’s biggest up-and-coming bands, and an EP turned LP from a prolific Georgia-based singer-songwriter. All three projects boast great rewards and have had — not coincidentally — a lot of success. Let’s take a look at them.

Kind of Bloop: An 8-Bit Tribute to Miles Davis was commissioned by Kickstarter’s own Andy Baio, and brings together five prominent 8-bit musicians (using the NES and Gameboy to make videogame-inspired music) to cover Miles Davis’ classic Kind of Blue. Having raised nearly $7,000 (with a goal of $2,000), the project has been enormously successful thanks to the novelty of the project as well as Andy’s thoughtful promotion, including tons of project updates and interaction on the project page. There have been requests for a vinyl version of the record, so there’s a chance we might see a Vinyl of Bloop project at some point, too.

The Rural Alberta Advantage’s 7-inch project has also been very successful — one of their rewards was a private concert for $3,000 and it sold fast. The whole story behind this band is amazing. The blog Hit Singularity had a good piece a few weeks back called How a Buzz Band Became a Buzz Band and it does a good job of detailing what went on, but I’ll give you the 30-second version.

About two years ago Rural Alberta Advantage (or RAA) recorded and self-financed an album called Hometowns that was self-released and then immediately ignored. Then in October of last year, someone from the Metacritic forums brought the band to my attention, and I signed them that same day to a record label I was running. We quickly reissued their album digitally and gave it some promotion and suddenly it was an indie hit.

The next six months brought them several sold-out NYC shows, a gig at SXSW opening for Grizzly Bear in a massive, beautiful church, and then an offer from the beloved record label Saddle Creek to be a part of their roster. So, in six short months, they went from the position where almost every band is — dreams bigger than their prospects — to being poised right now to become indie rock’s next big crossover band.

The Kickstarter project is the finishing touch on this part of their career. This 7-inch will be the stuff of eBay auctions before the year is out. Just you wait.

Last but definitely not least we have the delightful Allison Weiss. Allison’s project was to release a new EP, and after she reached her $2,000 funding goal in a matter of hours, she smartly offered her supporters a new goal, promising a full-length album over the initial EP.

In the months since Allison’s project has launched, she has posted a video interviewing the backer who put her project over its goal, did a live, all-request web video concert, has been running an album title contest with backers, posted updates from the studio, and — still not stopping! — has just launched a promotion she’s calling “The Final Countdown,” complete with a cover of the Europe song. No matter the amount they pledged, her backers have gotten their money’s worth.

All three of these projects end this weekend, and all are worth jumping on. A bit later in the week we’ll check in with some new projects worthy of your pledges, too.

Chicago Meetup Recap

Friday night marked our first ever Chicago meetup, which we held as part of Ray Noland’s opening night for the “Run, Blago Run Show”.

Ray hosted a private get together for project Backers, a thank you for supporting the ambitions of an artist. It was also a great time to meet Ray, view the works of art, and pick up the rewards for those that supported the project. An added bonus was to simply meet others who backed the project locally, and celebrate our collective efforts to see this project come to life.

A number of Kickstarter members were in attendence, so thanks to Kit Geary (his project: Prints on a Wall), James VanOsdol (his project: Chicago Rocked!), Eric Reagan, Nick Disabato, Clayton Brown (good projects on the way), and many others (Sorry if you’re missed, but you’re not forgotten. Drop a note in the comments if you attended!).

(Project creator James VanOsdol (Chicago Rocked!) on left chatting it up with Nick Disabato sporting the WNUR T)

(Rob Hamilton & his wife Pam at the meetup)

The show officially opened its doors to the public at 6pm and quickly filled the space with project Backers, friends, passersby, and even a nice community of Kickstarters running their own projects or looking to launch shortly. With a rotation of DJs manning the turntables, some great organic goods to nosh on, and of course some booze, the show was kicked off in style, and we were extremely grateful of Mr. CRO’s hospitality in letting us innagurate our Chicago pressence at the opening of his weekend show.

(The lovely spread by Courtney Maran. Thanks Courntey!)

Thanks to everyone who came out, introduced yourself, gave us feedback on Kickstarter, and of course simply enjoyed the evening, the art, and the warm Chicago air.

Check out more photos from our Flickr pool, and add your own.

Kickstarting Locally

Rivington and Norfolk is the heart of NYC’s Lower East Side, a block that includes everything from art galleries to bars to restaurants to tenement housing to luxury condos, the ongoing clash between the neighborhood of old and the LES of now pretty well aggregated. Like the rest of NYC, the block is ever-changing, and two of its newest additions arrived via Kickstarter.

The first is called Wedding Chapel, a pop-up wedding chapel where anyone can get married, re-married or fake-married for only $200 (here’s the original Kickstarter project). Several couples have already been married there (we posted pics of the first wedding earlier), including a fake wedding between a New York Magazine reporter and comedian Michael Showalter (The State, Stella, Michael & Michael Have Issues) that you can watch here, or you can watch my own unedited iPhone camera version here:

Ben Smyth, the owner of the Grand Opening space where Wedding Chapel resides, used Kickstarter to test whether his idea of a pop-up hitching post in NYC was worth doing. Three grand, some nice press, and a handful of weddings later, he has his answer. And for his backers, the results have been just as sweet. There’s a plaque listing all of the pledgers in Wedding Chapel, and Ben has kept backers in the loop with several video project updates.

Walk south on Norfolk St. about thirty yards and you’ll walk straight into Tiny’s Sandwich Shop, a LES institution for the past nine years. One of the very first Kickstarter projects was from a NY-based artist named Mike Brown, who wanted to paint a mural on Tiny’s interior walls — he called it LostLES. Mike worked hard to raise the $5,000 he needed, and he was paid off with a strong surge in the final 48 hours to close the gap.

The mural itself is awesome. I finally saw it for the first time this past week (having forgotten about it despite being a backer!) and took some pics:

Very impressive. Mike kept supporters updated via the project’s updates and its Facebook fan page, including an excellent making-of set.

It’s not often that you see the stuff we do on the internet cross into our everyday lives, but we’re big fans whenever it does. For us Kickstarter New Yorkers, this has been especially cool. (Can’t forget Chicago with Run Blago Run either.)

In the future Kickstarter will add features to make it easier to find local projects. It’s encouraging to see them already happening on their own.

Kickstarter and the 1,000 True Fans

In the pantheon of thoughtful approaches to art and fandom, Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans essay stands out. In Kelly’s words:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.

We wholly believe in this — Kickstarter is essentially a hub of interactions between creators and their true fans, after all. It removes the barrier between artist and fan (and, more broadly, producer and consumer), creating the possibility for an exchange that’s more fulfilling, efficient, and emotionally resonant than anything mass-production affords us. What mattered more: the quality of In/Rainbows’ music or that Radiohead went directly to true fans (creating new ones in the process) to release it?

It’s a provocative theory that we all want to believe. It sounds so simple, so weirdly doable when all we ever hear is how internet killed the art star and that your iTunes library can and will be held against you in a court of law. There’s no way it could possibly be true, right?

Based on data from the first three months of Kickstarter’s existence, it looks like there’s more than something to it. To date, if a project manages to get to 25% of its funding goal, it has a 94% success rate. Here’s a visual to illustrate that. The X axis represents percentage funded, the Y axis shows the percentage of projects that have reached that level:

We had assumed there would be some threshold where a project’s chances would dramatically increase, but only 25%? How can it be so low?

There are a number of factors at play, including public validation (this video comes to mind) and old-fashioned momentum. But more than that it’s the True Fans: if the groundwork has been laid and a direct relationship has been built, your fans will assure you of that 94% success rate. Here’s Kelly again:

This small circle of diehard fans, which can provide you with a living, is surrounded by concentric circles of Lesser Fans. These folks will not purchase everything you do, and may not seek out direct contact, but they will buy much of what you produce. The processes you develop to feed your True Fans will also nurture Lesser Fans. As you acquire new True Fans, you can also add many more Lesser Fans. If you keep going, you may indeed end up with millions of fans and reach a hit.

If asked — and that’s a big key — True Fans are workhorses. There is a clear motivation to spread the word (not just fandom; social capital, too), and there is no greater pleasure than converting someone to your cause. And so, as Kelly says, True Fans attract Lesser Fans who, if all goes as planned, assimilate into True Fandom. Like the Borg.

And Kelly actually suggests that something like our 25% raised/94% success might occur:

[The number of true fans needed] does not explode, but rises gently and in proportion. Lastly, the actual number may vary depending on the media. Maybe it is 500 True Fans for a painter and 5,000 True Fans for a videomaker. The numbers must surely vary around the world. But in fact the actual number is not critical, because it cannot be determined except by attempting it. Once you are in that mode, the actual number will become evident. That will be the True Fan number that works for you. My formula may be off by an order of magnitude, but even so, its far less than a million.

From the beginning, we’ve encouraged creators to tap into their networks as much as possible: there’s clearly a desire from audiences for greater interaction, more access, a more intimate relationship. Twitter has demonstrated that. And so what Kickstarter does is answer the next part of that question: once you have your 10 or 100 or 1,000 or even 1,000,000 True Fans, what comes next?

You allow them a seat at the table. You invite them to become your patrons. You give them an opportunity to have an impact and it’s not just your story anymore, it’s theirs too. And that’s the kind of success that lasts.

Creator Q&A: 365 Postcards

(Note: That is not a drawing of Christian Bale. We asked.)

We were charmed by Emily Grenader’s 365 Postcards from the second it hit Kickstarter. While the majority of the projects at the time originated from a place of need, Emily’s had more of a sense of whimsy. She wasn’t doing this because she had to, she was doing this because she could.

The proposition is simple: for $5 get a homemade postcard in the mail at some point over the course of the next year. If you pay a little more, you can schedule your postcard’s arrival. The highest tier offered one postcard per day for a month (an option that I very nearly picked, and kinda wish that I had).

It’s hard to quantify what’s so disarming about this project. Is it the simplicity? Is there some aura contained in a postcard, which is essentially a text message sent via post? Whatever it is, we often see eyes light up when we mention 365 Postcards in conversation, a little bit of childlike glee at its modest audacity.

We’re looking forward to more projects like Emily’s (we’d put New York Makes a Book in the category of interactive art project, too). We’ve always viewed Kickstarter as an opportunity to flex those creative and passionate muscles that the nine-to-five seems custom built to atrophy.

We sent Emily a few questions about her project, and here are her responses.

Tell us about your project.

I am creating and sending a postcard every day for a year to a backer, friend, or stranger.

How did you decide on your rewards?

I wanted to pay for the physical costs of my project. I did not include my time, but estimated how much I would need for supplies.

How many of your backers do you know personally?

I know 12 out of 53.

How are you going to be updating people as you go along?

I’ve been posting pictures once a week of the cards. [LINK]

Have you learned/discovered anything from the experience?

I was pleased to see that people from all over the world stumbled on my project.

The Comeback Kids: Rvng's Frkwys 12" Project

Frkwys’ Excepter 12” project has been a personal favorite of ours because it combines three things that we love: deluxe vinyl, Excepter (a Brooklyn noise/psych band), and Throbbing Gristle (one of the most legendary industrial bands ever). The project’s first two backers were both Kickstarter staff, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting our copies ever since.

There was only one problem, though: the project seemed like it was headed for failure. In its first six weeks, the project had mustered only about $600 in pledges — far short of its $2400 goal.

But then yesterday happened.

Out of nowhere, the project started gaining traction, getting more and more backers. By the end of the day, the project had surpassed its goal. After six weeks of very little action, how in the world did this project get funded in one measly day?

We emailed Matt, the head of Rvng (the small Brooklyn label doing this release), and asked him what had happened. Here’s his response.

How much money had you raised three days ago?

We were a little over $600 and only 23 days out.

How much money has your project raised now?

We are at $2661 thanks to forty generous backers. Still taking pledges and thinking of offering an MP3 series subscription to the incentives.

Can you tell us what happened in between?
Simply put, we hit up our list of Rvng friends and fiends that have supported the label in the past with purchases through our web site. It’s not a massive list mostly because the same thousand loyalists buy out our limited pressings. A couple bloggers within that base helped champion the message and voila!

How had you funded your records in the past?

RVNG was founded with personal investments. The label is self-sufficient now, we just go out on an ambitious limb from time-to-time and realize we don’t have the proper cash to see a project through. Our eyes are bigger than our bank account.

Anything else you wanna share?
The Kickstarter experience has been interesting. Definitely learned fast it takes your own support base to really make a project take off. I can’t wait to launch another project that doesn’t necessarily promise a tangible trade off. Or at least one ambitious/far out enough that it absolutely depends on fundraising to become real/tangible.

Well done, Rvng! And just for reference, here’s the email they sent to their mailing list:

Rvng Friends & Fiends.

While we’re still amidst the purple haze of the Purple Brain, we’re incredibly excited to announce Rvng’s first original release, the Excepter edition of our new FRKWYS 12” series.

In typical Rvng fashion, add an E and a couple As to those consonants and you’ll see a play on the name of the legendary Folkways record label founded by Moses Asch in the late 40s to document sound and movement in music from around the world.

Our FRKWYS (FREAKWAYS) 12” series pairs contemporary artists and their progenitors by way of remix, reinterpretation, and original collaboration. Like the Folkways releases, each installment in the FRKWYS series lives under a thematic banner (albeit sometimes loose) and explores a different facet of electronic music.

The first release in the series features collaborations from NYC’s industrial pranksters Excepter with Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti of Throbbing Gristle and Chris & Cosey, JG Thirwell of Foetus and his many alter egos, and Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto. We’ve set the bar pretty high.

Like the Rvng of the Nrds series, the devil is in the detail. We are housing these limited edition 12”s (900 / pressing) in seemingly simple but financially devastating package using classic tip-on style jackets wrapped in black leatherette and overlayed with Frkwys “family portraits”, creating a truly substantial and archival feel.

We thought we’d try something a little different by championing Frkwys through Kickstarter, a fund raising platform for the arts. If you can’t afford the slightly higher 12” retail price offered at the $18.00 pledge (including shipping within the US, prices vary internationally), you can still offer a minimum pledge of $1.00. Pledge $5.00 and you’ll get the 320 kbps mp3s of the 12” + a pin and sticker. Whatever you contribute ensures the record will be released certainly and gloriously.

Here’s the kicker (pun intended?), we’re offering a “one shot only” 100 subscriptions to the series through Kickstarter. This will get you the entire 10 part series + many bonuses along the way at an extremely discounted price. Once the subscriptions are sold and the Kickstarter project complete, we won’t offer them again.

Btw, all 12”s + digital downloads pledged / purchased through Kickstarter will ship August 15th from our Brooklyn offices.

We only have 24 days to hit our goal and we’re just seeing momentum, so please check out our project landing page here:

There’s quite a bit more info about the series, so feel free to spread the word to your blogosphere, friends and family. As always, we appreciate your support dearly.