Selling the Project

When it comes to successful projects, sometimes it’s not so much that a project’s goal is so compelling, it’s that its story was told the right way. Which brings us to two Kickstarter projects that do that very well: Jerry Paffendorf’s Loveland and Help Polyvinyl Save 10,000 Records From Destruction.

Polyvinyl’s project, which is our most successful to date at 1,553% funded, has a ton of things going for it. First, it comes from a well-respected source with a built-in audience. That always helps. Second, it offered great rewards: $50 gets you a box of 26 CDs and two DVDs. Hard to beat that, either.

But the other thing that Polyvinyl’s project did was tell a story. If you look at the nuts and bolts of the project, it’s essentially just a record label clearing out remnant inventory for basic space reasons. Polyvinyl didn’t tell the story that way, though. Instead, Polyvinyl made it personal (real people in the project image) and gave it a hook: “these records could be destroyed if you don’t do your part.” It’s an excellent job of framing a project, making it more compelling.

Jerry Paffendorf’s Loveland is similar. It’s a unique idea: Jerry is buying a 1,000,000-square inch piece of property in Detroit, and he’s selling pieces of it for $1 an inch. It’s whimsical and bold and audacious, and even if people aren’t sure what to do with their purchased inches (myself included), it feels like a good thing to do, and Jerry’s enthusiasm makes us feel like we’re a part of something new and interesting. Hard to top that.

What I wanted to look at in particular, though, were Jerry’s rewards, which reveal a lot about the reward process and how to best present yourself. Take a look:

There are two things that should jump out at you very quickly:

  1. Every reward has a theme. (Remember the $5 milkshake in Pulp Fiction?)
  2. There is zero advantage to choosing the $12 or more reward over the $1 one, and yet it’s being selected almost three times as often.

The reason is clear: he packaged it, gave it a hook, and reinforced it elsewhere in the project. (Jerry wears a T-shirt in his pitch video that reads: “I’ve got 12 inches in Detroit” and he makes a few other references, too.)

Jerry took the time to sculpt the presentation, and it has obviously worked: while his project has easily exceeded its $1,000 goal (it’s at $1,400 at the moment), he’s done this with only 54 backers. Without that hook, he could easily be sitting at $54 dollars (and 5% raised) rather than $1,400.

The lesson to be learned here is that putting in the extra time to craft a project from top to bottom pays off. Over and over we see that the projects that go the extra mile (like the LaPorte, Indiana project, which we’ll discuss later this week) are that much more successful. We encourage all creators and prospective creators to follow their example and think about how their project can be as memorable as a $5 milkshake.

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.