How to Succeed on Kickstarter: Earl Scioneaux

UPDATE: Shannon Powell, Walter Payton, Lucien Barbarin, and John Boutte have all agreed to be a part of this record. I'm really...

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.

Lindsey Markel Says You Are Among Friends

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:

Chicagoist Interviews Teenage Filmmakers/Kickstarters!

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?


The omnipresent fact of an ice cream driver’s life is, without a doubt, the music. This issues from a nasty little metal box on the dashboard that has four settings, corresponding to the four songs that will provide the sound track for the day. “Pop Goes the Weasel” is pretty much out of the question: Building as it does to its absurd little climax every nine seconds or so, it’s the sonic equivalent of Chinese water torture. “Turkey in the Straw” is OK for a while, but pretty soon it starts to make you feel like you’re on Hee Haw.

The third selection is a simple two-tone progression, the “dee-dum” that big trucks are required to make when they’re backing up. For a while, this one seemed to have promise as a sort of electronic mantra, and I managed to amuse myself by pretending it was the new Philip Glass record, but this wore thin after a while. There’s no way around it: You’re stuck with “The Entertainer.”

Jay Bennett RIP

Some sad news to report. The musician Jay Bennett, a guitarist, keyboardist and singer, died yesterday in his sleep. Jay was most well-known for his work in the band Wilco, particularly on the Being There, Summer Teeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot albums. He was a very important creative force in that band for such a significant period of time; Jeff Tweedy has always been at his best with a foil, and Jay was a formidable one.

Since leaving Wilco, Jay has continued making music: five albums in the past five years, the most recent of which, Whatever Happened I Apologize, just went up as a Kickstarter project this past week. Our condolences go out to Bennett’s friends and family, and to the fellow fans out there.

Idolator reports:

Earlier this month, Bennett made headlines when he sued former bandmate Jeff Tweedy for breach of contract stemming from unpaid royalties; in a post on his MySpace blog shortly before the news of the lawsuit came out, Bennett blogged about upcoming hip replacement surgery and his work on his long-in-the-works album Kicking at the Perfumed Air.

Jay was 45 years old.



Phone call with The One who hit the mark

Jacquie Tran in Melbourne, Australia was the donor who sent us over the 2K mark and won a phone call from yours truly! Check out this video of our conversation about accents, the future, sports medicine, summer, and this project.

Allison Weiss owns Kickstarter. Check out the video of her phone call with the backer who put her over the top (on day one!). And she gets to talk to the future! So awesome! Congratulations, Allison.