Apr 28, 2013

How NOT to do a Kickstarter Project

A few disclosures before I begin this post. The purpose of this post is not to "shame" anyone.  It's not to point at someone and laugh or anything like that. Anyone that knows me knows that's not my thing.  Instead this is something that has lingered on my mind for awhile because it's something that did not have to happen.

Also I obscured any identifying marks on the image, because this is not a mocking situation, as I said.  It's a situation born out of me trying to help someone out, and they wouldn't take that help, and in the end they were not able to make the project as good as it could have been.

Not that I'm some genius or I represent the missing ingredient, more to the point that I've helped fund many kickstarters, I've seen a lot of people do kickstarters, and I therefore I know what works and what doesn't.  I've seen kickstarters succeed due to brilliant marketing and having a perfect plan, and I've seen some fail miserably due to poor planning, poor execution, and a presentation that was anything but concise.

So this is simply me presenting this situation and pointing out that when you are setting up a Kickstarter, you are asking people to put their faith in your abilities to come through in exchange for them giving you their money.

So now that that's out of the way, let me explain the situation.  A month or so ago I found a Kickstarter project with an up and coming rapper who was trying to raise money for studio equipment so that he could record his mixtape with professional sounding equipment.   That makes a lot of sense, and I've seen Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects with that very thing succeed.

The problems with this one are severalfold.


First of all, which you can't glean from that snapshot, is that the video he posted was him speaking into a grainy laptop cam explaining that he was seeking $2,000 to get professional equipment so he could record his mixtape and have it sound professional.   Nothing wrong with that at all.

However the video he posted wasn't sufficient because all he had in the video was him talking, with a brief like 10 second low volume song of his playing in the beginning.  That's not nearly enough to gauge whether or not someone is going to like your music.

If someone doesn't like your music, chances are they aren't going to pledge money towards your kickstarter to finance something they themselves have no interest in.  It's like movies getting released with no advance review copies sent out or screenings for reviewers.  People often take that as a sign that it's bad.

Now with this, I think that much with a lot of first time Kickstarters, he didn't know what really was necessary or what would help him out.   I think a mistake many people seem to make is that they are completely new to Kickstarter.  They've never backed a Kickstarter, they've never set up one before, so they have no frame of reference as to what it requires.  They haven't seen kickstarters fail or succeed before, and aren't able to say "oh okay, so this worked for that person, and this other person didn't offer such and such" or "those perks were way over valued" etc, etc.

I've backed (not counting the 3 current ones) 20 projects, with 14 of those being successful ones due to a lot of people who felt the same way that I did about those projects.   And the most successful ones tend to be due to a variety of reasons, whether it's name recognition or it's someone that had an awesome project and people gravitated towards it.  Another one, which I see people make the mistake with over and over, is the number of perks, the quality of perks and the pricing of said perks.

Now with Kickstarter the main idea is you're helping fund indie artists.  Getting perks is (or should be) secondary.  That said, if you know you're getting perks for doing this, and you look at the pledge amounts and you're thinking "I'm all about helping here, but something seems out of whack", then that can be an issue.  And I've talked with people before who said that they didn't donate to a project because of that very thing.

The screencap I took above is an example of this.   He had only two perks.  Pre-release (assumedly digital) copy of his mixtape for $10.  That's fine.  But then for $25 you get that same pre-release (once again assumedly because he doesn't specify) album with some bonus tracks.

So the album costs $10 but for another $15 on top of that, you can get that album + some bonus songs?  What kind of sense does that make?

Also you have people who have the download of your album for $30 or more, or a digital copy of their book at $50 or more.  That's way too high, and people will not go for that.  I've skipped on backing projects before because all I wanted was the digital album or book, but they had it for some outrageous price.

I acknowledge the hard work that goes into making it, but the artist has to acknowledge that getting people who don't know you, who have never heard of you perhaps, to take ac hacne on

So here you have someone with a kickstarter project with no real sample of his music to listen to to get a feel for whether or not he can even rap or not (and there's a LOT of bad rap on Kickstarter, folks!), and he's only got two perks for a total of $35 in order to raise $2000 in a month.

That's not going to work in any situation I can imagine.  And it didn't.  I kicked in $10 for the album and emailed him via Kickstarter offering some suggestions.  Here's a snippet of what I wrote (identifying info removed).

I wanted to point out a few things that might give you a better chance at achieving your goal. Just some things that I've picked up from supporting multiple Kickstarters, and helping promote multiple kickstarters.

1. You should definitely include a link to some of your music that you've done. A Music video is preferred. It gives the potential supporters a chance to hear your sound, hear what you're working with, as it relates to lyricism, production - beats wise, etc. Your intro video has a snippet, but you can't really get much from that.

I think there's a lot of people out there who won't support if they think they may not like it, and there are those who won't bother taking a chance otherwise. I've supported people without it because I'm 100% in support of indie artists. Unfortunately not everyone is that way, and if you include a music video (linked from Youtube would be ideal and easy) it will help you immensely.

2. Introduce more perks. The more perks you have, the more people will be able to support. I imagine your two perks are both DIGITAL copies of the album? You should specify that it is DIGITAL or PHYSICAL.

The most successful kickstarters, though, are ones that provide a sampling of the artists' work, and clear and concise rewards. Consider perhaps $10 for a digital copy of the album $12 for a digital copy with bonus tracks (as it stands you're asking for $10 for your album and $15 MORE on top of that $10 for some bonus tracks. Unless those bonus tracks are another whole album or two, people will probably balk at that and won't do it. Then say $20 for a physical copy (if you're printing them up).

Other options could be unique things, man. Get creative. Do you have the opportunity of printing up buttons, flyers, posters, shirts, any of that?

How about for the high rollers? Introduce one where if they donate $500 you'll come perform at their party? (within a certain travel distance, with YOU picking up your travel costs). For $1000 you'll invite them into the studio with you to watch you work (have 2 of those available and that could be your goal right there).

I sent that off to him because I genuinely wanted him to succeed and pull this off.  Yet he never bothered responding to me.  Then I totally forgot about it until I got an automated email from Kickstarter saying it had been unsuccessful.  I went to the page and although I wasn't surprised it didn't succeed, I WAS surprised that I was the only backer for it.

I think people view Kickstarter as something that's so easy to do and you set up a project and wow, look at that, everyone starts donating money.   Perhaps they see projects like the Ouya, or Veronica Mars or Double Fine who get a ton of donations.   The problem comparing yourself to those is that in the case of Veronica Mars, that show had an already built in fanbase, many of who are also in the media.  So that gave that project a TON of free press, which in turn garners even more backers.

Double Fine and Ouya both presented interesting projects that got attention.  They weren't the "same old same old" type of kickstarter.  No matter how much faith you have in your work, no matter how unique you feel you are, unfortunately on Kickstarter you're one of many that are doing the same thing.  So you have to stand out.  You have to force people to take note, and if you're not even providing a sampling of your work, then you already are starting out at a severe disadvantage.

So for those reading this that are considering doing a kickstarter, do your research.  Below I'll include some links to articles talking about things to know before doing it, and how to have a successful Kickstarter project.

But as the saying goes, I can only show you the door, it's up to you to walk through it.




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