Lamp, Kickstarter & Theme Parks in Venezuela

Posted by | January 11, 2011 | Blog | 11 Comments
Olga Nunes is a singer and songwriter. Now that you’re here, why don’t you check out a music video of one of Olga’s songs? It’s here: A Dream of Gardens. (It has lyrics by Neil Gaiman. It was directed by Team Genius.) You can download this song for free over on the music page, along with songs funded by the Kickstarter-funded LAMP album. Thanks for stopping by!

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I just launched the LAMP website, the house that will hold LAMP now that the Kickstarter campaign is over. (You can see it here.) Winter and the holidays are falling off the gears and things are starting to turn in earnest now.

But! While it’s fresh in my mind, I’ve been meaning to do a post on Kickstarter itself. What’s Kickstarter, you ask? Well, it’s the really fantastic site that lets you crowd-source fundraising for projects, and is how I funded my upcoming album. During the campaign, lots of friends and strangers wrote asking how it worked and if it was good fit for them, or how to make their current project better. I mainlined Kickstarter projects & related blog entries for four months before launching my own project, with lots of friendly help from the folks at Kickstarter itself (I’m looking at you, Cindy Au!) so I have a small country’s worth of thoughts on the subject.

For the friends who asked and the strangers who might be wondering, here’s a tiny map that might help you get started funding your own forays into awesomeness.

1.

FOCUS ON THE PROJECT

Kickstarter is excellent for launching your play, book, product, album, or whimsical Nintendo-scarf knitting project. What it’s less excellent for is subsidizing general, non-specific ideas.  

Bad example: “Help me pursue more art in my life!”

Good example: “Help foot the costs to build an eight-foot tall lego replica of Diagon Alley!”

Think concrete, and finite– something with a beginning and an end goal, that you can define easily.

Take these two examples by Polly Law. In this one, Polly focuses on how she doesn’t have enough time and energy to be an artist, and how she wants to be able to cover her bills for four months while she pursues her career. And in THIS one, Polly focuses instead on what she’s trying to accomplish with her actual art, The Word Project. Project A = Unsuccessful. Project B = Successful, with Polly reaching 147% of her goal.

It is much easier to be able to say: “Yes, THIS project, I want to help make it exist!” as opposed to “support you as an artist, wha…? What does that mean?” The latter is amorphous, while the former gives people something concrete to attach to.

2.

REWARDS, REWARDS, REWARDS

If you’re thinking about putting up a project, you also have to consider what you’re giving people for their money. Each project has backer tiers from a dollar to a squillion dollars, and each should come with a reward appropriate to that level.

Kickstarter has a lot to say about this in terms of how to make your rewards fun, but personally, I think Kickstarter works best as a pre-order model– take, for example, TikTok, a campaign to produce iPod Nano/watch conversion kits. Of the 13,512 people who chose to back the TikTok campaign, nearly all of those humans were pre-ordering a TikTok. Which is to say, they while they were funding a dream, they were also buying something they wanted.

So think about what that looks like. If you’re making an album, that’s easy– you offer pre-orders for the album. If you’re choreographing an interactive dance event in the middle of a zoo, maybe you make dvds of the event, or photo-books, and offer those as rewards. There should be a concrete something that people can take away that is a piece of your project. Be creative, but more importantly, find rewards that get people to feel involved in your project. 

3.

GIVE PROOF OF WHAT YOU’VE DONE BEFORE

You have a project idea! Awesome! But before you put up your project about building a giant bee-powered flying machine to the moon, a few things… whatever your project is, it’s best if you give proof that you’ve done this sort of thing before– or something like it. (In this example, perhaps, you have a long resume of building medium-sized bee-powered flying machines.)

I’ve seen lots of negative feedback against Kickstarter projects that ask for money without demonstrating some background in their field. It’s not always needed, but it’s hard to get people to back you without seeing some of the effort you’ve put towards your particular expertise, especially since backers get no guarantee their money will be used towards the project itself. Kickstarter is pretty good about remaining scot-free by telling backers: any money you donate is effectively forfeited. And for that reason, backers need to be sufficiently inspired and have faith in your demonstrated abilities before they’ll financially support you.

4.

GIVE PROOF OF WHAT YOU’RE DOING NOW

So you’re planning a theme park in Venezuela built entirely around the adventures of sea monkeys? First of all, ridiculously awesome. Second of all, it might be a good idea to show off some of the legwork you’ve spent on getting this idea off the ground. Theme park blueprints. Miniature models of El SeaMonkeyLandia. Building permits, prototypes for working rides, that sort of thing.

It’s best to already have some of your ducks in a row when you hit Kickstarter so people know you’re serious, and so you know what you’re getting into.

5.

USE VIDEO

 Have a video on your actual Kickstarter page. It seems in lots of cases, videos on the project page make or break a project getting funded. People want to see who you are, and very specifically they want to know in a short amount of time why they should be excited about your project. Specifics about the project are really good. Specifics about rewards that people receive from funding you are also good. Demonstrate your passion for what you’re working on, and let people get excited with you.

6.

LOOK AT OTHER PROJECTS 

 Look at successful projects on Kickstarter– those that have made 100% of funding to those that have made 1000% of funding. Also look at the projects that have failed. Figure out what’s different in the presentation from one to another that makes the successful ones successes, and the failures fail. (Some things are different from project to project, but may give you an idea as how to present your project in such a way that it’ll garner more attention.)

7.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE 

Generally, Kickstarter doesn’t have a built-in audience. Which is to say, if you hit the launch button on your project (in which you attempt to make toy unicorn versions of all the American presidents) it is unlikely that with no further work you’ll get a ton of backers. It’s POSSIBLE (I mean, toy unicorns! of presidents!) but chances are slim.

The way to look at it is this: Kickstarter operates off of your existing friend, family, and fan-base. Once you launch your project, your job is to tell everyone you know. It’s those existing connections you lean on, as well as their belief in your project to share your work via word-of-mouth with their own friends.  

8.

EXPERIMENT 

 Kickstarter is still a new platform, and people are coming with new and interesting ways of using it all the time. Take risks, both in how you present the project and what you use it for. A few random things I’ve found helpful: it helps to aim lower than what’s needed for your funding goal. You’ll be more likely to get the money that is donated since it’s all-or-nothing funding, and people will be more excited for you for making funding so quickly, leading them to support you even more. Also? Try to start with no more than 5 or 6 backer tiers– the more tiers you have the more potential you have to overwhelm and confuse people.

9.

DON’T GET DEJECTED 

Kickstarter isn’t a guarantee; it’s a rallying point. It is for better or worse, a testing ground for ideas. Which means some things catch people’s attention and some things don’t, and since it’s all-or-nothing funding it’s possible you won’t hit your goal. That’s okay. This is a way for you to flesh out your ideas and a way to determine interest. If the first try doesn’t work, like they say, try, try again.

  • Sam

    I’ll be checking back with this list when making my KickStarter campaign.

  • Tori

    It’s hard to believe there isn’t a Barack Obama unicorn toy. Someone get on it. (I would also like a Nixon.)

  • Steve B

    Thanks for this, Olga.
    I hope when someone strikes it rich with the Unicorn Presidents in El SeaMonkeyLandia idea, they cut you in for half the profits.

  • http://www.wevolt.com/The_Path/ James Riot

    This is a great resource. I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at Kickstarter, and have been mentally wandering aimlessly planning it. This gives me some great points to think on and a way to come up with a coherent plan. Thanks for taking the time to make this post!

  • http://www.upfront-live.com Tony Mallett

    This is superb. I’d never heard of this – and just at a time when I’m looking to fund my expat project.
    Thank you Olga for taking the time to put this together and to @neilhimself for Tweeting the link.
    All the best fom Brussels

  • http://Www.photobiblio.com Natalia

    As a current supporter of projects through Kickstarter, I can’t agree enough! And as someone considering using Kickstarter for funding in the future, this is amazingly useful. So many thanks for posting it c

  • Mary Gaughan

    As a backer of a recent successful Kickstarter campaign, I would like to recommend that artists keep in touch during the project. There was a lot of build up while the money was being raised, and I got a thank you but then…silence. I didn’t know what was happening, how it was progressing of when it was going to be done. A blog, status updates on the project site or even tweets would have been wonderful. (First draft finished! Principal photography done! On the way to the printers! I’m so excited!) I realize that this is additional work for the artist, but I would have felt more involved and connected, which is why I did this in the first place.
    Based on my first experience, I would think twice about doing it again, particularly for that person. I realize that many of you focused on getting the cash to make the current project, but you might also think about building relationships. In this way, you will have happy backers who will become loyal fans who will sponsor you AGAIN.

  • http://darickr.com Susan Augér

    I too found this link through @neilhimself. Congrats on your LAMP fundraising!
    Your second point in this post is so important that an entire post could be devoted to it. For this particular Kickstarter project (http://kck.st/hAsQLq), we had our hands tied regarding merchandising. We couldn’t make any ol’ product to promote it, like t-shirts or jewelry or similar consumer goods. We would have run afoul of Legal issues. Which is where #3, #4, and #5 became so important. We established who we were, what we were doing, and even shot a video in the very same space the rewards would be shipped from. Was it the ideal Kickstarter campaign? No. But we’ve just crept over the Goal line. (And you’re right, Cindy is awesome!)

  • olga

    Hey Susan! Congratulations on getting funding! I think in your case, since you got new original art from all the artists, you could have parlayed that into super cheap signed/numbered/limited edition prints of that art, made somewhere like here:
    http://www.comixpress.com/tools/creator/
    And for the artists who worked really closely with you, they could throw in a few sketches/signed originals– maybe even custom sketches for the high tiers.
    I’ve seen people give high tier rewards like Skype chats, dinners (travel not included) with the people behind the project– which could be an option here too.
    I think those things would have fallen pretty squarely within the permission you were given, and capitalized on the artists who were working with you.
    Rewards are tricky, since they’re totally a case-by-case basis, and does involve figuring out the best creative use of your assets/time/funds.
    One more thing! I just realized you have eight days left on your project!
    Another idea (this one from Sean Francis, who works with Amanda Palmer) that could work really well for you right now. Offer something like the above limited edition bonus print to ANY BACKER that increases their pledge by $50 by the end of the deadline.
    Secondly, add last minute limited bonus reward tiers– maybe for $300 you get a Skype with one of the available artists, for $450 you get dinner. This also encourages current backers to up their pledge, and attracts new attention. (If you go with this one, best to figure out in advance and name who the Skype/dinner is with–maybe it’s Darick, if that’s easiest. Someone people would be excited to talk to.)
    Hope that helps, and good luck!

  • olga

    Hey Mary! I agree a thousand percent. I could do a whole other post on the relationship building aspect– I would say that half the reason I chose Kickstarter rather than funding it myself is because I wanted to get involved with people, to begin building relationships with people interested in my work, and this seemed the best way to do it.
    People doing Kickstarter projects would do well to follow your advice– I think that continuing relationship post-funding determines how well individuals will be able to grow future projects with their supporters/fans.
    For anyone else who’s curious, here’s a couple of projects that do post-funding updates really well:
    Lockpicks by Open Locksport: http://kck.st/fMd5Y2
    Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy Bastian: http://kck.st/g1O4xr
    (If you’ve done a project, it’s important to continue updates through the Kickstarter interface itself, as people don’t necessarily follow your tweets/mailing list/blog– or at least direct them towards the places you are doing updates about the project.)

  • Nik

    Just made a rough draft of my kickstarter video, would appreciate any comments, critique: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sI9Cu7RSBaI

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