Kat Edmonson, El Gallo, Forklift: Funding a dream (or not) on Kickstarter
These are a few of Kat Edmonson’s lucky numbers: 372; 53,823; 107.
372 people backed her on Kickstarter.com and pledged $53,823 to complete Edmonson’s second album—107% of her goal.
Talent may have played a hand in her success, but anyone who has a clear vision for a creative project has a fair chance of funding their own.
Aristic Director Allison Orr of Forklift Danceworks had a wild vision to choreograph trash trucks in her elegant and industrial Trash Project (2009). When she was ready for the second round of performances (which also happen to be this weekend) Kickstarter was the solution to her lack of funding. Forklift Danceworks raised $6,009 over its goal.
In 2002, Kickstarter was merely an idea imagined by Perry Chen, now the CEO. He found himself in a disappointing situation, aspiring to hold a concert in New Orleans but opting out when faced with possible financial loss and certain personal risk. Afterwards, Chen started thinking about how to bypass such a quandary and then considered how to leverage the Internet in doing so.
Along came Yancey Strickler and Charles Adler and, after years of refining their vision, the interface and the structure of Kickstarter was launched. In April of 2009 and a new form of crowd-funding was born. A core Kickstarter tenet is that the backer gains some form of tangible value as a reward for funding a project. Rewards—chosen and distributed by the creators—are given based on levels of sponsorship. The tactic seems to work; since its formation, Kickstarter has raised $75 million for just under 11,000 creative projects.
One might wonder how Michelangelo would have handled the announcement of Kickstarter.com. Would he have sighed in relief that it was no longer necessary to be linked to a single patron? We can only be sure that crowd-funding is creating opportunities for many people who don't have a patron but do have a really great idea.
It was no Saint Monday for Michael Fracasso when he realized, after recording his new album, that he required more cash to complete its final stages. After learning that a project would not be funded at all if it does not meet its pledge goal, he felt some trepidation. The first few weeks brought him to approximately 80% of his goal of $11,000. Though his Kickstarter campaign ended in goal completion, the last two months were nail biters.
However, by publicly vying for dollars on Kickstarter, Fracasso raised his visibility and ended up with extra offers of help: J. Hulett Jones, an architect, offered to create the album design and artwork after backing Fracasso’s project; a fan working for Sterling Sound in New York offered mastering sessions gratis. Fracasso was pleased to keep the payment processing and fundraising off of his website, as well. He feels that pointing his fans to use the Kickstarter site “made his fundraising more legit.”
Posting a project is not for the faint of heart. Sergio Carvajal, Romina Olson and team are familiar with the feeling and are seeking funding for their beloved El Gallo. The project includes “thirteen one-hour episodes that will be released in Texas and digitally via the Internet on a monthly basis, following the interconnected storylines of seven very peculiar characters.” The trailers are magical. Their product is artistic and meaningful because of their high production values and craftsmanship.
Yet, El Gallo represents the most prominent type of project on Kickstarter: the new and the anonymous. The show, the producer and the actors are developing their fan-base and must stand out significantly in order to attract interested backers. Even so, it is puzzling to ponder the sizeable gap remaining to meet their goal.
Kickstarter has a slight tinge of inaccessibility, just enough to be discouraging and dissuade the less serious. Otherwise, it could reach a critical mass. “Creative” doesn’t look so creative when exhibited and paraded en masse.
However, Carvajal is a critical thinker. There isn’t much that gets past him. Our conversation reveals his multi-layered ideas and numerous strategies for how they could effectively improve the creator’s experience. He is not a doubter; he simply expects more service and more results for the 9% he will give to Kickstarter once his project is successfully funded.
His top three suggestions include tighter qualification requirements for projects (weeding out), mentor-like instruction with trained client reps and utilizing Kickstarter’s relationship with Amazon to cross-market and develop distribution channels. He is hired.
That brings us back to Orr with Forklift Danceworks. She advises that, “The process doesn’t go by itself. I constantly reminded people and utilized my networks.” She is happy that she discovered to “treat it like a telethon. People need to see the phone ringing. So every time someone donated I would thank the backer, by name, on our Facebook page.”
When asked if Orr would do it again her immediate response was “Absolutely. Throwing a fundraiser does not compare to the results that we got from working through Kickstarter.” She is a believer.