[Nousnou Iwasaki-/Unsplash]

Kickstarting the Crescent City

00:00 October 14, 2013
By: 2Fik
Like many social networking websites, it’s crazy to think about how sudden the ascension has been forKickstarter.  It feels like “Kickstarter,” much like the term “Facebook,” has been rolling off of our tongues forever, but actually Kickstarterwas created in 2009.  Before you finished “liking” it on Facebook,Kickstarterhad ended up on Time Magazine’s lists for “Best Inventions of 2010” and “Best Websites of 2011.”  Now,Kickstarterhas a hand in helping all sorts of projects get the funding they need to launch.  According to their website, “more than4.5 millionpeople have pledged over$724 million, funding more than45,000creative projects.”  The projects range from musicians funding their CDs, music, videos,and tours,directors funding their plays and movies, and authors publishing their novels.  Here in New Orleans,Kickstarterwas even used to help fund the new oven at Pizza Delicious.  

While based in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, people may not realize that the idea ofKickstartercame from a New Orleans transplant while he was living here.  Perry Chen is the creator and CEO ofKickstarter, and he lived in New Orleans foreightyears.  As the story goes, Chen was concentrating on making music, when he came across the idea of bringing a couple of DJs down to New Orleans to do a show during the 2002 Jazz Fest.  After finding a great venue and engaging in discussions with their management, the planeventually faltereddue to the lack of funds.  As he writes on theKickstartersite, “The fact that the potential audience had no say in this decision stuck uncomfortably in my brain. I thought: ‘What if people could go to a site and pledge to buy tickets for a show? And if enough money was pledged they would be charged and the show would happen. If not, it wouldn't.’”  Once back in New York, Chentriedto tackle theidea thatwas conceivedin New Orleans.  Now,Kickstarterfunds projects in the United States and United Kingdom.  

What'sinteresting aboutKickstarteris that while there are guidelines to help you through the creation of your project,the creator still gets to put their stamp on how backers will be rewarded or compensated.  In New Orleans, many musicians have taken to the site in order to help aid their goals in a way Chen wishedhe could have in the summer of ’02.  So I talked to some musicians who had successfully funded the program, in order to see what they thought of the experience.  

“What made you want to use a fundraising site?”

Mia Borders: “Using a fundraising site allowed me to take advantage of my social media presence to generate interest regarding my project and in turn, raise money to fund it.”  

Kristina Morales: “[Kind of] what we do at the Spotted Cat, pass around the tip jar.”

VanessaNieman: “[People] may not put 100 bucks in your tip bucket, but might in yourKickstarter.”

Mia Borders usedKickstarterto fund her album Thick Skin, Hard Heads and Kristina Morales and the Bayou Shufflers, were able to fund their debut album, Louisiana Fairytale.  Gal Holiday and the HonkyTonkRevue also useditto fund South of I-12.  While one musician was skeptical of using the site because he felt like it would be begging, everyone agreed that past methods of finding funds for an album or tour were not workingfor the little fish.  Not everyone can play at sold out venues where Ticketmaster charges a ridiculous service fee. Somepeopleplay atcafesor barswith no cover and pass the tip jar around for those who like what they hear and see.

What made you chooseKickstarterover other sites for this particular project?

Chase McCloud: “I know there are a few others out there likeIndiegogo…but this seemed like the most credible way to try and get the record funded.”

Chase McCloud usedKickstarterto fund his new album Caves. Many musicians who funded their projects in 2010 and 2011 cite only knowing of Kickstarter (as opposed to alternative websites). The fact thatKickstartercame first, has given the site the credibility many first-timers are looking for. When a young artist who isn’t renowned asks for money from fans and strangers, it helps to have a name that is credible behind the project.  

Were there any issues with adhering to theKickstarterguidelines?

Cliff Hines: “While I understand the purpose of the minimum backing amounts, I do find it a bit silly that if the project is shy a small amount of money that the fund transfers are cancelled. In my opinion, any amount is better than nothing. “

Dave Jordan:The biggest problem was being unrealistic about how long it would take to fulfill the obligation.  

Kickstarter’spolicy of all or nothing adds an element of intensity (and for the artists, anxiety) to their project if they haven’t reached their goal by the final week.  It seems that the most funding for a project happens within the first and last week when the energy of a project is newor stakes high further inspiring people to donate the most. Some people like the idea of partially funding a project, like the musician Cliff Hines, who successfully funded his band’s first tour of the Northeast withKickstarter. Indiegogo, which may beKickstarter’sbiggest competitor, offers partially funded projects.  

This very same negative though, is viewed as a positive by other musicianslikeDave Jordan, who usedKickstarterto fund his new album Bring Back Red Raspberry.  Jordan thoughtthat having a deadline made people “take you more serious";that “if it would have been open-ended, a lot of friends would have been lazy with it.”  Vanessa “really liked the all or nothing,” for it gave her “a sense of urgency.”

The problem cited by Jordan’s response, was the time it required to deliver on the rewards.  Jordan’s album tookfourmonths itself to make, meaning it would be a little while before people could get their digital downloads or hard copies, both of which are common rewards for backers.  But other rewards, like Dave Jordan’s hand-written lyric sheet, take time to deliver on.  Despite the delays, no one reported any unruly fans.  

Morales liked the guidelines as a whole, saying it made her “kick herself in the butt; yes I need to be this organized.”  She found herself asking “Why am I worthy?”  And for the guidelines themselves, Mia Borders sums it up for musicians, saying “Since recording an album is pretty standard procedure for Kickstarter, the guidelines were very easy to adhere to.”

What incentives did you give your backers?

Most artists catch themselves saying things like, “If I only had the money or the time.” Kickstartertakes that element away.  It gives the artists a chance to trade their skills for the donations they receive with the promise of a finished product (many musicians offer copies of their to-be-made CD, signed shirts, etc.).  Dave Jordanoffered a hand-written lyric book, which he said he would love to have for himself as well.  Offering an incentive that takes time he wouldn’t have normally spent, gave Jordon the opportunity to create something he was proud of.  Cliff Hines offered to write songs for some of his bigger donators, creating a labor of love outside of the initial project in order to show his appreciation.  A Kickstarter done right rewards your backers with more creations than what they were originally backing.

Though not a perfect system,Kickstarteris a fundraising site that allows musicians to create their own program for acquiring the money necessary to fund dream projects.  According toKickstarter, nearly half of the projects achieve funding.For some New Orleanians, it is the most feasible way to fund their album.  Chase McCloud put it beautifully when he said “We did what felt right and I can listen to Caves any day and have a smile from ear to ear.”That is worth backing.

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