To Kickstarter Or Not To Kickstarter, That Is The Question

by Jason on October 22, 2010 · 10 comments

in Business, Marketing/Promotion, Nick Drake Project, Pay-What-You-Want, Recording, Thoughts

Use 'em or lose 'em?

Yesterday I found out that I did not receive the grant I applied for from the City of Seattle for my Nick Drake Project. While it would’ve been nice to have their support, I know that grants are a crap-shoot that I can’t expect them.

The good news is that now I know and can proceed accordingly.

What this means is that now I have to up the ante for my fan-funding/micropatronage campaign for the project. If that’s a new concept to you, fan-funding/micropatronage has become a common way for independent artists like me to raise the money needed to make a record by asking their fans, friends and family to help out by pre-ordering the CD.

DIY Funding

You may remember that I have run two such campaigns in the last couple years, one for the Jason Parker Quartet’s last CD and one for the JPQ tour last Spring. At the time that I ran these campaigns there weren’t any third-party sites helping musicians figure this stuff out so I just did it myself. I designed a page, built some PayPal buttons and put it up. Much to my surprise there were dozens of people willing to contribute to my dreams, and I couldn’t have done either the CD or the tour without their support.

Nowadays there are many sites that can help me run a campaign for the Nick Drake Project. The site that has generated the most attention and helped more artists than any other is Kickstarter. They have helped hundreds (maybe thousands) of artists raise the much-needed money to see their projects through to fruition.

To Kickstarter Or Not To Kickstarter

As I plan my upcoming campaign I find myself wondering if it’d be best to do it myself or to enlist the help of Kickstarter. There are pro’s and con’s to both and I’m having a hard time deciding which way to go.

The cool thing about Kickstarter is that it provides a really nice interface and does all the work so that I don’t have to design my own page. Check out my friend Andrew Boscardin’s Kickstarter page for his recently completed campaign for his band Zubatto Syndicate here. It’s really slick and clean and gives you lots of multi-media capabilities. Granted, I could do this all myself but it would take some time to design and do all the coding and updates.

It may be that using Kickstarter lends a sense of legitimacy to a project. Instead of just little old me asking for money and backers sending their contributions straight to my PayPal account, the transaction is handled by Amazon Payments. For people that don’t already know me this might be a good thing. For my fans/friends/family I don’t think it’s really an issue.

Double-Edged Sword

There are two things about Kickstarter that could be good or bad. One is that you have to limit your campaign to a finite timeframe, like 30 or 60 days. This could be good as it lends a sense of urgency to the project, but it also condenses it down to a smaller amount of time than my past campaigns. The second thing is that with Kickstarter its all or nothing. You have to set a goal, and if you reach the goal your project gets funding. If you don’t, you get nothing and no money is charged to the backers. This is good in that it gives a concrete number to shoot for and a goal to keep in mind. But it’s terrifying to think of not reaching my goal and getting zero dollars!

The only downside I see to Kickstarter is that it does put a middle man between me and you, my fans/friends/family. Instead of going to my website you’d be going to theirs, and all correspondence between me and the backers would be through their system, not direct emails from me. I don’t like the sense of disconnect this brings, but maybe it’s not that big a deal.

What Do YOU Think?

Since I’m conflicted about all of this I thought I’d ask you your opinion. You are my target audience here, and most of the support I receive will probably come from you, my fans/friends/family. What do you think about DIY vs. Kickstarter? Are you more likely to contribute one way or the other? Does it matter? If you’ve tried Kickstarter, did you like it, not like it, have mixed feelings?

I would truly appreciate your input. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

Thanks for your help! Here’s a video of some of the Nick Drake material performed live by the JPQ with special guests Cynthia Mullis and Michele Khazak:

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

John Dover October 22, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Hey Jason,

Excellent idea! My recomendation might be to use Kickstarter for a specific portion of your funding, say you need $xxx.xx to pay for the engineer for 3 days in the studio. Put that out there and see how it goes. Then you can do multiple things as you progress through the project.

1)You gain support for the different aspects of the project.
2)People gain a sense of ownership over that part of the CD.
3)You gain further exposure by blasting Kickstarter multiple times and keep people thinking about your project.
4)Automatically update people on the progress of the project. Everytime you hit Kickstarter up again, they see where you are and it can help with the momentum.

Hope this is helpful.


Katy October 22, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Hi JP-

Because you are the genius of DYI and because you’ve been successful in the past, I would think you might want to continue in that vein. It sounds like Kickstart can make it easier in some respects but are those areas (like making the web page) that big of a deal for you?

I guess I would have some concerns with the all-or-nothing time window that Kickstart utilizes. What it the time table for the project? As a potential patron who has an ebb and flow to her cash flow, I guess the DYI would offer more flexibility for me as to when I would contribute, whereas I might miss the Kickstart window.

That’s my two cents. Best of luck and let us know what you decide to do.


Rob Michael October 22, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Just about anytime I’m faced with an “either/ or” decision, rather than decide “which one” I nearly always do both.

Twitter: 1WorkinMusician
October 22, 2010 at 4:26 pm

John – intriguing idea. I like that this idea would keep the project current and on people’s minds. My only worry would be diluting the pool of donors over time.

Katy – I have concerns about that too. I go back and forth as to whether it’s a good idea or not to put the time frame on it. I like the urgency that would bring, but wouldn’t want to miss out on support because of timing.

Rob – Are you suggesting I have simultaneous Kickstarter and non-Kickstarter campaigns? Or consecutive? Please elaborate!

Thanks all for your comments!

Rob Michael October 22, 2010 at 11:29 pm

I wouldn’t do them simultaneously.

Perhaps a Kickstarter campaign followed-up w/ your own Donation page that is available to those that want to support you but may not have learned about your project in time.

Twitter: arodjazz
October 23, 2010 at 5:37 am

I agree with Rob — there’s no reason not to do both. Kickstarter’s “legitimacy” might extend the reach of your campaign somewhat, but you want the people who are already following your music and projects to donate through your own site (so that you get the full amount and they don’t take 5%, and so that they feel maximum engagement.)

Also, you can always ask Kickstarter donors to contribute at the site even if you don’t get the funding — the worst-case is that you’ve identified a bunch of people who are willing to contribute to your cause.

So yeah, pick a part of the project that is concrete but only a portion of the financial needs of the project, use Kickstarter to help, um, kick-start the funding campaign, and get the rest to contribute at your page.

Cory Huff October 23, 2010 at 9:09 am

Do the Kickstarter campaign, and then if still need more cash, do another DIY funding campaign. Don’t mention the later campaign while you’re promoting the Kickstarter campaign, though.

Have you spoken to other artists who’ve used Kickstarter? I can connect you with a few if you want.

Ron Weinstock October 23, 2010 at 10:17 am

I previously had participated in some projects at Artist Share and most recently a couple at Kickstarter. One by Brian Lynch was someone I had purchased something from earlier on Artist Share. I am not sure how much more flexibility Artist Share is than Kickstarter, but that is another possibility. My twitter is novaron1. Good luck on this project.

Twitter: 1WorkinMusician
October 24, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Rob/Alex/Cory – thanks for your thoughts. I think doing separate campaigns for the different parts of the project is a good idea. I’m leaning toward trying Kickstarter to help raise the funds for the recording, mixing and mastering and then maybe doing a DIY campaign for the artwork and production.

Ron – I love ArtistShare and have submitted my project to them. They only accept a limited number of project, unlike Kickstarter who seem to accept most anything submitted. ArtistShare said yes I’d be thrilled, but I’m going to proceed without them for the time being.

I appreciate your input! I’m getting super excited that this is all coming together.

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