A Head Start on a Kickstarter

My current Kickstarter funded in 9 hours. This is not an anomaly for me. My last one funded in 8, the previous one in 12, and the one before that in 8. These, like all 8 of the crowdfunding campaigns I’ve done since 2012, were for DVDs of silent movies no one’s heard of starring comedians no one’s heard of. 

I myself, am someone most people have never heard of. Even I’ve never heard of me” is the line I use when people tell me “you’re famous!”

Douglas MacLean Kickstarter
My current Kickstarter to make and release a DVD of a pair of feature silent films starring Douglas MacLean hit its funding goal in 9 hours and is currently 2x funded.

Several years ago, maybe it’s ten, I became interested in seeing what people in the music industry were doing to make a living. The bottom had dropped out of the record deal and album royalties thing when iTunes and things like Napster came along, more than 20 years ago. 

What they were doing is harnessing the internet, specifically through social media and especially email lists to connect with their fans. And, more importantly, vice versa…utilizing their social media and emails as a way to enable their fans to connect with them. This enabled those performers to sell their music direct to the people who liked it, and removed the dependency on a label or expensive press agent etc to plug their recordings and concerts. There are many blogs and webinars and podcasts about making this work, but I found a few that helped me understand the core of effectively making this work.

I am still trying to find a way to make this work for the silent film accompaniment and DVD work that I do, and I don’t pretend to have a handle on it at all. But I did spend a few years before launching my first Kickstarter developing some sort of presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and posted a few dozen films with my scores to my YouTube channel. (Anything that came from a DVD release I got permission to post first.) I also had an email list that I’d been percolating over many years, and that helped, but it’s not that big.

A certain stand-up comedian’s end-run around the home-video industry, self-producing his concert video and then selling it direct to his fans over his website was the thing that convinced me that this might work for my making a DVD of rare-lost-überobscure silent film shorts. 

My Kickstarter for Accidentally Preserved: Volume 1 funded in a few days. The next few took progressively shorter lengths of time. The number of people I’m connected with by email and social has grown, slowly, somewhat. I now seem to be at a point where the question isn’t whether a crowd-funder will hit its goal in less than a day. It’s more of an office pool as to how many hours it will take.

But this is because of the advance work I’d done finding fans, and more importantly connecting with them, sharing insider information about the DVD-making process through my emails, Kickstarter updates, tweets, ‘grams, and podcast episodes. I’m not saying I’m that good at it, and I’ve definitely got a very long way to go before I get to a Kevin Hart or Taylor Swift level. But I’m honored to know there are a few hundred people on the planet who dig what I’m doing getting obscure silent movies from film cans to film fans.

It’s possible to have something like this happen with a crowdfunder, but the key is finding, building and most importantly connecting with the audience for a project first. Like Field of Dreams but in the reverse. Just ask the people behind the new musical Be More Chill.

One of the podcasts I’ve been listening to regularly for the last few years is Akimbo by Seth Godin. His episode from last week, “Norms and Rules”, includes a response to a listener question about precisely this topic I’m addressing here. The whole podcast episode is great, but you can skip right to the Q&A about “Kick-finisher” campaigns by sliding to 19:30.

Thoughts? Comments?

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