I kind of love this story. Most likely, you’ve heard of Kickstarter. (If you haven’t, here’s a quick primer.)
Kickstarter is a great simple idea that Perry Chen and his colleagues began a few years ago. They knew a bunch of bands that needed some money just to finish their cd or go on tour, and a bunch of artists who needed money to finish their work. The thought was, if those artists could share something they usually give away (anything from an acoustic performance to sketches to cds), they could attract investors who just wanted to contribute a little money, but get something fun in the bargain.
Kickstarter has really taken off. With funding from people like Union Square Ventures.
Here’s the very cool story that I love: Vinnie Favale, who’s well known to people who know comedy, Letterman, Stern, etc. co-wrote a musical called “Hereafter.” In his own words
“Hereafter Musical” is a musical drama (with some light touches) that explores what happens when a loved one dies from the perspective of both the living AND the dead.
Vinnie and his co-creator, Frankie Keane, have been self-funded the development of the show for 6 years. They did readings, showcases. Last year, they did two weeks of sold-out shows in a “black box” theater in New Jersey.
They built a LOT of buzz. But they didn’t have the money to really put the “whole” show up in front of an audience, for producers and backers to see.
According to VInnie, the idea of approaching his friends for money was tasteless. “But then some media-savvy friends of mine told me about Kickstarter.” What really sold him on the site was that the Kickstarter people have to approve your project before it’s posted. (Ah … the seduction of the velvet rope!) “That’s when I kind of knew it was for real,” he says.
Kickstarter provides a ton of tools for creatives: video (and you really should do one if you’re thinking of raising money), social network links, a constant “update / diary” for backers, tickets, etc.
And here’s Vinnie’s “Hereafter” page.
Vinnie started out looking for 60K. The KickStarter people told him he should be more realistic — go for 15K. Vinnie ended up raising 68K on KickStarter. Of that, Kickstarter takes 5%, Amazon payments gets 3-%. So it’s close to 10% off the top.
Donors could contribute on a sliding scale: people who gave a dollar or so pretty much just bought the right “Never to have me bother them again,” says VInnie. Ten bucks gets you a CD of the show, $20 gets you CD and a T-Shirt, $100 gets you two tickets to a performance, a cd and a t-shirt, and a phone call from Vinnie! And it goes all the way up to $5000 — an amount that gives you rewards that Vinnie terms “better (and creepier!): a block of thirty tickets, sixty minutes of video highlights, and a private screening and dinner.
“What made all the difference,” says VInnie, “Is that I could start a kind of diary. I had a pretty solid email list of about 1400 people. I kept them updated, even if they hadn’t given money. When they started to see the names of their friends as contributors, that was an incentive.
“The blogging and the diary are what made the project a success. Every week, we generated more contributions as people would see their friends and colleagues in there and think ‘Hey, I want in!’ It became this unexpected social thing.”
Another thing that made a big difference: Vinnie and Frankie had a lot to show prospective “investors” — video, songs, performance footage.
KickStarter is a great way for creatives to get their projects off the drawing board and into something real.
By the way — contributions are closed on KickStarter for Hereafter. But there are still 1200 tickets available for the 2 weeks of shows Vinnie and Frankie will be putting on next year.
“It’s like playing with house money,” Vinnie crows.