I initially set a $325 goal and I ended up raising $1725 before expenses from the backers of the project, which was a massive success. I attribute that to three factors:
- Newness - not a lot of sound effects library kickstarters out there, and I think the community was really working out its viability as a platform and wanted to participate. This effect could wear off in the future.
- Subject matter - not everyone has access to antique streetcars, and limited access to subjects tends to increase their value in the marketplace. If I had decided to record car bys I probably wouldn't have met my funding goal.
- Exclusivity - the only way to get the library was to back the kickstarter, so some people who may have otherwise waited for a specific project instead had a strong incentive to go ahead and back now for fear of missing out and needing the sounds later.
Overall, expenses were as follows:
Kickstarter $83 (this ended up being slightly less than 5%)
Amazon $76.64 (ditto)
Trolley car rentals $350 (increased because I chartered 2 cars instead of 1)
Equipment rentals $300 (increased because I wanted more coverage)
motorman tip $40
misc supplies $50
total expenses - $899.64
net profit $1725 - 899.64 = $825.36
Hours: I'll bet that I can easily find 80 hours of work involved in the whole process when you include project setup and research, prepro and scoutiting, recording and editing, and back end administration.
Good thing I love this stuff.
As you can see by the profit/hours ratio it would be pretty difficult to make a middle class living doing nothing but kickstarters even if they were all wildly successful - which is no guarantee. The main reasons for this are the high percentages that KS and Amazon take coupled with the user liability for all expenses.
There's also the very strange social effect of that huge number up there on the home page of the project showing the world exactly how much has been pledged. I found that everyone remotely interested had an opinion on how much was raised, and once I significantly passed my goal everyone around me was looking for ways to spend the money. I also imagine that my project's backers felt a bit of extra ownership of that number once it reached so far above its goal, which is partly why I chartered the extra streetcar and did the extra recording and editing.
Most businesses are not this open with their books, which illustrates something very important - Kickstarter is not a business model, it's a vehicle for getting projects done. I couldn't have gotten both of those streetcars chartered without the help of the Kickstarter platform and my backers, and in the end that was my primary goal. The extra money was secondary to the primary goal of getting those cars recorded.
In that respect the kickstarter platform came through in spades.
Kickstarter gave me a clean look, handled all media hosting, handled all payment transactions, and made communication with current and prospective backers incredibly easy and professional looking.
The customer support and interface were both very good and at the end of the day all of the money showed up in my account, which is not to be taken for granted.
So when should you and when should you not do a kickstarter?
In my opinion, you should seriously consider a kickstarter if your project meets the following criteria:
- It genuinely requires funds to get off the ground
- As outlined above, doing kickstarters purely for the money is kind of paddling upstream. Use KS as a tool when money isn't the goal, but getting a project done is.
- It's something that others would genuinely want to back and receive rewards from.
- Doing KS projects for items that are either ubiquitous or useless is not setting yourself up for success. Have something specific and make sure its interesting and useful to the community at large.
- It's been vetted, cleared and is ready to go.
- Don't launch a KS project for something that you're not positive that you can deliver on. It would be the worst thing in the world to launch a KS, meet your goal, and then have to explain to your backers that you didn't have access to that cool sounding thing after all.
- It's something that you're willing to invest extra hours in to administer
- Doing a kickstarter requires a heavier investment in time than just the recording and editing that come with traditional sound effects projects. Setting up the initial pitch, maintaining the project site, doing updates and corresponding with backers all take time.
If you already own an SFX site and have access to cheaper money than the 10% KS and Amazon charge then you may have a hard time justifying a KS financially. If you don't, but have a one-off project that others may have interest in though, I'd highly recommend it.
thanks for reading.