Learn Kickstarter from AFP’s new campaign

Because really, there’s only so long you can go on a blog about the future of the arts and the internet without blogging about Amanda Palmer. That’s her new Kickstarter video down there. Back it. Buy it. Love it.

But more to the point: THAT’S HOW YOU DO THAT. I spend a lot of time talking about how to run a Kickstarter arts campaign well. I teach my friends how to do it, I teach their friends how to do it. I even vicariously teach my friend’s mom’s students how to do it. Plus I’m teaching cash-strapped arts organizations how to do it at the National Arts Marketing Project‘s conference in November. If you want me to help you, just use the contact form or tweet at me and we’ll figure something out. Video:

If you’re setting up a Kickstarter campaign, you’ve got to study awesome campaigns and learn from them. Amanda Fucking Palmer’s new campaign obviously qualifies. Here’s a list of awesome stuff it does:

Low-budget gimmick in the video

Kickstarter videos are their own evolving genre. You want to look professional, but not so professional that you look like you don’t need money. Enter the low-budget gimmick. Holding up cue cards and throwing them away is great for a few reasons. It’s handmade, giving your project that, well, handmade feel. It saves you having to talk straight to camera, which, lets face it, is really hard for some people. It shows that you put time into making the cards and aren’t just rambling at a camera whatever comes into your head. It shows effort.

The writing on the cards is great. It’s clear, it’s emphatic, and it doesn’t waste your time. You could do worse for writing your own video than taking this one, erasing all the details and then filling in your own.

The editing is great. One thing that you must remember about low-budget gimmicky web videos: jump cuts are awesome. This is when you suck time out of a video an put two clips next to each other that clearly don’t match. In film school they teach you that this is bad, and in narrative films and tv it is. But in web videos, and particularly kickstarter videos, you should love the jump cut. It lets you take out anything that drags or is a little bit boring or just didn’t work without worrying about continuity. Plus we’re all used to it by now. We’ve seen youtube.

Also, look at the shots and clips that made it into the final cut. There are shots of Amanda matching the message of the card, and generally being enthusiastic about stuff. That’s awesome. Even if I’m supposed to be reading cards, I’ll mostly be watching your face – that’s how people are. We look at faces. But there are also shots of Amanda clearly not knowing what card she’s looking at, and just plain cracking up. Leave some of that stuff in your video, too – it makes you look human, which awesome, because you are human.

Costume and location are great, too. She’s dressed like herself (unusual, fun, etc.) and the location is clearly just outside someplace that looked cool. They shot for free. No mics, no lights, no nothing. You can see watching it that they shot it for free, but it still looks good and competent. And check out the sun setting behind them – the camera guy had to adjust a bit to deal with that, but it also made the shot visually interesting for free. When you’re shooting outside, it’s worth knowing about the golden hour. When you’re shooting inside during the day, remember that windows in the back of your shot and blank white walls both look dumb.

Beautiful rewards structure

You can pirate the album if you really want it for free, so they priced the digital download at a buck. It’s honestly easier than stealing it. It also helps inoculate against people thinking that AFP is so super-successful that she shouldn’t be asking for my money. Yes, she’s successful, and yes, she’s asking for money. But dude, you like her art and you’re griping over a dollar? Give it a rest, just buy the download and get on with your day.

Part of the glory of crowdfunding is that it lets you have a functional business with hugely varied prices all in one place. In a physical store, you’d be confused if there were something awesome for $1 (candy bar?) next to something awesome for $10,000 (shiny new car?) but online, and on Kickstarter, it’s totally normal. You can actually get your whole audience through here, no matter how much money they have. Awesome.

The art book is awesome. 30+ artists made art that’s kinda connected to the project. It lets people who don’t want to go to the show, or who can’t, have a super-premium object they can buy. It’s a cool artistic object all on its own. Plus it includes a bunch more awesome people in the project. It’s not just Amanda makes an Album – it’s Amanda makes a ton of art with a ton of artists. So now there are big crowds on both sides of the Kickstarter. Cool. The lesson most people should take from this is to, if you can, include a lot of people in the making portion, but even more important – highlight all of the people who are involved. Did you see that shot of the camera guy’s feet in the video? That’s important. It tells you that everyone who signs on is appreciated. You, as a creator, should do that, too. You should appreciate everyone who helps, and you should show that appreciation writ large. It will make everyone happy, raise you more money, and make your actual artwork better.

Possibly most interestingly, everything is Kickstarter exclusive. So if you want to be in on the ground floor as it were, you have to buy it here. There’s no reason to wait to buy it later in a store where it might be a little discounted, or where you could save on shipping. This works particularly well for Amanda since she kind of runs the internet, and very few of her fans will miss that this Kickstarter is happening. A lot of the super-successful games and design projects recently got me thinking about how much Kickstarter is becoming not just a way to get started, but also a way to basically sell your entire run of a product. In cases like this, it’s a straight e-commerce platform with marketing tools built in as much as it is a crowdfunding platform.

Don’t skip the project description

Again, the writing is really good and really clear. But there’s more. The photos, section headers (those are embedded images), bullet lists, and varied typography make it easier for you to visually navigate the section. Remember – this isn’t a grant proposal. It’s a website, and your page needs a lot of visual markers to help people skip around the page. Giant paragraphs aren’t going to do the job that well.


Kickstarter has a $10,000 limit. So AFP is trying out something for bigger, gianter contributors. Interest free loans, payable back once the project recoups (for most artistic project, recouping is a pipe dream), that pay “Creative Interest”. I love that phrase. Creative Interest is a private performance, custom-made art, or a charity gig for a charity of your choice, or probably something else, too. This is kind of the private banking version of artistic crowdfunding. There hasn’t been a huge need for this to be done on the internet before, but now the need for the thing is here, so AFP built the thing. Sweet. If it works, which I think it will, it’ll help change the way capital (that’s all of big content: record labels, film studios, publishers, etc.) relates to artists. It will empower the artists. Hurray!

Two other things about Loanspark. 1) I wonder how many people who are giving this much money to the arts will actually want it back at the end of the day. And 2) I really, really, really do not envy AFP’s tax accountant.

And it’s official

The project crossed it’s Kickstarter goal while I was writing this blog post.

Good work, internet. Good work, AFP. And good work, everyone else, for making better Kickstarter projects and making more art because we learned from Amanda Fucking Palmer.

Leave a Reply