Today marks the launch of my first Kickstarter campaign and this blog mini-series, where I’ll be writing about the experience as it unfolds. I’m attempting to raise money to release an album. I feel strongly about this album. I love it. It’s maybe the best thing I’ve made yet. But for some reason, I’ve been postponing the launch of this campaign for half a year.
When I initially decided to try to crowdfund this release, I budgeted two solid weeks to prepare for the launch. After making a to-do list, I pushed the launch date back another two weeks. When I actually started in on writing the copy, figuring out the rewards, lining up collaborators, fleshing out a budget, “optimizing” my website (whatever that means), assembling a master email list of every single potential sponsor I could possibly think of and learning how to shoot and edit a video, I was ready to bail on the whole Kickstarter thing. After all, that was only the bare bones stuff. That didn’t include learning tricky mailing list hacks, scheming up unique viral marketing angles, booking a launch event, publishing multiple, well-timed think-pieces on crowdfunding and the decline of the indie label system and blocking out an entire month for running the campaign, which I quickly discovered would be much more time consuming than I’d imagined.
Why bother? It’s way too much work. And isn’t everyone over crowdfunding anyway? Going hat in hand to one’s “network,” begging cash for my creative habit is already a clichéd social media punchline. Why not just post the album to Bandcamp, link to it on Facebook and move on with my life? Shouldn’t that be enough? What am I hoping to happen with this release anyway? What do I hope to gain? How do I hope this will impact my creative “career”? What career? Don’t I hate the entire concept of a career?
The structure of a Kickstarter campaign is very intentionally designed to push you to address these kinds of questions. And when I sat down with a couple friends who had run a successful campaign that helped them transition to an entirely new phase of their creative practice, I came to understand that the whole money raising thing was secondary to the prospect of consolidating my core base of support. This was a chance to identify the people that really care about my work, connect with them directly and establish a context to communicate with them as I move forward. That was enough to convince me it was worth it, though I still managed to procrastinate another five months.
And even as I write this, days before my scheduled launch, I’m wondering if it’s not too late to shut it down. But it’s not because I’m unsure about the value of the material or unclear about my goals or even ambivalent about the ethics and dynamic of crowdfunding. It’s because I’m scared. What if I’m about to find out that I don’t actually have a core base of support? The thought of putting this thing out there and it not getting funded, it being ignored by my cohort, my friends, my collaborators, my listeners and readers; it’s devastating.
Though apparently not devastating enough to stop me.