WHY ARE WE PAYING KICKSTARTER... or any other crowdfunding service for that matter?
Last month I began a little experiment. Kickstarter, the “go to” source for artistic crowdfunding had recently announced that they were dedicating the month of March 2021 to indie filmmakers. They promised those who brought their short subject films to the platform’s “Long Story Short Campaign,” would receive a “big advertising push”.
“Wait… you want to promote my short film project? Be my guest”, I thought. So, I decided to create a campaign seeking finishing funds for a time traveling, short film project, three years in the making, entitled “Entropy”.
I figured there must be folks interested in receiving an IMDB “executive producer” credit on a short film that was not just starting, but nearly finished. After all, the most prominent complaint against Kickstarter funders is that many take their money and never make good on the rewards promised the supporters. (Some ventures are great in concept, but simply never get off the ground.) And Kickstarr kindly excuses themselves from any responsibility of the matter. (To learn more about Kickstarter accountability Click Here.) But that wouldn’t be an issue for us, now would it? We were nearly done! We just wanted to reshoot our ending and invest in a film festival run. We could guarantee our investors a return on their investment. Besides, who wouldn’t want to become a part of an award winning film production company?
With that mind I entitled my campaign “CrypticPictures.com seeks Executive Producers.” Catchy, huh? I thought that title made it look like an employment post.
We were approved March 5, 2021 and officially launched on March 6 2021. (To see a screen capture of the full Kickstarter submission, Click Here.) Now, all we had to do was let the Kickstarter algorithm do its thing, right?
Not bad! Within two days we had backers. A whopping $27 from people who didn’t know us from Adam. After which, things fell flat and the real Kickstarter algorithm began to take effect.
I was bombarded by organizations too numerous to name here, all of whom promised me access to thousands of backers for a small fee, usually $35 to $50. Others were marketing organizations who promised to help me reach a wider audience, for a nice chunk of every dollar that they helped me raise.
Wait, what? I set a financial goal that I needed to reach in order to make sure my backers received their due rewards. And now, you want to reduce my over all return just so I can reach my precious funding goal? Something isn’t adding up.
I know a thing or two about business. I run four companies and I can play the game. So, I sent these pariah organizations, who were overwhelming my inbox an offer that no one in their right mind would refuse. I sent them each the following response via email.
We are actually offering backer organizations such as yours a 10% return on funding that originates from backers you send our way! You stand to make more money and we achieve funding.
If interested, reach out to us and we can negotiate final terms. We'd love to connect.
10%! That was a higher return per backer than their own offers would have garnered. I sat and waited for these smart money people to respond to my email. Of course, not one them responded. A simple Google search of Kickstarter fraudsters turned up their names loud and clear, so I knew who I was dealing with. I just wanted them to stop harassing me. It worked. Their efforts finally died down.
But I still had the issue of a lack of funders, and I was beginning to wonder what I was doing wrong, aside from not making a short film based on the Marvel characters (which would have received funding overnight, no doubt.)
So, I began a deep dive into the mechanics of Kickstarter crowdfunding. I joined every free Kickstarter promotional company I could find on line, including: Prefundia, Kicktraq, Hyperstater, The BackerKit, Kickbooster, and the list goes on. Many, I would later discover, were actually pay services. But you didn’t find that out until you had filled out all the required information in order to gain access to the site.
I did everything these companies asked of me and still my campaign remained at “0% funded” according to my Kickstarter dashboard, because apparently $27 is not .56% of $4,850 anymore.
Long story short (pun intended), in time I discovered the real business behind Kickstarter.
What if I told you that I would let you promote your crowd funding project on my website CrypticPictures.com. That I would give you your own page on which you could type up a wonderful sales pitch (which I would need to approve, of course) and then I would take a percentage of every sales transaction made. I would then send you a check when it was all done. And on top of that, I could care less what you do with the money after the fact.
I am pretty sure you’d think, “well, what the hell am I paying you for when I could create my own website for the same purpose.” And I would respond, “but we have traffic coming through our site because we are a brand name.” To which you should respond, “but can you guarantee me eyes!?”
Kickstarter doesn’t guarantee anyone eyes. In fact, in their FAQ section they have a page dedicated to “Spreading the Word”. What? You want ME to spread the word on my own project? Why the hell isn’t the kicking and starting being done by them? Now this document is a priceless., so much so that I must included it in its entirety.
For you filmmakers out there, you should already see where I am going with this. What does this smell like? It smells a lot like film distribution. You, the creator, bust your buns finding investors, spreading the word and championing your film to the media, only to have a distributor walk away with every dime of profit (even though many of us are told, it’s suppose to be a percentage split.)
If I am doing all the work of “spreading the word”, why the hell would I want to give Kicksktarer or any other crowdfunding site access to my investors for a cut of my revenue! It makes no business sense.
And for that reason, I consider my failed experiment a grand success. I learned, without spending anything more than my time, that crowdfunding needn’t be accomplished with the likes of Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Just do it yourself and keep all the profits!
For the first time ever, I find myself agreeing with Gordon!
P.S. By the way, our project did not meet its funding goal. But we figured you assumed that.