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About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

Copyfight

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May 25, 2012

AFP Kickstarter Funding Report, Part 2

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

As a follow-up to her previous "Where is the Kickstarter Money Going" post, Amanda Palmer has put up part two, answering questions related to the theme, and hitting several points I think are good for the ongoing discussion of what does this model take.

This post is much more Q&A than the first, but the answers still come in Palmer's unique voice, which makes it fun to read. I'll cherry-pick a few highlights, but recommend it highly to anyone who cares about these models.

She notes, for example, that this kind of thing doesn't work for acts that are too unknown, too obscure, or aren't working hard enough. She points out that other acts she's worked with through Kickstarter projects have also carefully nurtured their fan bases with things like house concerts, free shows, and generally nurturing that fan base over (as Palmer writes it) "YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS of connecting" so you can go and ask them for money. Palmer also references the '10,000 hours theory' that anyone who spends ten thousand hours doing something becomes an expert at it, and she notes that by this yardstick she's an expert at connecting with her fans.

She addresses file-sharing, head-on: " i think music should be shared. all the time. by everybody. i think it's pure insanity to make music filesharing illegal." It's no accident that you can get the entire album as a high-quality digital download, with bonus content, for a buck (at least for six more days as I write this). The time it would take you to find it on a torrent of questionable quality is worth more than that. Personally I think a buck is too low, but it certainly upends the economics of illegal copying.

She also talks about being fearless. Artists who perform in front of crowds know this but it may be different for creative types who aren't used to connecting so intimately with their fans. Perhaps a direct-sponsorship model like this really will work best for people who are used to it; certainly musicians have been busking on street corners with their hats out for coins for centuries. Actors and other stage performers used to pass the hat as well. Kickstarter, as Palmer points out, isn't a charity. It's a direct appeal for sponsorship funding.

Palmer also makes the point that she is making great art. It's not cheap and it's something she truly believes in. As I noted last time, I want this kind of model to be sustainable as a business, not a one-off thing. That means the fan base you so carefully cultivate also has to be delighted with what you've made. Doing it on the cheap might mean you hit your Kickstarter goal but will it mean those who fronted the money are happy with what they get at the end?

I think this is something we see in other big successful drives; for example, the Order of the Stick reprint Kickstarter (which I also backed). The comic's author, Rich Burlew, has gone above and beyond in the quality of the materials that drive has produced. Everyone I've shown them to has had the same "oh, wow!" response. Principle: delight your sponsors.

This is different, as Palmer points out, from a product-oriented Kickstarter like the fantastically successful Pebble watch. There, the entire point is production of a product that people expect will be delightful. Fans != consumers. Principle: know what you're making, for whom, and how to delight them.

Finally, I wanted to quote a bit of Palmer-wisdom that I think illustrates why this kind of innovation had to come from creative types, and not from the established businesses (the Copyright Cartel):

the music business for years has seen the fanbase as a bunch of faceless consumers who were going to have to be TRICKED into parting with their cash. whereas i see them as people who love art and want to help. attitude is everything.

Capitalization, such as it is, preserved from the original.

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