Tag Archives: Crowdfunding

Data Analysis: How does category influence Kickstarter project success?

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“Wasteland 2” from InXile Entertainment made $2.9 million in Kickstarter contributions, but are games generally more likely to be funded than other projects? Image from incgamers.

As my semester in WVU’s Blogging and Interactive Journalism class is coming to an end, I am taking a break from the blog to concentrate on completing my master’s thesis. This will be my last post until the end of the school year in May.

A question I’ve often had in reading about Kickstarter is whether the category of a project influences how successful the project will be.

The games category has made the most money. Technology and film & video projects tend to be featured most prominently in the news (as far as Kickstarter campaigns go, anyway). Music on crowdfunding is popular enough to have its own site.

Does the prominence of these categories lead them to have more visibility in the Kickstarter world? Are fanbases stronger for these categories?

In September, Crowdfund Insider compiled a list of the top 50 campaigns that made the most money in pledges and grouped them into categories.

Note that this list does not use Kickstarter’s official category names, so some projects may have been in different categories when they were posted on Kickstarter.

I’ve arranged the data in the chart below. For purposes of simplicity, I combined “games” and “tabletop games” into one category.

Kickstarter Chart 1

As expected, due to their high total funds, the games projects had the greatest representation on the list, with video games holding 19 of the top 50 spots and tabletop games holding 10. Product design made the next best showing with eight, followed by technology with five. The remaining categories all had one or two projects featured on the list.

The chart below illustrates the prominence of games, which outnumbered the other categories combined by a margin of 29 to 21.

Kickstarter Chart 2

One can see, then, that the categories related to games and technological products are probably more likely to bring in a large amount of money.

To a large extent, this tendency is inherent in the nature of the projects. Developing a complex video game or a smartwatch is an expensive endeavor, so successful campaigns require large amounts in pledges.

In addition, Kickstarter has taken off as a widely used platform in some communities more than others.

Crowdlifted looked at Kickstarter’s statistics to determine the top five categories with the highest total numbers of projects (successful and unsuccessful). From most projects to fewest, the categories were film & video, music, publishing, art, and games.

Despite the prominence of Kickstarter in those communities, the greatest chances for successfully funding a Kickstarter project lie elsewhere.

SFGate compiled a list of every Kickstarter category’s percentage of projects that are successfully funded, as well as other statistics. The chart below shows each category’s success rate.

Kickstarter Chart 3

Dance, with 71 percent success, and theatre, with 64 percent, have the highest success rates by a considerable margin. Music is the only other category to have a success rate higher than 50 percent.

Again, cost is certainly a factor. The average successful dance project raises about $4,300, which is the smallest average of all the categories. Unsurprisingly, the category with the highest average is technology, which averages around $75,000.

Because dance requires less money, it has a greater chance of success. But cost is not the only factor.

The average prices for theatre, music, and art are not much higher than dance, yet dance has a considerably higher success rate than theatre, which has a considerably higher success rate than music and art.

The amount of competition is likely a factor. Though Kickstarter is not necessarily a market, anything people spend money on competes for that money.

Because dance and theatre are less popular categories, there are not as many projects posted to attract pledges, allowing the projects that are posted to receive more of the money backers have budgeted for supporting Kickstarter campaigns.

On a less “cold” economic note, dance and theatre projects are more likely to be tailored to one specific geographic location than most of the other categories, so the focus in local communities can bolster interest in a project.

Ultimately, it’s the interest in supporting a creative campaign that drives Kickstarter, but the volume of competition a project faces certainly plays a role.

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Veteran punks Stiff Little Fingers return with benefits of PledgeMusic

Stiff Little Fingers performing live in March 2013. Image from The Upcoming.
Stiff Little Fingers performing live in March 2013. Image from The Upcoming.

Influential punk band Stiff Little Fingers has turned to an emerging music-funding platform to release their first album in a decade.

The Irish band is using PledgeMusic as a platform to offer fans pre-orders of the album, which is slated for an early 2014 release, along with items and experiences exclusive to PledgeMusic, ranging from a signed copy of the album to the opportunity to perform the band’s debut 1979 single “Suspect Device” with them at a concert.

These Kickstarter-esque rewards are featured on all PledgeMusic projects. PledgeMusic is also like Kickstarter in that it gives supporters of the projects (appropriately called “pledgers”) the chance to follow an album’s production more closely through updates from the artists.

However, the site has several differences from Kickstarter that could have greater benefits for artists and fans.

It only hosts music projects, so artists do not have to worry about their campaigns being lost in the shuffle of Kickstarter’s many projects.

Because PledgeMusic makes projects more visible, viewers can more easily come across projects they might want to support by browsing.

For a relatively obscure band like Stiff Little Fingers, the ease of browsing could be a notable benefit.

Though an important part of the early UK punk scene, the band was not as popular or iconic as contemporaries like The Clash and The Sex Pistols. So while people like me, who read punk news websites regularly, are familiar with their music and influence on later bands, more casual punk fans may be discovering the group for the first time on PledgeMusic.

PledgeMusic also allows many more genre tags than Kickstarter, so users can search specifically for “punk rock,” which is not among the genres listed on Kickstarter.

The "rock" category on PledgeMusic's genres page features many subgenres visitors can use for searches.
The “rock” category on PledgeMusic’s genres page features many subgenres visitors can use for searches. Ben Folds Five used PledgeMusic to help fund their 2012 album, “The Sound of the Life of the Mind.” 

The sites allows artists to set their campaigns up as “direct-to-fan,” which is like a standard crowdfunding campaign, and “preorder,” which is more like a traditional commercial transaction.

Preorder campaigns are for artists who have already been completed an album but want to use the site as a way to market it and offer exclusives to fans. Preorder campaigns can accept pledges up until the release date of the album, while direct-to-fan campaigns have a 90-day limit.

Fans might appreciate the clearly stated difference between project types. It’s always possible that people could dubiously use crowdfunding platforms to sell products that might already be complete, so simply classifying the campaigns differently gives pledgers a degree of transparency.

Fans are even more likely to appreciate another big difference between the two platforms—PledgeMusic has a more clearly defined accountability policy than Kickstarter, which takes a more hands-off approach. Most significantly, PledgeMusic offers refunds to its pledgers when an artist is not able to complete a project.

I don’t think many creators are going to default on their Kickstarter projects, but the fact that PledgeMusic takes more responsibility if one does is a little more reassuring than Kickstarter’s policy.

For all PledgeMusic’s benefits, Kickstarter has two important advantages over it.

First, Kickstarter takes only 5 percent of its projects funds, while PledgeMusic takes 15 percent. For bands with less money or smaller funding goals, Kickstarter may be a better option because it allows them to keep more of the funds necessary for completing their recordings.

Second, Kickstarter is a bigger brand name in crowdfunding, so its greater site traffic could bring more people to its projects than PledgeMusic.

However, the number of pledges has tended to increase with every project, and the number of artists and labels working with PledgeMusic has increased significantly since the site launched in 2009.

As the site grows, its benefits could attract more artists away from Kickstarter, increasing its prominence and strengthening its brand to a point where the title of “best funding site for musicians” is up for grabs.

RoboCop statue, other pop culture-based art finds patrons on Kickstarter

The completely assembled version of the Kickstarter-funded RoboCop statue. Image from the Onion A.V. Club.
The completely assembled model of the Kickstarter-funded RoboCop statue. Image from  The A.V. Club.

A 10-foot model of the Kickstarter-funded RoboCop statue has been assembled in its future home of Detroit.

The statue was funded through a Kickstarter campaign in 2011 that made over $67,000 on a $50,000 goal. Campaign creator Imagination Station Detroit wanted to erect a life-size statue of the character after fans expressed interest through social media posts.

Released in 1987, RoboCop tells the story of dead-police-officer-turned-cyborg-justice-machine Alex Murphy, as he battles a crime boss in a dystopian Detroit virtually ruled by a corporation. The film was both a critical and commercial success and maintains a large fanbase today.

Were I not trying to keep this blog “SFW,” I would definitely post a clip or two from the movie so others could revel in its awesomeness.

Imagination Station constructed the model out of foam and plaster. The final statue will be bronze.

Though most Kickstarter campaigns involve pledges in exchange for copies of the final product (especially on high-dollar campaigns), the RoboCop statue demonstrates how like-minded individuals can get behind a project together without any quid pro quo returns.

“This isn’t ours. This was created by over 2,700 people around the world,” said project manager Brandon Walley.

Backers were willing to support this campaign even if they received nothing in return. They simply liked the fact that someone was going to build a RoboCop statue in Detroit.

RoboCop is the most famous example, but other pop culture figures have been commemorated in sculpture because of Kickstarter.

The following map shows the locations of the RoboCop campaign and four other examples.

New York City sculptor Derrick Cruz used Kickstarter to fund a porcelain cast of the late Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.

In Salem, Mass., figure artist Chad O’Connell funded life-size wax models of characters from the 1992 dark comedy film Death Becomes Her.

Using a more unusual medium, Las Vegas-based artist Michael Davis funded his goal of building a wall-sized reproduction of the title screen of the cult favorite PC game The Secret of Monkey Island out of Lego bricks.

Clockwork Couture, a steampunk-themed clothing retailer based in Burbank, Calif., used Kickstarter to fund expansions of its brick-and-mortar location. The additions were to include sculptures of a zeppelin and a Tardis (of Doctor Who fame), as well as a rotating art gallery, a classroom for teaching unemployed people how to start their own businesses, a public gaming room and a pet adoption area.

All these projects show Kickstarter’s potential for old-fashioned art patronage. Only the Ian Curtis campaign sold reproductions of the artwork, and they were limited.

By and large, people funded these projects because they cared about the works and wanted to see them be made.

The title screen of "The Secret of Monkey Island." Image from the Lego campaign Kickstarter page.
The title screen of “The Secret of Monkey Island.” Image from the Lego campaign Kickstarter page.

The projects also show Kickstarter’s ability to find the niche audiences needed to fund them. In any given person’s personal social network or geographic area, there are probably not a great number of The Secret of Monkey Island enthusiasts. Online, however, Davis could more successfully find people who loved the game and were interested in the project.

The RoboCop statue experienced the same effect on a larger scale. Imagination Station might have had trouble raising funds for the statue if it limited its reach to a city that was two years away from economic disaster.

However, by reaching out to fans all over the world, it achieved its funding goal and increased interest in its campaign.

I have never been to Detroit. It’s possible I may never go there. But I’m still excited about the fact that the city will have a cool movie character statue in it.

That sentiment is what got the campaign funded. Despite Kickstarter’s store-like tendencies, it can still be used to gather a crowd of avid fans more interested in seeing their favorite things in a new medium than with receiving a new product and some pre-order goods.

The final RoboCop statue is expected to be unveiled in summer 2014.

Introduction: Strategic Communications in Today’s Media Landscape

As you can tell from my blog title, my name is Kevin Duvall. I am working on a Master’s in Journalism at West Virginia University, focusing on strategic communications. I also work as a graduate assistant at the P.I. Reed School of Journalism, where I help sharpen young minds, or at least grade their papers. I’m a West Virginia native from the Charleston area and, at 26, I’m the old man of my graduate cohort.

The purpose of this blog is to examine the ongoing development of new business practices that utilize social media. In any market today, social media are instrumental in both selling products and services in the short run and strengthening one’s brand in the long run.

Social networking sites and user-generated online content have become widely used and popular enough that they are no longer merely a novelty or entertainment form; they are a significant part of daily communication for millions worldwide. The impact social media have had on brands is substantial; clever, innovative social media campaigns can bring new fans, while more conventional use, especially using social media pages as company news feeds, can make a brand seem behind in the times.

These ideas cover a broad spectrum of topics, but in particular, I will focus on three things:

1) How companies use social media to reach out to their audiences: most, if not all companies, big or small, need two-way communication to attract customers. New communication tools can work swimmingly for building a brand, but they can be difficult. Social media make it easier for audiences to connect with companies, but those connections are not always favorable for the image the company wants to promote. Companies must find a balance between letting people do what they want and maintaining some degree of control over the content of messages

In early 2013, CNN Money highlighted nine “Social Media Superstars” that used social media most effectively in communicating with customers. While these companies used a variety of social networking sites and campaign tactics, all of them encouraged participation from audiences and communicated directly with participants. The brands that best use social media are those that do not use social networking sites to simply send information to the masses, but to actively engage their customers. Those are the ones I want to cover.

2) How people use new media to create new business models: in the current media world of two-way communication, there is a more direct link between producer and consumer than in any traditional form of mass production. In recent years, people have come up with fascinating new ways to fund and sell their projects without the need of an intermediary, such as a publisher. This increased ability for “grassroots” production has allowed some great ideas to come to fruition, while challenging longstanding ideas about what was needed to market.

Concepts like crowdfunding and pay-what-you-want digital sales have expanded in recent years, and they will likely continue to grow. With the growth of new business models, however, comes new issues. Are these business models sustainable? Can they grow beyond relatively small initiatives? Should they? I always look forward to reading about the people and companies that cause debate for these questions.

3) What companies’ social media use and new business models mean for mass communications as a whole: in less than a decade, social media have had a profound impact on traditional media. Two years after Facebook launched, “You” were the TIME Magazine Person of the Year. Twitter has been the premier breaking news feed for so long that people are not surprised by that notion anymore. What do these ideas say about audience behavior? Do people really want to engage with brands, or do they want brands out of the picture as much as possible? Will they pay what they want when they do not have to pay at all? Can markets survive if the answers to these questions are negative?

After graduation, my goal is to work for an advertising, PR or IMC firm, or a company strategic communications department (if some of my professors cannot convince me to go further into academia). By exploring the issues I’ve discussed in this post, I will be up-to-date with the latest developments in the influence of social media on branding and able to analyze these developments with proper depth. I’m excited to learn about all the new ways creators use the Internet to realize their goals, and to apply the knowledge and enthusiasm I gain to my own creative endeavors.