CL Feature: Kickstarter.com presents a crowdfunding platform for indie bands, locals included

Every approved project must have a funding goal (the minimum amount of money needed to get the project done) and a deadline set by the project's creators (from 1 to 90 days). The all-or-nothing model means there are no fees if the goal isn't reached. If it is, Kickstarter claims 5 percent; the rest goes directly to the project's creators and unlike other fundraising forums, they retain 100 percent ownership of their project and the work they produce.


Kickstarter's own FAQ suggests two important ways to drum up project support: rewards and stories. Offering "smart, fun and tangible rewards (products, benefits, and experiences)" persuades people to spend, as does personalizing the project via blog posts, pictures and videos, which also inspire people to return to see how it all unfolds -- and possibly be moved to donate more.


Peña's own advice was much the same. "Don't get lazy with your video -- the pledge video is really important. And your rewards are even more important. Think about your rewards, think about what people are giving, and make sure that you are very generous, because that's what's going to entice people to participate." Pena admitted Rise of Saturn may have gone a little overboard with rewards, but said it was worth it. "We wanted to do something fun, something different. Anything from free music -- everyone who donated essentially gets a free download -- all the way up to us re-enacting a scene from a movie, doing community service, being household slaves for a day ... We were just trying to do as much as we could to show our the appreciation for the people who backed us up."


Much like any site where you have a buyer-seller agreement, the project's creators are responsible for seeing the project to its completion and doling out the rewards along the way. In Rise of Saturn's case, they'll be seeing to the rewards in the midst of recording their album, which is tentatively schedule for release in November. "But that's ambitious."


[image-1]This week, Auto?Automatic?? launches their own Kickstarter project. [Pictured left at Vinyl Fever for Record Store Day this past April 17; photo by Nicole Kibert.]


The instrumental post-prog rock trio has been gigging around town since 2003 in various incarnations that have always included drummer Alex Fedele and guitarist Brian Larsen. After taking a year off, the two re-convened in January, brought on new bassist Adam Kahn, put together some material and debuted the new lineup when they opened for The Mercury Program in March. "That was the first time we'd played in 14 months and it was actually the first time that the Mercury Program played in five years, so it was a pretty special show for us," Fedele explained.


Auto?Automatic?? had always been well-liked and despite being inactive for more than a year, they received an overwhelmingly positive response when they returned. Fedele said that since then, "We haven't been able to slow down. We've been getting phone calls for shows, and we've been practicing and writing and we're ready to record, we've got 10 new songs ..."


The band known for Larsen's finger-tapping style of soloing/shredding and Fedele's concise, assertive rhythms wants to hit the studio while they've got some good momentum going, but, Fedele explained, "We've only been playing with the current lineup for a few months, so we don't have any money saved up like we normally would from playing a lot of shows ..." The the band caught wind of Kickstarter and read the site's success stories. "We thought it'd be a good way for us to try and raise the money to put toward recording ..."


Fedele submitted a proposal that was approved and has been waiting for the right time to get it going. This week is as good as any, especially following Rise of Saturn's triumph.


At the time of this writing, the band hadn't sorted out the reward details but had set a fundraising goal ($3,000) and a timeline (60 days) that'll give them the chance to get the word out, play more shows (including a small tour at the end of August), and do some rigorous social networking. If the drive proves successful, the money will be used to get Auto?Automatic?? into the studio.


Visit facebook.com/autoautomatic to check for updates on Auto?Automatic??'s Kickstarter fundraiser.


Rise of Saturn


w/Fall on Purpose/Fusion Music Experience/Nothing Promised/Infinite Skillz & DJ Lee Money, Sat., Aug. 7, 8 p.m., Gasoline Alley, Largo, $5 ages 21 and up/$7 under. Rise of Saturn also plays Pegasus Lounge in Tampa Fri., Aug. 20.


Auto?Automatic??


at O'Brien's 34th Birthday Bash w/Have Gun, Will Travel/Poetry n' Lotion/Peter Baldwin, Fri., Aug. 6, 8 p.m., Crowbar, Ybor City, $6.

Last Monday, after 48 days of rigorous self-promoting, the members of local prog hop quintet Rise of Saturn found themselves one hour and $614 away from reaching their $5,000 Kickstarter.com fundraising goal.

Kickstarter is an online "crowdfunding" platform for artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers and other inspired types to raise money for their creative endeavors. The site was most famously and fruitfully used by four NYU computer science students to support their contruction of a private, open source "anti-Facebook" social network. Their "Diaspora Project" generated such a widespread buzz that by the time the drive concluded in June, they'd collected $200,641 in pledges, far exceeding their $10,000 goal.

The no-risk appeal to Kickstarter is its all-or-nothing model — projects must be fully funded or no money changes hands, and a project's success is directly linked to the amount of time and effort the project's creators put into achieving their goal. Unfortunately, this meant that if Rise of Saturn failed to reach $5,000 by the drive's end, they'd have put in all that time and effort for nothing. "It was nerve-wracking," bassist/singer (and occasional CL contributor) Ivan Peña told me when we chatted about it a few days later. "All day Monday, there was a flood of Facebook updates of everybody trying to help us out with the final push. It was pretty much a group effort. We were text messaging people, we were e-mailing, calling, posting ..."

Rise of Saturn's final push proved successful, their final total a triumphant $5,047. "Times are tough and the fact that we could raise $5,000 like this, just using social media and a network of friends and family ... it's amazing."

Kickstarter is for creative ideas only; charity projects, causes, "fund my life"-type expenses, or any other random financial ventures are denied. In fact, to initiate a project, interested parties must submit a proposal to Kickstarter's small team of artists and technologists, who evaluate it on its creative merits and make sure all the guidelines are met.

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