Kickstarter.com has only been around since 2009, but it’s already becoming the go-to approach for musicians, artists, filmmakers and tech developers to raise money for their projects. For artists especially, Kickstarter provides an easy-to-use, easy-to-relay method to get the word out — and to get the money to get things done. There are many recent local examples of Kickstarter in action. Most of the time, it really works.
Aaron “Woody” Wood’s Kickstarter campaign was one of the first around here, and it succeeded.
The background: For nearly a decade, Wood toured and played with The Blue Rags, a mostly defunct blues/ragtime band that signed to Sup Pop Records. After selling off nearly all his music equipment and almost calling it quits earlier this year, Wood may have found the way to jump start (or even Kickstart) his career — in a kind of rebirth as a solo artist. All it took was a little help from family, friends and fans — and a little more help from his manager (and studio manager at Echo Mountain), Jessica Tomasin.
Wood credits the entire Kickstarter campaign to Tomasin. “Jess was smart enough to be like, ‘You can do this. We know enough people we can do it.’ It’s basically all her idea, no joke.”
And the two learned some things in the process. Tomasin encourages those running a campaign to “be prepared to actually contribute the last $1,000 and then pay yourself back, if that’s what you need to do so you don’t lose out. Be realistic with what your budget is,” she cautions, “because it’s all or nothing.”
Kickstarters are further encouraged “to find ways to get the word out and make your incentives affordable. I think that’s really important. Who are your fans and can they afford that sort of thing? We had some people who were really great and were able to pay anywhere from $100-$750.” However, she explains, “That number was a lot smaller than the people who could afford $15. I think when you don’t offer the incentives at the lower level that you lose a grand by people who can’t afford $50.”
There are things to beware of, Tomasin warns. “Be prepared, because there are people who do not follow through with what they say they’re going to give you.” The funding “doesn’t happen until the end of your campaign. When it was all said and done, it said that we had raised $9,480. We ended up with $7,800 because people who said they were going to pledge didn’t. Their credit cards or bank accounts were denied.”
Wood and Tomasin attribute a great deal of their success to the live events they held during the campaign. “Honestly, there are the people who are not going to take the time and energy to fill [the pledge form] out online,” says Tomasin. “There were a lot of older folks who were like, ‘You know I’m not comfortable putting my credit card on the Internet.’ Another reason to do a private house show, you can get those people to come out to the show. One guy gave us $300 who does not have a computer.”
And the album is moving ahead. “Our problem right now is we’re a little behind, because, schedule-wise, it’s just so hard to finish tracking,” Tomasin says.
In addition to New York City gigs the first week of December, “Woody’s gone again this month for another seven days — going down to New Orleans. It makes it hard to coordinate with [Wood’s accompanying musicians]. We actually did the vocals for the first five songs in one of our studio houses … and it sounds great. We’ll be doing some things like tracking in unique places just because we don’t have the time here at the studio. All of our rooms are pretty much booked.”
At the time of the interview, they had finished three preproduction days with producer Roger Alan Nichols. Mike Rhodes had laid down the drum tracks and Tony Black the bass tracks, for all six new songs. Wood recorded the guitar parts and a scratch vocal. Robert Ryan Burns overdubbed keys on four of the songs. For this, backers who had given $500 were invited into the studio to watch the process for two hours.
Tomasin estimates another four full days of tracking to record the keys for the other two songs, as well as Wood’s vocal and guitar overdubs. When those are complete, Roger starts mixing the tracks. The finished album is expected to be in the hands of backers in January.
Coming next week: A look at how other locals fared with Kickstarter.