Kickstarter Lesson #239: I Was There When…

11 December 2017

On Friday I paid $30 to watch a live recording of a podcast I could have downloaded for free a few days later.

I wasn’t alone. Powell Hall in St. Louis seats 2,689 people, and it was sold out. We were all there to watch Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark record a new episode of “My Favorite Murder.” I’ve never actually listened to the podcast–I was there because a friend got a group together for the performance.

In all honesty, I was stunned by the the size of the audience. As much as I love to listen to podcasts, I had never considered them in the same realm as musicians. Even if a podcast has a big audience, it amazes me that so many people just in St. Louis alone would show up for the event.

So of course I spent half of the show thinking about how this phenomenon applies to crowdfunding and entrepreneurship. :) Below are the reasons why I think people are willing to show up for a live performance or for a Kickstarter campaign when they could just get the same thing later.

  • Bragging Rights: Even before the rise of social media, there’s something special about telling your friends, “I was there when….” We’re collectors of experiences, and we like to show them off. The My Favorite Murder hosts didn’t ask people not to take photos–I’m not sure if it was a deliberate decision, but the result was that tons of people were taking photos and posting them to social media in real time. There’s a certain level of pride inherent to Kickstarter–you’re at the foundation of something new. Creators can reinforce this by encouraging participation.
  • Kinship: It feels really good to be in the same place as people who are passionate about the same thing as you, especially if it’s a LOT of people. There was a palpable energy to Powell Hall, and I’ve felt the same thing on Kickstarter when people come together to share their excitement. Creators can encourage this by sharing their passion, and they can maintain it by addressing toxicity.
  • Entertainment: I didn’t fully understand the appeal of the podcast until the hosts started talking. Sure, true crime is interesting, but is it enough to get 2,689 people to show up for a recording?  But I soon got it. The hosts are VERY funny. They’re entertainers who have clearly honed their craft. It reminded me of my recent post about Kickstarter Live. Kickstarter Live isn’t inherently appealing; rather, people will watch it if you entertain them, just as Leo did for Joan of Arc.
  • Novelty: As I mentioned, I’ve never listened to the podcast. But my friend was excited to be there, and it seemed like a novel thing to do on a Friday evening. I had a great time, and now I might start listening to the podcast. Similarly, Kickstarter gives people a reason to become a fan. It’s novel–it’s a one-time event.
  • Celebrity: I think at least some people in the audience of the My Favorite Murder recording were there because they wanted to be in the same room as the celebrity hosts. I can relate to that–I once attended a Patrick Rothfuss reading for that exact reason. I’ve even seen videos of thousands of people who show up to be near famous vloggers. Now, even though Kickstarter creators are not celebrities in the traditional sense, sometimes people are just looking to interact with the person in the spotlight. That’s you.

I think my biggest takeaway is how much more powerful “now” is versus “ongoing”. The present is fleeting, transient, and scarce–you get one chance at it. Even though I want to produce games that are consistently available to those who want them, I also want to create memorable moments and experiences to inspire people to act now and feel great about it.

Have you ever watched a podcast being recorded live? Or a book reading by the author, concert, or live sporting event? Why do you go to some live events and not others?

14 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #239: I Was There When…

  1. Interesting look at why people go to live events.

    As humans we do love to have bragging rights about things. A big one I see all the time is sporting events. I’m always jealous when people get to go to the seahawks game, although in my home I will be able to see everything better be able to pause and rewind things that I missed and rewatch all the coolest plays, and at the same time save $300 or more. But there is just something about being there.

    Also people love to be first. I had some friends in highschool that were obsessed with finding out about musical artists before they got big, then once they got big would move on and try to find the next big artist before anyone else.

    Is this a lead up to announce you are going to start a podcast? If so I can claim I was first to know :)
    – Cody Thompson

    P.S. Just got the email that Charterstone shipped. Super Excited!

    1. Cody: I totally agree about being first. I think that’s why even small events/campaigns can be compelling–you get to say that you were there from the start before they got big.

      I used to appear regularly on the Funding the Dream podcast, which Richard made easy (I just had to show up and chat). I’ve considered it, though I’m not sure what I’d talk about, as I already talk about crowdfunding/entrepreneurship here, game design on my YouTube channel, and random stuff on my personal blog.

      1. Yeah I have listened to a few of your appearances on Funding the Dream. And as for content there is no reason you couldn’t still use the content that you put out on this site. People have different preferences of absorbing information. I personally prefer podcasts and videos which I listen/watch in the background at work. This is one of the only blogs which I actively go out of my way to check.

        Anyways, if you do find some time to do one I am sure you will have plenty of listeners. Many of us I’m sure willing to support a patreon, drip, kickstarter, podpledge or whatever.

  2. The in-person aspect, like Kickstarter Live, adds a dimension of real world contact, which helps prevent—or, at least, partly counteract—too much online lopsidedness (addiction?). And your helpful links to previous KS Lessons, though not in-person, make this blog feel like an ongoing conversation.

  3. I back KS items because I get things usually not available in retail or not easily available or for the same price. I go to live shows because of the experience of seeing/hearing it with others and the audio experience of being in a hall with decent acoustics as well as seeing the people perform as an immediate experience. Later, viewing a video or listening to a podcast, is like watching TV or listening to radio.

  4. Could something similar be done for Kickstarter?

    I guess one project alone would not fill a room but what if several projects came on stage one after the other to present and pitch themselves? That could make a fun friday night. I could certainly see myself going to such an event and backing projects via my mobile phone during their presentations. We could have Q&A sessions and maybe the opportunity to meet the creators afterwards…

    PS: Creators from far away could also present via live streaming to the big screen

  5. “Why do you go to some live events and not others.”

    Because you never know. :)

    Every summer, in my town, there’s a 11-days music festival. In 2015, Foo Fighters were in town. Because of thunderstorms, the show lasted 4 songs instead of the 30ish planned. But it was magical! Everybody that was there, even if they were wet to the bone, came away with a good memory. That night is always brought up now when talking about that festival.
    (And that only one example).

    But sometimes, going to live events is simply to support/cheer on friends or family. Like a niece volleyball game, a friend’s book launch. :)

  6. Jamey,

    Another great post—I would add to that—content is largely important here as well.

    I won’t name names but there is one rather predominate force in the talk radio industry in America and it’s like a few buck a year to get a subscription to his content to sign up for his newsletter and have first dibs at nearly everything he puts out! Like right now he’s doing a Christmas tree ornament sale, I don’t know anything about it–okay I just went and looked it up– the Christmas ornament is 30 bucks-wow, and new subscribers get a tumbler with the host’s picture on it. People pay for content.

    In a way kickstarter is exactly that, its a content platform and folks are lining up to pay for seasonal content, what you’ve got to do in monetize that influx to generate sustained growth (that’s what a new game it) You’ve got a book, you’ve got the number one first class game designer website and blog (as far as I’m concerned).

    I cannot tell you how many free newsletters I get in my inbox every month, I don’t read a single one either (I’m not subscribed to yours, for exactly that reason) but I come to your website. Why? because I am able to voice my opinion without caring if anyone reads what I have to say or not and because of the content.

    Paid subscriptions is another thing, I meticulously go through every single paid piece of content I receive. Why? because I paid for it. I value my time but I don’t value your time. Customer’s are the same why, if you can make them value their time then you’ll monetize your content.

  7. Thanks you. I go to live shows because of the experience of seeing and hearing it with others and the audio experience of being in a hall with decent acoustics as well as seeing the people perform as an immediate experience.

  8. I think the “kinship” component here is HUGE. I remember the first convention I attended, PAX West. Just the sheer wonder of being at a place where everyone’s interest was aligned as amazing. There’s an energy and excitement in the air that you just can’t get any other way.

    It’s the same thing for music concerts. You can honestly get much better sound quality using a nice pair of earbuds, but there’s just something about being in the crowd and feeling the lifebeat of the room.

    I think the comparison to Kickstarter is very apt and does a good job of explaining why people are willing to pre-pay for a game that won’t be available for another year.

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