KIckstarter: The Gritty Parts

Sorry I’m late. It’s been a whirlwind around here.

Last week I didn’t sleep very much or very well because I was waking up every thirty minutes or so to check my phone and see if any last minute pledges were coming through the wire. $16,000 loomed over me like a black cloud of negative space.

The last time we ran a Kickstarter campaign, we asked for $3,500 and our backers exceeded that. But that was over two years ago, before we had ever really toured or played anywhere outside of Anderson, IN. We figured that with triple the Facebook likes and travel history, we’d be able to raise the 16k we needed to make our new record.

And I mean needed. I recognize that $16,000 is a lot of money to pretty much anyone. That’s a new car or a downpayment on a house. I didn’t have it, and I know most folks don’t, but we figured that with 3,000+ people in our camp, with a little miracle grease, we’d shake it out. The cost breakdown on our Kickstarter page was super transparent and, let me assure you, absolutely stripped to the bare bones.

The Varsity Recording Company gave us a good deal—they’re slated for a price adjustment this year to remain competitive, but they grandfathered me in at the old rate with even a few cuts thanks to our history of collaboration and the longstanding friendship between Jonathan and me. That was $7,000. I paid $1,050 up front as a deposit from the band bank account that is typically reserved for touring expenses and merch re-orders. That was about half of what we had and we hoped to recoup it with the Kickstarter funds, but they did need the deposit to start working according to our contract.

Next was our manufacturing costs for CDs and vinyl, $1,287 and $3,407 respectively. On our last record, we didn’t have the capital to even make the CDs, so I took from my personal savings to buy our first 300 stock and paid myself back when it was possible, using the profit to order our next batch. The thing about music manufacturing, like all manufacturing, is that your price point is on a sliding scale based on quantity. It’s in your best interest to buy by the thousand. Any less, and your profit margin on each disc takes a hit. At 1,000 stock, each disc is 90% profit.

Vinyl has always been a dream before, but creating the original master/mother/licker/stamper comes at an exorbitant rate. After that, you can reorder stock cheaper, but it takes a lot of work to makes those original plate. The $3,407 is for just 200 records. That’s $17 a piece. We can’t mark that up too far before it becomes unrealistic, maybe $25. Not getting rich off that.

As to the publicist: we do believe this is the best record we’ve ever made. We work our butts off on the road and we love every person that’s come out on purpose to see us the last few years, and even those who came by accident but then listened anyway. But we still play a lot of shows for 20 people and we’d like that number to increase. There’s only so much Facebook posting your new record. We need folks with prominent positions to write nice things about us so that people in cities where we don’t live will want to come see us and buy this record. I don’t want to patronize you—I’m sure you know the role of a publicist. We’ve never had one, and the mentors I’ve had in the music industry have guided me to this hire as the necessary next step for our band to grow. And we budgeted on the conservative side for this. I was encouraged to make it $5,000.

Now down to the grit of the thing. We didn’t raise $16,000. We raised about $12,000. Which is still amazing. That number symbolizes to Jacob and me and the rest of the folks invested in this project how many people believe in us and our songs, and that means the world to me. Sincerely.

Kickstarter works on a model that is all-or-nothing. If you don’t raise the goal amount, you don’t keep any. In the last few minutes of our campaign, we borrowed the remaining 4k and filled the meter so we wouldn’t lose the 12k you all had already kicked in. 12 is better than 0, and we were already in the hole for the record, because we tracked it during the same timeframe as the Kickstarter ran.

Now we find ourselves a few thousand dollars short with which to accomplish the things we’ve said we want to do. Scrap the vinyl? No can do—you’ve already pre-ordered it. Ditch the publicist? We want this record to carry us to a new plane, and I don’t think it’s going to make it onto All Songs Considered for all my emailing. We need some people with credence in our corner.

So what’s next?

For one, I’ll be putting pre-order bundles on our store to run until the record comes out in July. Hopefully that can help fill in the gap. We’re going to be trying to trim the budget in any way possible. I’m going to shop with different vinyl manufacturers and see if I can pit them against one another like capitalist bulldogs.

And I’m borrowing again. I’m not in the personal fiscal situation to lend myself $4,000. That money doesn’t exist. But we have some people who believe in us and our good faith, so we will be working to pay the money back as we tour on the new record.

It may not strike you as professional or even wise to be so transparent about our finances, but I honestly wanted our backers to know everything. We’ve said it from the beginning that embarking on a campaign like this is a collaboration. You didn’t just buy something or donate money—you partnered with us in a creative endeavor. And for that we are thankful. You don’t hide the finance report from your business partner.

Money’s not that important to me, which is good, because I’m an independent musician. But we do need it to keep making things, and you recognized that, and I’m thankful to all 176 of you who helped.

Spring Tour

Check out these dates and catch Joshua on the road this month!
Joshua Powell of the Great Train Robbery

3/12 at Chicory Cafe in South Bend, IN w/ Jason Moon​
3/13 at The Coffee Peddlar in Harrison, OH- My Brother’s Keeper​ CD Release Show
3/14 at Bifferhaus Brewing Co. in Jackson, MI
3/15 at Rivoli in Toronto, ON w/ Mackenzie McRuer​ and Bekah Hawker​
3/17 at The Smiling Buddha in Toronto, ON w/ Marshall Veroni​ and Missy Bauman​
3/19 at The Piston in Toronto, ON w/ Julie Arsenault​ and Emily Jill West​
3/20 at Boulder Coffee Co. in Rochester, NY
3/21 at Pittsburg Winery in Pittsburg, PA w/ Good Brother Earl​
3/22 at MuggSwiggz in Canton, OH
3/22 later at Buzzbin in Canton, OH
3/25 at 5th Quarter Lounge in Indianapolis, IN w/ Scott Samuels​
3/27 at The Source in Menasha, WI w/ The Traveling Suitcase​
3/28 at Tonic Room in Chicago, IL w/ Steven Leaf & The Ex Pats​ and Valentiger​
3/30 at Cotton House in Columbia, MO
3/31 at BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups in St. Louis, MO w/ The Barn Mice​
4/2 at The Bard’s Town in Louisville, KY
4/3 at The 86 Club in Cincinnati, OH with Celestials​