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Kickstarter: The paradox of asking for money, when what you get is free

This blogpost sets out to see the depths of the paradox of asking backers on Kickstarer to donate to something, that is ultimately going to be free when funded.

Kasper Hviid, Blogger

November 17, 2014

6 Min Read

Background information
My team and I have made a project on Kickstarter and have been up for two weeks now. The goal is a online sound library consisting of free quality sound effects, and we have found ourselves in a hard time getting it funded. On the problem scenario I have sat down to wonder why we have not got funded as fast as we would expect from other datasets from Kickstarter would imply. 

I found a unique set of problems on why DownloadFreeSound.com is not going to happen: 

  • Target audience

  • Funding

  • A paradox 

  • Mistrust

I will now work though them to elaborate what I have found. But first we have to understand why we made the project. 

Starting the project 
Indie games is interesting. Our normal work is making sound design to game developers, and we experienced that sound effects to small games are fun. Small projects often let us work with highly passionate people. But when it comes to paying, we had to gamble upon the game being a success, before the developer could pay us. 

Our idea then came that if the sound effects was free - then even the smallest game could have audio quality, without having to roam the internet for a sound effect that ultimately is not going to cut it, either the sound would be protected by copyright or in a lesser quality. This is how we saw we could help. 

Target audience
In every marketing textbook, you will find something about the relationship between supply and demand. It will probably tell you that a free marked at some point will stabilize at a certain ideal price point and unless regulated, balance out price and the total amount of what is supplied. This relationship is of course is not static, in the sense that if prices goes down the supply goes up and vice versa. It will also tell you that the market defines what is sold. Basically: No buyers = No product. 

But what if you are not selling anything? What if you a giving it away for free? 
In an ideal world this could happen. But as everyone needs to get food on his plate, a line famously goes: 

"If you're not paying for the product, you are the product." - Unknown. 

This is to some extent true in our case, but with some variation. More on this in ''Funding''. 

Firstly we have to look that happens when we apply this to our target audience. As we found that indie game developers have a unique characteristic: Not a financially strong segment, as the name might have indicated. But this is this is exactly why we made the project. Nevertheless frustrating when asking for money from someone, when money is a scares resource. We can also see in the marketing textbook, that if the demand is high the price of the service will go up. This is exactly the problem for our target audience. We are not saying the price is unfair, as we said before it will be sold at an ideal price point, but the price is just to high for some.

So we said to each other: ''Great, we are helping where it is needed.'' We did not think there would be problems with the funding on Kickstarter. But... 

The biggest problem in every Kickstater. As I said above our target audience is not the financially strong, making impulse decisions, like funding a Kickstarter promising the moon, less likely to take place. 

So why at all Kickstarter? Simply because there is no investor to pay, making it great for us to keep the project on the cheap. We really did believe we could overcome the financial issues of our audience and reach our goal. 

But then as I stated earlier: If you are not paying, you are the product. It is true in the sense that the trusty ad banners would have had to make the costing’s of have such page go around, but not in the sense that we have shifted our focus from the main goal. It is for the game developers - not for those how would have ads on it. We could have the users pay for the banners with their own games. Thereby looping the statement. So the product ''the game developer'' pays for himself.

The paradox
We see the paradox in asking for funding, when ultimately the service is going to be free. Why not just wait it out and get it for free? I would probably do just that. I would not give two dollars to something that was free for the next guy to use. I am a bit selfish in that way you might say.  

That is unless I get something special in retune for doing so. It could be in various forms: In the form of a feeling or from a logical deduction. But appealing to feelings is fallacy as an argument; so we have tried to steer clear of doing so. Non-the less feelings are what drives people and the feeling of helping someone is great and what make us human’s unique, as helping others without being sure we will be getting something in return is something that is hardwired in us.  

It then leaves us with the logical deduction. Making it an argument of its usefulness in the future. Investments in ones future is something we all do. Be it school or buying shares in a firm. But again the paradox makes it difficult, as the dividends of ones risk will be shared with those who did not invest - Somewhat unfair as one might think, unless everyone gave something to the project.   

We see our project as something special. We really did not think there would be problems in getting funds. Our ideology when starting the project was to give everything away for free and therefore insure better quality sound effects to those who really needed it. Maybe it was because people do not trust your project?       

It was the whole goal of our project to make it free for all. We did see the paradoxical problem when starting the project and tried to get around it when we made the ‘’buy a cheap sound designer for you project’’ plegdes. Smart and cheap as we would make the sound effects to the game and then have them royalty free on the site, when it was completed. But it seems we did not succeed in doing this either. I have tracked down the problem to be something with the mistrust that surrounds the project.    

We are competent in making audio and have proven so in the sound design in the games and films we have been involved in. But for someone how have not seen them, it can be hard to be convinced of this.  

There is a sentence in silicone valley that says: ''If you build it, they will come'' and on numerous occasions it has been proven to be true. And if we did not trust the project enough to invest in the project our self, why would anyone? The problem is not that we did not trust it. The problem is we did not get everyone to believe our story and not giving everyone a good enough reason to be shooting for the moon, that we so promised. 

End note
I see I have reading this in past tense. It may seem odd given that our project is still live to January the 7., but we have little hope that it is going to become a reality. 

Although we understand there is a bit of a paradox in asking for money in creating a free sound library, we still hope it to become a reality.

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