Is Joel Hodgson About to Break the Kickstarter Model?

Let's get the fanboying out of the way. They did it! MST3K is coming back. Woo!

Ok, now to the sciencey bit.

The funding vs time graph of crowdfunding campaigns typically follow one of two trajectories. In the first, it's something that's long awaited, hyped ahead of time, and starts gathering funds the moment it goes live. The funds follow a steep line from T=0. In the other, it might take some time for word to spread. They start slow, but grow exponentially as knowledge of them spreads through the social networks.

Both models have a second phase. Once word has spread through the target community, things start to slow down. The growth levels off. If they're lucky, it slows down after it crossed the funding target. If not, it's just about impossible to build a second wave of momentum.

The Bring Back MST3K campaign looks set to break the pattern. The difference is in the way they structured their goals and reward levels.

As with many Kickstarter campaigns, there are multiple funding levels to chose from, offering a spectrum of rewards, each one adding a new reward on top of the rewards from the lower funding levels. In this case, you have...

  • $10 - This is the "Just Helping" level many campaigns have. You don't get any significant reward other than knowing that you helped out.
  • $25 - Access to the live streamed premier, and a pack of wallpapers ad ringtones.
  • $35 - A digital download of the first episode, a thank you note on the website and on twitter, and a collectible postcard
  • $50 - A T-shirt
  • $75 - A coffee mug and a set of postcards
  • $100 - DRM-free, digital downloads of all the episodes made and a keychain.
  • and so on ...

The rewards continue with posters, a box set, a collectors tape, personalized voicemail greetings, and so one up to a seat in the producer's chair, a guest appearance, and owning an actual puppet from the show. Sorry folks, the last two are already gone.

Or are they......

Take a look at the stretch goals.

Bring Back MST3K Stretch Goals

The goals are set so that the more they bring in, the more episodes get made. Combine that with the multiple funding levels and you can see a mechanism for a second, or even third wave of funding. At the time of this writing (with 22 days to go), there are just over 5000 backers at the $100 level, but over twice that in the levels below $100. As the stretch goals are met, rewards below $100 are fixed, but the rewards at $100 and over become more valuable. Being able to download six episodes is twice as valuable as being able to download three. As each stretch goal is met it's entirely plausible that we could see migrations of backers from the lower levels toward the upper ones as differential in the rewards increases.

A smaller effect could be seen at the >=$5000 funding levels. More episodes means more slots available for producers seat ($7500); appearing in a show ($5000 or $6000); contributing your own inside joke ($6500); more authentic puppets from an episode ($10k for one, $10k for both); and sitting in as a writter on an episode($10k). I haven't been able to find a statement about whether Joel will be opening more slots at those levels as more episodes become available, but it seems like an obvious move. Almost all of the rewards over $5k are already taken. It's safe to assume that if more become available, they'll go quickly too.

Kicktraq is currently projecting that it will reach all the stretch goals. I'll be interested to see what the shape of the curve looks like when it's all done.