Alaina is a poet, performer, and D-I-Y artist living in Boston, Massachusetts. Alaina’s latest book, a collection of erotic poetry entitled Whenever I’m Finished was published by JMC Aggregate this past April.
Emma Seddon is an Account Manager at Dynamo PR. She has worked on a number of consumer tech and mobile clients, including recent launches for Cambridge University Press and SwiftKey. Seddon has previously worked for the Independent and the Bank of England.
Kickstarter is no longer just a crowdsourcing platform. It's a fame vehicle! Hopes&Fears challenged Alaina Stamatis, a performance artist and erotic poetry writer with a penchant for public displays of absurdism, to go make a viral Kickstarter. As soon as her campaign launched (lovingly dubbed “Dickstarter”), we knew something was off.
Luckily, the kind folks behind Dynamo PR - a public relations company famous for helping tech start-ups achieve successful Kickstarter campaigns - were kind enough to agree to evaluate and score Stamatis’s project, to a meticulous degree. Here's what went down and what went "wrong."
The only Kickstarters for me are the mad ones
It is my deepest belief that all children should take improv classes, if only to familiarize themselves with humiliating failure. Before improv can be funny or innovative, participants are routinely humbled, as skits flounder and nobody laughs. You watch your peers flop and develop a comfortable empathy; the bruises are imaginary, the pain is brief, nobody dies and everybody gets stronger. The main law is that you can never say no.
In the way that young swimmers develop broad shoulders that can last a lifetime, an improv-ised mind never perceives failure as an absolute, but rather a misdirection and a recalculation on the GPS of life. Kickstarter is structured to test this.
AirBnB Overnight Artist
Residency In NYC
In the first six months of this year, dog loads of artists in the do-it-yourself, non-profit sector were granted "residencies" at "hotels," in celebration of insomnia and in conjunction with this demographic's inability to afford a hotel room. Being "thrown" corporate bones in these circles is often frowned upon while simultaneously impossible to catch! And if I've learned one thing from hanging around impoverished maniacs, it's that ya gotta run miles with any legs you can get your paws on.Presumably, on the floor of the living room of some struggling New Yorker's modest apartment, I can make some of the most interesting and sexually infuriating work of my life. And lord knows it'll be documented! See the full Kickstarter here.
Shall I compare thee to a viral Kickstarter campaign? Thou art more conceptually sound and more attainable
We live in a post-Everybody Hates Kickstarter world, where nobody needs to verbalize a distaste for the ubiquitous crowdsourcing site. Large companies and commercially funded artists, already decorated with oodles of ill-begotten money, use Kickstarter to seduce the media illiterate into believing that their own $50 would be better served swirling in a digital gold toilet.
If you are just a person with a big, dazzling dream, you will fail to reach your goal on Kickstarter. I was completely aware of this as I sat up, still in my underwear, the ends of my hair soaked and sprinkled with artificial lime crystals, and looked straight into the camera. "Don't live like a dawg," I said in my Long Island accent, exposing the gap from my missing front tooth with a menacing smile and rubbing my own belly for good luck.
I started my Kickstarter campaign with little prior thought (improv!). My initial idea was to raise funds to stay in the most expensive Airbnb in New York City, like a private penthouse of some architectural wonder on Bond Street. This would be my attempt to waste the most money possible while mocking both crowdsourced funding and luxury housing shares. Ultimately, I came to recognize that even if everybody rags on Kickstarter, if I choose to use it, I should pretend to respect it.
Overall messaging: 2/10
— The key point missing on Alaina's page is clarity. It is not clear exactly what is being offered (an Air BnB room? post cards? a blow job?) or why Alaina is seeking crowdfunding.
— Backers will expect overall key points and the what, where, how, why are missing, as well as the tone lacking in enthusiasm and confidence. Kickstarter is crucial to building your community, and this page does nothing to facilitate that.
— The title card of the video "Just trying T o suc k T he dick L ess R idden" is vague (why do you need Kickstarter funding to enact fellatio?) and inappropriate for an under 18 audience. The more faint hearted will be put off for the reason of not wanting to involve themselves with vulgarity.
— Normally, it’s never too early to start the ball rolling with planning production, manufacturing and delivery. However, as the tangible product that backers will receive is so abstract with this project, it becomes unclear as to how to approach communicating this to backers.
I noted that the Ace Hotel in Herald Square had bestowed residencies to artists in the fields of net art, ceramic sculpture, and psychedelic food photography, granting participants a two-night stay in order to chill in robes and make work. I'm not a jealous person, especially regarding the accomplishments of others, but the unlikelihood that I would ever be awarded such a fun time really tore me apart.
With these thoughts billowing in my coffee I decided to campaign for an inexpensive Airbnb in Brooklyn where I could create. Recreationally, I write and recite erotic poetry, so I could use the temporary environment as a writers retreat. I didn't bother to go into great detail to explain this concept in the project description section of my Kickstarter because I wanted to steer the campaign toward utter lunacy.
I decided to offer two ridiculous intangible awards (for $20 you can Instagram as fad_albert for 24 hours, and for $50 I'll be In A Relationship with you on Facebook for one week) and several pieces of text art: for $5 I'll mail you a handmade postcard covered in filthy phrases to make your mail carrier and Craigslist roommates foam out the mouth; for $20 I'll mail you three binder dividers with dirty poems—the titles are written in the colored tabs so you can flip to them quickly and recite them; and for $50 I'll mail you a naughty acrostic of your name and email you a private erotic video (content TBD).
Titled, "AirBnB Overnight Artist Residency in NYC," my Kickstarter did not inherently gain much traction. Days passed and nobody donated anything. I felt too embarrassed to post it to my social media with $0.00 raised and 27 Days to Go. I began to detect that if I wanted anybody to look at it, the Kickstarter itself would need to be its own living and breathing art project.
The page and pledge levels: 3 / 10
— An inconsistent use of capitalising letters makes the campaign appear unprofessional. These grammatical errors plague the page . While a number of artists and designers make good use of explicitly using l ower case letters in titles, in Alaina's case it makes her page appear rushed and sloppy.
— Five pledge levels do not add enough variety for a wide Kickstarter audience, and the deliveries of the pledge levels are confusing. Why can a $5 postcard be shipped to Mexico, but a $20 poem can only be shipped to the United States? There are too many pledge levels at the same price. Breaking up these pledge levels into different tiers would create more demand from backers willing to fund at different levels.
— The $20 pledge level "you will be given my Instagram password for 24 hours" has the potential for fun, however in the wrong hands her password could be changed forever by the backer, and Alaina would be locked out of her Instagram account.
— Such a risk is missing from the "Risks and challenges section", along with the other risks of sharing an Air BnB room with Alaina and two bottles of organic wine. This section would benefit from being fleshed out, as at the moment the process does not look properly evaluated.
— However, the goal amount is low and realistic, something which some campaigns get wrong as they aim too high.
For my main video, I attempted to inspire the viewer's ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response—to experience a tingling sensation as a result of stimuli). I poured small pieces of pasta, cat treats, and cayenne pills (said to improve circulation but they mostly gave me heartburn) into glass bowls and rustled them while wearing a bunch of rings. I whispered gently in hopes of softly arousing generosity. It occurred to me that this whole process (joke fundraising, identifying as an artist, making videos, etc) would be much easier if I constructed a body of erotic videowork.
The video I used for Update #1 was made on my boyfriend Nick's couch. It was 10 seconds long, and documented three hard slaps he gave my ass, while some space lounge music played from a small speaker nearby. I was wearing lace tights without underwear, and before YouTube took the video down (and rejected my appeal!), the Autoplay feature paired the short with a cartoon clip of Popeye spanking one of his nephews.
The second video was filmed with the assistance of my video artist friend Miles Pflanz. "I want to keep my name as far away from this project as possible," he asked in exchange for his assistance filming and editing, but I also bought him tacos and wine.
The video: 3 / 10
— Kickstarters live or die by their videos, and they need to be upbeat, engaging and snappy. Alaina 's video is roughly a good length –albeit a bit too long - coming in at 3:30 minutes, but is off message and the quality of the video looks poor and low res.
— Kickstarter backers are used to slick videos with a high production value, and in a world where iPhone 4s are capable of filming relatively high res videos, we would suggest Alaina reshot hers and steered away from grainy 90's type VHS footage.
— Whilst snappiness is key, Alaina spends the best part of her 3 minute video leisurely stroking at a pan of cous cous . Whilst this "artistic" approach will appeal to some, the video content should give context to the goals of her campaign, and no where in the copy is caressing a lobster or rearranging dog biscuits in a tray mentioned as part of this process.
I took off my pants in a backyard that was primarily moist dirt marked by patches of thick grass and the smell of animal waste sauteing in the sun. I tied the bottom front tails of my denim-collared-shirt to reveal my pudgy pink stomach and neon green thong. I sunk onto all-fours and slinked,seductively, past lumps of pitbull droppings (and the flies that love them!), until I reached a silvery bowl that read "WATER"; technically the bowl had water in it, but it was mixed carelessly with the contents of a green Jell-O box that we had found on the ground. Then I dropped my head, released my tongue, and lapped.
If learned one thing during the whole process, it's that when your mouth is encrusted with sweet gelatin you lure in more ants than you'll be able to farm with. From this point downward, I referred to the project as my Dickstarter.
I had been feeling obsessed with dripping liquids into my belly button. For my third video update, I laid down in the bathroom at work during office hours, and with my phone in one hand and a bottle of dark blue ink in the other, I recorded navy droplets hitting my flesh silently and shining.
Dickstarter: I want to make a potato salad with my feet
At the mention of "viral Kickstarter," the healthy human mind either collapses for safety or returns the painful image of 2014's I Want To Make Potato Salad by the seemingly unremarkable human being Zack Danger Brown.
As Memorial Day approached I realized I needed to make a video that fetishizes potato salad production. I placed a plate of boiled and cubed potato on my fire escape. I adorned my feet in jewelry and placed them in the center. I chronicled the scene as my toes wiggled and ropes of mayonnaise whipped across my feet in the style of a very thick and heavy ejaculate.
Backer communications: 0 / 10
— Backers need to be kept informed of the latest updates, whether it’s a short message announcing that the campaign has launched, or regular updates as to how the campaign is going.
— The better your backer communications, the more likely that backers will continue to fund your campaign (remember pledges can be withdrawn anytime up to the campaign closure), and talk about it with others.
— Unfortunately, Alaina has completely missed this essential part of marketing her campaign, with zero information post launch.
The most heroic viral Kickstarter will always be Amanda Palmer's campaign from 2012. In her video, the performer dressed as a Geisha and held up cue cards that begged in ugly handwriting and then tossed them to the sidewalk wildly. She complimented this action by contorting her powdered face with exaggerated, manic sneers, and then ran across Massachussetts Avenue barefoot. With the upmost respect I made my own video with a Korean mask sheet over my face. I decided that rather than ask for donations, I would simply use my handwritten cue cards to recite an erotic poem on my behalf.
You're nobody 'til somebody funds you
I have an old friend whose mother is a really cool artist and she once told me a story about a big art show she had 20 years ago. She was extremely excited and nervous for the show, and in anticipation she visited a psychic. It was the first time anyone, let alone a creative adult, had told me that they saw a psychic for practical purposes, but once that shock subsided the rest of the story sank in: the psychic told her that the show would not be a pinnacle in her career, that despite the focus it required, the exhibition would not have a lasting impact. The opening night came and went like any other, and the psychic was right.
I clearly failed to impact my generation with my senselessly sexual crowdsourcing campaign. I may have fantasized that this would be my big digial break, but it was not an expectation. However, the experience has absolutely extended a creative dialogue I've been having with myself. And it may have seduced a few people into joining the conversation.
I'm going to continue to make content for the Dickstarter until the time runs up, and I will stay in an Airbnb next month for a night or two and write as many erotic poems as possible; topics for the poems may include failure, ropes of mayonnaise, my Airbnb accommodations, and my life.
As of publication date, Alaina has received $259 of her $250 goal.
Conclusion: 2 / 10
— The most positive takeaway from Alaina's Kickstarter campaign is that her funding goal is set at $250.
— She has passed her funding target, no doubt thanks to the wallets of her friends and family, but Alaina is unlikely to reach above and beyond this. Even for the most adventurous Brooklyn hipster types this campaign is probably too niche.
COVER PHOTO via airbnb.com