Krystallina explores what Nozomi Entertainment did differently.
As you probably know by now, Nozomi Entertainment raised money to both release ARIA the ANIMATION on Blu-ray as well as give it an English dub. The Kickstarter raised almost $600,000, enough to dub the first season, its sequels, and some extras. While this is is below some other anime-related projects like the Nekopara OVA and Under the Dog, this is significantly higher than other English dub crowdfunding efforts like The Vision of Escaflowne and Skip Beat!
So what made this Kickstarter raise well over its initial goal of $110,000? What can other studios learn from ARIA‘s campaign?
Of course, many of you will say, “It’s because it’s JUST that good!” If you look at places like MyAnimeList, ARIA‘s first season (the ANIMATION) is rated respectfully in the high 7’s (7.7, 7.8-ish). Again, very good scores, and the sequels appear to to be even more highly regarded. But it’s not like other Kickstarter anime series are low-rated. And goodness knows that just because a series is loved doesn’t mean it will sell well. Plus, it is old enough to have had years to gather new fans. It’s not a series where people are blindly pledging for something they haven’t seen.
Niche but experienced publisher
A variety of companies (and even individuals) use crowdfunding. Generally, though, smaller publishers are seen as more sympathetic; large companies face more questions about why they aren’t funding the project themselves. At the same time, however, new companies and start-ups are riskier. Nozomi has been around for years, but the company is not a large-volume licensor. In addition, they are a subisdary of Right Stuf, so there’s very little to worry about in regards to shipping problems.
Stretch goals to dub additional seasons
I believe other companies would have focused on just one season, and if successful, they would promise to come back and raise funds for ARIA the Natural, and, if that went well, for the Origination as well. This seems to have been the original plan
“Much of the cost in the initial Kickstarter budget was due to the mounting of the production and getting things ready to go. Economies of scale will help us to continue to dub the series with additional episodes at a lower cost. This is why we have decided to add Season 2 as a stretch goal here; as a separate project, we would have to start a new production and the cost would be higher overall. So we certainly hope that we can reach the ultimate goal of funding Season 2 as well as this allows us to bring it to you less expensively! In fact, you’ll note that the cost for 26 episodes of Aria the Natural to be added here is not really much more than the initial 13 of Aria the Animation!
If we don’t achieve the goal of Season 2, we would use additional funds raised towards lowering the overall project cost of a future Kickstarter project for Season 2 and beyond.”
But by putting these dubs into one Kickstarter, this encourages not only new people to pledge but current backers to increase theirs. As the above mentioned, I’m sure one campaign also helps the logistics and has other benefits like one-time payment processing fees instead of multiple.
Plenty of tiers and rewards
The main point of a crowdfunding is to get your project out in the world. And the cheapest tier with the item will likely be the most popular pledge level. But it seems too many concentrate on that level and don’t put enough effort into higher and lower amounts. Have some lower levels that gives some bonuses (which are often digital in nature) to gather some money without having to spend a lot in delivering the rewards. Throw in some real high tiers just in case some individuals are interested. You never know if someone is willing to lay down hundreds if not thousands for your exclusives, and that’s often worth more than a dozen average backers. In this case, out of over 2,000 backers, 20 pledged $500 or more to ARIA, and more than 150 requested digital-only rewards. Options, options, options!
Plus the actual bonuses included some popular products that people of all ages could enjoy (mug, art cards), and they also had an add-ons.
The ARIA Kickstarter also had something more campaigns should consider. They had levels where people could request just the Blu-rays. A lot of exclusives are nice, but some people don’t care about behind-the-scenes information or little tchotchkes they’ll never use. A lot of these types of buyers will just wait for the retail release in that case, but this Kickstarter at least tried to encourage them to essentially preorder the item.
An Ask Me Anything on Reddit. Ads across the Internet. Plenty of updates throughout the campaign. Advance notice that crowdfunding was planned. Obviously, people need to know about your crowdfunding project, but they also want assurances and more information. It’s even better when you give your immediate plans and show that you are ready to go even before you collect your first dollar.
Clearly stated release plans
One question crowdfunding campaigns for a product should be prepared to answer is the retail release. Will the item be available elsewhere, and how is it different from the Kickstarter version? I felt really bad for those who backed The Vision of Escaflowne for the Collector’s Edition and were receiving months after people who bought it on Amazon, Right Stuf, and other stores. (And at a significantly lower price to boot — double ouch!) The campaign clearly states there will be a small second chance window and a six-month delay on the retail version. This promise helps assuage fears that the Kickstarter version is more than just a version with some exclusives that you are paying a significant sum for (and may be waiting for) versus the mass market edition.
Congrats to Nozomi Entertainment and all the fans who wanted a HD release and/or English dub. Of course, it’s not over until everyone has their rewards in their hands, but hopefully future anime-related crowdfunding campaigns take a few tips on this one.