Fire(Kick)starter

A couple of months ago I attended an informational workshop for Kickstarter, which opened it’s doors for Canadian based creators on September 9th, 2013.

My brain-cogs have been churning ever since.

Kickstarter Canada

I knew a bit about Kickstarter and Indiegogo but didn’t think they could apply to me – a visual artist.

In my mind crowdfunding was something that independent musicians (Amanda Palmer), filmmakers (Rob Thomas), and game developers were allowed to participate in, but not visual artists.  For some reason – before I had even investigated the parameters or looked into what types of projects were being offered – I had deemed myself, as a visual artist, ineligible for crowdfunding.

What I learned at the workshop blew my mind: on the US Kickstarter site, projects classified as art constitute the fourth most launched projects out of 14 categories.  Painters, illustrators, sculptors, performance artists – all of these creatives (and more) are using Kickstarter to fund such things as the making of work, mounting an exhibition, and travel and attendance to residencies.  Some artists, Lenka & Michael for example, use the Kickstarter platform to fund large, ongoing works, creating quirky and witty campaigns that are works of art in and of themselves.  With the exception of “fund my life” type projects, it seems campaigns are limited only by artists’ imaginations.

I CAN’T EXPRESS HOW DAMN INSPIRING THIS IS.  It’s definitely put a fire in my belly.

For those of you unfamiliar with how it all works: Indiegogo and Kickstarter proffer various projects to prospective patrons.  Projects present several options for supporters – usually 5 to 7 tiers (from as little at $1.00 up to, well, whatever the creator is ballsy enough to ask for) with a reward offered at each backing level.  The higher the dollar amount donated, the more grand the reward.

But Kickstarter differs from Indiegogo in two major ways: 1) the proposed project must fit into at least one of 14 creative categories, and 2) the project must fully meet it’s funding goal 100% or 0% of the funds are collected.  While the latter may be one of the biggest criticisms against Kickstarter, the spokesperson leading the workshop felt that it is this all-or-nothing policy that pushes folks to make their project succeed.  Her personal experience dictated that once a project managed to reach the 30% funded mark it almost always went on to get fully funded, as once funding reaches this crucial point the artists don’t want to “lose” the backing they’ve generated so far.

Kickstarter campaigns are (almost) completely self-driven.  It is up to you and your contacts (and the contacts of their contacts) to promote your campaign, generating interest and supporters from your network.  If your project is worthy and your video is engaging enough, your campaign might by chosen by staff as a favourite.  This brings your project to the forefront of the site, potentially attracting a slew of backers from outside your network.

I think the crowdfunding platform spoons nicely with Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans and it seems it could be a viable alternative to shrinking government and provincial arts funding; the success rate for launched art projects at Kickstarter is over 48% – better odds than Canada Council or provincial arts council grants.  It certainly has me wondering if spending the time to fill out a grant application would be better spent developing a kick-ass Kickstarter campaign.

Besides, I’ve daydreamed about having a patron for decades – how awesome would it be to have many, many mini-patrons?

What’s your opinion of crowdfunding?  Have you ever run your own campaign?  Have you ever backed a campaign?  Please share your experience in the comments.

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