Kickstarter: panhandling for the 21st Century Artist

‘Revolutionary’ method of fundraising is more passive than positive

Olson is a junior journalism major and staff writer for The Spectator. He can be reached at [email protected] or @GlenPOlson

Story by Glen Olson, Staff Writer

So, you’re an artist, an entrepreneur, a musician, a writer, a designer or you make video games. Whatever you are, you need money. So how do you get it?

Recently, the answer seems to be Kickstarter.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a Kickstarter is, it’s a website where people, or as the website terms them, “Creators,” can start a project to ask for money from “Backers” to fund their work, art,  startup for their businesses or whatever they’re doing.

And now, you are probably wondering what the problem with this is.

The problem is that it is reasonless and unnecessary. Why would people pay for a hypothetical product that has yet to be developed when most, if not all, of these people have established ways of finding funds for their work without soliciting strangers?

If simply soliciting worked well, all of the aforementioned artists and project creators should have just tried panhandling. It appears to be the same thing, but instead of sitting outside on street corners interacting with people, they appear in Facebook groups and Twitter feeds inviting you to donate to the idea of their work.

And really, again, the real question is why? I mean, if you support a band or an artist, you have the option to buy their work, go to their concerts, pay for their CD’s, t-shirts, whatever.

And maybe the actual product isn’t worth it.

But then why would hundreds or even thousands of people donate money to an idea that will tank in three months because there isn’t a market in Eau Claire for, say, a quilt shop? Or donate to pay for a band to record and produce an album without them putting an effort into performing or marketing in the community, since that seems like a vital part of selling the album in the first place?

But why not play? Why not work while supporting yourself as an artist or work longer to develop the money for your business?

It’s not a strange idea, and actually, it seems to have been a workable system that weeds out products and art that don’t actually find any market within the public, until recently, and demands an actual amount of dedication from the artists to stay with a project until it reaches people.

There’s an entire shift into this passive way of gathering funds, which Kickstarter propagates by creating its own myths for business. For example, the website states: “Mozart, Beethoven, Whitman, Twain, and other artists funded works in similar ways — not just with help from large patrons, but by soliciting money from smaller patrons, often called subscribers.”

The website goes on to explain that these subscribers would receive something for their help, like a special edition or an early copy of some work.

Kickstarter says it’s working off this model, supercharged through the power of the internet.

But as far as differences go the largest one is that instead of asking for money from individuals, you just cast the project as a net and wait for people to send in the funds, without any actual interaction.

So it’s still more similar to cyber-panhandling than setting up a group of subscribers.

They should all go back to before, when actually being able to market yourself and keep working for their achievements differentiates good artists and creators from ones who would not otherwise be successful.