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AI: Give your money to whomever you like on Kickstarter

My fellow contributor Seelix shared an article with us this morning called “Stop Giving Your Money to Rich People on Kickstarter” in which the author criticizes a) people who contribute to Kickstarter campaigns like those for the recent Veronica Mars movie and now Zach Braff’s new film, b) people like Zach Braff who are rich and could afford to fund their projects with their own money, instead of getting it rent-free from fans, and c) Kickstarter for allowing these campaigns to exist.

These criticisms are familiar to me because I have voiced many of them myself. However, my husband has a different take on it, and after a few conversations I have developed a more nuanced view. A few thoughts:

1. Do we believe that there is a limited pool of money belonging to Kickstarter supporters, that either goes to these big projects or to little independent art projects? The Veronica Mars movie has over 90,000 backers. I don’t know of any aggregate data available, but from scrolling through the list I see a mix of first-time backers and people who have backed tens or hundreds of other campaigns. I don’t see anything to support a case that people are deciding between this project or others in most cases (and if anything I bet that the campaign drew some people to Kickstarter who have since found and backed additional projects). Yes, campaigns with big names attached to them like these (and Amanda Palmer’s and DoubleFine’s and Penny Arcade’s, etc…) have an advantage when it comes to reaching potential backers, but I don’t think that’s a valid reason to keep them from using this service, especially without evidence that they are harming small campaigns.

Veronica Mars Kickstarter  Comicbookgirl19 Show Kickstarter

Looks to me like these are co-existing just fine… (click to embiggen)

2. It’s unreasonable to believe that without this support, the Veronica Mars movie wouldn’t be on the road to production. More than just funding, the success of the Kickstarter was a tangible show of support for a project that a studio did not think was tenable. Firefly fans would leap at the chance to support something like this, and the same criticisms could be made, but it would make a lot of people very happy. I do think that a DVD digital download of the media to be produced should be a required backer reward, though.

3. Along the same lines: yes, it’s possible that Zach Braff could just fund his own film. But crowdfunding campaigns do more than just raise money–they also raise awareness. One of Kickstarter’s FAQs asks, “I’d like to use Kickstarter to get my project out there, but I don’t really need money. Is that okay?” and the answer is “Absolutely. Kickstarter is about more than just money. A Kickstarter project is a great way to connect with your audience and spread the word about your work.” I get the point that article is making about lack of accountability to backers, but on the other hand, if it were me I would also jump at a chance to mitigate the risk of no one wanting to see my movie by first conducting a pretty good study of interest via crowdfunding.

4. Finally, Kickstarter curates all of the projects that appear on its pages, so it clearly doesn’t see these types of campaigns as contrary to its mission. Of course, they take a cut of the funding, so I don’t think it’s in Kickstarter’s interest to turn them away. But if they wanted to impose this type of restriction, where would the cutoff be? How would they determine who is already too successful or has access to traditional capital? I don’t these lines are as clear cut as the haters want them to be.

What do you think? Do these large-scale projects belong on a platform alongside those of small independent artists and developers? Are people wasting their money by contributing? Do we have a right to be criticizing how people are spending their money? How do you decide which crowdfunding campaigns to support? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Anne S

Anne S

Anne Sauer is an atheist with an appetite for science, good food, and making connections between the two. She is currently pursuing her MBA in Sustainable Management at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Her favorite foods are salted caramel ice cream and chicken tikka masala. You can find her on twitter @aynsavoy.

2 Comments

  1. May 13, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    At some level of success there is only a “how much time” resource constraint, but until you’re George Lucas rich there is a sliding scale of how to best use those resources you’ve accumulated. Even if Braff has his X many million in the bank one would assume it isn’t necessarily prudent for him to take all of his savings from that success and roll the dice on one film of unknown financial viability when he can take some percentage of that, judge the market for a given project and secure other funding, and have the chance to make three or four films of questionably financial viability. Though I’m unsure if Braff specifically is the person for me, I like to have the opportunity to support even more successful creators in a given endeavor.

    At the risk of derailing the discussion: One of the things that I find interesting with this sort of thing is that kickstarter is funding a project, not “investing” in it. You’re paying for a chance to experience the project on some level, but there isn’t an investment expecting a financial return. I’d be curious to see how long until an investing equivalent to kickstarter crops up (or has it and I missed it?). Something like Kiva where you put your money in, let it work to get a project off the ground, and then get that money back to re-invest in other projects (possibly with profits).

  2. May 13, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    I don’t think that’s off-topic at all. In fact, Crowdfunder is currently developing securities-based crowdfunding: http://www.crowdfunder.com/p/contribution-vs-securities/ I doubt that will be the only model proposed, but they’ve done a lot of the legal work to set it up.

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