A website called Kickstarter.com is making an extraordinary contribution to the arts — broadly defined here as art, comics, dance, design, fashion, food, film, music, games, photography, theatre, and writing. It isn’t only artistic projects, either. Kickstarter accepts “creative projects,” which include everything from an iPod Nano wristwatch to heat-absorbing metallic beans to cool your coffee. Kickstarter is, as far as I can tell, the most successful grassroots funding platform on the Internet.
Crowd-sourced funding is a brilliant concept. People who seek funding for a project post it at Kickstarter, and regular folks can donate whatever they wish to the project — from $1 on up to thousands. In exchange, they receive a reward for their contribution. It may be a mention of the donor’s name in the project’s credits, copies of a movie on DVD, a limited edition of a given book or product, or a gourmet dinner at the artist’s house. In short, it’s like pitching an idea from a soapbox in the town square.
And it is genius.
While there is an opaque pre-screening process before one may post a project, from what I can tell, there is no blatant political skew to the projects selected. For all I know, perhaps there is one, but there’s not yet any evidence of that. Every project is, quite simply, someone’s dream, regardless of where they stand politically. Each project is an expression of individual ambition and exceptionalism in a certain discipline. Each individual is given space aplenty to detail their project so that potential donors can choose of their own free will if they want to fund it or not.
In perusing all the projects that have been completed or are in the process of being funded, I am blown away by the breadth and depth of the offerings. There truly appears to be something here for everyone.
Don’t be fooled; the arts are important. They are particularly important to child development, and due to the financial mismanagement of public schools, they are being ignored in that regard. They are important for any number of other reasons I’ve outlined here and here.
There’s certainly been plenty of controversy over whether or not government should be funding the arts, but Kickstarter proves that any artist has the potential to fund his project through the free market if he can give a compelling presentation why others should financially support it. Yes, the free market exists in the arts, and Kickstarter demonstrates that it not only works well, but works like gangbusters.
In 2010, Kickstarter successfully funded almost 4000 projects and raised over $27 million for them — an average of almost $7,000 per project. There were a staggering 386,000 pledges, meaning the average pledge was only $71. That regular folks were willing to put up a small amount of money in this economy to help someone fund a project is really quite amazing.
And, in true American spirit, Kickstarter itself is able to stay afloat by taking a small commission on each project.
Kickstarter’s success is delivering vital and important messages to all Americans:
Pursue your dream. Others will help.
You have a voice. Express it.
Don’t let anybody tell you it can’t be done.
I would encourage BIG readers to check out Kickstarter and find a project to fund.