In its fifth year Kickstarter remains the preferred avenue for bringing projects to life. Across the Margin debates whether this should still be the case…
This past summer Kickstarter simplified its rules regarding project acceptance. These lower qualifications, it could be argued, have diminished the Kickstarter brand as a whole, and many are implying that the idea of crowdfunding has “jumped the shark.” Kickstarter has even introduced a “Launch Now” feature that allows project creators to bypass the network’s traditional approval process altogether. Things have certainly changed, but a half decade into its existence Kickstarter continues to attract backers and turn out innovative and successful projects. We examine the merits of Kickstarter in light of their most recent changes.
Point: There’s an old saying that goes, “it takes money to make money.” While this certainly makes sense, the fact of the matter is that too many talented people, with ingenious ideas and diverse visions, simply do not have the resources to invest in their projects. This is limiting, not only in that it denies people the opportunity to chase their dreams, but in that it retards technological and artistic ingenuity as a whole. The next great artist or inventor is out there. But that potential prodigy might not have the financial means to realize their vision. This is where Kickstarter comes into play, and what it has been excelling at for the last five years ((The amount pledged on Kickstarter grew from $28m in 2010 to $480 million in 2014, of which about 85% of projects winding up successfully funded)), allowing those with creative visions the possibility to change the world. And the recent changes will only lead to more doors being opened to more capable minds. In total, 70,036 Kickstarter projects have been funded to date, circumnavigating traditional avenues of investment and lending credence to the notion that it is the peoples National Endowment for the Arts.
Counterpoint: Kickstarter is akin to on-line panhandling. It is increasingly hard to stomach the plenteous outstretched arms encumbering the world wide web. It is no wonder many of these beggars turn to crowdfunding to support their ill-conceived pipe dreams, as any prudent investor wants nothing to do with these incongruous plans. Honestly, how many diseases have been cured from Kickstarter campaigns? How many starving communities have been nourished? Kickstarter supports the bottom-feeders of the world, the creatives who simply put, aren’t that creative. Kickstarter has indeed “jumped the shark,” and the current changes in Kickstarter’s approval process are a blatant attempt to simply increase revenue.
Point: Kickstarter opens doors that would normally remain closed. Not everything in life is about money. The Arts are what make life worth living; it is Culture that defines a civilization. And Kickstarter allows so many talented people the opportunity to contribute. I mean, without Kickstarter there wouldn’t exist the likelihood of a Run the Jewels 2 remix album produced by El-P and composed entirely with cat sounds. That alone is enough to support the platform, but the possibilities for innovation and cultural advancement are endless.
Counterpoint: See, right therein lies the problem. Why in god’s name do we need a hip-hop album remixed with cat sounds? How does this benefit the greater world in any way shape or form? It’s a novelty album that one would listen to once (at most), without garnering any true satisfaction. Not all Art is good Art, and some Art is better left unmade. Kickstarter is an outright enabler of awful ideas, needlessly wasting time, resources, and money that could be used in so many other fruitful endeavors.
Point: Not all Art needs to be beautiful to be considered great. If all Art were considered beautiful, would not the definition of beauty cease to exist? Kickstarter allows it backers to chose what they consider “beautiful” and it is up to those of us who experience the fruit of these endeavours to decide whether we deem its existence worthy. This is what makes Kickstarter so great. It is high time that artists and innovators get paid for their work, and if not paid, that they do not pay out of pocket for their creativity and innovation. Too many of the truly talented artists and musicians in the world are struggling to make ends meet. This is troubling.
Counterpoint: Kickstarter, as it is constituted at this time, is easy to take advantage of. Those backers who generously open their wallets are fleeced of hard earned money by so-called creatives using the flawed system for their benefit. The concept of Kickstarter in a vacuum is valiant, yet humanity does not reside in a vacuum. We live in a world where a band who raises $50,000 to make an album which only costs $5,000 to record, then turns around and spends the remainder of the money on equipment and cocaine.
Point: A diversified marketplace is essential to economic growth. Kickstarter allows for products to make their way to into the market that otherwise couldn’t. Possibly the greatest thing that you can say about Kickstarter is that it has lead to the democratization of innovation. Kickstarter’s new rule changes are a dream come true for those who have been frustrated with, and denied by, the old and stringent systems of the past. Many who would normally turn to lesser known platforms such as Indiegogo or RocketHub to fund their dream, which are far less visible sites thus decreasing the chances for funding, now have access to a larger, more active and dependable source of backers.
Counterpoint: Kickstarter’s favorable reputation for looking out for the little guy is oratorical, as is the idea that Kickstarter is far from a traditional marketplace. As so often is the case, Kickstarter projects are simply a front for product sales, functioning as just another thoroughfare to sell goods. The new system at Kickstarter is unquestionably going to be a problem in the long-term, with overall quality suffering, thus affecting the chances for success of any single project. In addition, discovery will become a problem with the inflated quantity of projects. So often backers who donate their money to projects are left in the dark about the roles they have played, or the progress of the project. Kickstarter’s failings are exemplified in the fact that successful creatives with money to support their own endeavors are now using Kickstarter to fund their projects, in essence taking advantage of their fans. People such as Charlie Kaufman, Dan Harmon, Zac Braff ((Howard Stern once asked Zac Braff whether people who financially supported his movies could consider themselves “producers.” Fair question.)), and Rob Thomas just to name a few.
Kickstarter, and crowdfunding in general, was original looked-upon as fad. But as the money keeps pouring in, it appears that enthusiasm and support for the idea is far from waning. The concept isn’t novel. It can trace its roots to the age-old model of arts patronage, but where Kickstarter succeeds is with its global reach. The playing field has now been leveled. Kickstarter is here, apparently, to stay. Whether it is for you and your project, well, that is up to you to decide….