Say you’re a wayward explorer wishing to sail around the world promoting sustainability, but you don’t quite have the pocket money to see such a voyage through. Perhaps your goals are less lofty, and you simply want to finish that folk album that’s all in your head but as yet unrecorded. Brooklyn-based startup Kickstarter is here to get you moving, providing an online community where artists and micro-patrons can connect, providing much-needed funds to creative types of all stripes while allowing those with a little spare cash to involve themselves in an artists’ creative endeavors, one dollar at a time.
Kickstarter is not an investment site, nor is it a non-profit, tax-deductible donation vehicle. Rather, the site aims to provide seed money to artists through a collection of small donations from a wide range of patrons; in exchange, those donors gain insider’s access to the project and usually walk away with something commemorative of their patronage. For instance, for supporting a musician in recording an independent album, a $10 donation might get a patron an advance of the finished product, while a $25 investment might score tickets to a live performance and a $50 might gain access to a backstage, face-to-face with the band.
For most, that sense of inclusion in an artist’s work seems to be paying off, and the incentives artists offer can be as quirky as the projects themselves. One Montreal group, seeking funding to build a 16-antenna, room-sized Theremin so they can play music with their entire bodies, will send patrons a joke with their name in it for $2. Five dollars gets you a picture of what they think you look like based on your name. Other projects offer more access to an effort in progress. Christopher Waddell, a Paralympic athlete attempting to become the first paraplegic to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, will give $50 donors access to a Web site where they can follow his progress as he attempts to handcycle to the peak. A mere $9,950 more lands patrons a credit in the accompanying documentary film.
Kickstarter raised about $300,000 for its own launch, but for now is turning no profit, as every dollar donated goes direct to the projects, and so far that’s no paltry sum. More than $400,000 in micro-donations have been spread across nearly 400 ideas that likely would have gone unfunded otherwise. Right now, all projects are selected by Kickstarter’s founders, but eventually the site will be opened to anyone, at which point the founders will consider charging a processing fee for transactions. Because everyone deserves a little compensation in exchange for creativity.