The Kickstarter Phenomenon: Democratic Capitalism
As almost every aspect of our society becomes interconnected and evolved, it would only make sense that commerce evolves as well. Kickstarter is a manifestation of the new global economy, fulfilling the role of an accessible platform for anyone to spread a movement. The company, which was created in 2009, now serves as the world’s largest crowdfunding platform. Upon the launch of the program, one of the members of the board, Andy Baio stated; “The model is simple: a project creator sets a fundraising goal, deadline, and an optional set of rewards for backers. If the goal’s reached by the deadline, then everyone’s charged via Amazon Payments and the backers get their goodies. If the goal’s not reached, nobody’s charged. It’s all or nothing.” As of this year, Kickstarter has pledged $920 million total dollars to Kickstarter projects and successfully funded 53,681 projects. One of the reasons it has been so popular is the community it creates. People are empowered to be a part of something they feel passionately enough to donate money to.
While an inspiring outlet for every young entrepreneur, some have become skeptical about the company’s evolution. The first successful project was titled “Drawing for Dollars”. The artist “darkpony” states “I like drawing pictures and then I color them too. So i thought I would suggest something for me to draw and then if someone wants me to draw it then they can put in some pennies and then I’ll draw it and color it.” The idea is simple, with the intention to be an accessible way to reach out to people willing to contribute. (Drawing for dollars art below)
Of course, the benefits of Kickstarter have become apparent to more than just “Joe Schmo” in his living room drawing pictures. A recent article went viral with the title, “Thanks to Kickstarter, Zach Braff Finally Has Millions of Dollars”. Many celebrities and higher profile entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the system and raising an obscene amount of money, despite the fact they have the means to lean on more traditional forms of donation. While some argue that this deters the smaller projects from presenting their work, others claim that it forms a trickle down effect, and that everyone benefits. In my opinion, I believe the latter of the two is true. With the amount of ways to create exposure, there is no excuse to be shadowed by larger undertakings. Looking at Kickstarter’s “most funded page since 2009” the projects featured are truly remarkable, and it is amazing that their efforts could be realized. Some projects reach beyond the realm of art and creativity and also raise questions for political activism. One very dynamic endeavor that stands out would be Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry by Alison Klayman. The documentary follows the Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei, and his unfair treatment by the Chinese government. Klayman’s goal for the project was $20,000, and she managed to raise $52,175. It just goes to show the power of the internet when people are exposed to meaningful content.
Another great inspiration would be Amanda Palmer. She is an American musician who reached out to fans via Kickstarter in 2012 to help fund a new album. She broke the record at the time for most funds raised, reaching $1,192,793. A great article on Techdirt discussing Palmer’s success states; “It’s not about an “us vs. them” model — which is how the legacy industry players too frequently frame things. It’s about an inclusive model, where it’s about more than money. It’s about an emotional investment in the artist and the outcome. People don’t begrudge the success, because it’s not just Amanda’s success. It’s the success of everyone who supported her”. Palmer understood the landscape and how to speak to people through new media, which is why she achieved great things. To conclude, I’ve included a video below of Palmer sharing her story at TedTalks.