When governments slash spending, the arts often suffer the biggest blow. With an economy crawling to recovery, many artists have turned to friends and family for financial support. Although social media websites like Facebook and Twitter have played key roles in promoting and sharing artwork, it has been smaller networks like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo that are saving the day for artists everywhere.
In a recent article in Broken Pencil Magazine, Alex Gurnham outlines how artists are tapping into a new network of supporters previously unavailable to them before the internet boom. He traces the evolution of SCAM (a ten-year-old zine that wanted to reprint its first four volumes in a single, collector’s piece volume) from startup status to a fully-funded project.
Gurnham tells how Erick Lyle, the brain behind SCAM, showcased his project on KickStarter to garner funding from a pool of interested supporters. “KickStarter,” writes Gurnham, is ” a funding platform for indie artists and companies […] It’s is a crowd funding website, a central hub of independent works-in-progress that interested donators can support.” He goes onto explain that nearly 3,000 projects have been successfully funded through the site since its launch in 2009, ranging from under $100 to tens of thousands of dollars. Erick Lyle’s project, for example, reached its goal of $5,000 after only one month of being live.
Kickstarter isn’t the only platform where artists can find crowd funding. IndieGoGo is another public network where investors can support proposed projects by donating as little or as much as they can. It’s like a government grant, only the recipients don’t have to wait months to receive their funding and the providers have more say over where their dollar is going.
The webspaces are easy to use and allow artists to pitch their projects and create customized profiles. Fundraising is tracked for audience members and campaigns get filed under subheadings like “writing,” “film,” or “theatre.”
In addition to providing funding for indie art projects, websites like KickStarter and IndeGoGo are fostering online communities. Donators become not only financially invested in the project, but they also become future audience members, as they eagerly await to see the end results. Patrons help spread the word about the great ideas that they’re supporting, and the whole project grows exponentially.
Of course, there are downsides to social media crowd-funding, as Gurnham warns: “Sites like KickStarter and IndieGoGo charge small fees and feature a vast array of projects, occasionally causing smaller efforts to get lost in the masses” he says, reminding us of the practicalities of social platforms.
Despite these drawbacks, with the right combination of time, luck, and effort, an artist could obtain enough funding to keep their project afloat or to garner enough money to get it off the ground in tough economic times,
My favorite project recently featured on IndeGoGo is Kathie Stonehouse’s “Headed to Happy,” a book which focuses on Facebook friendships. Stonehouse pitches her idea in a YouTube video, which explains how she attracted a number of followers on Facebook when she started writing inspirational quotes and sayings. She hopes to pull together her digital writing in a print edition that both focuses on finding happiness and underscores the inspirational potential of social media. Stonehouse estimates she’ll need $8,000 to fuel the project, and has already raised $1,075 in less than ten days.