Are the famous and/or ‘resource rich’ the future of Kickstarter?

Written by Lisa Canning

Are the famous and/or ‘resource rich’ the future of Kickstarter?

Currently Kickstarter is really clear who they serve.  On their website they state they are

..for creative projects big and small, serious and whimsical, traditional and experimental. Small projects that you (or you and a few friends) can do over a weekend are perfect for Kickstarter. In fact, the most common projects on Kickstarter are not blockbusters but smaller projects that raise $5,000 or less.

No where on Kickstarter does it say that “size matters,” and yet when I think of Kickstarter I think of their most common projects; the ones you find in bulk on their website that are quirky, charming and yes small. I have always felt that Kickstarter is for the unsung heros, the unrecognized- not the already famous and known. But will Obama’s JOBS Act change this?

The JOBS Act is creating a new class of business known as “emerging growth companies.” These companies would be allowed to attract investors online through crowdfunding — much the same way that groups raise money via platforms such as Kickstarter. Participants will soon be able to raise as much as $1 million a year without having to do a public offering — a step requiring state-by-state registrations that can cost thousands of dollars.

Is Seth Godin, and his “experimental” Kickstarter campaign for his new project The Icarius Deception a sign of what’s to come? The campaign raised $181,757 in 3 hours ($141,757 over his goal) and as of this post has raised $232,907- $192,907 over his stated goal with 21 days left to go.

Seth is famous, resource rich AND his “experimental” publishing project is being used to create, off the backs of this campaign, his new publishing brand,The Domino Project; powered by just the biggest book seller in the world, Amazon. The goal of the Domino Project is to create “a publisher with a tight, direct connection with readers, who is able to produce intellectual property that spreads, and can do both quickly and at low cost.” The goals of the Domino Project are the definition of Seth Godin’s already very established brand.

Is leveraging the power of already established larger brands, to make them even bigger, the future of crowdfunding?

This is what Seth states on his Kickstarter campaign:

Please help me show my publisher, the bookstores and anyone with a book worth writing that it’s possible to start a project with a show of support on Kickstarter.

The Icarus Deception is an experiment in publishing, an opportunity for real growth, an invitation to challenge your friends and something you can touch.

This is a book about the mythology of success (and failure) and how our economy rewards people who are willing to stand up and stand out. For too long, we’ve been seduced into believing we should do less. It’s time to redefine what we’re capable of.

We are all artists now, and the connection economy we’re living in relentlessly rewards those who do work that matters. Okay, you knew that. So why aren’t you?

I don’t know about you, but what does Seth Godin have to prove, like an unknown author, to his new publishing partner, Amazon?

And how does this prove that “anyone with a book worth writing that it’s possible to start a project with a show of support on Kickstarter?”  Yes, Seth is an extraordinary writer who makes us believe that we can become just like him if we listen and follow but will $5,000 do it for you? Projects under no more than $8,000 are the majority of what Kickstarter funds. Currently, if you are not famous or resource rich, this is what you can expect to raise.

I found this “experiment” particularily shocking because to me Seth is blatantly prospering off the backs of all of the Kickstarter artists “who are doing work that matters and are not experiencing ( because they are not famous or resource rich) how our economy rewards people who are willing to stand up and stand out.” I don’t consider $8,000 of funding a large reward. I have watched many incredibly talented creatives sweat it out trying to raise small amounts of money to fund records, tours, the creation of their art, and the list goes on. And now Seth is telling us “everyone is an artist” and he is setting the example through his “experimental” Kickstarter campaign.

Clearly, from his results to date, most everyone believes it’s true; everything Seth Godin writes becomes a best seller proving we should listen to his wisdom. And so an incredibly large number is willing to back- and live vicariously through- our already famous resource rich hero Seth Godin. On Kickstarter, Seth says “for too long, we’ve been seduced into believing we should do less. It’s time to redefine what we’re capable of” starting with his new book. There is no doubt what he will write and create will inspire and touch us- but experimental?  Hardly. A sign of the future of crowdfunding? Maybe.

How come Seth did not use a Kickstarter platform to build FIRST the work of a brand new author? That would have been experimental. How come he did not offer to use all funds raised above his goal of $40,000 to do so? Actually he still could- and that would be too.  However, that would have to happen after the first book he will publish through The Domino Project which is, you guessed it, another Seth Godin book: Poke the Box. Seth had to know he would far exceed his stated funding goal because most who are famous and resource rich do. I hate it when “Me First” rules.

Exactly when is it time, in the development of a career or a brand, to give back and BUILD UP the creative value of others? When is your tribe big enough?  Where is the line between creative prostitution and sharing the ‘mind of an artist’? Do you think Seth crossed it with one of his Kickstarter rewards?

5 Backers SOLD OUT (0 of 5 remaining)

Your story, told. I’ll interview you and write at least a paragraph about something brave or powerful or remarkable you’ve done or built–and include it in all editions of The Icarus Deception. I can offer this without fear of being stuck or compromising the work because everyone has something artistic in their history (and their future). Also includes everything in the No-Brainer level. Also includes access to the preview digital edition.

What do you think? I would love to know.

There are other resource rich creatives who have used Kickstarter to raise money too.  In 2011, Tom Hanks’ son Colin Hanks raised $92,025, $42,025 over his goal, to  fund a documentary about Tower Records  All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records via Kickstarter.  Do you think its ok that his father Hank tweeted  to 4.3 million followers about his project but never mentioned it was his son he was promoting?

I found some pretty interesting commentary on the TechDirt blog about Colin’s campaign, including some interesting comments posted from the why? department. Here is an excerpt from their post:

..they’re almost all angry that someone like Colin Hanks would use Kickstarter for something like this.

Here’s a somewhat representative sample:

Seems to me that the meaning of Grass Roots is lost on the hollywood elite.

It is not about rich people taking money from people on kickstarter and using it to fund a film without any kind of investor responsibility. I wonder, Jem, if you would have the guts to ask if they TRIED to use their own money or money from their incredible amounts of connections and investment routes OR if they simply thought: “Dude, we could get lower and middle class people to just GIVE us their money!”

In this economy this is some of the most narrow-minded use of crowd-sourcing I’ve seen.

The other comments are similar. I was kind of surprised, because I don’t actually see anything wrong with anyone using such platforms, whether they’re rich and famous or some poor nobody just starting out. One of the nice things about a platform like Kickstarter is that beyond just being a system for fundraising, those who use it find that it’s a great way to really connect with an audience and fans. For a movie like this, that makes a lot of sense. It’s part of the marketing as well. And, honestly, this is getting some people to prepay for stuff. If Colin Hanks had found the money elsewhere (say, from his Dad) and then made the movie, and people went and paid $10/ticket to see it in a theater, would the same people be complaining that it was the rich people “taking money” from “lower and middle class people”? Also, the whole point of Kickstarter is that the people aren’t just giving away their money — they get something in return.

And it is very true that a lot of value is exchanged for the money raised. Take for example, Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman. Also in 2011, in just 48 hours, Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman raised over $65,000 to fund their West Coast tour using Kickstarter and $133,341 by the end of their campaign.

Of course, it certainly helps that the duo is already famous in their own right: Palmer is a renowned musician who cofounded the Dresden Dolls, Gaiman is well known English author. His notable works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. Gaiman is no stranger to Kickstarter. He was involved with a Kickstarter project when filmmaker Chistopher Salmon turned his short story “The Price” into an animated movie. Palmer use of the platform is not surprising, as well give how she has embraced alternative distribution means in the past such as Bandcamp, and has a tremendous following on social sites, including over 500,000 Twitter followers.

So, while the majority of funded campaigns on Kickstarter today come in under $8000, are these examples reflective of what will become the majority in the future of crowdfunding campaigns? Will increasingly the famous and resource rich be the majority of the ones raising funds? Is this the future of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms thanks to Obama’s JOBS Act? Or is this just the cycle of growth that occurs to just about everything that starts organically? Is this yet another way we kill the growth of the weeds?

 About Lisa Canning

“Vowels are to words what creativity is to the world~ pretty basic and necessary.”

Lisa Canning is the founder of IAEOU, the Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship (IAE) and Entrepreneur the Arts.

Follow me @IAEOU



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  • Steve Sowinski

    As I always say, it’s all about ethics.  Although I’ve never been a fan of the Hollywood “elite”,
    I think it would also be just as nutty for someone outside of Hollywood who has the resources they need to fund their project on Kickstarter.  Wouldn’t there be some personal gratification to use your own hard earned resources to fund your own project?  I’ve done it, and it makes me feel good to rely upon myself and my ingenuity to realize many personal dreams. 
    Rather than a weed, maybe we should consider the Lotus flower which starts growing in a hostile environment, and grows to be an extremely beautiful flower! 


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