Kickstarter’s Impact on the Creative Economy
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A new study by the University of Pennsylvania provides the first comprehensive look at how the Kickstarter community impacts the creative economy. The study finds that Kickstarter projects have:
- Employed 283,000 part-time collaborators in bringing creative projects to life.
- Created 8,800 new companies and nonprofits, and 29,600 full-time jobs.
- Generated more than $5.3 billion in direct economic impact for those creators and their communities.
Here are the key findings from the research.
Paying Creative Collaborators
A long-running challenge in the world of creative projects is the ability for collaborators to be paid for their contributions. Editors, illustrators, backing musicians, crew, and other creative collaborators are often unpaid for their work on creative projects. Not so with Kickstarter-funded creative projects. Respondents to the UPenn study reported that Kickstarter enabled them to pay collaborators who they would not have otherwise been able to pay. Overall, Kickstarter projects have employed approximately 283,000 temporary workers.
While many Kickstarter projects are one-offs (films, books, albums, etc.), others are becoming ongoing, sustainable ventures that create new jobs. For every 1,000 Kickstarter projects that have been brought to life, 190 founders now work alongside 82 full-time employees. As of June 2016, an estimated 29,600 new full-time creative careers have stemmed from Kickstarter projects.
An estimated 8,800 new companies and nonprofits have gotten their start through Kickstarter. Among them are businesses as diverse as Palmer Luckey's Oculus, which brought virtual reality into the mainstream; Radiotopia, an inspired podcast network of independent storytellers giving voice to subjects not well covered in traditional public media; Debbie Sterling's GoldieBlox, which creates games and entertainment designed to develop early interest in engineering; Eric Migicovsky's Pebble Technology, which pioneered the smartwatch category; Kazoo, a beautifully imagined print magazine on a mission to inspire strong, smart, fierce young women; and Chicken Town, a London-based restaurant and social enterprise committed to serving healthful, locally sourced meals while paying its staff living wages.
Eighty-two percent of the organizations created through Kickstarter continue to operate today.
Another way to assess the Kickstarter community's impact is to examine whether creators earn revenue from their project after bringing it to life. Seven out of ten creators reported such earnings. Every dollar pledged to a successfully funded project resulted in $2.46 in additional revenue for the creator, leading to an estimated $5.3 billion in additional economic activity.
Career Advancement and Mobility
Another exciting finding is Kickstarter’s impact on career advancement within the creative workforce. Filmmakers, photographers, artists, authors, designers, musicians, and others reported that their project led to professional growth, greater earnings, and career advancement.
- 37% said that their Kickstarter project helped them advance their careers.
- 21% reported receiving an increase in annual earnings after running a successful project.
- 19% said they found a new job opportunity as a result of their Kickstarter project.
- 7% said their project helped them successfully switch careers.
Creators also reported meaningful professional gains within their fields:
- Filmmakers reported that Kickstarter helped them secure distribution deals.
- Musicians reported that Kickstarter helped them secure record or publishing deals.
- Video game creators reported that their Kickstarter project helped them secure a publisher or attention from reviewers.
- Authors and comic book creators reported that their Kickstarter project led to attention from mainstream publishers.
- Journalists reported that their Kickstarter project gave them freedom from the external control of editors and publishers, and helped them create work that served an underserved audience.
Creative independence is at the heart of what Kickstarter provides creators, and this also came out in the study.
Creators reported that Kickstarter afforded them the creative independence they would not have been able to achieve through other funding avenues, and allowed them to bring their project to life without compromising their vision. These are conditions that empower creators to aim high and take the creative risks needed to fuel innovation.
Backers reported more than 50% of Kickstarter projects to be innovative. An estimated 4,200 patents tied to projects have been filed. More than 10% of creators reported winning major awards for their work, including a MacArthur Genius grant, National Design Awards from the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, a James Dyson Award, IDSA’s International Design Excellence Award, CES Innovation Awards, the Sikorsky Prize, Independent Games Festival Awards, Grammys, an Oscar, and many more.
This research illustrates how the Kickstarter community has strengthened the economic picture for creators while serving as a valuable engine for cultural production. We’re thrilled to be a part of it. You can read the study in full here.
Disclosures and Methodology: This is based on the independent research of Professor Ethan Mollick of the University of Pennsylvania. Kickstarter helped with data gathering for his survey but had no influence over his analyses. For the purposes of this post we’ve used his findings from a sample of 61,654 projects launched before June 2015 and extrapolated them to include the last 12 months of projects.
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