Kickstarter’s Impact on the Creative Economy

Share this post

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.

Job Creation

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.

Company Formation

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.

Economic Impact

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

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.

Line icon alert icon Artboard Copy 8 arrow-down icon arrow-down arrow-left icon arrow-left arrow-point-left icon Fill 1 Copy 5 arrow-point-right icon Fill 1 arrow-right icon arrow-right arrow-up-right icon icon--arrow-up-right copy bar-chart icon Artboard Copy 6 bell icon Combined Shape Copy 5 book icon Artboard Copy 3 bookmark icon Fill 1 brand-assets icon Artboard Copy 13 cart icon Artboard Copy 4 chat icon chat check icon Fill 1 Copy 6 circle-back icon Fill 1 Copy 13 circle-forward icon Fill 1 Copy 16 circle-k icon circle-k circle-left icon circle-left circle-right icon circle-right clipboard icon Artboard Copy 12 clock icon Combined Shape close icon close closed-caption icon Fill 1 compass icon Combined Shape Copy 2 conversion icon conversion delta-down icon Fill 1 delta-left icon delta-right icon Fill 1 delta-up icon Fill 1 duplicate icon duplicate embed icon Combined Shape Copy 6 eye icon Combined Shape Copy 12 facebook-contained icon Facebook Contained facebook icon Facebook logo flag icon Fill 1 Copy 3 gear icon Fill 1 Copy 14 global-africa icon Fill 1 Copy 9 global-america icon Fill 1 Copy 10 global-asia icon Fill 1 Copy 17 graph-bar icon Combined Shape Copy 9 graph-line icon Combined Shape Copy 16 heart icon Fill 1 Copy 8 help icon human icon icon--human icon--alarm icon icon--alarm icon--alert icon icon--alert icon--arrow-down icon icon--arrow-down icon--arrow-left icon icon--arrow-left icon--arrow-right icon icon--arrow-right icon--arrow-up-right icon icon--arrow-up-right icon--arrow-up icon icon--arrow-up icon--backer-badge icon icon--backer-badge icon--bell icon icon--bell icon--bolt icon icon--bolt icon--bookmark-outline icon icon--bookmark-outline icon--bookmark icon icon--bookmark icon--calculator icon icon--calculator icon--calendar-check icon icon--calendar-check icon--calendar icon icon--calendar icon--campaign-outline icon icon--campaign-outline icon--check icon icon--check icon--chevron-down icon icon--chevron-down icon--chevron-left icon icon--chevron-left icon--chevron-right icon icon--chevron-right icon--chevron-up icon icon--chevron-up icon--circle-around icon icon--circle-around icon--circle-back icon icon--circle-back icon--circle-forward icon icon--circle-forward icon--circle-loader icon Page 1 icon--circle icon icon--clipboard icon icon--clipboard icon--clock icon icon--clock icon--closed-caption icon icon--closed-caption icon--code icon icon--code icon--collapse icon icon--collapse icon--commissions icon icon--commissions icon--compass icon icon--compass icon--confirmation icon icon--confirmation icon--conversion icon icon-conversion icon--cpu icon icon--curve-right icon icon--curve-right icon--cross icon icon--cross icon--delta-down icon icon--delta-down icon--delta-left icon icon--delta-left icon--delta-right icon icon--delta-right icon--delta-up icon icon--delta-up icon--download icon icon--download icon--ellipsis icon icon--expand icon icon--expand icon--external icon icon--external icon--eye icon icon--eye icon--facebook icon icon--facebook icon--filter icon icon--filter icon--flag icon icon--flag icon--frown-filled icon icon--frown icon icon--gear icon icon--gear icon--globe-africa icon icon--globe-africa icon--globe-america icon icon--globe-america icon--globe-asia icon icon--globe-asia icon--graph-bar icon icon--graph-bar icon--graph-line icon icon--graph-line icon--happy-filled icon icon--happy icon icon--heart-outline icon icon--heart outline icon--heart-thin-outline icon Fill 1 icon--heart icon icon--heart icon--home icon icon--home icon--home-with-door icon icon--human icon icon--human icon--humans icon icon--humans icon--image icon icon--image icon--inbox icon icon--inbox icon--info icon icon--info icon--instagram icon icon/instagram icon--lightbulb icon icon--lightbulb icon--link icon icon--link icon--lock-black-bg icon lock-icon icon--lock icon icon--lock icon--mail icon icon--mail icon--meh-filled icon icon--meh icon icon--menu icon icon--menu icon--message icon icon--message icon--mobile icon icon--mobile icon--overflow icon icon--overflow icon--pause icon icon--pause icon--pencil icon icon--pencil icon--pin icon icon--pin icon--pinterest icon icon--pinterest icon--play icon icon--play icon--plus-human icon icon--plus-human icon--plus icon icon--plus icon--prohibit icon icon--prohibit icon--project-budget icon icon--pull-quote icon icon--pull-quote icon--question-filled icon icon--question-filled icon--question icon icon--question icon--reorder icon icon-reorder icon--reply icon icon--reply icon--save icon icon--save icon--saved icon icon--saved icon--search icon icon--search icon--section-break icon icon--section-break icon--small-k icon icon--sound-hi icon icon--sound-hi icon--sound-lo icon icon--sound-lo icon--sound-mute icon icon--sound-mute icon--star-outline icon Star Outline icon--star icon icon--star icon--subtitles-captions icon icon--subtitles-captions icon--text-bold icon icon--text-bold icon--text-bullet icon icon--text-bullet icon--text-italic icon icon--text-italic icon--textalign-centered icon icon--textalign-centered icon--textalign-right icon icon--textalign-right icon--thumbs-down icon icon--thumbs-down icon--thumbs-up icon icon--thumbs-up icon--thumbsdown-outline icon icon--thumbsdown-outline icon--thumbsup-outline icon icon--thumbsup-outline icon--trash icon icon--trash icon--tumblr icon icon--tumblr icon--twitter icon icon--twitter icon--unlink icon Artboard icon--unlock icon icon--unlock icon--update-freeform-round icon icon--update-freeform-round icon--update-freeform icon icon--update-freeform icon--update-pinned icon Artboard icon--update-qa-round icon icon--update-qa-round icon--update-qa icon icon--update-qa icon--upload icon icon--upload icon--video icon icon--video icon--youtube icon icon--youtube icon-imagealign-center icon icon-imagealign-center icon-imagealign-left icon icon-imagealign-left icon-imagealign-right icon icon-imagealign-right info icon Combined Shape Copy instagram icon instagram copy kickstarter icon Artboard Copy 5 leaf icon leaf lightbulb icon icon--lightbulb link icon Combined Shape Copy 8 loading-spin icon lock icon Combined Shape Copy 4 mail icon Combined Shape map-pin icon Fill 1 menu icon Group message icon Fill 1 Copy 12 mobile icon Page 1 Copy 2 pause icon pause copy pencil icon Combined Shape Copy 3 pin icon Combined Shape Copy 11 pinterest icon pinterest play icon play copy plus-human icon icon--plus-human plus icon Fill 1 Copy 7 question icon Combined Shape Copy 14 search icon Fill 1 Copy 11 shapeshift icon share icon Fill 1 Copy slash icon solid-arrow icon solid-arrow sound-hi icon Combined Shape sound-lo icon Combined Shape sound-mute icon Combined Shape star icon Fill 1 Copy 2 stopwatch icon Group 2 thumbs-up icon Shape tools icon Shape trash icon Combined Shape tumblr icon tumblr copy twitter icon twitter copy user icon Artboard Copy 10 volume-up icon Artboard Copy 9 warning icon Combined Shape Copy 10 write icon Artboard Copy 11 x icon Fill 1 Copy 4 youtube icon Combined Shape