The Truth About Spike Lee and Kickstarter

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Last week, “The Newest Hottest Spike Lee Joint” reached its funding goal thanks to more than 5,000 backers. While filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh cheered Spike Lee’s project, outlets like CNBC and Bloomberg accused him of abusing Kickstarter and taking money from other creators. As we’ve shown before here and here, arguments like these are not grounded in fact. Kickstarter is not a zero-sum game where projects compete for pledges. All projects benefit from the network effect of a growing Kickstarter ecosystem.

Artists like Spike Lee don’t hurt other projects. They help them!

Spike Lee brought three decades of fans to Kickstarter when he launched his project. He introduced many of them to this new way of funding creative works, and to the thousands of other projects that are funding on Kickstarter. Of Spike’s backers, 47% had never backed a Kickstarter project before.

The Veronica Mars and Zach Braff film projects were similarly criticized for hurting other projects, but in reality were a windfall for creators. Those projects brought thousands of new people to Kickstarter who have since pledged more than $1 million to 6,000 other projects (film projects have received most of those pledges).

In the past 90 days alone, more than $21 million has been pledged to filmmakers on Kickstarter not named Rob Thomas, Zach Braff, or Spike Lee. Even without counting these projects, it’s been the biggest three months for film ever on Kickstarter!

Almost five million people have backed a project on Kickstarter, and more than a million have backed two or more projects. These repeat backers are responsible for 59% of the total money pledged to Kickstarter projects — a whopping $444 million. On average, 2,130 people a day have become new repeat backers this year. This is huge! Future creators will benefit from more and more people using Kickstarter.

Kickstarter projects are not charity.

Others have accused creators of asking for a handout by using Kickstarter. This is silly. Every project offers a range of rewards to backers in exchange for their pledges. Spike’s backers get online screenings, tickets to the premiere, and access to the creative process of one of the most important voices in independent film. Just because an artist funds the creation of their work upfront rather than waiting until later to sell it doesn’t somehow make it charity.

The people launching and backing Kickstarter projects are participating in a new way of funding. In Spike’s case, an alternative to film’s traditional investment model. Backers are supporting Spike not to buy into the potential profits of the film, but because they connect with his body of work, they think the rewards he’s offering are great, and they want to be a part of bringing this film to life. This isn’t charity. It’s a direct exchange between an artist and a willing audience, similar to the model Mozart and others used to fund works centuries ago.

All creators should be allowed to invite the public to be a part of their work.

Kickstarter is a place where creators share their work directly with the public, and audiences show their support for the projects they love. The results are amazing: more creative work by a greater diversity of creators than ever before. This isn’t just a different way of doing things, it’s a better way — for creators and audiences alike.

    1. Missing avatar

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