Why Kickstarter?

The Beatles were turned down by nearly every record label. George Lucas couldn’t find a movie studio that would make Star Wars. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post were two of the only reporters assigned to cover Watergate. John Kennedy Toole went to his grave with A Confederacy of Dunces still unpublished.

Anecdotes like these have become folklore, as have their lessons: good ideas go unrecognized, experts get it wrong, perseverance prevails. All true. But as we marvel at the elixirs of skill and luck that have brought the few enormous fame and many endless heartache, it’s also worth considering that maybe this judgment system that seems to get so much so wrong is outdated. That it doesn’t speak for anyone except itself. That a good idea, well-crafted and pursued with passion, doesn’t need a gatekeeper’s stamp of approval to succeed.

The gauntlet that is fundraising (for everyone who doesn’t have a rich, benevolent uncle) sees only profit or predictability. Not art or passion or talent or an incredible story of inspiration.

Kickstarter aims to give each one of us a chance to fund our ideas, starting directly with the people who are closest to it (friends, fans, community-fellows). And it’s a way to break beyond the traditional methods — loans, investment, industry deals, grants — to discover that we can offer each other value through creation without a middleman dictating the product and terms.

Defining Patronage

Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired, wrote a post last year that we have turned to many times in our development of Kickstarter. There is one passage in particular that jumped out as definitely true, and definitely something that we intended to tap into with KSR:

Patronage — It is my belief that audiences WANT to pay creators. Fans like to reward artists, musicians, authors and the like with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect. But they will only pay if it is very easy to do, a reasonable amount, and they feel certain the money will directly benefit the creators. Radiohead’s recent high-profile experiment in letting fans pay them whatever they wished for a free copy is an excellent illustration of the power of patronage. The elusive, intangible connection that flows between appreciative fans and the artist is worth something. In Radiohead’s case it was about $5 per download. There are many other examples of the audience paying simply because it feels good.

If all goes as planned, Kickstarter will be the best example yet of this model.

Supporting Marcy Wheeler

Firedoglake and Daily Kos, two of the big liberal blogs, have been sponsoring a fundraising drive for Marcy Wheeler, a woman who blogs on Firedoglake, and who has been instrumental in uncovering documents in the torture cases. To date, $57,000 of $150,000 has been raised. (The money will allow her and two researches to become full-time investigative journalists.) I hope to get Kickstarter in the mix for this. We’d love to support it.