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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why I Really Need To Stay Off Kickstarter (or Not)

I have a problem.  I really need to stay off Kickstarter (and other similar sites like GoFundMe, IndieGoGo and RocketHub).

Either that or I need to win the lottery, or discover a long-lost cousin three times removed that has willed their vast fortune to me, so I can give as much as my heart wants to give.

It's frustrating.

As someone who is trying to make a living with my writing, and would love to someday get a job creating illustrations, who is also married to someone who once supported himself by writing his own music and being in a rock band, let's just say I have a soft spot for other starving artists who are trying to make a go at bringing something new and beautiful into the world.

In case you're unfamiliar with the websites I mentioned, they enlist crowdsourcing which is a new fundraising approach to collect the needed money in advance for a project.  For example, a band wants to make a record, but can't afford the studio time upfront.  You can fund them by donating now, and in exchange they will give you a download of the new album when it is completed or, depending on the amount you donate, they offer other perks such as t-shirts, posters, tickets to a concert, etc. These are incentives to encourage larger donations. Some times all you get is the satisfaction of knowing you helped out, along with a sticker or button. There are all kinds of categories - dance, theater, film, visual arts, music, photography, publishing, etc. You provide the means for them to make the art (and make a living), and in turn you receive an album, or painting, or novel to enjoy later when it's done.

There are a couple of things I really like about this.  First, there is the immediate connection with artist and consumer.  Most of these artists put out regular updates to backers and let you in on the creative process and you can journey along with them on their successes or failures, allowing for more connection and emotional investment.  The other thing I appreciate is that this gives smaller bands, artists, and writers a chance to make their art, even if they never make it big or sign with a large publisher or record label.  It circumvents that hurdle and goes straight to getting the art out there.

I was challenged with an idea recently. If all we do as a culture is consume, and none of us create, then what?  We have to encourage others to create and, dare I say, find the courage ourselves to create, because out of that creative environment will eventually come the next Beatles, the next Monet, the next Poe - and our world will be blessed and the better off for it.  A culture that only consumes (like the one we're in now) and doesn't participate in and encourage new creative ideas and innovations ends up with things like TMZ and Jersey Shore.  We have to get involved in, value, elevate, and promote the arts.

This whole idea of consume vs. create really hit home, because I quickly realized I am a consumer more than I am a creator.  I have to turn off Netflix and turn on my brain.  I have to keep writing.  I have to keep sketching.  Even if none of my work ever gets published.  I need to foster my own creativity and hopefully, in turn, encourage others to foster theirs.  And I feel like supporting other artists in a monetary way on these crowdsourcing sites is just one way to help do that. 

It's only $1 here or $5 there, but it sure can add up when you have a soft heart like mine.  So, until I have that winning lottery ticket in hand, I'm going to try and exercise a little restraint, but still do what I can.

What do you do to support or encourage the arts?  It can be anything from helping to sew costumes for your local theater, to encouraging your children to attend a summer arts program.  Leave a comment and let me know.  In the meantime, I'll see you over on Kickstarter...