Let’s say you have a dream to create something: a book, a piece of art, an album, or some cool piece of new technology. The Internet has always been great for distributing these new ideas, but it has always required a concerted marketing effort to actually get a significant amount of reach, no matter how revolutionary your idea might have been. And, even with all that reach, good luck finding enough people willing to fund your project. But that’s all changing.
As the Internet grows and matures, we’re noticing a pattern: similar ideas are slowly being consolidated into “aggregate sites.” For example, Facebook and Pinterest are your go-tos for sharing content with friends, and all your shopping can be completed on different storefronts like Amazon. And now, there are two new sites that allow aspiring creative folk to finance their potential projects: Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.
How Kickstarter & IndieGoGo Work:
- You post an awesome idea and the total amount of funding you need.
- You offer donors different levels of backing, each with different prizes (so a $5 donation might get your name in the credits of a movie, a $20 might get you that and an autographed print or poster).
- Donors offer however much they want as a “pledge”—you just get a $1 hold on your card to prove you’re a real person.
- If the project reaches its total funding goal, the pledges clear and you get however much was pledged. If your project falls short of its goal, you get nothing and donors are not charged (Indiegogo has an option to make it go through anyway, so watch yourself if you’re donating!).
It’s a fairly simple idea that has exploded in popularity, and for a good reason. To get a product widely distributed in the past, creators always needed to deal with publishers that may compromise or outright reject projects for financial reasons. That’s what happened with Tim Schafer, a critically-lauded game designer whose games never found commercial success, due in part to their oddball humor and niche genre. Schafer would approach publishers with new ideas for games, but publishers would find the investment too risky. Fed up with that process, Schafer made a Kickstarter campaign for a new adventure game. Turns out publishers aren’t totally in tune with what gamers are interested in, because Double Fine reached its $400,000 goal in a paltry eight hours. And donors kept on going, eventually resulting in over $3 million for this new game—eight times the amount asked.
But these sites aren’t just about bypassing the need for publishers. They’re about bringing voices to controversial, unmarketable ideas: donors funded a project for an established feminist to make a video series that explores gender roles in video games. They’re for labors of love: want to help someone research how to make an affordable 3D printer? How about helping an artist to do an installation in the Dead Sea? And hell, they don’t have to be about anything more than making a person’s life better: after someone brought up a video of a 68-year-old woman being verbally harassed, donors at Indiegogo backed $189k (and counting) towards her vacation.
Simply put, crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter are revolutionizing the way we approach creativity. The huge amount of successful projects suggests that anybody with a good enough dream and the proper motivation can get a head start on crafting and distributing their ideas, and no longer do creators have to deal with stuffy investors or persnickety publishers.
So, what have you dreamt of creating?