How Fund It and Kickstarter turned artists into artistic chuggers
Just as some endeavour to get onstreet charity hustlers off their back by signing up to direct debits, some probably donate to Fund It campaigns as a way of shutting up the fuggers and getting some peace. This is often just a short-term measure. With the deadline on the horizon, the fugging goes up a gear, because, unless the full amount is raised, Fund It or Kickstarter releases none of the cash, and all the work is in vain.
Is there a better way to source funds? Fund-it-yourself campaigns were supposed to be the better way. Instead of fuming that the Arts Council always ignored your application for a grant, you just went off and raised the cash yourself. At a time of reduced budgets and more people chasing ever less cash, this alternative method of raising money made sense. At the start, too, the public were engaged, and lots of projects were funded.
The problem is that not every campaign that hits the FIY road is vibrant enough to command attention beyond a dedicated audience of friends and family. The campaigns that are quickly funded are the ones where the promoter already has an established audience willing to jump aboard (the likes of Amanda Palmer or Louis CK) or where the idea has a spark that reaches the multitudes (the Brydge keyboard for iPads, for example). The rest will often struggle.
Those involved in the process will often quietly admit the fund-it-yourself model is a lot more hard work than it’s cracked up to be. You have to come up with an attractive range of rewards for would-be pledgers to attract their attention and cash, but you also have to ensure you don’t spend all your funds on those rewards.
You then have to plug the hell out of the campaign, probably annoying everyone on your mailing list into the bargain. And finally, when you have the cash, you have to make sure you get the project completed to keep all your pledge buddies happy.
Given that artists are usually better at artistic ventures than they are at business ones, it’s easy to understand why frustration sets in.
With luck they can also understand why those who have to watch admired artists go on fugging drives often wish they’d stick to the art too.