In April 2013, Kickstarter celebrated its fourth anniversary, marking four years of bringing to life the projects of ambitious filmmakers, musicians, artists, and designers. The accolades are pretty impressive—10% of the 2012 Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW film festival acceptances were funded on Kickstarter; six films have been nominated for Academy Awards (and one won!); one artist’s album debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart in 2012; and dozens of projects have launched objects into space.
According to their stats, Kickstarter projects have enjoyed a 43.95% success rate, raising over $520 million for projects (most individual asks are $10,000 or less). They have been responsible for funding more than 41,000 creative projects.
This year, Kickstarter has received more press–not about helping aspiring artists achieve their goals, but for their controversial support of helping the “rich get richer.”
On March 13, 2013, Rob Thomas (creator of Veronica Mars) launched his Kickstarter campaign to bring his TV show to the big screen. Within 12 hours, he raised $2 million, becoming the fastest Kickstarter campaign to reach its goal. By the end of his campaign, Thomas had raised more than $5.7 million.
In what some have called a bothersome and abusive trend, other celebrities have successfully used Kickstarter as way to launch their own projects—actor Zach Braff received more than $2 million to produce a sequel to his film, Garden State; Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi raised $137,000 to produce a cartoon; and Whoopi Goldberg raised $74,000 to film a movie on comedian Moms Mabley. There are even rumors of a Friday Night Lights movie Kickstarter.
But not all celebrity projects have been successful. Recently, actress Melissa Joan Hart cancelled her Kickstarter project after it fell woefully short of its $2 million fundraising goal—collecting just more than $51,000, proving that patrons don’t find all celebrity projects worthy of funding.
Still, critics argue that celebrity-initiated projects make it harder for lesser known artists (Kickstarter’s original muses) to meet their fundraising goals. For those individuals, crowdsourcing is the only way they can collect funding for their projects. Critics say it’s unfair to use Kickstarter as a means to fund something that you either 1) already have the money for or 2) have the professional connections to make happen. Celebrities, they argue, meet both of those.
Kickstarter founders, Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler, took to their blog to defend celebrities’ projects:
But seeing how Kickstarter makes 5% of the total funds from a successful project, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which they wouldn’t support a multi-million dollar celebrity project as a way to boost their revenue potential.
Yet, there is something to be said for a person’s ability to choose which projects to back—they can elect to help fund an A-list actor’s movie or an aspiring singer’s new album. Isn’t that the democratic way? Still, I wouldn’t want my creative masterpiece stationed on the Website beside the Veronica Mars project. The long term effects of celebrities on Kickstarter has yet to be seen. But their presence does beg the question—is it fair?