Crowd Funding & The Arts

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This week one of our creatives, the incredibly talented comic artist Li Chen of Extra Ordinary Comics, was featured on the front page of Patreon. It got me thinking about the different options available to artists who want to crowd fund their artistic endeavors.

When I hear the words “crowd funding”, the first place that jumps to mind is Kickstarter. According to this Harvard Business School article by Christian Camerota, Kickstarter has raised more than $1.5 billion for over 80,000 art projects since its founding in 2009. That’s pretty good going, especially when you consider the research cited in the same article that shows within the US “Kickstarter now raises more money for artistic projects each year than the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a government-run agency established in 1966, which also funds artistic endeavors.”

So if you’re a New Zealand based artist, who’s looking to fund an exhibition for example, or launch a book, or even just focus on creating a new body of work, what options are open to you in the world of crowdfunding? The Ministry for Culture and Heritage have put together a pretty good list aimed at the cultural sector that you can view here, or Idealog’s February 2014 article on the topic by Vaughn Davis is still fairly extensive and incredibly relevant to the different options out there today. He answered the all important question of “How does crowdfunding work?” by breaking it down into these 7 key components:

The idea: a creator has an idea that needs money to come true.

The platform: there are hundreds of crowdfunding platforms worldwide. Choosing one that suits their project and their audience is the creator’s next job.

The pitch: the creator uploads a description, pictures and often a video of just what makes the project so cool and why they needs the money. On some platforms they’ll also spell out what rewards people will get for donating different amounts.

The review: the platform usually checks that the project fits its criteria before allowing it to go live on the site.

The campaign: while platforms house the project information, it’s almost always up to the creator to work their own social networks to get eyeballs on the page and turn them into donations or pledges. Some of the most successful campaigns have resulted from mainstream media attention driving traffic.

The payout: most platforms set a time limit of 30 or 60 days on campaigns. What happens at the end of the campaign period depends on the platform. If the campaign meets its funding target, the creator gets her money (less the platform’s fees, if any). If the campaign falls short, most platforms (‘all or nothing’) don’t pay or charge anyone.

The payback: if the creator has promised gifts to her donors, she’s responsible to deliver these within a reasonable time of the campaign hitting its target.

Read Vaughn’s full article complete with tips here.

Last year we interviewed Li about her work and drawing practice, and she reiterated a lot of Vaughn’s key points about pitch, campaign and payback in her experiences with Kickstarter:

The whole process of running a Kickstarter campaign involves a huge amount of work, not only in setting up the project, but also actually delivering the books at the end. It took Jordan and I about a month of planning and writing to make the Kickstarter page. It ran for thirty days, and thankfully we reached target again so now I'm in the process of making Vol 3. The project as a whole from creating the project all the way to shipping out the rewards takes about six months to complete. It's so exciting to see it all come together in the end!

As mentioned above, Li also uses Patreon which works a little differently to the others as its focus is on regularly generated content for the backers, vs. one big project with a final outcome - watch this handy video for more of an insight on their mantra: 

When creating your campaign and selecting your platform, it’s important to bear in mind the other benefits that crowdfunding can offer aside from money. Let’s consider the example of Irish artist Shauna McGowan detailed in this Guardian article. Initially, crowdfunding provided Shauna with the financial backing to exhibit her work at the Wharepuke Gallery in Kerikeri. But also, the process of viewing the rewards for backers as individual commissions also pushed Shauna into creating a new body of work, as well as scoping out demand for her practice and opening doors to other opportunities through increased exposure!

Crowdfunding is something that every artist/designer/creative should definitely consider when it comes to funding their next creative project. The Northern Irish Arts & Business organisation even have a free to download crowdfunding toolkit especially designed for the arts sector. You can find all their resources on crowdfunding here! And whilst Pledgeme’s Top 7 Quirky Ways to Market Your Crowdfunding Project tips aren’t necessarily geared towards artists in particular, their top example of a quirky reward - a photo of Candlelit Pictures’ team all posing in panda onesies as a thank you to pledgers, is definitely something we can all try...

(NB: next week on the blog we will be chatting to Simone, General Manager at Boosted, so be sure to check back in for more crowdfunding tips then..)