Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Crowdfunding: why people need to celebrate, not hate

I've been thinking of writing an opinion piece on this topic for a while, but I haven't had the motivation to do it. That changed last night, after seeing The Blackout starting up a Kickstarter to be able to release a DVD of their final ever live show and receiving a lot of hateful messages because of that.
If you haven't heard of crowdfunding, the definition is: 

 the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions  from a large number of people, typically via the internet.

The most commonly used crowdfunding websites (or at least, in my experience) are Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The person attempting to get their project funded creates a space where they can get funding, their fans and supporters pledge as much money as they are happy to, and the money only gets taken if the project gets the funding that the creator is requesting.
I blog about both books and music and crowdfunding is something that is ingrained into both of the topics. I'm going to focus on the book side of things first, then move onto the music, because a lot more musicians seem to use crowdfunding platforms, so it will take me a bit longer to tackle that.

Crowdfunding and novel writing:
Early last month, there was quite an uproar amongst the YA community. Stacey Jay, a YA author, set up a Kickstarter in an attempt to fund a sequel to her first novel, 'Princess of Thorns'. While I hadn't heard of the author, I thought it was good to see that the Kickstarter platform was being used to expand the YA community, which until this point I had only ever viewed as supportive and caring.
However, the uproar that the author received was explosive, leading to her cancelling the Kickstarter campaign despite the fact that she'd already received nineteen backers. The uproar mostly stemmed from the fact that Stacey was requesting over $10,000, because a large chunk of that sum was to pay for mortgage and bills when she was focusing upon writing and delivering the novel that was being paid for.
You might think that that is a great injustice, asking people for money for your day-to-day life expenses, but everyone who works gets paid so that they can afford to survive. The fact that Stacey cancelled her Kickstarter was disheartening, especially combined with the fact that some people had already given her money, obviously showing their support for a series that now may never get a sequel. Because of the complaints, Stacey felt that she had to publish a post on her blog, justifying exactly why she'd created the Kickstarter in the first place, and then went on to explain why she'd felt she had to cancel it. Since then, Stacey's blog has been changed to private, showing that she had felt so victimised that she'd felt it was necessary to hide her words from the internet. A lot of people claimed that the complaints weren't bullying, but in my opinion they most definitely were - if anyone feels so verbally attacked that they feel they need to take a break from writing, that's a damn shame.

Crowdfunding and music:
Crowdfunding and music have become practically inseparable over the past couple of years. It all seemed to start off on Pledgemusic and then transferred over to the other websites, but it's definitely been popular, especially amongst upcoming and unknown bands. It's completely understandable, based on the money musicians receive per streams on Spotify being a minuscule amount and, despite the fact that the music industry has experienced a regrowth over the last couple of years, illegally downloading music still being a popular option for many fans who are strapped for cash.
This is one of the reasons that crowdfunding is an excellent option for the fans and the musicians themselves. By offering lots of 'perks', even fans who might have less money available to spend will likely be able to afford at least one thing they want to buy, meaning the band get one step closer to their album/tour/DVD being successfully funded.
One of the best examples of a small, unknown band hosting a successful crowdfunding campaign is local Bristol band, Ashes to Angels. Their Indiegogo campaign, which ran from the 6th of January to the 7th of March 2014, successfully raised over £16,000 when their target was only £15,000. One of the things that Ashes to Angels did best was offering a variety of different 'perks', ranging from acoustic house shows to necklaces or posters. By offering a variety of different things for purchase, the campaign ran successfully, because everyone could afford to get something to help the band along. Because the band weren't very well-known, they received hardly any backlash from the general public.
However, in the case of The Blackout, because they are a well-known band they received a lot of harsh criticism. The Kickstarter for their final DVD was completely funded within three hours, despite the fact that they still have over a month until the deadline, but this didn't stop people from openly slating them for using a viable business model. A lot of the criticism stemmed from the fact that The Blackout had already used Kickstarter to fund their EP, 'Wolves', which also greatly exceeded their target.
If a band has been successful raising money using a method once, why shouldn't they use it again? It isn't against the rules of Kickstarter. By offering up 'perks', included limited edition, only one in the world, backdrops, they're just selling merchandise, so why does it lead to such hatred?

My personal opinion is that crowdfunding websites are a brilliant idea.
On the Stacey Jay topic... I will admit that I do agree that the prices on some of her 'perks' were a little bit steep. If the Kickstarter had gone ahead, I definitely would not have donated to it. But that's the choice. If you don't want to donate to it, you click the tiny little 'x' next to the window and you move on with your life. If people decide that they want to donate to it, that's okay too! It's all down to personal choice and what you want to spend your money on.
The exact same thing can be said about The Blackout. If you don't want to fund it, don't; just don't complain about it and ruin other people's fun and enjoyment. If people want to donate to a project and it doesn't get completely funded, they receive a refund, so no one loses out. Or, in the case of American crunkcore band BrokenCYDE, who attempted to raise $30,000 for their new album on Indiegogo, they were using flexible funding, which means even though they didn't manage to receive their entire total they still provide the perks for their fans, which makes it even more like buying merchandise from a website. If people want to donate to a project and it does get funded, they receive whichever item, or 'perk', that they wanted, so again - no one loses out!
Crowdfunding websites seriously increase the chances of the music industry staying alive, and with so many bands needing to split up because of a lack of funding, every little helps. Would you prefer to complain about crowdfunding and have a boring scene with little variety, or would you prefer to only donate to the bands you care about and let other people get on with what they want to do?

How do you feel about crowdfunding? Do you think it's a good idea, or have you had bad experiences with crowdfunding in the past?


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