The concept of Crowdsourcing has been in vogue for some time with the media making open calls for content and input from audiences. Now independent filmmakers, musicians and other creative types are harnessing communities of fans to microfinance, or 'Crowdfund' their creative projects.
The Renaissance would not have happened without the support of the Medici family, and crowdfunding is a modern way to become a Patron of the Arts.
In a reversal of the funding, production and promotional routes, crowdfunding allows a canny producer to enagage with their audience from the start and throughout the whole process. By involving fans in the making of your work, you guarantee an audience and word of mouth promotion when the project is finished, from the people who helped make it happen so will be most passionate about it. I covered A Swarm of Angels, a fan funded remixable cinema project in Indie Film. Since then the idea has spread due to these early successes and artists across many disciplines are tapping into this rich source of support early on and during the production process. The Crowdfunding Wiki has a comprehensive list of people using this new model and say that, 'Crowdfunding can replace the need for specialized grant applications or other more formal and traditional fundraising techniques with that of a more casual, yet powerful, approach based on crowd participation.'
Indie Gogo is a community to connect fans with filmmakers and Juliette Powell mentioned a crowdfunding community called Kickstarter in her keynote at the Auckland X|Media|Lab. Currently you need to be based in the USA and invited to join the system, but the model seems to be working well some projects raising more than their goal amounts. Musician Allison Weiss raised her target of $2,000 in under 10 hours and has gone on to raise almost twice that amount to record her album. What is key is how artists like Allison are making their fan funders feel appreciated with videos, personalised greetings and thanks. Appearances and credits in films, and behind the scenes footage of the process are other ways of paying fans back for their support. Things you can't buy in a store are always worth more.
In the music business a similar crowdfunding model is ArtistShare, 'where the fans make it happen'. They have been running since 2003 and their homepage announces their first fan-funded book. Their projects page lists a range of artistic endeavours that you can support and what you will get in return for your patronage. Some artists offer credits, personalised songs, early album copies and other incentives to entice fans to support their creative process.
Fashion has also cottoned on to this new way of making a collection come to life, with designer tshirts from Cameesa. If the required number of shirts are ordered by supporters, then the designer gets a cheque and a free tshirt. The best part of all is that if the shirt design goes on to be a best seller, not only does the artist get a cut of the ongoing profits, so do the original group of supporters. It's a brilliant model that adds a feel good faction to the cash that goes to reward the artist and their original crowdfund of supporters.
Derek Sivers is the founder of CD Baby and says in his essay on paying, "Don’t forget that there are lots of people like me that like to pay! Appeal to this side of people, giving them a feel-good reason to pay. Tell them what their payment will go to support. Show them how appreciated it is. Some will feel good about paying. It will actually make them happy to give you money. Let them."
If you want to support your arts community then you can Givealittle to The Big Idea and help crowdfund New Zealand's creative community.
Listen to a podcast of MsBehaviour on Radio Wammo for Kiwi FM talking about Crowdfunding.