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Kickstarter: Awesome or Awful?


Kickstarter: the popular crowdfunding website that people use to try and raise money for their projects. Projects like making a short film, recording an album, publishing a cookbook or creating a tech gadget. It seems like everyone is running a Kickstarter campaign.

Including me! I recently got a Kickstarter funded to make a documentary about the O.Henry Pun Off world Championship in Austin. But as the donations started to trickle in, I felt a strange combination of excitement and guilt. Why would anyone give me money when they can donate to starving children in Africa? So I decided to explore the ups and downs of Kickstarter.

Ken Levine is an Emmy winning writer/director/producer of shows like The Simpsons and he was a Mariners baseball announcer. In general, he likes Kickstarter.

“It gives young filmmakers, and people who don’t normally. have access to funds, celebrities and agencies, it gives them a chance to reach out and have people support their project.”

But he has major beef when stars like Zach Braff try and milk money from fans.

“Zach Braff, according to a lot of articles, is worth $22 million. So why is he going on a website trying to get $2 million from fans? I’d rather that $2 million go to the guy in Puyallup and the girl in Kirkland who have a passion project and they’ve already maxed out their credit cards and they need some money to make their movie.”

Chris Martin plays guitar and sings in the 15-year-old Seattle band, Kinski. He doesn’t like hearing about bands using Kickstarter to make albums.

“I think it’s really gross. I think it’s good for bands to have that slow learning curve of kind of getting shows and saving enough money to put out a single. Then getting the money together to do an album. I think it’s good to have hurdles instead of immediately recording what you have and putting out music. I think there are way too many bands putting out music and I think it should take a while so you can kind of develop and put it together. Come on, you can save up some money from shows or put your money together. Why are you asking me to pay for your career?”

Jen Chiu, who writes the popular food blog Roll With Jen, launched a Kickstarter last year to make a food and travel TV pilot.

“I did it because a lot of these creative projects tend to go over budget. So I didn’t start off wanting to do a Kickstarter. When the bills started piling up, and we were kind of going over budget, I figured this was a really good way to go about doing it. The support I received was tremendous.”

She doesn’t understand the Kickstarter hate.

“I kind of feel like people who are negative about it, well don’t support it then. People are so negative towards things they don’t need to be a part of. We’re not forcing people to donate, I’m not shoving it in your face. I’m sharing it with my network of friends and colleagues. People who want to support me, great. If you don’t, that’s fine too.”

An editor for Wired magazine complained that his mailbox is stuffed with hundreds of crappy techie tools that were Kickstarter funded. But Geekwire editor Todd Bishop thinks the crowdfunding site is great for the world of science and technology.

“It’s the ultimate assessment of whether or not this product is going to work. People are putting it out there, they’re creating these elaborate pitch videos. They’re saying, OK, if we reach this threshold that means that this product is good to go. We think we have enough backing to make it. It’s essentially the ultimate test of whether something’s going to make it in the market.”

It seems people mostly agree that Kickstarter is great for funding art and science projects, and if a project is lame it probably won’t get funded anyway.

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