Crowdfunding kickstarts artists, entrepreneurs in valley
In the digital age, creative types no longer necessarily need take big personal financial risks or get big companies to back them to get their projects off the ground. They can simply ask their friends, families, fans and strangers around the world for a little financial support.
Crowdfunding websites including Kickstarter and Indiegogo are making this approach more convenient and effective than ever, and artists, musicians and entrepreneurs throughout the valley are taking advantage.
“Any time you’re able to share ideas and information, it’s great,” said Brett Lark, who writes, produces and acts in “Soul Mates,” a new sitcom produced in the valley by the 2-month-old local production company Secret Identity Pictures. “And you don’t have to have a big box store or a trust fund you can tap into to launch projects anymore.”
Lark started Secret Identity Pictures in September as a way to produce more local film and theater. Lark and his creative team are in the process of filming their first TV show, “Soul Mates,” a “Friends”-esque sitcom that follows Todd (played by Lark), who found and lost his soulmate early in life and, with his four friends, wonders if he will ever love again.
Lark and his team filmed a business-sponsored pilot episode of “Soul Mates,” showed it to a few network agencies and received positive feedback. Now, if nine more episodes are filmed to make a complete season, the National Community Television Association will air “Soul Mates” on public access channels throughout the country starting in April.
In order to fund those nine episodes, Lark decided to start an Indiegogo campaign with a goal of $14,000 by Dec. 2.
“We knew our budget, which isn’t astronomical, but also isn’t something we can just pull out of our piggy banks,” Lark said. “So we decided to presell the season. You can order the season we’re filming early and get different perks like ‘become an extra.’”
When crowdfunding a project like this, the project creator generally offers different levels of incentives depending on how much a backer donates. In the case of “Soul Mates,” backers are able to donate $2 to receive a personal thank you and to be listed in the credits, all the way up to $2,500 for “a date with Todd,” which includes dinner, a movie and a serenade session.
Another local project on Indiegogo comes from the Grand Junction band Redlands, which is using the site to fund its full-length album, “Adventurer,” and a national tour supporting it. To help the band reach its $20,000 goal by Dec. 1, backers can spend $10 to receive a digital download of the record, up to $2,000 for a chance to go on the road with the band. (The $20,000 donation option is titled “Wishful Thinking” and lists no incentives.)
Redlands lead singer Ben Lohle said the band used Indiegogo to fund its first EP last year. After that humbling success, Lohle said the group needs some help to mix and master “Adventurer” and to book its first nationwide tour.
“It’s great because it gets people on board and informed of what’s out there,” Lohle said. “It’s more about getting people involved in what you’re doing, and they feel like they can be a little more a part of it.”
Indiegogo differs from Kickstarter in that the website’s commission is smaller, and Indiegogo does not employ an “all or nothing” approach like Kickstarter does. Regardless of the goal, the project creator gets however much money he or she is able to raise on Indiegogo. With Kickstarter, the project is only funded if the goal is met. Otherwise, backers get their money back and the project creator gets nothing.
For Sadye Harvey, co-founder of the fledgling Benefit Corporation Status company The Whole Works, this all or nothing mentality may work in her favor.
“We used Kickstarter in particular because it’s a popular site, and all or nothing might inspire people to give more,” she said.
The Whole Works is a contract manufacturing facility working with GarCo Sewing Works, which offers a six-month training program for women transitioning from public assistance. But after that training is complete, Harvey said, women are still unable to find work with their new skills.
So The Whole Works will employ these women to make clothing, Harvey said. Because The Whole Works has applied for Benefit Corporation Status, it has pledged to keep environmental and social factors in mind while maintaining a financial bottom line.
The company’s Kickstarter campaign has a goal of $35,000 by Nov. 29.
Starting THE SITES
Kickstarter was launched in 2009 by Perry Chen, who got the idea while living in New Orleans. Chen wanted to bring two DJs to Jazz Fest in 2002 but found the financial burden was impossible to bear, so the concert didn’t happen.
“The fact that the potential audience had no say in this decision struck uncomfortably in my brain,” Chen said on the Kickstarter website. “I thought: ‘What if people could go to a site and pledge to buy tickets for a show? And if enough money was pledged, they would be charged, and the show would happen. If not, it wouldn’t.’”
Since its founding, more than $1 billion has been pledged by more than 7.4 million people, funding more than 73,000 creative projects. Roughly 10 percent of the films accepted by the 2012 Sundance, Tribeca and South by Southwest film festivals were funded on Kickstarter. Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter-funded album debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart in 2012. Her book about crowdfunding, “The Art of Asking,” named after her TED talk on the same topic, came out Monday.
Indiegogo was founded in 2008 by Danae Ringelmann, Eric Schell and Slava Rubin, who each ran into funding problems themselves when thinking of creative projects.
According to Indiegogo’s website: “For centuries, access to funds has been controlled by a select few. Danae, Eric and Slava started Indiegogo in order to revolutionize the flow of funding, so it can reach and grow the ideas that matter.”
Wade Newsom has been a poet in the valley for more than 16 years. By participating in open mic nights and collaborating with other artists — including local musician Matt Haslett and Kansas City filmmaker Jeremy Collins — Newsom has been able to garner a following.
So when he wanted to compile his poems into a book, “Poetic Notions,” he turned to Kickstarter.
“I knew I wanted to do this book, and for me it wasn’t about anything other than having my work in a tangible collection,” Newsom said. “It was about just getting this book out.”
Newsom ended up raising $5,371 by his Sept. 1 deadline — almost $1,000 more than his $4,500 goal. Because of this extra money, Newsom hopes to get in a studio and work on some spoken-word recorded tracks with Haslett.
But his priority was his book, which is out now and for sale on Amazon.com. Newsom said all the incentives have been sent out, except some prints of the book cover that certain backers paid for, but those are also in the works. He said one of the best things about Kickstarter is the ability to communicate with the people who funded his project, which builds trust, since unfortunately there are instances where campaign creators get their projects funded but do not follow through on their promises.
“These people are trusting you to follow through on your end of the deal and get this project out the door,” Newsom said. “If there’s no communication, people are left wondering where their money went.”
Newsom said in general, sites like Kickstarter are changing for the better the way artists and creative types are able to get their work completed and shared.
“I think it’s revolutionary,” he said. “The fact that there’s a system set up that allows artists to do what they love and share it with people is incredible.
“If you want something, you have to ask.”
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