ePANHANDLING

No one should reach adulthood without being given in earnest the sage advice, "Never lend money to friends or family." It's genuine wisdom, although not a hard-and-fast rule. For example, if someone I know well was fired or had cancer or (fill in the tragedy) I would certainly give them whatever assistance I could muster, and if they did not ask I would offer. But for less life shattering reasons, there is something unavoidably uncomfortable about being solicited by people we know well.

Your brother-in-law who tries to sell you a timeshare. The guy with a "great idea" for a business that requires your start-up capital. Your friend who has candle / makeup / jewelry / etc parties at which guests are expected to make purchases on which she gets commissions. The co-worker who corners you with Amway pitches and endless requests to buy candy for little so-and-so's school fund raiser. Or the people who just flat-out ask for money for no discernible reason beyond suspecting that you might be willing. They are all violating one of the basic rules of interpersonal relationships: We are friends/family, not business partners. I am your co-worker, not your customer. I am your friend, not a venture capital fund.

At this point many of you are wise to the imminent Kickstarter rant. I have done what I can to make it less rant-y. In all honesty, it sounded like a great idea when I first heard of it. It did not take me long to sour on it, though, aided substantially by the half-dozen weekly requests that float across social media. Part of the problem is that the vast majority of my friends are writers, artists, comedians, musicians, or wannabes of any of the preceding. This is Kickstarter's prime demographic. I understand this. That does not make the constant panhandling any less irritating.

In the past two weeks, I have received requests from:

The Baffler, which is basically my favorite thing in the history of the written word, asking subscribers (who already pay over $10/issue for the privilege) to fork over more money to meet some nebulous $20,000 "goal".

– Two local musicians with $5,000 and $10,000 goals, respectively, to record an album. Aside from the Andy Rooney-ish "Get the money the old fashioned way – play shows, you ingrates!" response, please note that it costs nofuckingwhere near that much money for a local band to record an album. My old band recorded two, both of extremely high technical quality, at a studio used by Big Time Bands, with an engineer who is well respected in the field, and with mastering by an indie rock legend. I don't think it cost us $3,000 combined. And we could have cut some corners, too.

– An artist, also aiming for $5,000, who appears to have all of the necessary supplies to produce a series of paintings and who apparently wants to raise the money to pay rent and utilities so she can paint in lieu of working. As opposed to the rest of us, who enjoy working and cannot think of any way we'd prefer to spend our time.

– A guy trying to jump on the Food Truck bandwagon. Good luck, pal.

Yes, in an ideal world we would simply throw open our palms and have people give us money to pursue our ambitions. I would certainly like it if a bunch of people sent me $50,000 so I could devote all of my time to writing and telling jokes. What, however, would lead me to believe I've earned that? Where does one get the self-confidence and complacency to ask one's social circle – most of whom are just as hard up for cash, mind you – for financial support? Were other sources of potential funding exhausted before resorting to friends as a last plea, or was the Kickstarter set up first because it's so easy?

This brings us to the second problem: People who don't actually need the money asking for it. Why would actor and director Colin Hanks, son of bajillionaire Tom, waste $50,000 of his pocket change to fund a documentary project when he could just ask his fans to give it to him? It's not like he shits money or anything! Does Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls) need a Kickstarter-record $460,000 to record a fucking album? It's good to hear her whine/note that this is hundreds of thousands more than the mere $100,000 her old record label offered her as a recording budget. I feel for you, my little lamb.

Tacky, gaudy, crass, and other words come to mind when I see things like this. Yes, I know, free will and open access and no one forces anyone to give and yadda yadda yadda. This is one of those issues in which can and should are two very different questions with, in the vast majority of cases, two different answers. I'm specifically NOT claiming that no one can/should ever ask for money; what bothers me is the ease with which it can be done now and the lack of forethought that appears to go into it. "I'd like to record an album. Let's just ask our friends to give us money." Requests for money, as any fund raiser can tell you, have rapidly diminishing returns. Whatever potential Kickstarter might have had to fund the next great inventor or the next great artist has been diluted rapidly in a crowd of outstretched hands, palms up and open.

64 thoughts on “ePANHANDLING”

  • Try being an ex-raft guide ski-bum that became a landlord. I have friends that simply expect me to house them and their dogs and their girlfriends and their kids and their Girlfriend's kids. :-/

  • Preach brother preach

    I just tend to get angry at the encroachment of economics into social relations aspect of this stuff, in a "goddamnit do not monetize the few social interactions that do not currently have a cash or credit or market transaction attached to them" kind of way.

    That's actually the basis of a book I'm slogging through from the 70s, J R, which is just an epically brutal satire and incredibly prescient in its depiction of the economization of the social sphere.

  • Well, the Madden thing you linked to was satire. Doesn't exactly help your point, but I hear you.

  • What is with Tom Hanks' kids? I don't have anything against him, but he's produced three children who have engaged in widely varied forms of public wankery.

  • Just to be contrarian, there is one area Kickstarter seems to do quite well: small-scale manufacturing. I don't know how many projects make the leap from successful one-off to long-term viability, but it does seem to be more in the intended vein to use Kickstarter as a way for people to pre-order something they actually want, however frivolous, as opposed to just paying someone to do something cool. Which is why the folks selling luxury underwear and extra iPhone camera lenses hit their goals, while my friend's painting project is stuck at the $20 his mom threw in.

    Hell, even Palmer wasn't asking for donations, exactly–even a $1 contribution got you some reasonably priced music downloads, and she put together elaborate goodie bags for the rabid fans who forked over the most cash. I'm much less annoyed by someone who successfully uses the internet to make a ton of money selling shit directly to strangers than I am by having people I went to highschool with trying to get me to fund a foodservice sabbatical for their crappy film concept.

    Seriously, though, this will blow over soon. As soon as news media get tired of this flavor of DIY Captialism Success Stories, people will start to realize that the site isn't a magic money fountain, and most of the people doing well there are going into it with something people already want to buy.

  • People do things for no other reason than other people are doing it. Thus comments on blogs.

  • Middle Seaman says:

    Our cleaning lady who works for my wife for 20 years happens to be short once in a while. She asks and I cover the gap and eventually the money gets back to me. I am happy to help. I see nothing wrong with her asking.

    One of the local public radio stations fund raises frequently. I used to send them $5 or $10 a month, makes very small difference to me. Then I found out that the talk show hosts make about $500,000 a year. What? Why? With my money? Never again will I send them a penny.

    Conclusion: if you can help someone in need. Otherwise, show them birdie.

  • Begging has gone mainstream. For most of recorded history those with any means would never lower them selves to receive charity. That has, apparently, ended. Now, even the extremely well off will extort money from their cohorts and even their employees to give even more money to the overprivileged sports league.

    As a person who routinely sucks it up and writes a check to these fine people, I have now started to question this grassroots philanthropy. A colleague who is now overcome by her former friend that she hasn't talked to in ten years affliction with pancreatic cancer has decided that running a 5K should merit at least a $15,000 payout for cancer research. Doing what I always do, I was prepared to throw $50,00 toward the cause. When I got to the website, I was dismayed that $1,000 was the recommended donation and that $200 was the minimum donation that didn't require a humiliating form to explain why you couldn't afford to give more.

    For the first time, I decided to give nothing. It felt as personally humiliating as not leaving my waiter a tip. It's not something I had ever considered until charity had a minimum barrier of entry.

    Perhaps some smug wealthy person set up the site who had no clue how most people live or perhaps this woman (who I don't like or respect much) has delusions of grandeur but the point remains. Charity is money that you give freely and expect nothing from. You give it to those who are truly in need and hope you never need to ask for it yourself. The new culture of cyber-begging is most responsible for the further degradation of charitable giving and I resent it.

  • HoosierPoli says:

    Am I wrong in understanding that there is often some sort of return implied in investing in a kickstarter?

  • You know how business types always advise us to "network"? Well, this is basically what it looks like when everyone takes their advice. Everyone is asking everyone they know for money or favors. Sometimes it even works! But since were all broke, everyone is asking and noone is giving.

    I'm incredibly pissed off at kickstarter in particular right now. One of my favorite webcomics, erfworld, had a successful kickstarter recently. It's purpose? To make merchandise. So now they're too busy making merchandise to make any actual comics anymore.

  • Number Three says:

    Ed, I think that it's your connection to the arts community that makes this so annoying (as the post makes pretty clear). Over here in the no-connection-to-the-arts-straight-up-social-science-polling world, things are a lot more boring, and no one has ever asked me for money to start up their own polling firm . . . hey, that's a great idea!!! Ed, you're my inspiration. How about throwing in $50? /snark

  • anotherbozo says:

    So I guess there's an advantage to being the pauper in one's social circle. Only my own (land grant, public) university duns me for contributions. Constantly. During the dinner hour. (I once told them to fuck off and that stopped the calls for a while, but they're back) And, come to think of it, my graduate school too. Not to mention every politician and group with the word "Democratic" in it.

    Reading G&T is always worthwhile, particularly if one is out of touch, if not out to lunch. I've got to find out what "Kickstarter" is. But first find out about The Baffler. Seems Ed finds it fairly good.

  • For $460000, Palmer's new album better open with a 21-gun salute from all the tanks of a Russian motorized regiment.

  • These sites would be far more useful if they provided a template and guidelines for a basic business plan that they then required to be able to ask for money. I'm all for creative ways to raise capital but you still have to know what the hell you are doing and I'd be more likely to give if I could see a rational business planned that outlined how the money would be spent.

  • I agree with Radical Scientist. I don't know about small scale manufacturing in general, but development of open source engineering projects in the Maker community has greatly benefited from the Kickstarter funding model. One of my personal favorites has been an open source laser cutter. These guys are developing a tool that will cost less than $5k with capabilities of a device that would normally cost $40-50k. This and similar projects are making fantastic contributions to the democratization of the means of production, if you will.

    I think you're adopting a position here that's analogous to the Republican view toward welfare benefits; be careful to not stifle legitimate uses of the model simply because of the "abuses" of a few (or many as the case may be).

  • RosiesDad says:

    Having one brother who has basically buried our parents and our other brother each in six figure debt to try to salvage his failing business, let me say, "Amen."

    My rule of thumb is this: If a family member or friend needed a couple of hundred (or couple of thousand if I was feeling flush) dollars that I could kiss goodbye with no remorse, I would be inclined to help out. Amounts above this need to be raised through conventional means–banks and other commercial lenders, venture capital, angel investors, and others who would do due diligence to determine if the reward was worth the risk.

  • Maribel Tabucao says:

    I'm all for creative ways to raise capital but you still have to know what the hell you are doing and I'd be more likely to give if I could see a rational business planned that outlined how the money would be spent

    Heh.

    Exactly what the Tea Party asks of the US Government

  • RosiesDad says:

    @Maribel Tabucao

    Yeah, except the US Government isn't a small business. Or even a large business. In fact, it's not a business at all.

    And that distinction is completely lost on most members of the Tea Party (who also could not explain the difference between the deficit and the debt).

  • hackenbush says:

    A friend of mine is financing production of an album through kickstarter, but rather than asking for some nebulously large amount, he was asking for just enough to cover duplication costs (since one of his friends is/was a recording engineer). That sort of "crowdsourcing" costs (coupled with the bonus of giving a copy to people who donate enough, which is essentially "pre-selling" copies) seems to be a more ethical use of kickstarter.

  • Love the blog, but think you missed the point on this one. The vast, vast, vast majority of the kickstarters are pre-production sales that allow one to see if there is demand for a product before investing in creating it. In terms of market studies, it's hard to imagine something more real than getting actual consumers to commit actual dollars to buy product X.

    I suppose the girl scout cookie analogy isn't that far off for some of them, but the panhandling allusion misses the mark widely. Even though I share your lack of interest in funding music projects or terrible art, kickstarter represents a way for small businesses to reach an audience that would otherwise be impossible. Here's the most recent one I bought. Watch the video and tell me with a straight face that sounds like panhandling.

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jakehimself/flint-and-tinder-premium-mens-underwear

  • A an old college acquaintance took to Facebook to raise money so that he could climb Mt. Everest. How is it your friends' job to fund your frivolous extreme tourism? As Ed said, of course he "can" ask, and people are free to give, but I found the request ridiculous. Anyone who has money to donate to a cause and chooses instead to give to this guy to climb a damn mountain needs to rethink their priorities.

  • There is nothing in this world that enrages me more than big business corrupting social media to squeeze a few more dollars out of the public. The Coca-Cola company is not my fucking Friend™, I do not fucking Like™ Pizza Hut, and people who are already well-off do not need my fucking help Kickstarting™ their projects.

  • Agreed on all but one point. You ALWAYS buy the candy from the kid who's raising money for his/her little league team/school. You ALWAYS stop at the lemonade stand. But if Little Timmy comes up to you with a pyramid scheme, you are completely with in your rights to kick the little con artist in the shins.

  • Yeah, I guess I am a little confused -is kickstarter merely charity, or do you get some sort of roi, such as stock or bonds? Why the everlasting fuck would you give someone money so that they can make money with you getting nothing in return?

  • Grumpygradstudent says:

    My band got incredibly lucky and found a rich patron who financed our first two albums (we worked hard to cram as much recording into as little time as possible). This was a local business owner who was a fan and just offered to do it. We should be well set up to be able to fund our own recordings from now on, through shows and album sales. I think we got both albums recorded and mixed for about 3k in studio time, plus manufacturing costs.

    Now that we have an actual album to sell, I'm planning to shamelessly guilt everyone I know into buying it. I'm not sure if this is the same as the kickstarter model. My thoughts are 1. you people are my friends, and I put a lot of work into this. 2. it's freaking $10.00. 3. it represents many years of collective musical training and songwriting from all my band members. 4. it's freaking $10.00. and 5. it's actually pretty good.

    We'll see if the guilt trip works or not.

  • "Why the everlasting fuck would you give someone money so that they can make money with you getting nothing in return?"

    Yeah, that's not how it works. The vast majority of kickstarters are in the model of "fund my band|art|business and I'll send you goods worth something like what you pledged". And you aren't charged a cent unless the kickstarter is fully funded, at which point the creator has committed to deliver the goods. It's actually a lot more sane than most funding models as the creator doesn't spend time producing things no one wants and the "investor" is the consumer instead of a traditional investor who will demand to own part of the company or take a percentage of the sales.

  • My perception is that Kickstarter is what you get when other sources of money have finally dried up – and I mean "other sources of money" in a sort of larger sense.

    My perception is skewed towards art projects, because that's what I have some familiarity with. As someone who has talked to people who were alive decades before I was, I've been told that art used to be funded in other ways. This is what I've gathered from talking to people in their 50s and older in the arts field. If it's accurate, I imagine the same general priciples might apply to other things as well..

    …years ago (I'm told) the economy was strong enough that artsy types used to be able to work part-time and live frugally and have time to devote to art. Wages have gone down, the cost of living has gone up, and student debt is now common – so now they have to work long, exhausting hours just to make ends meet, and have little time for painting or rehearsals or whatever. As this gets more and more extreme, they turn to panhandling.

    …there used to be more government largesse in circulation, and not just direct grants (although those used to exist as well). For example, the afore-mentioned artsy folks claim they used to be able to get educational gigs during the school year that paid well (apprently, American public schools used to provide arts education of some variety), and they could live off of those earnings during the summer and make art. That money went away. In fact, schools are now begging for money themselves. (This is what happens when you cut education funding – it "trickles down", you see.)

    …there used to be ways to fund art by selling art, lessons, or tickets to people who had the time and money for things like buying a painting or taking dance classes or going to the theatre. Now nobody has any money, and everyone is begging, because things like good jobs and time off have gone bye-bye.

    Like I said – that's what I've been told has happened over the decades, from people who lived through it. It is most certainly a rather elite perspective – the "people" in queston pretty much refers to the educated classes who used to have disposable income – but any discussion of art is often somewhat elitist. But if what they say is true, it should not be surprising that we now have Kickstarter….it's a logical development at this point.

    Oh yeah, one more thing. The "funding community" of foundations and such? They support Kickstarter as a great way for nonprofits to "develop individual giving!" I'll save the rant on foundations for another day, it's a long one.

    To sum up the ramble above…the economy is totally broken, the old art-making models don't work (and presumably neither do other non-art production models I know nothing of), nobody has money, everyone's begging, and Kickstarter just facilitates this.

  • ladiesbane says:

    Some folks send swag by level of donation, rather like public broadcasting, and that seems to avoid the "something for nothing" problem. Comic strippers seem to be good about that. (Musicians do make me sigh. If your playing sucks, better gear won't help. But hey, maybe being able to pay rent on a place and eat steady meals will. So do your thing.)

    Other folks want to avoid the middleman, such as record companies and book publishers. We no longer need them to manufacture and distribute CDs and hardbacks, but that puts the burden of marketing on the artist. How? Kickstarter works better than begging friends to pre-order on Amazon, usually, but the relentless self-promotion is wearing me down.

    And we know that people assume / assign higher value to expensive things, and things they had to pay for, rather than what was given to them. (Insert "Participation Ribbon" speech here.) Even seeing that other people have contributed so much lends it the luster of confident support.

    Last, people enjoy a feeling of proprietorship when they contribute to the early stages of a project, and pride when the project succeeds. Sort of like the poor man's version of preferred stock ownership.

    So when Amanda Palmer makes $100,000 overnight from donations, you feel she couldn't have done it without your $5. Getting a charming retweet from Neil Gaiman might make it completely worthwhile to you, so pledge on, Pledger. It reminds me of people who vote for whichever politician they think is going to win rather than the one they'd prefer to see in office. You're not betting on a horserace, folks!

    But I wonder if some people will be more likely to donate to a project that is already cash-heavy, feeling more assured that it will succeed. Curious. Is Kickstarter is collecting data on this?

  • This would be a perfectly fine rant until you went off on Kickstarter. You do not get it.

    You 'donate' money and you get a product in return in theory. Maybe your experience with the types of kickstarters is skewing your perception, but the kickstarters that are producing actual things are bringing things to market that have no hope of getting funding in todays market.

    Take for instance the 450k raised to make an album. That includes the costs for recording, duplication, shipping and handling, and all the additional swag that was promised for donating more then the minimum.

    Are you really bitching about a recording artist being able to produce a limited run CD of around 10k and actually make a profit, have complete creative control, and retaining the rights to their work just because you think they could have raised the money some other way?

    You lost the plot on this one.

  • TL;DR version Ed "Get off my lawn!"

    I love Kickstarter. I love that it cuts out the middleman keeping cool niche ideas from being published. I love that DoubleFine gets to make an old school adventure game, that there's going to be a new Shadowrun and Wasteland game that likely wouldn't have been green lit any other way.

    You see artists panhandling and I see artists connecting directly with fans and giving them what they want.

    I agree with you a lot of the time Ed, but on this one you're just plain wrong.

  • Xecky Gilchrist says:

    An artist, also aiming for $5,000, who appears to have all of the necessary supplies to produce a series of paintings and who apparently wants to raise the money to pay rent and utilities so she can paint in lieu of working. As opposed to the rest of us, who enjoy working and cannot think of any way we'd prefer to spend our time.

    I've given money to Kickstarters like this. I think it's a fine idea, especially in a culture where funding for artists, like the NEA, is constantly getting vilified and slashed. This gripe is nothing more than "misery loves company."

  • You could not misunderstand Amanda () Palmer more if you tried. The point of her leaving the record label was to regain creative control. Yes, she could never play music another day in her life, her husband is quite well off and would happily see her much more often I'm sure. But she loves it. She loves engaging with the people and making a connection. The kickstarter project is her way of doing that on a big (big) scale. Many other artists have done similar things without Kickstarter (Jill Sobule comes to mind immediately). Do you think that a coffee table book and associated CD would have cost less than the $125 that a pledge costs if she'd produced it at a label? Would they even have done so? Or would you end up with something like this (http://www.nerve.com/news/music/elvis-costello-tells-people-to-skip-his-expensive-box-set-buy-louis-armstrong-instead)?

  • Yes, in an ideal world we would simply throw open our palms and have people give us money to pursue our ambitions.

    Wedding gifts. Housewarmings. Baby showers. Bake sales. It's all about the relative ease of chipping in small amounts occasionally rather than huge amounts right at the time of transition. Perhaps it's not that discontinuous for us to be there at times of career transition? Just a thought.

  • Surly Duff says:

    As an aside, I have absolutely no desire to see a documentary about the demise of Tower Records. It was a small, local shop that expanded into a worldwide retail chain, and, like many large-scale retail chains, ended up going bankrupt because the market for store selling cds, movies, etc. contracted with the rise of digital and online products. Seems like a mundane story that really does not need to be told. Unless I can convince everyone here to pass along $50,000 to tell the story of the rise and fall of Borders. Any takers? Anyone? What if I throw in a Thank You in the credits? No one?

    What if I told you my father was famous? Hello?

  • This doesn't hold up too well though. Most kickstarter projects have a return for your investment. If I was planning on buying Madden '13 already (I'm not), supporting their kickstarter project for $40 and getting the game fsounds like a pretty good deal, because normally it would cost $60.

    One of my favorite bands did a kickstarter project. I supported them for $10, help a band I like put out an album, and I get a copy in the mail for supporting them. I'm essentially paying in advance for something I would have bought anyways and helping "make it happen". Win/Win. And if it is some stupid thing nobody will help out with, like some of your other examples, they probably won't get off the ground.

  • I like Kickstarter. I've backed a few things, only one of them has actually made their goal. It's a low-risk situation. You give what you want to give. If it makes its goal, you get some cool shit and charged your donation. If it doesn't make, you don't get charged.

    I'd have a bigger problem with Kickstarter if the money you gave disappeared in a black hole even if the project didn't happen.

    Amanda Palmer does annoy me because not only is she already successful in her own right, but she's married to Neil Gaiman. It's like Tom Hanks' kid. You're telling me Neil Gaiman can't fund his wife's project?

  • Chicagojon says:

    Kickstarter's the new Groupon, Farmville, Amazon, or Burger King depending on how you look at it. It sounds great on paper, but as it grows there will be more cases of people raising money but not completing the project and outright scam projects. It also will have more and more larger names and companies with deep pockets using it because the model rewards $ throughput for the company, not the number of successful projects or art/music brought into the world. Kickstarter also will rely more and more on people backing multiple projects – heavy-hitters if you will that used to waste $20 at a time on Farmville or daily deal sites.

    I've backed 2 projects – the DoubleFine video game and the OOTS comic book print. No regrets on those, but they're examples of things where I already would donate to the site/company, or get DLC because I want to support the company. I doubt I'll do another Kickstarter or Groupon in 2012. I'm still into woot, but barely.

    It'll be fun to watch this year as people spend thousands of dollars on Kickstarter and the site plows through a couple hundred million for projects. Ain't capitalism grand?

  • komoriblue says:

    When my sister had cervical cancer and was in the middle of a divorce, I used one of those websites to try to raise money to help pay for her and my two-years-old-at-the-time nephew's living expenses while she recovered from surgery. No one gave a fucking thing. I did also try to sell some stuff on etsy and apply the profits to said cause (thinking that people might be more inclined to give if they got something out of it), and I didn't make a dime there, either (two people bought things, but it wasn't enough to cover the production cost of said things).

    It all turned out okay in the end, but I will admit that I was more than a little disappointed, especially seeing the kinds of things people in my social networks were donating money to support. It was an embarrassing experience; not because no one donated anything, but simply because I was asking for money in that manner. I was pretty freaked out and scared for my sister at the time, and wanted to do whatever I could to help her. I already had quite a bit of sympathy for panhandlers (well, most of them), and people who have to beg for money for by leaving sad little coffee cans in gas stations with photos of their child who requires surgery, and this only added to it.

  • Ok, reading this post has been a great big WTF trip into a facts-free echo-chamber. There are two prevalent misunderstandings about Kickstarter that keep coming up over and over in the comments despite several people debunking them:

    * That Kickstarter is a way to beg for charitable donations. No, it's a way of funding a created product of some sort. Part of their rules require there to be an actual thing that is made if the project gets at-least-fully funded. Some people push the edges of this a la the PBS fund drives, but they still need to be funding creative work of some sort. If you want to fund an actual charity, there are other sites for that.

    * That Kickstarter money goes to these feeble attempts at panhandling. No, even if a few people pledge money, if the project isn't "funded" (i.e. meets its goal), then *no* funds are disbursed. It's like an escrow account. And when projects are posted and don't fund, that's the system working: some creative person who may not have a lot of savings doesn't have to empty their accounts to fund a print run only to find that nobody will buy it.

    So Ed's friends that are begging may be doing a rude or obnoxious thing, but let's not go blaming Kickstarter for this.

    PS: Thanks @Graham for the tip on Flint and Tinder. Hadn't heard of them, but they definitely sound worth funding!

  • I've seen and heard quite a few anti-Kickstarter rants now, and it makes me thankful I don't have many connections. (Funny that this is the first time I feel a need to comment, I've been reading G&T for a while and I love it.)

    What's really interesting though is how we label some behavior "begging," as opposed to, say, "raising capital" or "courting investors" or even "pitching a concept." What has to be different? Is it the pollution of social bonds? Is it because the would-be patron thinks the project is worthless?

    I'm curious, because my experience has been kickstarting various game projects and it very much seems like the "small-scale manufacturing" mentioned above. And it also seems like great demand-side economics.

  • I don't have a problem with kickstarter any more than I have a problem with any other attempt to fund things. At least kickstarter requests seem a lot more interesting to see than NEA grants.

    Now, friends and family asking for money is a different problem. But, as was said before, don't blame kickstarter for that.

    Ed: this isn't like you. This sort of knee jerk unthinking reaction is unlike your usual rapier wit.

    What's going on up there?

  • I have contributed to several Kickstarter music projects and have been pleased with each one. Contributing connects me with the bands, in general, and with the production process, specifically. The ROI is the much anticipated CD/LP, plus, perhaps, a few trinkets.

    (BTW: great blog and great contributors. A daily read.)

  • My policy is I will give you what money I can. But I have no interest in loaning you any.

    And I'm not coming to your fucking candle party to buy your overpriced candles. And rather just give you your cut if you are hurting that bad.

  • "That Kickstarter is a way to beg for charitable donations. No, it's a way of funding a created product of some sort. Part of their rules require there to be an actual thing that is made if the project gets at-least-fully funded."

    And I think this comment shows misinformation about how so-called charitable giving works. I'll stick with the arts because that's what I know.

    When you donate to a non-profit arts organization (aka, a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit), you can specify that you want the money to go for a particular project (restricted support), or not specify, and let it be used however the organization wants to use it (unrestricted or "general operating" support). While Jane Dogood sending her $20 to the community theatre may not specifiy where she wants the money to go, many individual funders, and most institutional funders like foundations and yes, the government, tend to give very, very little "general operating support". Most serious money – and much of the not-so-serious money as well – is more frequently given to fund a specific "created project" – in other words, there are usually rules in place that "require there to be an actual thing that is made". If the project doesn't get made, the money can be forfeited (and yes, big donors, foundations and the government will demand their money back if organizations don't do exactly what they were supposed to do with the money). Often, the money is doled out in chunks, or sometimes even in a reimbursement manner, to make sure it goes only to the project and that the project in fact happens.

    I'm not particuarly anti-Kickstarter or pro-Kickstarter. But the idea that Kickstarter is "different" from other forms of more traditional charitable giving because it requires "an actual thing be made" is really not so accurate.

  • Serendipitously, I pledged to my first Kickstarter project before coming over here and reading this yesterday morning, just after I unfollowed Amanda Palmer on Twitter for her veritable avalanche of tweets. I feel unusually hip to the Gin and Tacos weltanschauung.

    I quite like the idea of Kickstarter, because by allowing micro-contributions it seems like it has the potential to democratise patronage, which may offer the space for things to be created in different ways, involving different groups of people, and addressing different themes that more mainstream patronage would not, or could not, support. I dislike the idea of Kickstarter for kind of the same reason: I believe that art should be publicly funded, and in a way that makes it accessible to all kinds of people.

    The thing I pledged to is near to my heart, politically, and involves an excellent organisation whose work I want to sustain. The benefit to me is the thing they're making, copies of previous things they've made, and feeling like I'm contributing to my community.

    I can see that it might become deeply annoying if everyone that I knew had a project on the go that they were trying to fund through Kickstarter, because it annoys me when people do things like run marathons for megacharities to which I am indifferent. It seems rude not to sponsor them, but I would rather give my money to local organisations whose work I value and who are precariously funded.

    Amanda Palmer does annoy me because not only is she already successful in her own right, but she's married to Neil Gaiman. […] You're telling me Neil Gaiman can't fund his wife's project?

    I find this attitude, which seems to have come up a lot in reference to the AFP / Kickstarter story, completely bizarre.

  • @komoriblue

    I'm really sorry that your sister was so ill, and that you were so desperately trying to help her.

    I find the stories from G+Ters about what happens when they are their families are ill completely enraging. Health is a human right, and the fact that you are collectively subject to the whims of a capricious, profit-driven, inhuman system of healthcare allocation makes me want to kick something.

  • Ellie: I'm actually aware of how not-for-profits work, but I oversimplified because the post was already long. I was using "charitable" in its nontechnical sense, which seemed to be how most people here were using it previously. As far as I know, Kickstarter doesn't care at all whether you're a for-profit, not-for-profit, or not even incorporated, as long as the funding is for making a thing; so for "charitable" in its technical sense where it means "to a not-for-profit group", it'd be more accurate to say that it overlaps or is orthogonal to what Kickstarter does.

  • (With reference to my comment about healthcare, above, I missed out the word 'American'. Obviously my fellow non-American commenters have different health systems in each of their countries.)

  • Couple of anecdata:

    A few years back, I contributed pre-order to buy a Marillion album, so they could record and produce it; they did a special release for pre-orders, got my name in the liner notes. It was a bleg, sure, but I got a product. After that album, they did a similar thing to raise interest in a North American tour, so they could prove to a bank that they had the interest justifying a loan that would pay for a tour. Relatively successful, too, from what I understand.

    I just sent a kickstarter donation to a local band to record a new album; the amount was the same you mentioned, $5K. But my donation get me a pre-release copy of the disc, a t-shirt, and stickers and other swag. They made their goal; if they had not, the money would have been refunded. And I suppose that part of that money had to go to pay Kickstarter also.

    I almost always buy the music of local bands, whether pre-release or at a show. I didn't see this as any different.

    I guess I might feel differently if all my friends and family were constantly hawking their wares; I certainly don't push my professional services on them (wouldn't say no, though).

    One of my favorite bands, the Mekons, were defunct at one point, and were brought back into activity by the support and cash of a benefactor; they then released some epochal music. Patrons have always been part of the artistic efforts, and I am actually kind of happy to see the process democratized to some extent.

    I send cash once in a while to a couple of folks who do a great political podcast, and feel good about doing that; in addition, another friend I've met online recently was diagnosed with cancer, and her husband had a heart attack; I sent her a few bucks, broke as I am she needed it more than I do.

    Having said that, everyone does need to feel OK with their own boundaries. It's still a donation, or patronage or whatever you want to call it. Nobody is obligated to send money.

    So. Anyone need an architect?

  • komoriblue says:

    Elle: Thank you for the condolences.

    Fortunately, my sister's situation wasn't as bad as it could have been; she did have health insurance, just nothing to cover her expenses during the time she had to miss from work. I think the fact that I was asking for money to help out an attractive, white woman with health insurance added to my guilt/embarrassment about asking for donations, and probably tempered my reaction to the lack thereof. I mean, yes, she had cancer, but fuck… there are so many people in the U.S. who are in much worse situations.

  • ImpureScience says:

    I have been invited to finance the recording projects of others online, but of course having funded my own for several years through the day gig that took over the Earth, personal loans, etc., I have had to decline.

    That being said, I certainly don't mind Kickstarter stuff as long as there's no guilt associated with saying no. Eventually someone will have a project in mind that I like and I'll be happy to invest a little and get a CD out of it.

    It has to be better than the old-style human contact version, i.e. turning friends and family into warm leads for your new venture in which you allow a slug-like creature from another planet to latch onto your CNS and direct you to sell mass quantities of worthless merchandise for a small commission. At least you can say no semi-anonymously. I had a highly respected teacher badger me about joining a wonderful new MLM scheme (not at all like the others!) to sell vitamins, a close family member try this with several similar things (Amway, candles, food, cookware, you name it,) a fellow musician tried this several times with all members of my family and still won't quit. The bloody crossing guard on the corner wanted to tell me about his new business. It's a disease.

  • As someone who has worked with artists, activists and foodies, I can relate to Ed here. I LOVE Kickstarter, or rather what it could be, but get inundated with requests sometimes. And, like Ed, this well is dry for the time being.

    I think the distinction is important when it comes to NEED. It just seems like too many people are using Kickstarter as their first option, not their last. Why not talk to people in the real world first to see if there's any juice or not, then give it a shot. And asking $10,000 to record an album, to say nothing of $100,000, is ludicrous.

    I can see WHY people like the half-million dollar wife of Gaiman and EA use this, but I definitely find it troubling that people with such deep pockets need to use this resource which seems specifically designed for small businesses and artists. Couldn't Neil loan his wife the money… and then make the profit off it, as opposed to sending out more crap that will eventually end up in a landfill?

  • Until very recently, I actually owned and ran a tiny record label, and I agree with you about these ridiculously inflated amounts. (Well, okay, I guess I can see $5,000 as *maybe* being realistic in some cases, depending on the size of the band and the intended scope of the album, but anything over that is gouging.) I never spent anything more than $1500 to get an album recorded – granted, the studio I used was damn affordable by local standards, but they did great work, which shows that you can actually find that elusive combination of high quality and low cost if you look for it a little bit.

  • "Does Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls) need a Kickstarter-record $460,000 to record a fucking album? It's good to hear her whine/note that this is hundreds of thousands more than the mere $100,000 her old record label offered her as a recording budget. …"

    Steve Jobs started his company with funds from selling his old VW bus. I realize times are different, and a dollar doesn't stretch quite as far as it used to. But perhaps if Ms. Palmer sold her Porsche and saved up she'd have enough to accomplish her goals.

  • Go to the article about EA getting 8.5 million dollars for Madden 13, the very first line of the article is "The headline is a joke, of course, and a bit of parody of what

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