Kickstarter has given the Internet-directed DIY movement a whole new exploration. Fans can directly support sometimes very unique projects, and see them come to fruition.
In short, Kickstarter allows donors to donate money to very specific time-oriented and clearly budgeted projects. The vast majority of projects (any project that hopes to succeed in reaching its proposed budget) offer rewards. The greater the donation, the greater the reward. The more focused a project and the better the rewards, the better chance it has to succeed. Of course, the real success rate is largely perfectly correlated to how popular the project maker is already.
This brings us to one of the key members of the experimental electronic group ‘Animal Collective.’ The band has a long career of multiple albums, and just released the musical odyssey ‘Centipede Hz.’ The member in question, Josh Gibbs a.k.a ‘Deacon’ has slowly been prepping his debut solo album. ‘Deacon’ turned to Kickstarter to help fun a project, including the packaging and release of his album, and a modest donation to TEMEDT. The charity that helps to free enslaved Tuareg people in Africa and a special trip to for ‘Deacon’ to perform in Africa was part of the project.
The project was posted in 2009, and promised donors a physical release of the album, a booklets of photos, among other things. Yet as of 2012, none of the gifts have been released, ultimately giving donors and fans the impression that the Kickstarter project was used solely to fund a trip to Africa for ‘Deacon.’
According to Deacon, “I think the Kickstarter was up for a day or two before I realized that I felt incredibly uncomfortable about the idea of asking people to fund a trip for me to go to Africa… that’s why the project turned into a charity thing.”
It has been noted that all the money from the fundraising has been allocated to the charity as opposed to going to the recording of the album.
This is fair, and in some ways, admirable. But the entire premise of Kickstarter is reliant on people delivering on their promises. So what happens to all the rewards promised to donors that, they fairly deserve?
“The gifts were supposed to be based around the music that I had been writing at that time, and when I came back, I personally felt really dissatisfied with it,” he explained, and spoke of the struggles he’s experienced in recording his first solo record and sticking to his self-imposed deadlines. “For me, as an artist– whether or not people can be sympathetic to this or not– it’s just been a much slower process to do things on my own than with the band.”
Deacon comes across sincere, as artists know the creative process can be tricky. But is this a satisfying answer? If it is, of course, we have to understand that it can be the go-t0 answer for ANY Kickstarter project that fails to deliver. And accompanying for double standards, it should probably be acceptable in that project as well.
The point being made is twofold- is “creative problems” a sufficient answer for not delivering? Secondly, if Kickstarter becomes a system that becomes notorious for incomplete final projects and unrewarded donors will it be enough to cause a massive dent in the online-centric DIY movement? There is an ethical obligation to deliver when donors give their money- but what is the ethical standard for the creative project maker?
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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