Kickstarter

How the White House budget threatens creativity

Kickstarter was launched in 2009 — not by a computer science major or an MBA, but by an artist, a designer and me, a music critic. Arts and culture were important to us and we thought a lot of other people, too. It took off. 

When a Washington Post headline a few years later declared "Kickstarter raises more money for artists than the NEA,” I felt both humility and apprehension. We were mentioned in the same breath as the National Endowment for the Arts, an organization whose mission we admire deeply. But I worried our success might be seen as an argument that the private sector alone should address arts funding.

Read in full: Published as an Oped in The Hill

Why we started Kickstarter

This week, a website that I co-founded opened its doors. It’s called Kickstarter, and it’s an easy, feel-good way to raise money to do anything: make a record, produce a book (which is what I am doing), invent an invisibility cloak, put on a show… The possibilities are endless.

Below is an explanation for what motivated us to start this, and where we hope to see it go. If you’d like to be a part of Kickstarter, just email me at yancey at kickstarter dot com. Word.

The Beatles were turned down by nearly every record label. George Lucas couldn’t find a movie studio that would make Star Wars. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post were two of the only reporters assigned to cover Watergate. John Kennedy Toole went to his grave with A Confederacy of Dunces still unpublished.

Anecdotes like these have become folklore, as have their lessons: good ideas go unrecognized, experts get it wrong, perseverance prevails. All true. But as we marvel at the elixirs of skill and luck that have brought the few enormous fame and many endless heartache, it’s also worth considering that maybe this judgment system that seems to get so much so wrong is outdated. That it doesn’t speak for anyone except itself. That a good idea, well-crafted and pursued with passion, doesn’t need a gatekeeper’s stamp of approval to succeed.

The gauntlet that is fundraising (for everyone who doesn’t have a rich, benevolent uncle) sees only profit or predictability. Not art or passion or talent or an incredible story of inspiration.

Kickstarter aims to give each one of us a chance to fund our ideas, starting directly with the people who are closest to it (friends, fans, community-fellows). And it’s a way to break beyond the traditional methods — loans, investment, industry deals, grants — to discover that we can offer each other value through creation without a middleman dictating the product and terms.