The Love/Hate Relationship With Crowd-Funding

Over the past 3 years, digital media is pushing the adage “put your money where your mouth is” to the next level. We’ve seen content step outside the template of stereotypical viewing habits of minorities. Prestigious film festivals such as Sundance and SXSW have premiered films and documentaries that were mostly, if not solely, produced through crowd-funding. Recently, the former hit TV show “Veronica Mars” reached their campaign goal in record time. It’s an interesting aspect of pop culture that’s evolving right in front of us.

Photo Credit: Fast Company

While crowd-funding as a whole has many benefits for both content creators and consumers, there’s five points that come into play.

1) How sound is the plan?: Whether it’s $10 or $100,000, investors want to know where and how their money will be spent. Crowd-funding campaigners don’t always lay it out for potential consumers. Many simply ask for your money and loosely tell you what they need it for. For example, say you’re an established artist putting together your next EP and your campaign goal is $25,000. Is it all for studio time? Do you have collaborators who are donating/discounting their time/services? Is that an estimated or an actual figure? The more upfront you are about your plan with the money, the more likely people are to support it.

2) “Urban” doesn’t equal monolithic: Movies/web content make up the bulk of crowd-funding projects. Since Kickstarter’s start in 2009, there have been nearly 9,000 fully funded projects in film and video. Content creators have netted over $100 million (this includes webseries and shorts) to get their ideas produced. The creative climate right now is conducive to those who want to tell different stories. Therefore, we’re seeing a wide range of projects supported. The fact that these figures include everything from LGBT documentaries to even a HBCU RV Tour webseries is inspiring. Not all minorities enjoy and would pay to see the same type of content over and over.

Paying it forward is an underrated part of success

3) “What does your resume look like?”: If you don’t have anything to show that you’ve done with your own money, that’s problematic. If you’re not willing to sacrifice to fulfill your dreams, is it fair to expect other people to fund them? I also find it hard to support someone who’s never backed others’ projects. Nothing is taken from you if you donate $5 or $10 to support someone else.

4) Are producers prepared to manage an unexpected amount of support?: The great intangible about crowd-funding is that it’s also free marketing. Creator/producer, Issa Rae turned what started out as a passion project to a budding media empire. Not all projects experience that type of extraordinary burst. Not all content creators are ready to handle that type of overwhelming support. Running a successful crowd-funding campaign requires you to be your own marketing/PR at all times. The reality is some backers aren’t necessarily supporting the project, but they’re investing in you and your passion. Having a marketable personality is a big deal for successful crowd-funding.

5) After the money is raised, then what?: Most projects are almost always in the concept/pre-production phase when they launch. Just look at how Aaron McGruder “launched” his campaign for an Uncle Ruckus movie. There’s not even a real script for it. He simply threw up an alley and the response was lukewarm. The wait to experience a completed project may be extremely long. If you have a sound plan, a realistic budget, and take advantage of the intangibles throughout production, backers should feel as though they got their money’s worth when the release date drops.

Again the huge positive about crowd-funding is that it puts content and products directly under consumer control. If something’s wack, it rightfully won’t see the light of day. By no means will Kickstarter and sites like it compete with studio machines. However, the democratization of crowd-funding is bringing attention to a functional model. If you want to see something done, do it yourself. Or support those who can.

 

Have you backed any crowd-funding projects? What made you want to support that particular project? Do you think it’s possible that crowd-funding will become a first option for minority content creators? If you’ve never backed a project, any reason why?

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