Brain Pickings

Crowdfunding for Creativity

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Success via strangers, or what Transylvania has to do with an 8-bit tribute to Miles Davis.

One of the most exciting things about the social web is its tendency to democratize the creative industry, allowing creators — artists, musicians, publishers, filmmakers, writers, entrepreneurs — to bypass the traditional industry distribution model and self-publish their creative output by crowdfunding it through platforms that connect them with their audience. Today, we look at three brilliant platforms for funding creative projects, plus a few more options specific to narrower creative fields.

KICKSTARTER

We’ve already featured Kickstarter extensively, but suffice it to say this brilliantly simple yet remarkably slick platform makes it as easy for creators to bring their visions to life by collecting pledges — promised donation amounts — from supporters. Creators set a donation period for each project posted for funding, then people begin pledging money, committing to donate the promised amount if the project reaches or exceeds its funding goal before time expires. If it doesn’t, no money is collected at all and the pledges simply don’t materialize. If the project does get funded, Kickstarter only takes a 5% fee* and project owners keep 100% of creative ownership.

Kickstarter has funded anything from the brilliant 8-bit map of NYC, which we raved about on Twitter, to the The Obama Timecapsule project, which we featured in our curated gift guide to books last year, to a grassroots effort to save 10,000 Polyvinyl records from destruction, a project that resonated so much with the community that it was overfunded by 1563%, raising over $15,000 after an initial goal of just $1,000.

The only drawback: Kickstarter, still in Beta, is currently invite-only and requires a US bank account and mailing address. But we suspect the platform will open up significantly as it reaches Alpha.

ROCKETHUB

While we don’t generally support replica projects — which RocketHub seems to be of Kickstarter — this relative newcomer in grassroots crowdfunding does have a couple of advantages. Projects aren’t limited to the US — so long as you have a verified PayPal account, you can live anywhere and fuel your project with RocketHub. The platform is also open to anyone, no invitation needed.

But this extra liberty comes at a price — at 8%, RocketHub’s fee is significantly higher than Kickstarter’s, partly due to PayPal fees, which account for 3.5%.*

*Correction: Kickstarter charges a flat fee of 5%, but also passes along the Amazon Payments transactional fees (3%-5%) to the artists who use the platform, for a total fee anywhere between 8% and 10%. RocketHub charges a flat total fee of 8%. We apologize for the mix-up.

INDIE GOGO

Though limited to film only, IndieGoGo offers a promising platform for filmmakers, animators and web video entrepreneurs to fund their projects. The online social marketplace connect filmmakers and fans to make more independed film happen, giving filmmakers the necessary tools to make the elevator pitch for their porjects and allowing fans to contridubute directly to the films and causes they believe in.

IndieGogo is free to sign up and open to anyone. Unlike on Kickstarter, projects don’t have an expiration date and funding is ongoing until the goal is reached.

One of IndieGogo’s winning points is that it’s not US-only — it’s available in 90 countries and counting. And though it’s designed for film, anyone can use it — musicians, app developers, miscellaneous entrepreneurs.

The downside: It takes a 9% fee, almost double that of Kickstarter.

BONUS

Here are a few more options for funding projects in specific creative disciplines:

  • Society6 matches visual artists — designers, painters, illustrators, photographers — with grant-givers. We interviewed founder Justin Wills about the platform last year, and have been delighted to see it blossom into something quite substantial.
  • SellABand allows fans to microfund the recording and distribution of their favorite artists’ albums.
  • Kopernik, which we featured last week, offers a microfunding platform for product design with a humanitarian focus.
  • Spot.Us is a nonprofit experiment in communitiy-funded journalism, where freelance journalists can pitch story ideas and readers can pitch in money to bring them to life.
  • Authonomy is an effort from publisher Harper Collins, using the wisdom of the crowd to spot — and sign — the next big bestseller.
  • BuskerLabel, another crowdfunding venue for musicians.
  • microPledge helps developers fund software projects.
  • DonorsChoose offers microfunding for public schools by matching donors with specific classroom needs.

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