Crowdfunding Sites Transforming Arts Funding

Crowdfunding Sites Transforming Arts Funding

Crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo are transforming the way the arts in America are funded, enabling thousands of unknown artists and performers to finance stage productions, CDs, and tours, the Washington Post reports.

In 2014, Kickstarter helped raise $251 million — more than the grants budget for the National Endowments for the Arts — for projects pitched by thousands of playwrights, musicians, filmmakers, choreographers, and others. The site has hosted more than thirty thousand successful campaigns since 2009 for projects in theater and music, the latter being the largest category on the site.

Indeed, in the performing arts, "Let's put on a show!" has become, "Let's get everybody we know to give $5 or $10," said Star Johnson, a fledging playwright who raised $2,510 in small pledges to mount a production of her first play at this year's Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, D.C. This year, about ten of the festival's one hundred and twenty-five shows relied on some type of crowdfunding. What's more, since seeing the first performances financed through crowdfunding sites about five years ago, festival organizers have incorporated crowdfunding strategies into the orientation that all artists participating in the festival receive. Among other things, artists are advised to start their campaigns early; push hard on incentive gifts to donors, including show tickets and backstage access; and appeal to potential donors beyond their friends and family. At Indiegogo, meanwhile, the number of campaigns mounted in support of theater and music projects has more than doubled each year since 2011, reaching more than nine thousand in 2014.

Crowdfunding is even making it possible for long-struggling artists who have been unable to break into the scene through more conventional paths. "It's meant everything to me," said Torrey Berry, a formerly homeless musician, of the GoFundMe campaign that is funding the recording of his first album. "I work to pay the bills, and I busk to buy equipment. There's not really money left to record."

Playwright Karin Ringheim had been trying for nearly thirty years — while raising children and pursuing a career in global health — to stage her musical when it was selected for its upcoming season by the Thespis Theater Festival in New York. After getting the news, Ringheim turned to Kickstarter and raised the estimated $20,000 cost of the production with the help of friends, family, and people she had never met. "I had pretty much given up on it," Ringheim told the Post. "Crowdfunding has been a game-changer."

Steve Hendrix. "How the Crowdfunding Dream Machine Has Changed Everything for Artists." Washington Post 08/06/2015.