Kickstarter Isn't an NEA Substitute, It's Another Part of the Arts Funding Ecosystem (from Arts Watch)
TalkingPointsMemo.com's IdeaLab recently posted an article that included an interview with Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler.
In the piece, Strickler is quoted as stating,"It is probable Kickstarter will distribute more money this year than the [National Endowment for the Arts]. We view that number and our relationship to it in both a good and bad way." (Editor's Note: Strickler has published this post in reaction to the published interview.)
He went on to explain that it is good because it could, in theory, double the amount of art in the country, but also bad in that there is room for more federal support for the arts.
While Kickstarter, and other sites like it, have the ability to take all types of art---from comics to operas---to the next level at a time when it is hard for an artist to get funding for a small project, it's $150 million contribution to the arts is only one quarter of one percent of what is needed annually to fund the nonprofit arts sector's $60 billion in expenditures according to Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy here at Americans for the Arts.
But, as Randy added, "This is a great illustration of how individuals are looking for a more personal connection and relationship when deciding where to donate, participate, and volunteer."
The same principle applies with me as well.
Prior to crowdsourcing, if a friend from college wrote me an email out of the blue, asking for money to fund his new album I might not have given him/her any money; however, I have already done that several times via Kickstarter.
At the same time, I wouldn't mind if an additional $10 per paycheck went right to the NEA.
And frankly, the seeds of this movement were planted back when the NEA stopped funding individual artists in the 1990's. Had that process continued right through the culture wars, there may be less of a need for crowdsourcing today.
Unfortunately that need is there and arts philanthropy of all kinds, especially the small dollar values, has to be encouraged right alongside every federal, state, and local dollar added into the arts funding pot.
Americans for the Arts President & CEO Bob Lynch added to Randy's thoughts stating, "Of that $60 billion in expenditures, 9 percent comes from all forms of government; 31 percent comes from private sector donations, like the $150 million from Kickstarter; and 60 percent comes from individuals spending their own money to buy tickets, memberships, subscriptions, etc."
That makes the growth of web-based crowdsourcing very important in the scheme of things because that 31 percent could start veering closer to 35 or 40 with increased use of Kickstarter and the like, helping artists and arts organizations get away from relying so much on tickets and subscriptions.
So the next time you are asked to contribute to a Kickstarter campaign for an artist or organization, think about the part you've played in that larger funding scheme and decide if you can contribute a little more to help sustain the arts ecosystem.
How has Kickstarter and other resources like it affect the arts where you live? Tell us in the comments below.
Arts Watch is the bi-weekly cultural policy publication of Americans for the Arts, covering news in a variety of categories. Subscribe to Arts Watch or follow @artswatch on Twitter to receive up-to-the-minute news.