It's Time For The Backlash! Is Kickstarter Becoming An Etiquette Problem?

I now receive a minimum of one Kickstarter campaign solicitation in my email in-box every week. It feels a little like blackmail.

Jan 11, 2013 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

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I’m torn. Really torn. 

If I don’t do you, will you ever do me?

I’m talking about funding your Kickstarter campaign, of course.

Unless you’ve been held in a CIA black site for the last year, you know about the crowd funding site, Kickstarter. What’s not to like? Besides getting to support innovators who are working out of the mainstream, there is something invigoratingly “si se puede” about it.

At least, that’s how it seemed to me at first and, clearly, a lot of other people thought so, too. Kickstarter just announced that in 2012, 320 million dollars was raised toward funding projects. In fact, over half a million people invested in more than one project, including me. But if the crowd funding model keeps expanding, I’ll be broke and possibly friendless by the end of 2014.

I now receive a minimum of one Kickstarter campaign solicitation in my email in-box every week. Many come from people I know and like. There’s the talented young actress I was recently working with whose ask contained three exclamation points. How could I turn her down??? My BBF’s musician son who I’ve known since the day he was born. My piano teacher. A guy I used to date. Of whom I am still fond.

For the record, I’m a pay-it-forward gal.

I buy my friends' books, I "like" their pages, I go to their concerts, movies and purchase their crafts. I’m all about the village. But it’s one thing if you can’t make it to one of your friend’s concerts, and it’s another to know that your dollars just might stand in the way of their work ever seeing the light of day. Who can say no?

Then there’s the requests I get from the people I’m not sure if I actually know, or they’re a friend of a friend and I’ve migrated onto their email lists. One has a documentary film about his brother who has/had cancer but loves/loved rock music. To be honest, I’m not sure if this is a brother who survived or lost his battle, my computer was streaming slowly, and I didn’t make it all the way through the trailer, but how can I say no to a story about surviving/succumbing to cancer? It could be bad luck.

There’s an animator with an action movie featuring tall blond hookers with heaving breasts, or maybe they were scantily clad rampaging members of a Northern European La Leche League, who also asked for my contribution. Another is an opportunity to buy a tour bus for a musician I flirted with on a plane once. We’ve never communicated since, but I made it onto his Kickstarter list. All of these, except maybe the marauding Teutonic vixens, sound really worthy to me.

But wait, there’s more. 

There’s the category of people who may or may not employ me in the future. 

For instance, the invitation to contribute to a new film from a talented director who hired me to act in one of his films. So, does that mean I need to contribute because I owe him for once hiring and paying me? I mean, I did perform the work I was hired to do, but I feel pressured that if I don’t contribute he’ll never hire me again. It feels a little like blackmail.

Numerous requests arrive weekly from performers who have Web series I would like to appear in, and producers and writers who I imagine might think to hire me if demonstrate my enthusiasm by contributing to their projects.

The sheer volume is conspiring to replicate and exasperate my bad M.O.O.D. -- MoveOn-Overwhelm-Dyspepsia. Yes, it was exciting to participate in the first MoveOn.org campaigns. But now, every day brings a solicitation from the Courage Campaign, Rebuild the Dream, Planned Parenthood, Daily Kos, Nation of Change, PFAW, Change.org. It. Never. Ends.org. I can barely bring myself to open those emails anymore. I’m tapped out.

On a larger scale, if this funding model continues to grow, it could potentially threaten and destabilize arts foundations and institutions. Will those begin to disappear as large patrons decide to fund artists directly? And will that result in the most truly worthwhile endeavors being funded, or just the ones that can either manage a terrific campaign or have some notable talent attached already?

The Kickstarter model, like YouTube and Twitter, inherently favors both the completely unknown commodity who we get the thrill of collectively discovering and those who already have a measure of notoriety and launch with a large fan base already in place.

Kickstarter phenom musician Amanda Palmer already had something of a following from her years with Dresden Dolls, opening for Nine Inch Nails and appearances at SXSW, before she raised that whooping 1.2 million dollars to record a new CD. Many artists I know fall somewhere right in the middle and their campaigns get stalled circulating within something of a closed circle, not quite reaching the “crowd” threshold.

Which might explain why another reminder to contribute just landed in my inbox during the time I wrote this article. So, if I do pony up, how much do I give?

Are we talking bar mitzvah money, which in my neighborhood runs somewhere around $50 a kid? Though it is perfectly acceptable to give less, I’ve typically given that amount because that's what numerous families gave my son and according to my admittedly poor math skills, it was basically a wash. We wrote as many checks as we received, so really, we were just moving the same $50 checks around our community. But that only works if you’ve got a kid you can get to learn a Torah portion, right? 

Really, there's only one thing to do. You're thinking what I'm thinking, right?

Everyone of us will need to have own Kickstarter projects to fund these requests. So, please, help me help you.

Fund me?

It's for a really good cause.