PeopleAug 01, 2012
Just For Kicks
Kickstarter puts funding for STL creatives in the hands of their fans.
Story: Gwen Ragno
Photos: HUMDRUM photo by Bryan Sutter. WORK/PLAY photo courtesy of WORK/PLAY. Luminary photo courtesy of Luminary Center for the Arts.
Independent businesses and artists everywhere are embracing Kickstarter, a fundraising platform for creative projects of all shapes and sizes. It’s popular among bands and filmmakers who have high overhead costs to cover, entrepreneurs in need of seed money and anyone else with a creative idea and a price tag.
Here’s how it works: You pitch your project with a video or description, set a funding goal with a time frame and offer rewards for people who give certain amounts of money. People who find your project worthy become “backers” by pledging donations. If you reach the goal before the deadline, you get the money.If not, the campaign fails and your would-be backers keep their money.
ROOM TO WORK Danielle and Kevin McCoy had been running WORK/PLAY Print Shoppe out of their home for three years when they decided to move the business into a studio space—thus freeing up the kitchen table and giving themselves room to grow. So, they acquired a space in The Grove and set up a Kickstarter campaign to cover the cost of a tabletop press: $2,200. A few “nail-biting” weeks later, they surpassed their goal with $2,285 raised.
For the McCoys, Kickstarter was a way of expanding their business without banks and loans. They pay for everything they can out-of-pocket, so the support from Kickstarter helped alleviate equipment costs and get things moving much faster. They already had a loyal following of people who knew and loved their work, so getting the word out about the campaign was a breeze.
ILLUMINATING THE MASSES Kickstarter is not just for the little guys, though. The nonprofit Luminary Center for the Arts, a major player in the St. Louis art scene, recently used it as part of an ongoing fundraising campaign to support its impending move to Cherokee. The total goal for the move is in the six-figure range, co-director James McAnally says, but the Kickstarter campaign only aimed to raise a small portion of that. So, though backers surpassed the $20,000 goal by more than two grand, there’s still a long way to go.
Raising a portion of the money through Kickstarter was a way for The Luminary to engage with its audience and give them a sense of ownership over the organization’s success. “In nonprofit fundraising, you tend to seek out the larger grants and donors,” McAnally says. “But most people who are really supportive of us are artists who may not be able to afford more than a $10 or $20 donation. The small gifts are just as important as big ones.” Sure enough, as soon as the Kickstarter campaign launched, people really started taking the project personally. “It took on a life of its own as people starting putting it out there for us and spreading the word,” McAnally says.
HUM-ALONG Local band Humdrum used Kickstarter to independently release its second album, “The Arrangement,” on vinyl, in addition to the traditional (cheaper) CD and digital formats. “We wanted to have something special to offer fans,” says drummer Mic Boshans. “Vinyl feels more real and permanent.” It also requires a big up-front investment that is tough for bands not backed by a label.
The campaign served as a way for the band to gauge interest and see if vinyl was really something that their fans wanted. When it was all over, bassist/ vocalist Dan Meehan chose to hand-deliver reward packages to backers, taking the opportunity to connect with new fans on a personal level. Not having to front the $1,500 it cost to produce the album also allowed the band to go on a two-week East Coast tour for extra exposure.
A year and a half later, Humdrum has just finished its third album, recorded in Chicago by the prestigious sound engineer Steve Albini. “Working with him inspired us to step up our game,” Boshans says. The plan is to get on a label to help get this album produced and out there—if not, it may be back to Kickstarter!
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