From March 29 to April 28, Chicago-based band Polarcode received nearly $6,950 to make their EP “Supernatural” from 62 willing backers. Why would 60-plus people give money to a band to create an album they know little about? They probably wouldn’t if not for Kickstarter.
Kickstarter is a four-year-old website that allows artists, designers, musicians, filmmakers, actors and just about every creative type in-between to crowd fund their next projects. Backers select their pledge, for which they receive various items provided by the artist.
“We’re getting to do some pretty cool stuff with our fans, and we’re going to be able to make a really great album,” said Eric Stang, lead singer and keyboard player of Polarcode and a DePaul graduate.
For Polarcode, $1,000 bought one backer a Cubs game with the band, $200 bought another a piano lesson with Stang and $10 bought an early digital download of “Supernatural.”
What makes Kickstarter unique are the benefits for both artist and backer. Polarcode received $950 more than their goal for fundraising. Their fans received albums, posters and unique events for the band.
The year 2012 saw unprecedented growth in fundraising on the site – $319, 786, 629 was pledged, a 221 percent increase from 2011. In addition, 2,241,475 backers funded projects, a 134 percent increase from the year before.
What makes Kickstarter so appealing?
When Canadian musician and former teen television star Alexz Johnson launched a Kickstarter campaign in January of 2012 for a U.S. tour later that year, longtime fan Emily Karnick jumped at the opportunity to donate, contributing at the $100 level.
“I would have bought most of the things I received on that level anyway,” said Karnick, a junior at Aurora University. “But the fact that it helped bring Alexz to Chicago for the first time ever was really awesome. I’d do it again too.”
Karnick has been a fan of Johnson’s since her television show “Instant Star” was on The N, Nickelodeon’s teen offshoot network that brought other Canadian gems like “Degrassi.” After her donation, Karnick received a phone call from Johnson, a mention on Twitter, a signed live performance video of a show on tour, a signed copy of her “Skipping Stone” album and a T-shirt.
“When she called me it was one of the best moments of my life,” said Karnick. “Definitely worth $100.”
It’s likely that 2013 will be an even bigger year for Kickstarter and its fundraisers with this year’s record-setting project, the “Veronica Mars” movie.
Raising roughly $5.7 million, the project was the fastest project to reach the $1 million and $2 million marks, the all-time highest-funded project in the film category and the project with the highest number of backers, 91,585.
While Kickstarter has helped fundraise for primarily indie projects in the past, 10 percent of the films at Sundance in 2012 were funded by Kickstarter campaigns, and the “Veronica Mars” project brought Kickstarter to a larger stage – Hollywood.
Both Melissa Joan Hart and Zach Braff launched campaigns for their new projects in April. Braff’s campaign ran through May 24, surpassing his intended goal of $2 million with $3,105,473 raised for “Wish I Was Here,” the follow-up to 2005’s “Garden State.”
Hart’s campaign, however, was a flop. Rounding out at just a little more than $50,000 for her pitched project,“Darci’s Walk of Shame,” Hart fell well short of her $2 million goal.
Though Hollywood has started to find its way to Kickstarter, it seems as though they’ll be the exception, not the rule. “Veronica Mars” was a cult favorite. “Garden State” was a prerequisite for anyone trying to be indie in 2005. For now, it’s the little guys that are making big strides, thanks to Kickstarter.
“I’m really happy we met our goal,” said Stang. “Now we’re going to make a really great album.”