I’m a huge proponent of crowdsourcing funding for creative projects. With Kickstarter getting projects that hit a million dollars, plus others like IndieGoGo growing at a steady pace, crowdsourcing is bigger than ever, and steadily growing. But why is this a good thing?
As a creator, a huge issue to me is the idea of creative control over a project. The ability to have the final say in what goes on in your project seems like a natural thing for a creator, but, in fact, there are very few major creative works now that don’t deal with constant interference. You regularly have issues like the creator of the Vampire Diaries books being fired from her own series, only to be replaced by a ghost-writer; you have an amazing spec script completely rewritten into a mess on director’s orders; you have singer-songwriters being told to make their music more commercial. I won’t link to a specific piece on TV, because anyone who’s read an interview with a showrunner has probably encountered a discussion of the mountain of notes that creators deal with.
This is what creative systems look like with gatekeepers: publishers, record labels, studios. And I’m not denigrating them: oftentimes, these companies have to put big money into projects, and it just doesn’t make sense for them to not aim for the broadest audience possible. The bigger the audience, the more they make. It’s much easier to follow where audience testing leads you than trust the creative vision of a single creator. And there are plenty of creatives in these industries that also want to make big money, and won’t mind giving up a little control for the big pay day.
The problem is, for a very, very long time, that was pretty much the only way to get something made and distributed. Equipment was expensive, promotion was expensive. And it was nearly impossible to, say, get a million dollars of funding through small-claim investors with no creative input on the product. Now three projects on Kickstarter have done so, and this very could be just the beginning. Now, those with a strong vision and a strong passion for their project can gain some leverage, rather than being forced to participate in a system that trades money for creative control. Plus, with the Internet, you have a thousand ways to connect with a potential audience that require just time and ingenuity, rather than money. For a novel writer, between the ease of publishing digital ebooks in PDF and the independent-friendly distribution systems popping up like iTunes, crowdsourcing may not even be necessary. They can do it all on their own.
I’ve never crowdsourced a project personally, but as a writer with very little leverage, but with plenty of time and passion… I think it’s only a matter of time before I try. How about you?