Kickstarter is the leading crowd-funding website for creative projects. It allows independent musicians, filmmakers, playwrights, video game programmers, and many other types of creators to make their projects known to the general public, and to ask for funding. The creators get the money, and Kickstarter takes a 5% cut. What do the funders get in return? The funders get “rewards”, which are things like a copy of what’s being made, a limited edition, or a custom experience related to the project.
Here’s an example — a request for funding from a filmmaker on Long Island for a film about bullying in suburban schools. The project has requested $10,000. The rewards for contributors range from a personal thank you note from the director for contributions of at least $5, to a package of prizes including a personal tour of the film locations, a character named after you in the film, and a private dinner and screening for contributions of more than $1200.
Kickstarter has been a huge success. In its first three years in business, the service has launched over 62,000 projects, with a success rate (i.e., the percentage of projects listed that are successfully funded) of 44%, and a total amount raised of nearly $230 million.
For a lot of writers, artists and programmers, Kickstarter has been a godsend. And that has led to some follow-on innovation, or, as we call it in The Knockoff Economy, “tweaking”.
The latest Kickstarter-inspired tweak is Muuse, a crowd-funding service that focuses on fashion. Muuse has a “pre-order” feature that allows consumers to “reserve” a design they like that has not yet made it to production. Pre-ordering functions as a way of telling the designer, and Muuse, that the piece deserves to be produced. And indeed, Muuse undertakes to produce items that meet a minimum number of pre-orders — this rule makes Muuse function like Kickstarter, which only transfers pledged funds to projects that meet their minimum funding threshold. (In the case of both Kickstarter and Muuse, sponsors pay only when the minimum is met.)
Kickstarter and Muuse are important examples of a point that is central to The Knockoff Economy. When we think of the Internet’s impact on creativity, we tend to think first of piracy. But that isn’t nearly the entire story. Take another look at the picture at left, which shows a lovely leather cocktail dress by Mary Patton, a recent graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design. Muuse gives young designers like Patton access to the fashionistas they must impress to build a business. In this way, the Internet gives talented young designers a better shot at breaking through. And getting that initial notice is often the hardest part.