Online funding for artists

2010-09-15 09:16

Cape Town - Cash strapped artists with big dreams can now turn to online websites like Kickstarter to bankroll their creative projects.

Using a fundraising platform called "crowdfunding", Kickstarter links creative people, whether they are artists, writers, musicians or journalists, with the general public and potential financial backers.

Current projects on the site range from a documentary film about economic hardships in Iceland to a comic book called Neutron Girl, with some asking for as little as R35 from donors to others requesting more than R35 000.

Kickstarter offers a webpage on which artists can pitch their ideas to the public by using text, audio, visuals or video, as well as give links to related websites, and social networks.

According to their Twitter page, more than 200 000 people have backed projects on Kickstarter and over a million people have visited the site in August.
Backing a book

While most projects are from the US, two South Africans have turned to this website to bankroll their dream of publishing a full coloured photographic book documenting local cyclists.

Stan Engelbrecht and Nic Grobler have already raised R107 220 in an attempt to turn their Bicycle Portraits project into a book.

By asking people for a pledge, "the readers are in effect funding the book", said Grobler. "(They) are involved in the process and the story behind the book, because we share everything with them."

According to Grobler, they had to send a pitch to Kickstarter, which was "basically a description of (our) concept", before they were allowed to use the site. "They don't want too many projects on the site," he added.

"There are different tiers of pledging," he said. People can contribute as little as R10 or up to R35 000 or more to the book.

Tangible mementos

In return for their financial contributions, patrons receive tangible mementos in return.

Bicycle Portraits' financial backers, who give R380 or more, will each receive a copy of the book once it is published.

Those who pledge R10 717 or more will receive a limited copy of the book signed by the authors, a large photographic print of one of the images from the book, and their name will appear on a special "acknowledgements" page in the front of the book.

However there is a catch to the using the website. Their all-or-nothing approach to fundraising differentiates Kickstarter from similar websites.

Project creators need to set a deadline, which may not exceed 90 days, and a target minimum of funds to collect. If a project fails to reach the set target, no funds are collected.

Using Amazon's payment systems, backers' credit cards are only charged if the target minimum is met.


Engelbrecht and Grobler need a further R11 723 to meet their second deadline, which ends on Thursday.

While Grobler described Kickstarter as a good fit for their project, he said one of the drawbacks were that you had to have a US bank account to use the site.

On the plus side, the site enables artists to see in real time the commercial viability of their project before they invest too much time or money in it. "We are testing the waters for (Bicycle Portraits)," said Grobler.

"It also helps to get the word out there, because the site gets a lot of traffic," he added.

To visit Kickstarter's website, click here.

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