Matt Haughey wrote some really good words about Kickstarter and I wanted to throw my thoughts in. Because in theory I love Kickstarter! So much! People need help in order to make stuff. If their project sounds interesting to you, you help them. They make stuff, people are happy, the world is a better place. The end.
In practice though, Kickstarter has been not something that I love at all. It has been something that has annoyed me, stressed me out, and fomented my already ongoing hatred of humanity more than any other website since Perez.
The problem with Kickstarter is this: You are asking for money. I give you money. Now you can finish your project. But was the money I gave you a donation, or an investment?
You could make a case for either side! A good one!
If it’s a donation, cool. I’m psyched about your project, I’m psyched that you’re psyched, and no matter what happens, best of luck in this and future endeavors.
But in most cases Kickstarter projects have tiered structures where giving $X guarantees Y in return—which means the money I give you is an investment. I am a shareholder in your project, expecting a return on the money I gave you. I have an invested interest in the outcome of your project.
But so what, who cares, what’s the difference?
The difference is that if I invest in your project, and we both agreed to a contract where my giving you $X guarantees me Y in return, you better finish that fucking project. If it’s not a donation, then in no way is it OK for you to take my money and disappear off the face of the earth.
Right? Seems basic? And really this is bigger than Kickstarter. People have been taking my money for projects that never ended up happening for as long as there has been an internet, and even longer. And it sucks, every single time. I want to be supportive of people doing interesting things, and every time I support a project that ends up going south, I am a little more hesitant to help out the next time.
"BUT," you say. "Sometimes shit goes wrong! Sometimes the writer gets mad at the director and they can’t work it out! Sometimes the hard drive dies and there was a back-up but the back-up died! And frankly mutability is the nature of any creative endeavor! Sometimes you start off making a movie but it turns out you were actually making a comic book!"
I know! And all of that is totally OK! It’s totally fine!
AS LONG AS YOU COMMUNICATE ABOUT IT.
If giving you $20 means at the end of a project I get a book, and I never hear from you again, guess what! Now you have a customer service problem. Because fuck you, I paid for a book.
If giving you $20 means at the end of the project I get a book, and you send me a DVD, guess what! You still have a customer service problem. Because what is this DVD shit, I paid for a book.
It has been stunning to me, how many project owners seem to fall off the face of the earth once their project gets funded. Realize that it is practically hard-coded into the creative process that you end up miles from where you intended. But when that happens it is critical to keep your investors in the loop. We are riding shotgun with you on our project! Keep us in the loop as the landscape changes! Just an update every so often: “Dudes, sorry, here are the reasons why this is taking longer or becoming different from what you expected, thanks for hanging in there with us.” That’s all!
(Although, also, I will gently argue, that if you are at the point in your project where you need $X to complete it, and you receive $X, you should do exactly what the fuck you said you were going to do. If you say you need $X to complete your project, but actually then it ends up changing in some huge significant way, you had no business asking for $X in the first place, and you wasted a lot of people’s time & good will. And next time, if you hope to rely on other people’s support again, you should do your level best to make sure you have your shit exactly in order.)
Because either way, without communication, you’re done. Even if you do eventually finish the project two years later, I am not going to be super psyched to see that book or DVD and be reminded of you. I’m still mad at you, remember? You already broke my trust, remember? Doing the bare minimum of what you were supposed to do however long ago does not earn it back.
When you have investors in your creative project, it is just as important to manage their expectations as it is to manage your project. You got all these dozens or hundreds of people excited about a project that for so long YOU were the only person excited about. There is an expiration date on that support. Manage it, or lose it. Otherwise where once you had so much good will headed in your direction, you will have an angry mob of unhappy customers, some super furious and in your face about it, some just super disappointed behind your back, and none of them in any way interested in supporting anything else you do, ever again, ever.
If a transaction goes sour on Amazon or eBay, there is legal recourse for people to get their money back. There’s a safety net. Not so on Kickstarter, where it’s just promises, money, and your reputation on the internet. And unless you’re new around here, you know that money + bad experience + internet != happy smiles.
But at its most basic level, this is not about Kickstarter, and it’s not about funding creative projects, and it’s not even about the internet! IT’S ABOUT HOW PEOPLE WHO LIVE TOGETHER ON THIS PLANET SHOULD BEHAVE TOWARDS EACH OTHER.
In this and all other instances of human interaction on this planet, here is what should happen:
- Do the shit you say you are going to do.
- If shit changes, have communication about it.
- The end.
Please, creative humans, step your game up. Be realistic in your approach, be thoughtful in your interactions, and hold yourself to the standard you would hold others to, if it was your money you were investing. I don’t want to publicly call out any particular project like Haughey did but of course I am available by email or gchat to vent like the cattiest bitch ever.