(If begging you is wrong) I don’t want to be right: Does Kickstarter work?
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A few weeks ago, Milwaukee’s Fahri did something countless other bands before it have done: It started a Kickstarter page. The group is hoping to raise a rather modest sum of $1,100 to fund a new album, Final Disconnect Notice. But with less than one week to go, only four backers have pledged a total of $90 to the cause. This lead to the band posting a rather glum message on its Facebook page:
[…] We kinda thought it would happen this way. I think the trick is to bug the shit out of your friends and family for money. We don’t wanna do that AT ALL so maybe this wasn’t for us. […]
I know, I know: Talking about Kickstarter is old hat. If you’re in a local band, know a local band, or just know of a local band, you’ve probably run across countless arguments both for and against the fundraising site. A.V. Club contributor DJ Hostettler wrote a great personal blog about Kickstarter a few months ago, and he succinctly summed up the sometimes-dicey nature of grubbing for money online. (He doesn’t mind when bands offer actual goods in exchange for donations, but isn’t too fond of the whole “fund our tour” thing.) But Fahri’s fundraising woes have left me pondering something else: Does Kickstarter actually work? And if it’s not for one of Milwaukee’s best bands (IMHO), then who exactly is it for?
Thumbing through The A.V. Club archives, I was surprised to learn we’ve reported on no fewer than 10 Kickstarter (or Kickstarter-like) campaigns in 2011 here in Milwaukee. These campaigns were included in one five-campaign roundup, and five individual stories. So whatever became of these likely and unlikely pleas for cash? Here’s a list of the successful and unsuccessful campaigns, along with the amount of money each one managed to raise against its final goal:
The Magnetic SnapSytlus For iPad ($7,574/$1,500)
Cream City Gardens Sculpture And Raised Bed Project ($6,666/$6,500)
The World Of Mistrunner ($2,447/$2,000)
Eric & Magill ($2,816/$1,750)
The Fatty Acids ($2,155/$2,011)
Sat. Nite Duets ($1,264/$750)
Billy Club ($15,491/$15,000)
First, some non-surprises: The planned documentary on Milwaukee’s “Freeway” Mike McCarter came up a little short—more than $19,000 short. And a movie with a name like Don’t Fall In, Love also failed to attract much attention. So it goes in the high-stakes world of possibly exploitative and poorly titled films.
But now, the surprises: Four out of five bands handily met their goals, and nearly doubled them in the cases of Eric & Magill and Sat. Nite Duets. The Magnetic iPad SnapStylus managed to raise a whopping $6,074 more than its original goal, proving that anything involving Apple or magnets is gold, Jerry. But the biggest shocker is Billy Club, the upcoming film from the makers of Blood Junkie. Even with a daunting price tag of $15,000, Drew Rosas and company managed to scrape together a cool $15,491.
So what does it all prove? Well, it seems that, in spite of all the hand-wringing and questions of principles, Kickstarter works. By and large, if you open your virtual guitar case to the world, plenty of people will toss in some spare change. And if you offer an actual album in return for that change (not to mention plenty of other goodies), that’s even better.
But what about Fahri and its aptly titled Final Disconnect Notice? Why has the group only managed to scare up $90 for its album? I suspect it has to do with popularity (Fahri is great, but far from well-known), and more than a little to do with the type of band Fahri is. In his blog post, DJ puts it this way:
There’s a voice in the back of my head that says that bands that don’t willingly face the risk of losing their ass in the pursuit of their art aren’t really bands at all.
I agree, though it seems that there are plenty of bands (and satisfied fans) who wouldn’t. And good for them.