Kickstarter has revolutionized the way creative people can finance their work. The premise is simple; anyone can promote an idea they’ve had, and others can donate money to help see it become a reality. Over $3,643,039,213 has been donated by people to help fund a range of different ideas.
I think some genuinely great creative work has emerged from Kickstarter. I helped fund a full series of YouTube show Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, which went viral after having the aesthetics of a kids TV show, but was really a dark satire on how children are influenced by the media.
But I would argue ‘crowd funding’ for the creative industries was around long before Kickstarter, in the form of tax payer funded entertainment. It’s a similar premise, with people paying towards the funding and development of creative work, the only difference being it’s not optional.
In the UK, publicly funded art is chosen by Arts Council UK. They’ve detailed a four year plan of investment, with nearly £600 million given to creative projects around the UK. This will go to arts, museums, theatre shows, and films.
This model has been hugely successful. It’s created high quality creative works, which have been enjoyed by millions. It has supported 830 different creative organisations and help promote diversity and business skills in the creative and cultural industries.
So which type of funding is better?
There is heated debate across UK media about the publicly funded culture. This features predominately in the right-wing press, which often features commentators enraged about the irony of filmmakers using publicly funded films as a platform to criticize the government. Take this Daily Mail piece as an example, which frames Ken Loach as someone happy to take Tory money to make a film criticizing them.
Personally, I tend to side with left wing publications, who are much more likely to say that governments need to invest more in culture, as it’s an area of huge talent for the UK. I have to admit though, I do find part of the argument against publicly funded culture compelling. Why should a theatre show that wouldn’t make a profit on its own merits be publicly funded for the benefit of a niche audience? Especially when that money is drastically needed in areas like the NHS.
But of course, there are numerous arguments for why the arts need to be funded. It boosts the economy and inspires people. As someone who wants to go into the creative industries, of course I don’t want to see the government let it become a privatised sector with profits more important than quality.
Crowdfunding may seem like a good compromise for those against tax payer funded culture, as people can decide to contribute to arts if they want to, and creators still have a way to finance their work. However, it’s incredibly difficult to secure funding on Kickstarter.
I also don’t think Kickstarter produces the same type of creativity. Where the Arts Council only funds creative words that are culturally relevant, I would argue that the types of work Kickstarter generates are often more pop-culture than arts culture. Although of course, who’s to say which is more important?
I feel they both are, but perhaps in the future there could be a way for publicly funded bodies to use the ideas behind Kickstarter as a model, to ensure that art the public wants gets funded. I think this could encourage more people to take an interest in the arts, and democratize the funding process, as well as preserving funding for culturally relevant creative arts.
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