Has Crowdfunding Revitalized the Arts?

June 15, 2013

Thanks to Kickstarter $1.7 million was raised for 381 dance projects in 2012 –  an average of $4,600 per successful campaign, an amount larger than the median awards given by The Zellerbach Family Foundation’s Community Arts Program and Theatre Bay Area’s CA$H Grant program (those in the Bay Area will appreciate the frame of reference).

It’s a good size number but it made me wonder if I should take the CEO of another popular crowdfunding website’s declaration that “crowdfunding has revitalized the Arts at a time when public programs that support it are steadily dying off,” at face value.

Especially given the recent crowdfunding backlash critiquing famous and well-heeled fundraisers for raising money they don’t appear to need; and the awkwardness of giving or not giving (or not giving very much) to peers, friends, fellow artists or even family members.

The total amount of money raised through crowdfunding platforms was $2.7 billion in 2012 and includes hundreds of niche sites for inventors, entrepreneurs, museums, public schools and a non-profit working with homeless kids, but the first mover and still big dog is Kickstarter. Taking a look at the track record of projects that have raised money (or tried to) helps paint the picture of what crowdfunding does for the arts  in a bit more context.

Looking at Kickstarter's stats we know that of that $2.7 billion crowdfunding pie $320 million (12%) was raised through this one platform alone.

$83 million (25%) of that was raised for Gaming projects; $57 million for Film/Video (yes, this includes the Zach Braff project) and $50 million for Design these top three account for 60% of the money raised on Kickstarter.

5,000 music projects met their fundraising goal on Kickstarter, representing 30% of all completed projects, though the music category as a whole pulled in $34 million or 11% of the total money raised.

And, to finally put things in perspective, the $1.7 million raised for Dance projects on Kickstarter makes it the smallest of the platform’s 13 categories, and Dance had the fewest number of average donors per project (62).

But dancers take heart!

74% of dance projects were successfully funded.  That’s the highest rate among Kickstarter categories, and quite remarkable given that only 43% of campaigns launched reach their goal.

So, I’m not sure all the data is in to substantiate the claim that crowdfunding has revitalized the arts as public support for it has declined, but at least there is some evidence that choreographers know a thing or two about setting achievable goals.