Validation is an elusive part of the human condition we spend our entire lives chasing. There are few feelings better than the euphoria you get from not just putting work out into the universe, but knowing that it mattered to someone. Any form of art is reflective of the culture that spawned it, but in the days before the ubiquity of social media and the internet consumed our lives, artists kept their ears to the streets in order to gauge fan anticipations/expectations for whatever it is they had to offer. In this day and age, the massive streets of the internet gave birth to crowdfunding alleyways like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, and Seed&Spark, platforms for artists of all stripes, experience and talent levels to advertise their ideas.
Whether you’re peddling new episodes of Thunderbirds made from old cast recordings, friendship bracelets that teach you how to code, or the world’s smallest Bluetooth headset, consumers have the power to bring any project they want to life by throwing enough money at it. Artist-to-fan interaction and the financial peaks and valleys that come with that level of consumer power have the potential to literally make or break entire projects. Even big names turn to crowdfunding to get longtime fans in on the ground floor, like Spike Lee, who wrangled $1.4 million for his latest joint Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus back in August of 2013; or alternative hip-hop pioneers De La Soul, who turned to Kickstarter to finance And The Anonymous Nobody, their first studio LP since 2004’s The Grind Date, which pulled in over $600,000, almost six times their asking budget of $110,000; or even Shaquille O’Neal, who used Indiegogo and game developer Big Deez Productions to get a polished and overhauled sequel to Shaq-Fu, arguably one of the worst games of all time, out sometime in the near future. Hell, even recently destroyed New York french fry joint Pommes Frites is getting in on the action.
Even if you’re a big name star looking to bridge the gap between you and your fans, the crowdfunding model can still be the ultimate double-edged sword. The campaign for a new Geto Boys album got off to a rocky start back in mid-June, and even though fan support has been through the roof, Scarface, Willie D, and Bushwhick Bill haven’t even managed to pull half of their $100,000 asking price from fans. All three members have been vocal about the fact that their latest album, properly titled Habeas Corpus, won’t see the light of day if the fans don’t want it, and as used to copping projects and things for free as we are with torrenting and streaming songs for fractions of pennies on the dollar, the almighty dollar is the ultimate sway factor here. But what factors into a consumer’s decision to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to our favorite artists?