With the metaphorical distance between artists and their fans shrinking with every new digital innovation, we may one day look back on the growth of Kickstarter as one of the most significant yet polarizing catalysts in changing the traditional dynamic. For decades, in order to bring an artistic endeavor to fruition, moviemakers, painters, musicians, writers and their ilk have sought investors who share their desire and expectation that the resulting project finds an audience expansive enough to justify the expenditure. Out of that need rose the Hollywood studio system and the major music labels.
Kickstarter, an online fundraising application that allows artists to directly solicit their prospective audience, seems to bring the entire concept of art back to patronage system of yore, only instead of wealthy philanthropists funding the art’s creation, it’s the potential audience that now funds the art it wishes to enjoy. One way of looking at this paradigm shift is that movies and albums that might not get made may now come to be realized. Another view might be that under the guise of populism and grass roots activism, Kickstarter insidiously has fans paying on both ends of the creative process.
With Zach Braff, Amanda Palmer and Veronica Mars deservedly drawing criticism for their use of Kickstarter, it’s easy to forget that it can be a vital source of income for artists working outside the sphere of corporate sponsorship. In contrast to the typical “give me money” approach, Tea Leaf Green offered their loyal and devoted fan base quite the fair bargain in their Kickstarter campaign geared towards financing the proper recording and production of their latest studio album. Rather than expect the joy of giving to suffice, TLG crafted one of the most equitable Kickstarter campaigns to date by offering autographed copies of the album, tickets to future shows, personalized recordings, personal Skype concerts, musical lessons and the ability to collaborate on a setlist as an inducement for varying levels of contribution. For practically funding the album, Tea Leaf Green would come play at your home, provided you provide backline.