As an entrepreneur, and I guess I use that term way too much but it works for me, I’ve spent countless hours entertaining tens of people with content. (That wasn’t a misprint, literally tens of people have enjoyed my work.) But, as much as I’m in it for the joy of creating and sharing my work with others, I’m in it to make money, too. This blog, my shirts, and videos are aimed at having fun with media and design but also serve to make money for the purpose of proving that I can make money doing these things. Now, I have my 9-5 job and that’s fine. It affords me to be able to indulge in these other ventures to the point where I don’t have to work hard at producing content and that has probably been a detriment to my profit margin. I guess it depends on what your definition of success is.
But, as a shirt designer, blogger, and YouTuber, I’ve found that I’ve had to reinvest a substantial amount of my profits back into the business to try and expand. Granted, it’s all spent on games and gadgets, but that’s not that point. I’ve made it this far without having to rely on the kindness of strangers to just hand over money. Yes, strangers do hand over money, but there is an immediate transaction of money for goods. I’ve never just asked blindly for funds and there’s a couple of reasons why.
I’m not a huge risk taker when it comes to the business side of M.A.M.S. I’ve operated under the guise that if I cannot make a profit from what I am doing, I won’t do it. That was the model I’ve followed for paying $50-$60 a year for a premium CafePress Shop, pretty much a necessity if you want to make any real money without social media traction of your own. If and when I stop making a profit above that overhead, I will quit it. There are other non-paying sites that can do just as much if not more in terms of products, but CafePress holds the majority of the marketplace among Print On Demand sites.
Even YouTube isn’t that risky of a proposition, even though I’ve made all of $2.00 from videos I’ve produced since January. The reason being is that I am doing basically what I would do anyway, I’m just filming and producing it. I’d still play the games. I’d still need the hard drive space. So, I’m not too worried about that. Still, I would probably get more views and more traction if I spent more on my work, but I don’t have the capacity to do it that way. This is one of the things I can’t stand about businesses, especially ones I’ve worked for in the past. They see this all encompassing need to spread themselves into so many categories that they can’t manage their base. Soon, quality across all platforms suffer because they are more concerned with profits and market share that they don’t see that for every new customer they gain for one shiny piece of crap, they lose three loyal ones who bought their goods when it was quality stuff.
Here’s the meat and potatoes of my post, Kickstarter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have friends that have used Kickstarter to fund their projects and I give them all the credit in the world. Me, I just don’t see me spending effort and making promises I may not be able to keep in the long run. With Kickstarter or other crowd funding platforms you ask for the money on the promise that if you get funded you can then give some sort of return on their investment. Usually, it’s in the form of a copy of whatever you’re trying to get funded but sometimes you promise more for higher amounts of pledges. Because I would simply be funding the promise of producing more of the same content with better infrastructure, I can only offer what I already do, now. So, why would I try to entice people to give me money to do what I already do, now. I would just be creating the sales, proactively. Hey, that’s actually not a bad idea. A Kickstarter project that simply aims to sell what you already sell, a “PRE-SALE” if you will.
Still, Kickstarter is a great way to use social media to get the word out on your venture. What I don’t like is how it’s become a tool for people who shouldn’t need to use it. Case in point, Zach Braff recently held a Kickstarter project to fund a film he was trying to make, called Wish I Was Here. It’s not that I don’t like Zach Braff, I just don’t see the need for someone who is worth $22 million dollars to hijack a platform that is primarily for those without the funds themselves to produce a movie. Yes, the budget is set around $6 million dollars, nearly a quarter of Braff’s net worth, but it’s not like Braff is an unknown filmmaker or actor. And the cast has some talent in it. Why not secure producers in your own backyard.
Also, don’t get me started on Spike Lee using Kickstarter. The director is trying to raise $1.25 million, of which he’s $700k into for a film. The dude is worth $40 million. I also can’t stand that he’s remaking Old Boy, but that’s another story. George Lucas built an Empire with his own money. He was smart. Granted, he went back to the well one too many times and ruined it, but that’s beside the point. Kevin Smith maxed out credit cards to make Clerks and that worked out fine. I guess that’s the “Risk” thing I’m talking about. However, using Kickstarter, you’re not risking your own money. If it doesn’t get funded, it doesn’t get funded and all that money goes back to the people who have pledged. If you’re unlucky, you may have a diva or two that will be pissed that they put other projects on hold, with the promise that your project would get funded, and then proceed to sue you for lost wages. I’m sure that kind of insurance gets baked into the contract.
I just don’t think that celebrities should be using Kickstarter to fund things that upstart filmmakers and artists rely on to produce their work. It’s trendy and hip to be a project, I get that, but you are making millions of dollars a year. You’re neither hip nor trendy. You’re rich. You’re also diluting the waters of what was considered a great place for people to collaborate.
It’s like when you find a great little restaurant or bar that no one goes to. You walk in and own the place. After awhile, your drinks and appetizers are already ordered before you sit down. We had a place like this in college. It was quiet and laid back with no hint of jocks or drunken frat asshats. Then word got out and the place got noticed. Granted, due to various infractions by other establishments that forced them to close, our quiet little tavern became the only port in the storm on campus. I went back about ten years after college and the place reeked of cheap beer and Axe cologne. Christmas lights and lattice work destroyed the ornate mahogany walls and there were crappy bands and DJs spinning Jock Jams 13. It was a mess. It was ruined. That’s what Kickstarter will become. It will be the house in Beetlejuice that gets renovated after the Maitland’s have died and the Deetzes have moved into it.
So, while I applaud my friends that have used Kickstarter to their credit, I hate to think how it will look in three to five years when Justin Bieber starts a project to fund his new tour, Douchebag 2016.