I used to really look down on crowdfunding. I was real jerk about it in fact. Shouldn’t these folks knuckle down and “get a real job?” Rather than simply sitting on the internet and panhandling for money? I used to consider it lazy. And I owe all the crowd-fundraisers out there an apology.
Because I am an increasing proponent of crowdfunding.
By the time I was 13, I had bought into the myth of the American Dream that hard physical labor would bring about financial success. I believed that as an upstanding citizen it was my duty to join the work force ringing up a cash register or stocking shelves in retail stores (which I did and did well), or performing manual labor (which I genuinely enjoyed and my physique qualified me for). There is nothing wrong with these jobs in and of themselves. We all do what we need to pay our bills and eat, and have a cold beer or go see a movie if we’re lucky. (If you love your job, more power to you brother! Life is too short to not do what you love).
However, as as result I found myself having an attitude of condescension towards people who found other ways to make ends meet that didn’t involve punching a time clock and collect a regular pay check. To get to the point, I thought struggling artists and artisans were foolish. Why couldn’t they just give up their dreams and become another wheel in the cog like the rest of us? We need to keep this capitalist machine rolling, damn it.
An interesting philosophy, capitalism is. If you’re girding up your loins in anticipation of a capitalism-socialism throw down, cool off, sir. This isn’t that kind of blog. But I do want to say this. A key piece of capitalism is voluntary exchange. Two parties agree that they will both benefit from said exchange and follow through with it. I believe this Superman pint glass is worth the $9.99 on the sticker. I will pay said $9.99.
So why was I so pissed off at artists or artisans who put themselves out there and engaged in this tenant of capitalism? Was it because I was jealous that others were making a living (at least in part) pursuing their passions while I sat behind a register at a gas station? Possibly. Or was it because I had it engrained in me that the only entities worth buying products from were the companies who were able to use focus groups and market testing to decided what the masses truly wanted? Frankly, I was wrong in either case. Wrong until I was 27. 14 years of wrong.
These companies aren’t crazy about risks. People who are passionate about their home-developed board game, or their webcomic series? They seemed to be more inclined. Because passion involves risk. As recently as a decade ago, if you had a comic book you were trying to publish or an invention you wanted to sell at large (beyond your local community), you needed to approach large companies that acted as the gatekeepers in the industry. If your idea was considered marketable, maybe a publisher would cut you a deal or a company would buy the rights to your invention.
Now the internet has changed that. For the better.
Thanks to websites like Kickstarter, Patreon, or GoFundMe, large corporations only focused on the bottom line are no longer gatekeepers. Instead writers, illustrators, artisans, filmmakers, inventors, board game builders, and everything in between can ask the masses directly “Would you pay money for this?” Wonderful! No focus groups. Social media now allows for people to vote with their dollars in favor of folks who may work other jobs but are still trying to make their art and craft something profitable. When you support someone through crowd-funding, you are helping them pursue a dream. And they are dreams that I suspect are far more adventurous and rewarding than the American dream of a moderately sized house in a bland suburb funded by punching a clock in an office job one loathes (but, hey bud, if you do love that cubicle, good on you!).
Not only that, you will also find people using crowdfunding to pay for health care because the system has failed them, or teachers support-raising for school supplies because they work in districts that are broke.
Friends, when the systems and authorities in place seem unjust and hold too much power over you, find ways to free yourself from that power. And consider helping others do the same.
I do not use crowd-funding yet. So please don’t think this is a shameless plug for support.
But you should all check out the sites mentioned above. If you like what you see, maybe tell these folks with a couple of bucks.
Thanks for reading. You all rock.