“I never feel great about asking people for money,” says Oleson. But what prompted her to make her first widespread and aggressive Internet appeal for cash was “the idea of paying all the artists.”
A noble and reasonable goal — but often an insurmountable one for independent dancemakers such as Oleson and Olwell. Yet they were able to achieve it through Kickstarter, the most prominent of the “crowd funding” Web sites. Since its 2009 debut, Kickstarter has allowed independent filmmakers, budding recording artists and other creative types to shake down Web surfers for the money to make nearly 30,000 documentaries, albums, smartphone apps and other projects. Lately, these have included dance performances.
If you spend any time on social media, you’ve undoubtedly encountered appeals to “please take a look at my Kickstarter project! Help me meet my goal!!” The funding phenomenon is hardly news anymore. Or is it?
If you dig around on the Web site, you find that it is. For dance, Kickstarter is very big news indeed. Dance is the most successful Kickstarter category of all (and that includes theater, music, film, design and technology). As a result, $2.36 million has come into the dance world through Kickstarter.
This is how the process works: You submit your idea for a project to the Web site’s staff. A few days later, once it has been approved (they mainly don’t want charity appeals or squishy, open-ended causes like an island vacation), you may launch your “campaign” on the site with a project page. This can include posting a few paragraphs about your project, listing rewards you’ll offer donors, and perhaps a short video clip full of passion and personality. (The human touch is important, said Yancey Strickler, one of the site’s founders: “People want to see a face, someone who’s sincere and feels deeply about the project.”)
You also state your fundraising goal and a deadline. The catch? It’s all-or-nothing: You have to raise the full sum by the date you’ve set. Otherwise, you lose every penny that was pledged. If you meet or exceed your goal, cha-ching: It’s all yours, minus some fees. Kickstarter takes a 5 percent cut, and Amazon, which processes the payments, takes 3 to 5 percent.