We the people

The Internet is a marvelous thing. A terrifying, marvelous thing. It’s full of creepy people and cat videos, yes, but it is also full of talented people trying to do amazing things, and sometimes they succeed.

One of the newest and most interesting trends on the Internet right now is crowdfunding, which is pretty self-explanatory: a crowd of people who like a specific project help fund it. Of course, there’s more to it than that, and several different ways it can work. The most popular venue for crowdfunding is Kickstarter.com, which may sound familiar to you if you’re a fan of  Veronica Mars.

On March 13, 2013, producer Rob Thomas, along with actress Kristen Bell, launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a full-length Veronica Mars movie. They had a month to raise $2 million. As with all Kickstarter campaigns, the project had different pledge levels depending on how much a person, called a backer, was pledging. A pledge isn’t a donation—Kickstarter projects only get the money that has been pledged to them if they reach their goal. Only then are any of the backers charged.

This particular campaign had 32 levels, from $1 to $10,000. Each level only allows a specific number of people to pledge that amount, because each level has a sort of reward for pledging the money. The one person who pledged $10,000 to the Veronica Mars movie, for example, has a speaking role in the film, as well as several rewards from the other pledge levels. As with the pledge money, the rewards are only received if the project reaches its goal.

Fans have been begging for the film since the show was cancelled in 2007. While there is a precedent for rabid fans helping Hollywood production companies see reason and fund a movie that would wrap up a beloved but canceled television show (I’m looking at you, Browncoats), companies like Kickstarter are giving us, the consumers, the chance
to choose what products are made.

And boy, did the consumers choose. The Veronica Mars campaign met its $2 million goal in 11 hours. By the time the 30 days was up and pledging closed, 91,585 fans had pledged $5,702,153.

You’re probably asking yourself the same question my mother asked me when I told her: “Why do I care about this?” Here’s why: How many times have you looked at something for sale—I don’t care what it is—and thought to yourself, “Why did anyone agree to produce such a thing?” It happens to me a lot. And how many times have you thought to yourself, “Man, I wish there was (insert product here) that I could have/read/watch/play with?” That happens to me a lot too.
What crowdfunding does, whether through Kickstarter or someone else, is give power to both the consumer and the creator.

Crowdfunding gives power to creators—artists, musicians, actors, writers, game developers, fashion designers, dance companies, inventors and so many more. It used to be a matter of finding something to create that would appeal to an overwhelming number of people—something that would sell—and a small number of investors to give you large sums of money. Now it’s about finding the core group of people who actually care about what you want to create, and what’s more,  want to help you create it by pledging however much they can spare.

I believe we have the opportunity to make a change in the kinds of things we spend our money on, and I think that’s incredibly important. Crowdfunding has the potential to change the way that companies look at consumers. That, in turn, could change the way companies produce things, which, let’s be honest, is pretty cool.

Crowdfunding isn’t just for creative projects, though. Got a small business idea? A charity? A personal thing, like medical bills? There are crowdfunding platforms for all of those things. Along with Kickstarter, Indiegogo and RocketHub also fund creative projects. Crowdfunder is there for small businesses, CrowdRise is there for causes and charity, and GoFundMe has the opportunity for personal campaigns.

America prides itself on the power of democracy, right? Well, here it is. The power of individuals to make something happen. We the people, indeed.

As always, if there’s something that you’ve totally fallen in love with and want to tell the world about, let me know—I’m always looking for new things to love.