It's Fine For The Rich & Famous To Use Kickstarter; Bjork's Project Failed Because It Was Lame

from the moving-on... dept

Nearly two years ago, we had a post pointing out that it was silly for people to complain when the “rich and famous” made use of platforms like Kickstarter. That story was about Tom Hanks’ son Colin looking for funds to complete a documentary. As we noted, it made perfect sense to use Kickstarter, since it’s also a nice marketing platform and a way to connect with fans. I don’t understand why this seems to get people up in arms, but it continues to this day. You may have heard about the high profile failure of Bjork’s Kickstarter campaign. She sought £375,000 not for a new album, but to make a port of her last album’s app, Biophillia, from iOS to Android and Windows 8. The original Biophilia won some rave reviews for pushing the boundaries of what an album was… but also was widely criticized for being platform specific to iOS. When it came out, Bjork said she hoped that those on other platforms would just “pirate” it, but we never understood why she didn’t release it on multiple platforms.

Apparently, the answer was that however the app was designed, it would be insanely expensive to port to other platforms. That seems like much more of a design mistake than anything else. It seems likely that her project failed for a few key reasons, including that it was just about porting an app that came out years ago, rather than anything new. Also, the “rewards” were somewhat unimpressive. And, of course, Bjork fans who were iPhone users had little reason to contribute as well. There’s also the big one: unlike some other stars, Bjork really hasn’t embraced connecting and communicating with her fans. That’s her choice, of course. No one says she needs to. But, it’s much harder to raise a ton of crowdfunded money that way.

Still, many are saying that the project failed because she’s rich and famous and could have just paid for everything herself. But that seems silly. There are plenty of ways that the rich and famous can make use of crowdfunding and plenty of reasons why it makes sense to do so. The project failed because it was a bad project for crowdfunding, and because Bjork isn’t necessarily connected with her fans in a way that makes sense for crowdfunding.

Amanda Palmer, who remains an example of “doing Kickstarter right” has weighed in on this issue, making some really good points about why anyone should be able to use Kickstarter, even the rich and famous. Here are a few snippets, but the whole thing is worth reading:

crowdfunding should, by its very nature, be available to EVERYBODY….

here’s what i think: THE MARKET IS EFFICIENT.

if ANYBODY wants to give a go at having the community help them with a project, that’s the ARTISTS prerogative. if it fails, then the interest wasn’t there.

it should’t matter if it’s justin bieber, obama, the new kids of the block reunion project, lance armstrong, oprah, or the friendless 18-year old down the street who’s been hiding in his bedroom making EDM music.
ANYBODY CAN ASK. that’s democracy.

and since crowdfunding is – by definition – in the hands of the community: THE COMMUNITY WILL DETERMINE WHETHER A PROJECT IS SUCCESSFUL.

And yet, people still get upset. To some extent, this feels a bit like “hipsterism.” People feel that these platforms are special because the rich and famous haven’t necessarily discovered them yet. But why is it so wrong if they do find them and do use them? If people want to support the projects they will, and if they don’t, they won’t. That’s what makes these platforms so useful.

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Comments on “It's Fine For The Rich & Famous To Use Kickstarter; Bjork's Project Failed Because It Was Lame”

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MrPendent (profile) says:

I don't think it's hipsterism

I think the reason that people object (wrongly, in my opinion) to the rich and famous using kickstarter is that many see it as a means to raise funds or get things done that is outside the norm. It’s the ‘A-Team’ of funding–the place you go when you can’t get help anywhere else.

So the idea that someone with millions of dollars at their disposal would try to crowdfund a project might seem to some as if they are asking other (poorer) people to pay for it for them.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: I don't think it's hipsterism

So the idea that someone with millions of dollars at their disposal would try to crowdfund a project might seem to some as if they are asking other (poorer) people to pay for it for them.

I wonder why they don’t react that way if the person instead charges money for a CD, or a book, or whatever they’re making.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Expensive to port?

Apparently, the answer was that however the app was designed, it would be insanely expensive to port to other platforms.

Really? I’ve ported games and apps for a living for more than a decade now, and unless you need to COMPLETELY redo all artwork and sound from scratch, ports are uber-cheap to do. Customer support is FAR more expensive than porting an app/game.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ugh “the market is efficient” my ass. Tripe. Anyway, I agree that bad projects will fail (and good projects will sometimes fail and bad projects will succeed: see the Pathfinder MMO). I think the idea that every star needs to be as excessively boundaryless as Amanda Palmer to succeed in the new economy is _scary_. The point that in order to make music you must also be a high energy doer is quite contrary to precisely what many musicians are. Now, I’m not saying the old system is the end-all, be-all, nor should it be, but the idea that artists and authors are being required to be all the more public these days makes me a bit depressed. Making music or writing a book shouldn’t mean having to spend your days tweeting to fans and answering mail.

Dionaea (profile) says:

Re: Re:

‘I think the idea that every star needs to be a hormone-laden-teen-chick magnet like Justin Bieber to succeed in the old system is scary.’

‘I think the idea that every star needs to be as excessively eccentric as Lady Gaga to succeed in the old system is scary.’

You’re not the only one who can come up with stupid examples you know. And there’s a difference between spending your entire day on twitter and keeping in touch with fans. If an artist doesn’t give a fuck about his/her fans, then why should they give a fuck about the artists? It’s exactly the same as networking in real life, don’t feel like it? Fine, but don’t complain when you can’t find a job and have nobody to rely on.

Anonymous Coward says:

This was not a "failure!"

Platforms like Kickstarter have changed the way the market is functioning, and our ways of thinking about it (even here on Techdirt) have to catch up.

Bjork’s campaign did not fail, even though the results were not what she was hoping for. She successfully learned that the market was not interested in this product.

Spending ?375,000 of her own money? Now THAT would have been a failure.

Using Kickstarter is more like running a science experiment than it is like selling a product. It increases the efficiency of the market by orders of magnitude, and apparently beyond our ability to think about it clearly.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: This was not a "failure!"

“She successfully learned that the market was not interested in this product.”

I think maybe the lesson could be they were not interested at this price. As was pointed out by JoeCool maybe the price was seen as much to high for what was supposedly being done. Shifting the “full” price (and what appears to be a cushion) for something multiple years old could be the failure.

I think anyone can and should use the platform, but they need to understand the base they are trying to connect with.

Having just looked at the rewards offered and who backed what, there were fans who gave more… but 375,000 to port old content is a bridge to far.

One is left to wonder if the 375,000 included extra fees to pay off some copyrighted portions of the content being expanded to other platforms.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Amanda has touched on the reasoning behind the market not accepting this, but no-one to my knowledge has looked at the real reasoning behind it all.

Kickstarter allows anyone who wants to contribute to actually analyse the project first without only relying on marketing puffery but on real world facts and figures and make a judgement call more so than even the stock market allows the average layperson.

In other words if the average person (investor) thinks the risk is too great then they wont invest. This could be for reasons such as:
* Interest is lacking
* Details are lacking
* The market just doesn’t need nor want this product/service at this time (or ever)
* Hype is making that inbuilt ‘bullshit’ meter ping
* The costings are totally unrealistic (like in this example)

People have more common sense then are given credit for, and when all the relevant facts are presented to them, as Kickstarter tries to do more than any other old style investment system then they will vote for what they actually think DESERVES it not because the product is endorsed or backed by some ‘name’ or other type of puffery.

Ego and Celeb status doesn’t sell it anymore and that to the old style methodology is a scary prospect

Androgynous Cowherd says:


Could it be that some of those who object to the rich and famous using Kickstarter mistake Kickstarter for a charity-platform and view it as donating? When it’s really more of a store where one is paying for a service and possibly a perk-enhanced end product.

P.S. The silly new “expand” thing fails spectacularly in less than a week! After expansion, the end of this article reads:

projects they will, and if they don’t, they won’t. That’s what makes these platforms | COLLAPSE |

You have to click through to the article itself to see the words “so useful”.

shanen (profile) says:

Project management is difficult and VALUABLE

No, the REAL reason it failed was bad project management, though of course you can argue that is the real reason every project fails. Not limited to Kickstarter, of course, but look at the failures of IndyGoGo, CrowdRise, and my personal favorite graveyard of good ideas, SourceForge. Reiterating that I do NOT speak for my large and supposedly successful employer, but there’s a reason my employer values and even highly rewards project managers.

My own economic model to solve this problem for charitable projects actually goes back before I ever heard of Kickstarter. The idea is similar, but with integrated project management. “Reverse auction charity shares” if anyone is interesting. Or should I just wish well to an old acquaintance who also struck it rich on Kickstarter with a project that gathered vastly more money than he had proposed? I don’t think crowd-based funding should be another kind of lottery or goldmine, but management is hard and I admit that I personally wouldn’t want to do it.

sit'n'spin says:

“Amanda Palmer, who remains an example of “doing Kickstarter right” has weighed in on this issue, making some really good points” …
She really didn’t. I’m not in agreement with either of you, but you made some good points. Palmer, on the other hand, spewed out some inarticulate, self-serving, simple-minded garbage. There is a great deal more to this argument than her bombastic, irritatingly capitalized declarations of ‘the market works’ and ‘let people do what they want!’ even begin to address.
I think your own arguments had some merit until you gave Palmer too much credit, and speculated the problem was ‘hipsterism’. What I would have liked to have heard more about is why people think it IS ok for the rich to use these platforms, beyond an argument of people having the freedom to do what they want. What this requires is understanding what you are arguing against – and it’s not hipsters being precious. It’s a belief that the wealthy and privileged might exploit such platforms to simply be cheap – to use the generosity of others to save their own considerable resources and lessen risk for themselves. Sure they have a right to, and people have a right to donate, but others also have a right to say – this is problematic.

shanen (profile) says:

Not sure that comment was addressed to me as one of the “either”, but the new comment was called to my attention, and perhaps I should clarify three points about my comment.

First, I am taking a broad view of “project management” as including all the people and factors that contribute to the ultimate success and failure of a project. That includes knowing the criteria by which success will be evaluated BEFORE the project begins.

Two, my wording about failures was unclear. I was referring to projects sponsored by those three websites, not the metrics of those websites. However, in terms of evaluating such websites, I think the success ratio of the sponsored projects should probably be the most important metric.

Third, I know that I should be more trusting of people, but I am not so rich that I feel like throwing money at every nice sounding project. Of course wealthy donors will check to see how their donations are being spent, but small donors like me need help in seeing what happens, which is the essence of my suggestion. (My version of the broader topic is under “reverse auction charity shares”.)

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