Actually, it really boils down to one fundamental question: Did the Kickstarter guarantee some form of product for the money given, and then not provide that product?
If yes, get pissed. If no, calm down. Let’s take apart the objections to every single Kickstarter for existing, and why at root they’re absurd.
The person running the Kickstarter has lots of their own money!
Let’s assume that they have the cash on hand, and do not have to sell their house, liquidate their stocks, or do some other complicated and potentially costly method of getting the money. The answer is still: So what? Using Kickstarter is good business sense and in fact, Kickstarter itself is based on fairly standard business practice.
It’s helpful to look at how people with lots of money fund their new business projects: Namely, they write up a prospectus explaining what they want to do and the risks associated with doing it, what the ultimate product will be, how much money they want, and possibly different levels of financial commitment.
In other words, all Kickstarter really is, is a simplified version of this process with “buying stock in a company” replaced with “buying the product directly.” Stinking rich people do precisely this on a daily basis. Of course Kickstarter is also different in another key way.
Why don’t they go to their fancy friends?
Because of the strings attached. It is very, very difficult to secure funding for a film, and when you do secure funding, you are beholden to the person who provides that funding. Could Zach Braff get two million from Hollywood for his movie? Yeah, probably. But he might be forced to hire Lindsay Lohan because she’s marketable in Asia, or be forced to wear a puppet on his dong while on set, or who knows what. And at the end of it, he doesn’t own the movie, because he didn’t pay for it.
Kickstarter has huge appeal because all you have to do is fork over the finished product. Everything else is up to you. And owning the copyright to your own work is more and more important as studios get greedier.
It goes against the indie spirit of Kickstarter!
How? Kickstarter is ultimately a market of ideas, and each idea succeeds, or fails, on its own merits and the capability of the people who are trying to shepherd it to life. Can Zach Braff get more publicity than the guy who’ve never heard of? Absolutely. Is it Zach Braff’s fault the guy you’ve never heard of stays obscure? Not a damn bit. Honestly, the markets and blogs interested in Obscure Guy don’t care about Zach Braff, and vice versa.
A Kickstarter that succeeds does not just succeed on its own merit; I get at least one press release from a company or a person with a Kickstarter every couple of days. True, projects catch on, but that’s not a passive process and it’s never been one. You’ve got to do the work, and it’s not someone else’s fault they’ve already done it.
It’s a ripoff because [X] SUCKS!
This, ultimately, is what most Kickstarter griping boils down to. “But it’s a ripoff! Because [X] SUCKS!” Yeah, that would be a ripoff… if you were being forced to pay for it.
Look, I get it. There are plenty of projects on Kickstarter I find absolutely awful, especially whenever a minitrend for codpieces or skinny wallets or iPhone cases overwhelms the site. But, again, I’m not obligated to give these people my money. So I don’t.
That’s the great thing about Kickstarter: You get to vote on the things you want to see with your money. But you also have to accept that something you think is what happens when hate and AIDS have a baby is something a lot of other people want to pay for. Although really, considering how many projects in Hollywood thrive because you’re forced to pay for them, being able to opt out is actually a welcome change of pace.