Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Pubslush, etc… What is Crowdfunding? WHY Crowdfunding? Isn’t that kind of like begging?

Quick question, darlings: I want you to take a look at these pictures, and tell me which one is begging.


Is it this guy? Playing music, giving it to you for free, with a “Pay What You Want” policy — even if what you want is $0 — you still get to listen.


Or this crew, who don’t work for some company collecting a salary, but instead, go out on the streets, giving away their show, and rely on the good faith of their audience to fulfill their part of the social contract — so that they can continue to bring their performance to the people.


Or maybe this guy, performing his weird art and amusing a crowd of people, who didn’t ask him to be there, but are enjoying it anyway — and if they believe in what he’s doing, maybe they’ll decide to pay for their experience. I’m sure not one of them asked “And what’s this money for, exactly? Are you going to ONLY spend it on make up and red clown noses, or do you perhaps need to eat, drink and be merry at some point?”



Is this guy begging – offering you his hand made CDs — quite clearly not on a major record label – GASP!

So what about this woman?


She says “I’m going to produce something, and it’s going to cost a bunch of money, but I’d really like you to have it — do you want it? Do you want to buy what I have to offer?” And her fanbase replies “FUCK YES, AMANDA!” and pre-orders an album that isn’t even recorded yet — because they have faith in the social contract she is entering into. They know that their faith will be rewarded.

But for some reason, people hear Kickstarter or Indiegogo or Pubslush or just CROWDFUNDING in general, and they think this:

A Mexican indigenous woman and her child beg for m

For the record, crowd funding is not begging, darlings.

It is a business model designed to allow artists creative freedom and connect fans directly to the artist. It is a way for artists and fans to show each other good faith — the fans saying “I believe in what you do and want you to keep doing it” and the artist saying “I want to give you the very best of what I’ve got, thank you for helping me make that possible.”


That being said, it’s also a social contract of sorts — the artist promises to produce something in exchange for payment. NO different than if a musician were selling demo CDs after a show. It’s supporting something and someone you believe in. Sometimes it’s based on a “Pay What You Like” model, especially when what is being offered is digital, or cannot have a true price tag put on it. Other times, there are set amounts that the artist has calculated based on the cost of the physical goods being provided. But it is a business, not a charity – at the end of the day, that’s the money you made for making your art, and people need to understand that. People who attack people like Stacy Jay, or Amanda Palmer, or anyone else who uses the crowd funding model – specifically how the money gets spent — should think about this: does your employer ask you how you spend your paycheque? If you give a musician $5 for a CD after a gig, and then they take that $5 and buy a beer with it — does that bother you? Part of “doing our jobs/making our art” = LIVING. Paying for promotion, paying for editors, paying for artwork — or… paying for gas, paying cell phone bills, etc.. Many of the costs of making art include the costs of living.

I am not ashamed of my chosen business model. I have worked very very hard and have been handing out the fruits of my labour for free week in and week out for nearly two years now.  The amount of time and energy and completely non-billable labour that goes into to not only the writing, but the production (good god, I spent four hours last night just trying to fix a layout issue) promotion and marketing is completely invisible. You, the readers, thank goodness, only see the art.

Please help me keep making art.

Go join Pubslush and become a fan, and I promise not to disappoint you. Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two – coming Spring 2015


31 responses to “Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Pubslush, etc… What is Crowdfunding? WHY Crowdfunding? Isn’t that kind of like begging?

    • I’ve had people make some rude comments, and devalue what I’m doing because I can’t “invest in myself” — the whole idea that if I don’t invest in me, why should anyone else? Sounds an awful lot like “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”.
      I’ve not got any boots, sadly. I’m balancing this all by my lonesome, and without the faithful support of my fans, I really couldn’t do this — it would be a financial sinkhole that I couldn’t possibly keep up. Never mind the non-billable hours!

    • I think a big part of the problem that has given crowd-funding a bad rap are the often very big, initially successful (5 & 6 digit), crowdfunding pushes that have resulted in either total or partial failure to deliver the promised project and is then exacerbated by the creator going on either create new projects on the platform without fulfilling the first one, using that money for a project other than the initial project or simply taking the money and running.

      While it’s not the case with Kickstarter or other platforms, there are some crowd-funding methods that are not money for product but money for “fund my life” sort of stuff. Where you get into the nebulous realm is crowdfunding for content, which I’ve seen range from people being paid per piece of graphic art they create and give away for free use to people being paid per blog post they write. Because everyone has different definitions of what valuable content is, it’s viewed as being anywhere from art patronage to blogger welfare.

      I’ve considered a tip jar myself, but at the same time I’ve told myself that if my retail content isn’t moving, there’s probably not a lot of monetary value to assign to blogging regardless of how entertaining or useful I might perceive it to be. If my book started flying off the shelf, though, that might be a different scenario.

  1. I disslike crowdfounding, simply because I would never be able to get myself to use it. I am a blind slave of the rules of old, naive and forever convinced in my own underachievement.
    I do however grasp it in my head, in the time of now, much better when a person like yourself puts it just like in the text above. What I am trying to imply is that crowdfounding gets compared to begging because some users of the system represent it in that way. At times, many of these campaigns do not feel like it is about art, but “Hey, give me thousands of dollars just because I exist!”. It is a constant battle in the mind, trying to decipher hypocricy from a, lets say, carrier choice.This is how people represent it, and I do realise now as opposed to lets say 5 years ago, that these should not determine my overal opinion on the whole thing.
    I dont know if my comment makes any sense, this is a debate I would like to lead in public, over a steaming tea, because I believe in that way I would get educated from that and most probubly grow as a person.

    I wish you the best of luck with your campaign, I hope people recognise your talent and aspirations and invest in them!

    • It is a strange mix of grace and acceptance, that sometimes, people just have no interest in what you’re doing, and that’s okay. Let them walk away without leaving anything. Chasing them and holding your hand out, feeling like you’re being cheated, or that you’re entitled — that’s when it becomes begging. I pray I never stoop to begging.

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  3. I never saw Stacy Jay’s Kickstarter program but if she followed the rules, then what’s the problem? Oh, she was honest that she needed $$ in order to stay financially afloat while writing the book that, once published, she would distribute to her supporters. Do I have that right? Really, it was her honesty that got her into trouble? Right, so I guess people would have felt better if she had lied. WTF.
    I did read her blog post and I regret that she felt she had to dignify the trolls that trashed her crowdfunding. The beauty of crowdfunding is, one does not have to participate if one does not want to. And it’s not like one is giving someone $$ without getting something in return. (And sometimes it is good to give $$ to someone who lacks talent as well as food and shelter.) I’ve appreciated every crowdfunding project I’ve contributed to. Fuck, I get a signed copy of a printed book for less $$ than I would pay for a traditionally published, unsigned book at my local B&N. And sometimes even a little swag is thrown in. The problem is not crowdfunding. The problem are the trolls who have nothing better to do or who want nothing better to do than to wreak havoc with another person’s life.

    • I think some of it has to do with the medium — that is, the Internet. Selling your wares direct to the public — that’s the oldest form of commerce (please, no prostitution comparisons, please). Patronage of artists is as old as the hills. Like you say, though, sometimes people just want to complain.

      • I’m seeing more artists complain about the unwashed masses wanting more and more for free (Rosanne Cash comes to mind), like somehow artists don’t have a right to make a living off their art. Totally bizarre way of thinking.

      • I think some of this attitude comes as a backlash to the ridiculous wealth of actors and rock stars — but with writers, unless you’re Stephen King, you’re never going to be wealthy like that. I just want to eat.

  4. I will buy Volume 2, for your writing is good, and that is good. And I am cold and need to feel some good words. Writers are not beggars; it’s an old form of employment, no? A bit unspecific, a little grungy at times, but what else could you rightly do in a forest lean-to as the bear scratches at your ass? I am eternally concerned with my ass, and those of others for that matter. Call it a hobby. I should write more. Happy new year, dude.

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  6. This makes so much sense to me, Helena. I have seen so many talented artists struggle and work their *** off to share their craft. No one sees what goes on behind the scenes. My younger brother is a director/producer in LA and it is crazy the amount of work that goes into any project. It has to be funded somehow! 🙂

  7. Crowd-funding is synonymous with begging in that both involve asking a stranger for money in order to achieve a goal. I think it’s elitist to put panhandlers on a different level simply because they are not asking for money online.

    In the case of both the crowdfunder and the traditional panhandler, I’m giving money because I hope that the individual will use the money towards a purpose of which I approve. I want the crowdfunder to create the promised project and I want the panhandler to buy food. The crowdfunder may not follow through, or the panhandler may spend the money on beer, but in both cases, that may be the right decision for the individual at the time. Regardless of what the individual spends the money on, I am giving money to a stranger who has no obligation to fulfil a social contract.

    I’m glad you differentiated between buskers, and crowdfunders, because, as you pointed out, the buskers are performing during the time they hope to receive money. If a social contract exists, which it may not, but let’s assume it does, the busker has fulfilled their part of the social contract by performing. Those watching should fulfill their part by giving money. There is no social contract between me and a stranger who wants money from me, whether that strange is online or offline. It’s one-way. I am receiving nothing tangible from them, but they are receiving something tangible from me.

    I would argue that giving money to a panhandler, whether directly or through charity, is preferable to some crowdfunders. I appreciate what you do, Helena, but some crowdfunding has become nothing more than, “I want to take a vacation and I want someone else to pay for it.”

    At its best, crowdfunding is begging. At its worst, crowdfunding is worse than begging because people are asking for wants rather than needs and are potentially leaving donors with less money to give to those who actually need help.

    • Thank you for your response. I think there needs to be transparency in crowd funding. I would never dream of asking for something in exchange for nothing. I don’t think I will do crowd funding in the future, opting instead for a very simple pre-order process. If you have seen my Pubslush campaign, you will clearly see that I am not going to be going on any vacations on my readers’ dime.

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