Kickstarter And Mossless Magazine

- - The Future

The website Mossless Magazine is looking to print a real magazine and they’ve taken to Kickstarter to try and fund it (here). The magazine itself looks pretty cool with four 50 page booklets each dedicated to “emerging photographers based in NY” and they’ve got 7 days left to raise a couple grand to make it happen.

What’s interesting is a recent project at Kickstarter that may have revealed the true use of a website that “helps people collect funding for creative projects.” Product designer Scott Wilson, founder of the Chicago-based MINIMAL studio, started a kickstarter project to build a watch out of an iPod Nano (here). When the new Nano launched geeks everywhere were murmuring about what a cool nerdy watch it would make, so Scott decided to do something about it. But, rather than follow the normal course of funding and developing the project in-house then getting it into stores and selling it he took to kickstarter to fund and pre-sell. He was initially looking for $15,000 to get it off the ground but by the time it closed last night he had nearly a million dollars pledged.

A similar project to build an iPhone tripod (here) had the same kind of success as they went 13 times past their pledge amount. So, what this reveals about kickstarter is that manufacturing projects put forth by people who have a track record of creating solid products, that fill an immediate need will be successful (provided the internet helps spread the word as well). I think there are photography projects that fit this mold as well, we just haven’t seen them yet.

There Are 24 Comments On This Article.

  1. I’ve worked on a couple Kickstarter projects for artists – it won’t ever be easy to raise money for photography, compared to selling gadgets. You can’t just put something up on the site and wait for the money to come in. It takes a lot of effort to push the fundraising effort and art’s appeal is not scalable in the way that an iPod watch is. That said, it would be awesome to see photographers succeed there. But having prints as a reward is not the right way to go nuclear.

  2. Don’t mean to be a scrooge, but why would I want to donate to commercial projects? It’s not even investing, is it?

    I get donating to charitable organizations or ideas you REALLY believe in…but for someone else to make big bucks? I realize I’m looking at it from the donor side and not the recipient, but is this a for real buisness plan?

    I’d love for someone to give me some money for me to make…more money without any expectation of return.

      • @Jeff,

        I’ve read and re-read this site and apparently miss the part where my ‘funding’ receives interest earned or a cut of profits.

  3. You purchase any number of things up-front. If the fundraising fails by the due date, you lose nothing and gain nothing. Kickstarter acts as an escrow service, etc.

    So, no, you’re not investing in it in the common financial market sense. You’re putting money up toward a project you want to see happen. If it fails, you lose nothing. If it succeeds, you get what you paid for.

    • @Jeff,

      There’s lots of things I want to see happen, like ending world hunger or curing AIDS. Other peoples commercial projects are not one of them. Person A donates money to person B to start a company. Person B get’s money they never have to pay back, maybe it goes big, maybe they get rich. Person A gets…?

      Like Craig, I couldn’t find any returns besides “getting to see something happen”(I don’t spend money on fireworks either). Also what is the responsibility of the recipient using the money wisely and not fraudulently?

      I’m not trying to put down Kickstarter…I’m really not. Just trying to understand it. Really trying to understand peoples motives…or at least the people that have the money to GIVE to other people. Frankly, I’m jealous that I don’t have the cojones to ask other people for money just because they like me.

    • @Jeff,

      I think the beef is what’s being offered. It’s a $40 book to be sold to the general public in retail stores. This goes on the side of commercial enterprise. Plenty of photo annuals are sold out there for similar pricing and you don’t see them asking for donations where someone gets a t-shirt in return.

      Want to make/distribute/sell a book? Line up investors like every other legit business.

      • @craig,

        And my response isn’t particular to this project. The whole idea of kickstarter is really cool…just mildly irrational.

        • @Shane,

          It certainly seems irrational if you only compare it to the current scheme of investing. The way I see it, this is a new idea that is opening up doors for a lot of people to get creative projects off the ground that they may never have had the chance to before. When has there ever been a system where people could invest a few dollars into an idea to help see it through? Should we always just leave the investing to the few that have the big bank accounts?

          • @Mr. Biggs,

            It is not “investing”, it is pre-sales.

            Investing would/should get you a return on your investment worth more than your original investment.

            This is “supporting” by buying upfront. Perfectly fine in my opinion, but a tiny bit misleading when most of kickstarter is people looking for funding for nfp projects.

        • @Shane,

          It’s sort of a gray area, as to what is a ‘good’ project for this and what is not. Who am I to decide though, its a vote done by wallets I suppose.

          Personally, I’d rather support projects like Blake mentions below, which are in the Good Cause category.

          I also feel the risk vs. reward is an issue. I kind of doubt kickstarter requires folks to take out a fidelity bond in case someone doesn’t deliver the promised goods. One or two major project implosions would taint the process irrecoverably.

          • @Shane et al.,

            If you like the idea of the magazine (in this particular case), you give them $35 and receive the magazine. If not enough people pledge to make the project happen, it doesn’t happen. I don’t understand why anyone would have a problem with this — you are certainly free not to give them your money.

            Let’s say an artist you really respect and whose work you enjoy would like to produce a limited edition photo book. Let’s say it’s Stephen Shore, just for fun. He runs the numbers and decides that to produce 1000 copies of his book (and pay himself $x for the trouble), he needs to raise $100,000.

            He starts a Kickstarter type of campaign, where the goal is to raise $100,000. So if you pledge $100 you will receive a signed copy of the book (if the goal is reached).

            Maybe you don’t think the book is worth $100. Perhaps you would rather donate that money to a worthy cause. That is perfectly understandable.

            It’s not ‘investing’, in the traditional sense, but neither is buying an art book at a book store. Having said that, I’ve bought low and sold high on a number of photography books — the only decent investments I’ve made in the last several years…


            • @Mr. King,

              I didn’t see anywhere that I get a free copy. And most of the projects on kickstarter seem to be trying to raise capital. What you are describing could be done on a ‘print-on-demand’ basis, which I’m not sure this is anywhere in the same neighborhood.

              This will be my last post on the subject because it’s starting to seem that I’m really against the idea. I’m not. In fact, I’d love to live in a world where we all pitched in to promote the arts. I hope with all my heart it works. But the cynic in me sees Apple funding their next iBrain with kickstarter and not giving back.

              • @Shane,

                If you go to the Kickstarter page for the project listed above, on the right side of the page it lists the goal, the number of backers, etc. Below that are different pledge levels and what you get for each level:

                “Pledge $35 or more:
                An issue of MOSSLESS with all of its goodies.”

                I guess my example was similar to print-on-demand, except in the fantasy Stephen Shore example, I was thinking of an exquisitely produced, limited edition, signed and numbered book.

            • @Mr. King,

              So what’s to stop unscrupulous folks from just taking the money and running? Or, as often happens, the project just doesn’t pan out or ends up costing way more than they expected – after the money is already spent.

              As an investor, this is risk (some of which can be mitigated by requiring insurance).

              But when you get the general public involved with taking ‘donations’, it’s possibly fraud and a class action lawsuit waiting to happen.

              From kickstarter’s FAQ:

              How do I know if a project creator is who they say they are?
              • Perhaps you know the project creator, or you heard about the project from a trusted source.

              • Maybe they have a first-person video. That would be hard to fake. “Is it really U2?!” Well, it is if Bono’s talking about the project.

              • Still not sure? Ask the project creator a question via the “Send Message” button on their project page.

              At the end of the day, use your internet street smarts.

              This is a pretty poor response to a real problem. At least ebay et al. have policies in place to deal with fraud.

              Sorry to be debbie downer. Real life sucks.

              • @craig,

                I’m sorry you think that real life sucks. I take your points, they are valid.

                The only Kickstarter campaigns I’ve contributed to were both small-ish art projects being undertaken by people I knew. I guess if my friend had decided to leave the country with my $25 and not publish the book I thought I was contributing to, I would have had to find a way to soldier on. Luckily for me, it all worked out.

                As had been pointed out ad nauseam, this is not really anything like traditional investing. But it is an interesting way for people to fund projects, and it could certainly be a new avenue for established artists to support new work, artist books, etc.

                • @Mr. King,

                  Individual risk is small, but grouped together the payoff quite large. This makes such things a tempting target for the con man.

                  I think if all men were angels and all projects turned out the way they were planned, it would be a great idea. But since neither of these are true, and Kickstarter has a rather cavalier attitude about fraud, I can’t see myself giving money to anyone on this platform unless I personally knew the organization.

                  An established artist would be better suited to usual methods of fund raising – their investors or galleries – because of measured liability and ease of raising funds should the project run into difficulties.

                  • @craig,

                    Yes. I take your point. I would advise you, personally, not to use Kickstarter.

                    In my case, I had to trust that a good friend of mine, a man whom I have known since 1984, was not attempting to use Kickstarter as an elaborate scheme to steal $25 from me.

                    To me, in that case, it was a risk I was willing to take, and he actually completed the project as stated.

                    That’s the kind of project this is probably most suited for.

  4. Hey Rob. There is an excellent photography project on Kickstarter: Gail Mooney and her daughter just returned from a trip around the world in which they set out to film a documentary, “Opening Our Eyes”, a film about people making a positive difference in the world. Their film was shot on six continents about people who are creating positive change in the world. It was shot entirely on HDSLRs. Now they are hoping to have their footage professionally edited and all the post production completed. Take a look, her Kickstarter page is at Best regards and Happy Holidays!

  5. I have participated in one kickstater project to help fund a movie sequel of a very B movie. I know one of the Stars, and my level of “giving” is supposed to get me a walk on part in the movie, and nothing more other than seeing it happen. I’m okay with that project, but I kinda feel the same as Shane and Craig for this project. Maybe jealous since I have a few projects I want your money to help me out.

  6. I raised a very (VERY) modest budget via Kickstarter to produce a portfolio of photographs at Burning Man this year, basically covering my costs at $2300. I learned a few things and would do it differently next time, but overall I think the response was very positive and it was fun for me – I’ve never put myself out on the web like that so personally. The process was very positive, as was the response to the photographs when I published them online.

    My Kickstarter project:
    And the images on my Facebook:

    I think the right project on a larger scale would be fundable, it just takes the right idea and the right audience.

  7. I know someone who got money, using Kickstarter, to write a children’s book. So, far he has paid his rent and bought 2 laptops. Nobody will ever know what he spent the money on, but I can guarantee you that he will do it, again, when he runs out of money.

  8. See this is the problem with the whole thing. You have people that funded their friends to start something, or they have given money to a well known artist or project. Yet there is no reason for companies to come on here and fund their projects. This type of thing should be made so that there is no products being create that are patented and focused on selling to the masses on a commercial level. It in no way protects anyone who invests in the pre-sale of the product.

    So someone comes on here and says, I made this cool thing and I want to make more of them. I want you to buy it before it has been made, so I can make them. Then the people who have given there money and wait for something to come in the mail. All the while the person who made the prototype figures out the product does not work as intended or that they simply can not make the product in a way that is profitable to them. No one on here looking for product funding is doing so with the idea that they will not make money off it. There is none of the passion that the artists and photographers have in their projects. It is not an attempt to have other people discover the beauty they find in certain things. They are not trying to share something that is deeper then the amount of money that can be made on the product.

    I am sure there are a ton of people that have gotten flat promises and worthless guarantees from people that earned more then they thought they would and decided they would love off the money and buy themselves a new laptop and the whole while justify it by saying it was all for the project. Yet by the time they are done squandering the money that honest and trusting people have given them to see the reward come their way, there is not enough money to make the project come to a final point.

    Kickstarter takes no responsibility over the actions of the people that they give a forum to be able to dupe people into believing what they say. They simply say they hope people are honest. So they are there to help people raise money that sometimes will be a fraud and they make their percentage right off the top. They are okay with this because they have made their part of the profit from it. They have nothing else they want from it. I am sure there is a portion of the terms of agreements that states they can not be held liable for any damages incurred by someone taking the money and running.

    If they were to make it a non-product, and non-commercial venture format that artists could turn to to earn funding for projects that have a honest intellectual value, then it would be easier to trust and it would be far more successful. It would be a place people that are interested in finding new art talent could turn to find it. It would no longer be based solely on friends and networking through already known people.

    Which then there is no reason to hand kickstarter 5% of the money earned if the people are simply using the service to hold money and host a page. That is simply absurd.