Backers or buyers? Looking at the merits of backing in the arts sector


Let’s look at the world’s financial vocabulary. People only know three extremes of financing: investment, debt and donation. There are the capitalists who will only “invest” or give “loans” for financial return, and there are the philanthropists, who will only “donate”, without expecting anything monetary in return. But then there are the “backers”, the new guys on the block, thanks to rewards-based crowdfunding.

This new breed of people has stretched the world of finance and has come to the rescue of ideas that have been ignored by the previously very limited financial system. Ideas that don’t need charity, that don’t want loans or investments and that are not looking to scale. Ideas like music albums, music videos, a short film, a feature film, a documentary, a dance event, a drama, a comic book, a graphic novel, a jazz concert, an animation film, a cool game, a fashion apparel or accessory, a food truck, a swimming pool in the middle of the city, a crazy toy, even a simple potato salad. In other words, everything creative and cultural.

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But what is sad is that no one believes backers exist. People are hardwired into believing that if someone is supporting you, it cannot be without an agenda, mostly either pity or monetary reward.

So, who are these ‘backers’, and what do they want? Let’s tackle the first half of the question. A backer is, by definition, someone who ‘backs’ an idea; it’s that simple. Someone who believes in the idea so much that he’d like to push it to fruition by funding it. If you have an idea, your backer could be your family, the 4am friends, the teachers who loved you, the colleagues who looked up to you, or the people you went to college with. And if you’re a smart person and can use social media for your benefit rather than just for your entertainment, your backers could be the fans and followers you would’ve gained by sharing your ideas on your Facebook, Youtube, blog or Twitter; a community that you have created around your idea through social media. This community forms your group of backers!

Surely backers must want something in return, or else it becomes charity. But it’s not money. Then what is it? These backers are your early adopters and they want to get access to your idea first and feel special. So if you’re making a film, they want to see it first, or see their names flashing as producers of the film in the credits or just hang out with you on the sets, maybe even learn to direct. If you’re a musician and want to make a music album, your backers want the limited edition art work with an autographed DVD of your music album first! Or they want to jam with you, because some of them love your music, want to give you a shot at achieving your dream and all they want in return is a little fun time with you. In fact, the bolder your rewards, the higher the number of your backers.

People with creative ideas have more to gain with backers than with buyers. Artists in this country, for example, have a hard time selling their finished products, thanks to piracy or low demand for products. In the limited world of finance, artists have been producing their own ideas using their meager savings and almost never making a profit. But in the backers’ world, artists can now ask for their ideas to be funded. Its a simple reverse action, and a win-win for all.

But artists themselves often don’t believe that backers exist, or else they find it embarrassing to ask for ‘backing’ or ‘support, either because they’re too shy or too proud. Rewards-based crowdfunding has proven over the last 5 years that people are more interested in ‘backing’ art than buying art. Amanda Palmer, an independent musician, who raised over a million dollars on Kickstarter for her music album said, “Crowdfunding is a better way of doing business. Musicians find it hard to get paid, so with crowdfunding they can get their fans to pay in advance. It’s not shameful or an act or charity. And it’s funny that some people see it that way.”

The reason is simple. Art is personal expression, but it has the power to connect with people, and even connect people, across the globe. Art is not a daily need, like a mobile phone or a fridge. So if one is a musician and says ‘pre-order my CD by funding it on a crowdfunding platform!’, you are complicating your equation with your backer. You are asking him to ‘buy’ and with ‘buying’ comes the implication of ‘need’. And you have just reduced your fan, your backer, to a simple buyer. A relationship with a fan is not that simple. It is not merely commercial, and one has to honestly embrace that.

If you keep it simple and honest by saying “I have this idea. I think it is kickass and I want my fans to back me in making this happen,” you’re more likely to be funded - and your idea is more like to come to fruition.

About the Author:

Anshulika is the Co-Founder of Wishberry, a crowdfunding platform for creative projects in India. On a personal front, she is a true atheist and finds inspiration in powerful female characters like Miranda Priestly and Dagny Taggart.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)


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