The Math of Spike Lee, Zach Braff and Kickstarter

Spike reminding you of his long track record.

Spike reminding you of his long track record.

 The last few months have seen a spike in conversations about crowdfunding as properties such as VERONICA MARS and established talent like Zach Braff have jumped into the fray. Spike Lee now has his own project raising funds through Kickstarter. That, not unexpectedly, has received its fair share of criticism and support, with even the likes of Steven Soderbergh pledging $10,000.

Will the Braffs and the Lees of the world destroy crowdfunding? Are they corrupting the spirit of it? Is it millionaires supporting millionaires? Let's step back and do the math in ascending order. 

Zach Braff's successful Kickstarter campaign was supported by 47,000 followers.

The third most funded film project on Kickstarter is Video Game High School: Season Two, at $800k. 

More than 4.5 million people have pledged to Kickstarter since 2009. 

Amount raised by the top 3 Kickstarter projects in all categories other than film (art, comics, dance, design, fashion, food, games, music, photography, publishing, technology and theater) is $49 million.

There are 209 million adults over 18 in the United States. 

NEA appropriations for 2009 - 2012 was $622 million. 

Amount pledged since 2009 via Kickstarter alone, not including IndieGoGo et al., is $723 million.

What all this arithmetic adds up to is the conclusion we have only begun to tap into crowdfunding's full potential. Filmmakers such as Lee and Braff bring awareness to a process that has burrowed into the collective good will and willing wallets of less than 2% of the country. Every day there's someone new who discovers what crowdfunding is, and most often that's because of an artist they want to personally support or they have a vested interest in.

We definitely have to keep our eyes focused on ways we can use crowdfunding to innovate. As of this posting, too much of crowdfunding is a replacement for aging funding models, yet not part of a larger rethink of how one goes from conception to completion. Nor included in these conversations are discussions on how this can lead to careers and help build bodies of work, not just a finished project. We also have to keep in mind that securing funding does not secure distribution, and that's a nut that always has to be cracked--and should be intricately woven into a crowdfunding campaign, regardless of level of the project, from the start. 

Let's not get lost in an us vs. them debate that doesn't benefit anyone, that isn't currently supported by the numbers, and doesn't lead us to ask larger questions that will lead to solutions.