Thanks to Rebecca Tippens of Roundhouse Culture, Gill MA for this NY Times article, December 14th 2009
This summer, Allison Weiss, a 22-year-old singer who writes melodic songs about "hopeless hope," wanted to produce a 1,000-CD run of a new album she was recording, but she wasn't sure how to get the money to do it. Then she heard about Kickstarter, a Web site unveiled in April. At Kickstarter, creative types post a description of a project they want to do, how much money they need for it and a deadline. If enough people pledge money that the artists reach (or surpass) their financial goals, then everyone is billed, paying in advance as you would for a magazine subscription. For goals that aren't reached, nobody is charged.
In essence, Kickstarter offers a form of market research for artists. For perhaps the first time, an artist can quickly answer a nagging question: Does anyone actually want my art badly enough to pay for it? If the goal is reached, the artist now has a list of subscribers to her vision. And if the goal isn't reached? "It's painful, but it's better to find out early," rather than spend precious time and money on a project nobody wants, says Yancey Strickler, who helped found Kickstarter. More than 1,000 projects have been started on Kickstarter since April, raising money for projects as diverse as a solo sailboat trip around the world ($8,142 raised) and a book by Scott Thomas documenting how he developed the graphic design for Barack Obama's presidential campaign ($84,614 raised).
Weiss picked a goal of $2,000, and like many Kickstarter users, offered a clever set of tiered benefits for fans: $40 got someone a signed copy of the album (17 fans paid for that), and for $500, the donor could pick any subject and Weiss would write a song on it. (Two people bit.) Weiss raised the $2,000 in less than 10 hours, and eventually amassed $7,711 from 195 backers, which meant she could pay for more mixing. Perhaps even more important was the validation of her fan base. Weiss says, "I was surprised to find I had a more dedicated Internet following than I thought."