Artists Talk About Funding for Toys Using Kickstarter
Wednesday morning, the Twitterverse was the scene of a lively debate about crowd-funding website, Kickstarter. kaNO kicked it off with the self-proclaimed can-of-worms-opener above. I didn’t have a response initially. The flaws in his logic seemed so obvious that his statement was neutralized. But then Huck Gee re-tweeted it, and I started getting direct messages asking if I was going to comment, and well…I do like to opine.
I didn’t even need the full 140 characters. It’s really the second sentence that’s crucial: Crowd-funding creates toys people WANT. That’s a fact. You vote with your money. It’s not a PR-driven blog. Nor is it “pan-handling”. Believe me, I know. I live in the Bay Area.
Haha, am I that predictable? I think Kickstarter is awesome. I like creating projects and I like backing projects. I thought: I’ll let some other people write this article.
Solid point, Steve Brown. If you’re a retailer, artist or member of the media who is privy to DKE’s toy distribution list, you might consider their sale emails as the land of unwanted toys. Toys that were once priced at $100 are knocked down to $15 as supply eclipses demand. Well Kickstarter tells you precisely how much demand there is. 178 people wanted to see a DIY vinyl sneaker toy, but only 23 thought a second series of community-designed platform figures was a good idea. In the latter case, the company told me they’d move forward with funding their project in another way, but at least they were given a reality check. This type of data could have been useful for the makers of, oh I don’t know, Miao And Mosubi, or one of dozens of vinyl toys I see hanging out at my friends’ retail toy stores years after their release.
I guess they don’t, Benny. But all four parties who I interviewed for my previous article about Kickstarter found banks to be very inhospitable.
Mr. Supreme, you seem to be doing just fine on your own! But I think we will be seeing an influx of toy-related Kickstarter projects. Don’t like ’em? Don’t pledge ’em! I mean, I’m not trying to be a dick, but there’s a third option. You’ve got your definitive YES, your distinct NO, and then there’s WTF. Have fun with it. Instead of surfing eBay, look around. Be someone’s benefactor. It feels GOOD.
Insightful thoughts from a man who has made “440 characters and counting” on his own as well as with major companies. Perhaps the market is shrinking or perhaps it’s just changing; but it’s a reality that the stores are closing. Kickstarter goes directly to the fans, and it extends past the usual suspects to reach potential new fans.
In addition, people may simply want to help out someone they like and/or think deserves to realize a dream. We don’t have to drive Teslas and carry the initials VC to be angels anymore. Our small change can make a big difference in a person’s life, as LASH was telling me when it came to his (double-funded) Kickstarter project.
I want to also devote a few jpegs to the other side of the debate.
Nobody’s arguing this. I’ve visited Huck’s studio and witnessed all of his equipment first hand. I know that amassing that kind of gear doesn’t come cheap. But Huck Gee used to work for Kidrobot, the company that would later release his production figures and help him achieve the kind of fan base who would pay $800 a pop for his custom work. In other words, Kidrobot was Huck’s Kickstarter.
Lamour beat me to it by saying “No way! Even that much more props to Indy Toy Makers!” That’s essentially what I told Paul when I saw him last month for his show at Super7. It’s rad when people make their own toys. It’s rad when a crowd comes together to fund a person’s toy design. And it’s rad when a company throws its money behind artists to manufacture their figures.
The moral of this story? Toys are rad. Kickstarter is one rad way to get them made.
More of your thoughts? Please leave some comments.
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Funding a project on Kickstarter does not make you corporate in any way whatsoever, and certainly no less indie.
Providing a platform and a large crowd is all Kickstarter is doing. You put your shit out there, see if people dig it. If they do, it’s funded. If not, well then… sorry, but you’ll have to find another route.
At the end of the day, who cares if you have your merit badge on self-funding your business? I’ve spent 10s of thousands of my own money, and 10s of thousands of my family / friends money. I’ve made that money back, but if I could have another avenue like this instead of having to go to, say, Chase or some other big bullshit bank? Fuck yes, I’ll do it.
I’m glad you summarized this. It really disappointed me to see some of the attitudes out there, but obv each to their own. As far as I’m concerned, if we can give back to this community to help toys be created, I’m all for it. I wanted very much to see Luno made, and thanks to the contributions of people who love Sergey and his previous work now I get to buy one. I think that rocks.
Panhandling is asking for money you dont intend to pay back. Kickstarter is asking someone to put some of THEIR money towards an artists vision. And in turn the people that invest get a little something for paying it forward. How is this different from pre orders, where it can be months before you get what you pay for. Or even artist subscriptions. You are paying ahead of time for that as well are you not. For you guys that are able to do it on your own, with your own money, this takes nothing away from you. If anything you get all the more respect, but don’t take it away from someone who needed a little help or the people who were willing to help.
After Huck re-tweeted KaNO message, it really bugged us coming from an artist we appreciate and we though “What the hell is that?” How was it possible to come with such a thing or support it?
There is out there some amazing artists who didn’t get the chance to be at the right place, at the right moment, meet the right people or simply too scared for risking a lot in the process. Kickstarter is an amazing platform who give them the opportunity to publish a great project and get straight away, spotlight, feedback and potentially, product pre orders.
Sure there might be some scammers as there is always some people trying to abuse all systems but banks are coming first, leaving people with debts even before starting anything.
Crowd-funding is the future. We love it and support it.
I will repeat my tweet response to Kano’s
” in a time when most can’t get financing or when its a creative project that helps others its a great tool…”
I believe in Kickstarter 100%. I have supported a couple of projects through it including helping to fund airfare for “The love movement” artists.
I also appreciate the fact that you don’t get the money until you reach your goal.
Shit I might use it in the future if I have a worthy project.
My problem with this whole discussion is that Kickstarter didn’t exist when many of these anti-Kickstarter artists got their start. Yes, the way many of these artists got their first self-produced toys made was much harder than just setting up a Kickstarter account, but can they honestly say if Kickstarter was around back then they wouldn’t have used it? That’s just ridiculous.
Did they used to walk to school in the rain and the sleet and the snow too? Just because things were harder in the old days doesn’t mean we’re supposed to abide by those old ways. Technology brings our community together in ways no one could have imagined just a few years ago, and Kickstarter is just the next evolution of that.
As an aside, throughout history Patrons/Benefactors have supported artists financially so they could continue working on their craft. Kickstarter just takes that to the next level.
Kickstarter definitely has it’s place for projects both big and small. It’s a good way to gauge interest in your work and may help some novice toy designers avoid costly mista…
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I’m a solopreneur. I don’t have a steady full time job so my grind is all day everyday. Any thing that comes along that will help me as a creative, I’m down.
If all this is about using funds for toys. I could give a fuck either way.
With anything in this world, some will use it for good and others for evil. Both are subjective.
Kano loves to start shit so the fact you wrote a post about this and we are all still talking about it. I’d say success all around.
time to go eat some Shanghai steez
I think crowd-funding is a great idea.
Let’s start with fallacy #1 that was not addressed in the article, simply because it’s so obvious – it’s silly to call Kickstarter “Pan handling” simply because it’s not a contribution, strictly speaking -in this caser, it’s an outright transaction. You want this toy? awesome. if enough people want it, we make it. if not?> you didn’t give anything else.
I backed Sergey Safonov’s Luno not just because I like Sergey – I wanted the frigging toy. it’s awesome. The fact that I know the maker and is friendly with him is simply the cherry on top.
But it’s not THAT much different then a lot of other toys I buy. That’s one thing that’s great about this community – we all communicate with each other, some of us are friends. You’re not buying some heartless product from a nameless corporation, you’re buying something that was designed/made by someone you actually like. how great is that?
We make a lot of limited editions, small runs that cost us a lot, and we sometimes get stuck with them. most of us can’t afford a lot of duds. the way I see it, people can take more risks like this. make a prototype, show you can make it, and then hope people actually want it. if they don’t want it, at least you don’t have costly stocks on your hands.
at the end of the day, most of us are not philanthropists. I’ve wanted Sergey’s Luno since I’ve seen the proto. Now I get to have it and Sergey gets to not lose money, and he keeps making stuff.
seems like happy results all around to me.
I’ll prefact this by saying everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but I think it’s a good tool for artists who don’t have massive name recognition yet or an inside hook-up with the big companies to see if there’s interest in their work, get funding for it and actually, hopefully see their stuff come to life.
Now, I’m no old-timer and I’ve only made one custom toy, well, ever, so far, but the old process for the little guys seemed to me to be that you’d make a toy and try to hopefully sell enough at the right price to cover your costs/help fund the next possible toy. What is Kickstarter doing different other than providing the funding ahead of time, almost as a pre-order of sorts, and giving people an idea if there’s an audience as well as giving them a budget to work with?
In a sense, Kickstarter is a fill-in for Kidrobot or Toy2R or other people who might be investors. Instead of having to hope a big company comes along and likes your idea, you can take your idea to the people and see what they think about it. If it doesn’t work, no loss for anyone because KS doesn’t charge people if the goal isn’t met. If you make the goal, hey, congrats.
And hey, now I can add that Sergey Safonov piece to my collection after I missed out on the North Wind Godots. So I’m not gonna complain.
Really enjoying reading the comments. In case it’s not obvious, I’m glad kaNO started this debate. It’s been very interesting to think about. Also: in 2009, kaNO and I shared a bottle of Grey Goose at a penthouse party during Art Basel in Miami…and I don’t even drink. Good times!
Put your money where your mouth is. It’s a pretty simple concept. I think the beauty of KS is that it provides a great barometer as to what is worth producing. With so much shitty product out there muddying the water, I’m surprised the retailers haven’t revolted in anger from having to pick up crap along with good just to keep their wholesale accounts active.
Just cause someone has the scratch to fund a project doesn’t mean that it’s worth producing but that seems to be the order of the day. Much props if one has enough money to self-fund but if your t-shirt/toy/print is crap to start with, all the accompanying nice presentation of hang tags/signed and numbered/windowbox treated/etc is just wrapping shit with a bow and knowing that your stuff is gonna end up on Dov’s clearance table at DCON in November.
Kickstarter is a game changer because the main thing that is holding back independent artists to product items en masse is liquidity. Cash rules and that’s that. We need it for supplies, equipment, marketing, tools, shipping, etc and if you can pass muster through KS and enough people support your project to have it funded, you know you’re on to something.
If you can’t meet your goal on KS – step back and acquiesce, your product/project just isn’t worth it to the SAME AUDIENCE you’d hope to reach if you were fully funded. Pretty simple.
I see having Kickstarter as an additional, alternate path to get your ideas off the ground as only a benefit. Like I said from jump – Put your money where your mouth is. It’s a win-win.
this is the future i dont understand why some peeps dont get it
now for devil’s advocate..
good ideas don’t necessarily mean good toys…and popular ideas, even less so.
Will the Kickstarter model eventually start affecting the art produced?
Will the art/toy become overshadowed or influenced by peoples’ expectations, or even what the artist feels peoples’ expectations are?
Will artists start making safer decisions to get a toy backed?
will pan-handlers become pandering pan-handlers…
can o’ worms indeed
Definitely cool to see a real give & take about real issues in the art toy industry. Jeremy, you have a knack for starting real conversations. Funding is a very real issue for any of us who want to make a living from art toys. Huck and Kano, I think it’s awesome that you guys are able to fund your own projects using the money you’ve acquired through your past successes. I always look up to successful entrepreneurs and I must admit, I do try to figure out what is working for successful people like yourselves, and I try to apply those concepts to my own business. There are, however, a number of talented people out there that do not have $10,000 lying around to self-fund their big dreams. People like this must seek out funding somehow. I can tell you for a fact that banks have tightened up in recent years due to the nationwide backlash due to their extremely poor lending practices of the very recent past. It’s a real problem, and creative funding solutions are the answer.
The whole “cyber panhandling” comment is pretty ridiculous. Most people who don’t like regular panhandling just don’t like having someone in their face or interrupting them to ask for money. Is Kickstarter really in your face begging for money? I can see Kano’s point but it does come off like sour grapes. I can see his and Huck’s point but I can’t fault someone for trying to realize their vision by any means possible. Nobobdy is going to pledge their money if they don’t support the vision or the potential of the finished product. If the quality of the art doesn’t meet expectations or is affected by Kickstarter then people will know and eventually that artist will suffer. Sergey has a small stable of toys so people have an idea of what to expect so he made his goal and more power to him.