Are you sitting down? The crowd-funding site, Kickstarter, will soon be able to boast a bigger arts-funding treasure-chest than the National Endowment for the Arts.
Or, at least, so boasts its boss:
Kickstarter is having an amazing year, even by the standards of other white hot Web startup companies, and more is yet to come. One of the company’s three co-founders, Yancey Strickler, said that Kickstarter is on track to distribute over $150 million dollars to its users’ projects in 2012, or more than entire fiscal year 2012 budget for the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), which was $146 million. “It is probable Kickstarter will distribute more money this year than the NEA,” said Stricker in an exclusive phone interview with TPM.Of course Kickstarter works very differently from a federal granting agency, and basically relies on how well you can bully (I mean, encourage) thousands of friends into coughing up a few bucks each. Sullivan rounds up the debate over the claim's merits here.
And to be fair, Strickler himself is far from suggesting his company supplant the Endowment:
“We view that number and our relationship to it in both a good and bad way.”
As Strickler explained, the milestone is “good” in the sense that it means that Kickstarter may now reach a point where it will funnel as much money to the arts as the federal agency primarily responsible for supporting them, effectively doubling the amount of art that can get funded in the country. “But maybe it shouldn’t be that way,” Strickler said, “Maybe there’s a reason for the state to strongly support the arts.”
Free-marketers would probably be happy to suggest a Kickstarter-like solution for "privatizing" public sector arts funding. Which is why I think the right lesson to draw from this is not that the NEA is unnecessary but that--in its current atrophied and deliberately starved state--it's so small! At a time when anyone from political campaigns to Kickstarter projects can raise millions online in small contributions, $150 mil ain't much.
Just a reminder that-- No, Republicans, cutting the NEA won't do bupkis for the deficit.
So I'm all for Kickstarter shaming the congress by showing up how pathetically small their arts funding is. Unfortunately it won't be taken that way by many.
Meanwhile...how long till you think some major nonprofit starts taking to Kickstarter when subscriptions decline?