Kickstarter Is Very Well Endowed

There are about 150 million good reasons (read: $) why everybody's talking about Kickstarter lately.

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Updated (3:35 p.m.) There are about 150 million good reasons (read: $) why everybody's talking about Kickstarter lately. Kickstarter is self-described as "a new way to fund creative projects" according to two beliefs: one in good ideas and one in how "large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement." And according to co-founder Yancey Strickler, if the success rate of the first two months of 2012 holds up for the rest of the year, the Brooklyn-based startup is on track to provide more $150 million for creative. Strickler notes that is $4 million more than the entire operating budget of the National Endowment of the Arts.

Writing at his own site, The Information Diet, the former director of Sunlight Labs Clay Johnson is one thinker willing to engage. Besides the hopeful notion of Kickstarter doling out $150 million this year (we're only two months into 2012, while the NEA's $146 million budget is locked in for the fiscal year,) he blogged about how "Kickstarter's not even close to the NEA" and presented a good data-driven analysis of what types of projects Kickstarter helps get funding. Long story short, (which he illustrates with the pretty chart at right) projects funded by Kickstarter aren't exactly the sorts of things that get NEA grants. Roughly a third fall in the design category.  "To give you a sense of what this category is: 6 out of the top ten projects are marketed as accessories for the iPhone or other Apple-related projects," Johnson writes. "Two are products designed to better the consumption of coffeee, one is a photography tool, and the other is a very expensive pen."

Based on the data, Kickstarter funders -- that is, those who pay small sums of money to help fund larger projects -- really like to play games. To speak of the NEA and Kickstarter in the same breath, Johnson writes, is just silly: "This comparison is unfortunate because Kickstarter and the NEA are two very different things, and have two very different missions. Comparing what Kickstarter to the NEA is like saying Facebook has organized more working-class Americans than the AFL-CIO: it only makes sense if you're completely ignorant of the function of either."

Strong. Nevertheless, it's impossible to ignore the fact that Kickstarter has recently helped to fund some pretty major creative projects. The New York Times is on it, and lately, the paper can't seem to stop publishing stories about Kickstarter-funded websites, Kickstarter-funded movies, Kickstarter-funded design and/or Kickstarter-funded technology. Kickstarter even has its own tag page on the Grey Lady's City Room blog. Why all the buzz? Well, as we said in the lede, Kickstarter is raising a ton of money for starving artist-types, and it's producing some good results. Look at this Kickstarter-funded book. It's nice! Check out this Kickstarter-funded watch band. Classy! It's also -- at the time of this posting -- just over fifty grand away from breaking a million dollars in funding. Is it more money than the government sets aside for the preservation and bettering of the arts? No, not yet.

Update: After posting, a spokesperson from Kickstarter reached out to us with some more current revenue figures. But just a few minutes later, Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler took to his personal blog to clear the air about how much funding Kickstarter raises and whether or not it makes sense to compare his startup to the NEA. Long story short: It does not. "Kickstarter does not see itself as or want to be a replacement for the NEA or any other grant-making organization," Strickler wrote. He went on to address Johnson's post and provide the full breakdown of Kickstarter's funding figures. Here are the actual percentages

  • Film — 33 percent
  • Music — 21  percent
  • Design — 11 percent
  • Art — 6 percent
  • Publishing — 5 percent
  • Games — 5 percent
  • Technology — 5 percent
  • Theater — 4 percent
  • Food — 3 percent
  • Comics — 3 percent
  • Photography — 2 percent
  • Fashion — 1 percent
  • Dance — 1 percent

And, for your convenience, the corresponding dollar amounts:

  • Film — $41.3 million
  • Music — $28.3 million
  • Design — $15 million
  • Art — $7.5  million
  • Technology — $6.5 million
  • Publishing — $6.3 million
  • Theater — $5.7 million
  • Games — $4.6 million
  • Food — $3.8 million
  • Comics — $3.5 million
  • Photography — $2.8 million
  • Fashion — $1.5 million
  • Dance — $1.4 million
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.