With the announcement of the Royal Academy of Art launching their first crowdfunding campaign to bring Ai Weiwei’s Tree to London I find myself asking a question: can crowdfunding become addictive?
Back in 2014 I made a new year’s resolution that I would donate monthly to the arts. Most of the companies I greatly admire, including most of our largest institutes, are charities. If you’ve been following anyone who works within the arts you’d know that there is increased squeezing from government, local authority and over sought funding from trusts and foundations. Quite simply money for the arts is declining whilst competition is increasing. Crowdfunding became an accessible and easy (in my opinion too easy) way for charities and arts organisations to raise funds with a public facing message and rewards.
My donations on Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding websites allowed me to give a little something to those I admire at a click of a button. A small pledge from me of £10 goes to those that need it and I get to feel good that more art is being made. Simple. There lies in the problem; crowdfunding is incredibly simple and can easily be addictive.
Most crowdfunding websites work on a system of pledges. You pledge to donate a certain amount of money towards a project and if enough overall pledges reach a target ahead of a deadline the project is funded and your pledge will be taken from your bank account. Making pledges on projects is as simple as online shopping and using a fast pay system; before you know it you’ve bought that ‘recommended item’ that other users have bought and you’ve got yourself a light switch cover of your favourite musician (this actually happened to me…)
So when the Royal Academy of Arts announces that they’re hoping to raise £100,000 as a contribution towards their Weiwei exhibition with perks including limited edition prints of specifically commissioned photographs my contemporary art obsessed desire to have a piece of Weiwei goes into overdrive. Scrolling down the perks as they steadily raise in value I keep thinking, ‘what is £150 for a piece of Weiwei?’. Well actually Jake, £150 is your average monthly tube fares. ‘But its just a pledge, they won’t take my money now, will they?’. This could get dangerous.
The crowdfunding model for the arts is fantastic, but I’m becoming more weary of my over zealous pledging. Is crowdfunding becoming the new online gambling websites, just one more roll of the dice…? Of course not, but it does require a certain level of control from people like me who think that ultimately they’re doing a good thing. Let’s hope I remember those pledges are likely to end up as an expensive bill each month. Until then I might just stare at the Kickstarter for the Royal Academy of Arts just a little longer before heading off to work.
Sidenote: On Kickstarter this year I’ve so far pledged £65 across 6 six projects. Not as many as I thought but damn, it is too easy to click pledge.