Spike, creator of the alternative history webcomic Templar, Az is asking for support for her next project. The project is Poorcraft: A Comic Book Guide to Frugal Urban and Suburban Living. The book is a good idea for artists, students, writers -- anyone who might need to reduce expenses, really.
What really interests me is that this project is being done through a website called Kickstarter. For those who don't know, Kickstarter is a website where artists pitch their projects and collect donations from backers. The artist sets a goal - Spike's is $6000 - and offer rewards for donations offered. With Poorcraft, $1 gets access to a behind-the-scenes blog on the making of the book, $5 gets a pdf of the book, $10 a hardcopy, and so on, all the way to $500 securing the donor a spot on the cover of the book. If the goal is not met, no one's donations are deducted from their credit cards, and the artist can try again with a lower goal, or scrap the project.
The idea of Kickstarter is a good one; artists get funded by the public, rather than having to break through the industry doors. It enables a DIY artistry by opening avenues of promotion, allowing an artist to attract people who are interested in their art; once they donate, this public becomes vested in the project. Now, Kickstarter does require a certain amount of self-promotion; time and energy spent looking for the right audiences to pitch to, amassing patrons who care enough to throw a few dollars at a project. However, I really like the idea of having art publicly funded by interested parties, especially when the project is something that might not be possible to market through the traditional channels. The patron of arts is no longer someone rich, or some corporation trying to look community-minded, but the individual who can spare a few dollars here and there, or someone who pays for a book up-front, before it is completed. There are many artists on the internet finding new ways to support their craft; the singer Amanda Palmer wrote a long, but interesting blog post called "Virtual Crowdsurfing" about how she has made more money from self-promoting through the internet than through her record label. Amanda Palmer uses Twitter and her blog to connect with fans, to offer them conversations and performances, to arrange meetings and flash gigs, to get places to stay and pianos to practice on, and to ask for money, hold auctions, sell DVDs and t-shirts, etc.
People want to get behind art, I think. While the type of art still makes a real difference (would a book of my poetry ever be able to amass the same kind of following as music or comics? probably not, but that's okay.) all artists who spend time building or joining online communities can potentially use the medium of the internet not only to create art, but to profit from it. And that is a beautiful thing.
I await the day when Kickstarter (or a competitor) offers this kind of service to artists outside the U.S.A. I am itching to try it out.