► I’m with you when it comes to the legitimacy of the voice, but I still see crowd funding campaigns that seem too frivolous to make me say, “Yes, that too is legit.” Sure, I could just ignore it, but when I see “I want to go to ComiCon – people, pay for my trip”, I have a hard time subscribing to the validity of the campaign.
Of course there is a flip side or dark side to crowd funding. But I think it lies in a different place than what you are implying. The problem is when someone is trying to finance their dream trip to Spain and seemingly asks the universe at large to help them out and then becomes very upset when nobody answers their call. Those are the people who misunderstand crowd funding the most and give it a bad name in the process. In the end, it really is just a tool. Say you want to go on a vacation to Spain. Your friends and family all understand how much that would mean to you and decide to each toss you a hundred bucks. All of a sudden you have raised the money you need to go to Spain because your family and friends wanted to support this mission. That’s fantastic. There is nothing negative about that. The negativity only arises if you shake your fist at god, asking why the universe isn’t helping you to go to Spain. Unless you have first built a community that wants you to go to Spain, asking the universe at large to make it happen is bound to yield a negative result. And that is where the dark side of crowd funding bleeds into this conversation.
► What about the success? If a goal is reached, I believe you have three options: 1) Keep asking for support, 2) become dormant and just see what else happens until the end of the campaign, 3) actively tell people that the goal is reached and there is no more need to support or spread the money. In your case, you went for option 1.
Yes, but only for the reason that I was selling a product. I didn’t want to produce the album and in a separate step sell it. The selling was part of the Kickstarter. And of course I wanted to sell as many albums as I could. I wasn’t trying to build a sculpture for $100,000, so that there is one piece and going beyond the goal wouldn’t make sense. This type of project does exist, of course. But my goal wasn’t to reach a certain dollar amount, it was to pre-sell the album to anyone who wanted to have it. That is the important thing to remember.
► That’s probably one of the biggest misconceptions about crowd funding: Having $50 or $100,000 above your nominal target doesn’t mean you suddenly have $50 or $100,000 in pizza money for yourself. Depending on the type of project, not 100 per cent of every additional dollar has to be spent – but you’re going to spend more of the additional money than will be left over after expenses.
Oh yes, that is a huge misunderstanding – in general and one I had to deal with. The most laughable part about people thinking I earned an insane amount of money because we exceeded that nominal goal of $100,000 is that my Kickstarter actually pretty much broke even, because I spend so much money on making the album incredible and overdoing it on the packaging, putting insane amounts of money into the tour, the parties, the thank-you cards, giving people in New Zealand free shipping. I did those things happily, because I wanted the fans to be happy. But anyone with basic math skills and an understanding of manufacturing should have been able to see that there was no way that you’re looking at a person who suddenly has a million dollars. But that is one of the problems with transparency – and stupidity … and humanity – you give people one transparent number, and all of a sudden they think you have a million dollars because they are not using their brains to apply the basics of business. Which is weird, because if Apple says they are grossing a million dollars in iPhone sales, you do assume that someone has to build those iPhones and that Apple has to pay some bills. It’s so obvious. But for some reason, people don’t think about us the same. Which can be frustrating.
► A frustration that lead to your TED Talk. Your explanations in that speech changed my initial opinion – so much that I then wrote another piece, to say my previous criticism was wrong. How often did you get that kind of response?
That happened quite a few times, actually. And it was really satisfying – not to see people saying “I was wrong”, but to see them say they misunderstood. Exactly because I didn’t feel ‘right’. I felt misunderstood. And it was what I was trying to do with the TED Talk, to explain to the people and to other artists that this is a different kind of economy than we are used to, one that is based on thanks and trust and gratitude and not just putting a sticker price on something. So it made me very happy to see some people come around and say that, now that I’ve explained it in the way I did, they understand better.
► Another result of the TED Talk was, of course, the book…
Yes, the book came out of the TED Talk. It was watched by so many people and resulted in such huge resonance, and I had a lot more to say about the topic than I could fit into the talk. So when publishers came asking whether I wanted to write a book, I said, “Yes.”
► A ‘yes’ you seem to have regretted at times, at least according to some tweets and some photos on Instagram. There was some frustration involved in the writing and/or editing process, wasn’t there?
Hah, yeah. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I also didn’t do myself any favours by accepting a really difficult deadline from the publisher. I started writing the book in February and it was published in November, which created an insane deadline. I basically wrote the book in two months, edited it in another three months and then did the last looks and edits after that. So the source of the frustration was the ticking clock and that sword of the impending deadline hanging over my head.