The Economics Of Creativity: Can True Artistry Exist In A Consumer-Driven Economy?


Caley Seaton
Staff Writer

It’s no secret that in today’s market, it is getting progressively harder for small businesses to compete with the giant corporations in the development of consumer goods. However, a company known as Kickstarter has given these small, independent artists a fighting chance by creating a platform with which creators can ask for a certain amount of money to, in essence, “kick start” their ideas. According to the official website, since Kickstarter was founded in 2009, it has raised over $798 million for 48,000 creative projects. The company allows the creators to set a fundraising goal and deadline, and if the quota is met — which has occurred in about 44 percent of the projects — the idea is suddenly set into motion and already equipped with a group of eager consumers.

What makes Kickstarter so unique is that consumers, or the ones buying the products, suddenly have the power to influence the supply of goods, creating niche-marketing for the average person. The concept is like pre-buying a product, not because you think your investment will generate a profit but because it is something that you desire and believe in. But with the new influence of consumers on the market, one may begin to wonder if even companies like Kickstarter can save the idea of pure artistic creativity.

The simple fact is that no matter how you frame it, in the end economics will always dominate creativity in any kind of market. For starters, the monetary pledges for projects are not simply charity, as there is a rewards system set by the creators that increase with the size of donations. The point of the rewards system is to protect the creative integrity of Kickstarter, as projects are funded by those who truly believe in the idea, instead the kinds of investors you see in the larger corporations who are solely interested in turning a profit.

But the problem still remains that if nobody likes the idea, the funding quota will not be reached and the project is scrapped. This is where the idea of creative integrity comes head to head with economics. Say there is an artist who has a line of landscape paintings he wants to market, but has been unable to raise enough money. If an investor comes in and offers to fund the entire project, if he simply changes the shade of green used on the hills, and the artist complies, has he sacrificed his artistic integrity at the chance to turn his product from a hobby into a marketable entity?

One of the biggest Kickstarter projects was for a movie based on the popular TV series “Veronica Mars,” which (tragically) ended before the third season was finished. Fans were outraged, and the project, which asked for $2 million, has since vastly surpassed its quota with a current sum of $5.7 million raised. As shown by just the numbers alone, the movie has a giant fan base and huge following. If you scroll through the comments, one theme is very clear: the main character needs to get back together with her ex-boyfriend. For those you who have ever been addicted to a TV show, you can empathize with the emotions you feel as a fan when things don’t pan out as you like. With this in mind, now place yourself in the shoes of Rob Thomas, the executive producer of the show. Because it’s the fans that not only made his show a success to begin with, but are the ones literally funding the movie, is he obligated to take into account their demands to reunite Veronica with Logan, or are they giving Thomas the opportunity to finish what he started in the way that he, the creator, intended it to be? While in an ideal world one might believe they are funding Rob Thomas as an artist, the fact is that they are funding the closure they as fans need in a show they are passionate about.

The moral of the story is that economics always wins. If an artist ever wants to see his ideas materialize in the real world market, he or she needs not only the consumers’ interested in buying it, but also the money to actually fund the project. While Kickstarter is the perfect platform for those with an airtight idea that people love, the reality is that when the consumers become the funders, many artists will be forced to compromise to satisfy the demand.