Explore the origins of the “EYES ON” series chronicling my crowdfunding adventures. How did I get myself into this?
Last year, the Kickstarter campaigns for BRZRKR and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers got me interested in the possibility of supporting crowdfunded entertainment projects that are outside of the “mainstream” of today.
I’m not interested in most of the new entertainment in movies and TV based on current agendas so I started looking into more alternatives. Those alternatives were independent or foreign productions, fan-made entertainment, or crowdfunded entertainment.
I was particularly interested in crowdfunding, particularly the reward-based crowdfunding model. With this model, a supporter or backer is promised to receive rewards in return for the amount of money they choose to support the business with.
There are several models of crowdfunding including equity-based crowdfunding, rewards-based crowdfunding, donation-based crowdfunding, and debt-based crowdfunding.
Equity-Based Crowdfunding is the crowdfunding model in which the investor seeks a return from the project after a long period of time. The return is in the form of dividend-like payment or other profit-sharing arrangements. If the “project/business” did well, the investor may thus receive a positive return or have the possibility to sell his crowdfunding participation to someone else at a capital gain.
The debt-based crowdfunding model basically refers to the situation where the public/marketplace provides the capital to the business through lending. With crowdfunding for debt instruments, the public is mostly given a choice to put their money into some sort of securitized loan/debt instrument, such as small denomination corporate bonds, for example.
The rewards-based crowdfunding model does not include financial gains. Instead, the contributor or backer receives maybe a discount, a collectible product, or early access to a to-be-launched product. We don’t really talk about “investors” in this case in order to not be confused with the above-mentioned models where financial gain is expected.
Donation-based crowdfunding does not include any formal return at all. Unlike the previously mentioned models, donation-based crowdfunding is not bound by any repayment commitment.
REWARD VS DONATION
When it comes to crowdfunding entertainment, I have come across reward-based crowdfunding and donation-based crowdfunding so far.
With reward-based crowdfunding, the rewards you receive may vary from hard copy books, posters, cards, digital files, etc. This crowdfunding model has been considered a sub-category of donation-based crowdfunding even though the funding offers something in return for the investments. You don’t have that with donation-based crowdfunding. Examples of reward-based crowdfunding platforms include Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Patreon, and Substack.
The return is not a financial return but a tangible or digital product. Reward-based crowdfunding should also not be confused with retail. The rewards in most cases are not completed and therefore not available during the funding period to showcase. There is no instant exchange of goods for money. Retailing is the distribution process of a retailer obtaining goods and services and selling them to customers for use.
Any investment that does not promise any return any the investor is typically known as donation-based funding. GoFundMe is a very popular donation-based platform but for entertainment, I often see it included on reward-based crowdfunding platforms as well, like Patreon and Indiegogo.
Even social media platforms such as YouTube, Odysee, and Rumble, all video publishing platforms, offer crowdfunding possibilities through its membership program that is restricted for certain territories and its super chat option that offers users the possibility to donate or tip some monies to their favorite YouTubers during live streams.
THE READING EXPERIENCE
Unlike many people, for me, access to American “superhero” comic books was very limited growing up. If there were available in the bookstores, they ran very inconsistently. You may not get all the issues and they were expensive.
You could always borrow from friends but my friends that were into American comics were not so enthusiastic about the idea. Always available in bookstores were the Disney comics of Mickey Mouse, Uncle Scrooge, and Donald Duck. I eventually buy a few but they weren’t favorites to look out for.
My favorites were “De avonturen van Kuifje” (The adventures of Tintin), and “Suske en Wiske” (Spike and Suzy/Bob et Bobette), both Belgian comics. Read almost the entire run of each. They were affordable and new issues were always available at the bookstore.
I used to like the comic strips that came in the daily newspapers I remember looking forward to Garfield, Peanuts, and Asterix & Obelix. That’s how far I got with reading comic books and strips.
When it comes to reading as a teenager or young adult my attention shifted to novels from R.L Stine to Caroline Keene, Franklin. W. Dixon, J.R.R Tolkien, Iris Johansen, Dean Koontz, Steven King, Robert Ludlum, and many others.
When I started working while in college my reading time considerably diminished. Years later I’m able to discover and invest in new properties through crowdfunding. I could look into the IPs I knew from my childhood but seeing how many of the old properties I love are being transformed into something else gives me no incentive to invest in the new version. I would rather spend my money on the old material or on something new and exciting.
THE WATCHING EXPERIENCE
Instead of reading American comics growing up, I watched cartoons based on the comics and Anime based on Manga. That is how I know Spiderman, Superman, Batman, the Flash, X-Men, Justice League, Dragon Ball, Full Metal Alchemist, Sailor Moon, Inuyasha, Samurai X (Rurouni Kenshin), Neon Genesis Evangelion, Berserk, and many others.
On the Movie & TV side of entertainment, I’m baffled at the level of deconstruction of known and beloved IPs such as Star Trek and many others over the last decade. The new stories and characters are noncoherent and there is no continuity with the established lore.
The new formula for making entertainment these days is taking a popular IP or an IP with a considerable fanbase known as “cult classics”, using the fans to generate clout for the project, and then blaming the fans when they choose not to support the final product which is often completely different from what they expected. Why choose to spend money on this? What is the alternative?
In general, you will always have independent media (indies) and foreign content to look into but it is often difficult to find something to be interested in since all focus is usually on mainstream content. However, it is worth a shot to invest some time in looking for alternatives.
With crowdfunding, there are some interesting projects of short films, TV episodes, and documentaries that are being crowdfunded. The difference with book or music projects is that these take longer to get finalized. There is no established formula yet to delineate the best way to crowdfund film projects. However, as a backer one should understand the risk involved when you decide how much you want to back these kinds of projects.
And don’t forget that you always have alternatives for your daily entertainment like Youtube, Odysee, and Rumble. It may take some time to discover genuine creators you are comfortable with. Most probably you will land first on influencers’ channels supported by mainstream media or sponsored by wealthy corporations or those that have an act to get attention but are not providing the content you expected or are constantly changing their stance/pinions for no reason. It’s normal.
Be open-minded and willing to listen to unpopular views respectfully, that’s how we create healthy discourse, learn from each other and grow.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS ABOUT CROWDFUNDING
It is important for the project managers of crowdfunded projects to inform their supporters and/or backers about the progress report of their crowdfunding projects. This includes the time needed for fulfillment (delivery) and the preparations for it. There seems to be always the same issues with printers, packaging, and storage:
- Prepare for production/printing issues. Have a backup plan.
- Invest in protective packaging.
- Invest in storage space.
- Please consider having some extra copies. You will always get a few extra customers during the fulfillment period. That’s when they can see other customers showing off their products.
And it is also important for us as backers to understand the risks of crowdfunding. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are not online shops so a little bit of homework is required for you to figure out who the project managers are and what their background/track record is. Are they genuine or not?
SUPPORTING INDEPENDENT CREATORS
Independent comic creators aspire to create high-value products based on original IPs with great art and storytelling. It is inspiring to see them trying to be the best. Most importantly there is always room for improvement and as a supporter, I can understand that, if they are open to learning from mistakes.
In the end, the backer wants to receive rewards equivalent to the value of the money they choose to back like a quality product of the book be it in hardcover, semi-hardcover, glossy cover, and floppy format. Or if it’s in digital format, quality audio or video.
My issue with YouTube, in particular, is that it is restricted to certain regions, and it takes a significant portion, around 30%, of the donation for themselves. If I want to support a channel, I can only do that if they have alternative options to what YouTube offers like PayPal which is often linked to streaming platforms they use during live streams such as stream elements.
Patreon or Subscribe Star both offer the user the option to directly link to a credit card. I wish I could support creators on Locals and substack but both use stripe as their only payment method and stripe also has a specific list of countries where they are actively offering their services.
THE VETTING PROCESS
You most probably find artists with crowdfunding projects on Youtube, Odysee, or Rumble as well. This will help you with the vetting process. A very necessary thing to do when you are dealing with crowdfunding. Who are the people behind it? Do you like the concept? It will give you some insight into the project.
You will find unknown artists with huge egos overselling their projects like the best ever while talking trash about their contemporaries or smashing down on old entertainment. I find it quite annoying and it makes it easier for me to take the decision to not support them. If you can’t accept criticism, make room for improvement, and respect existing creators, I’m not interested.
When choosing projects I also look into the comments of current backers and updates from the project manager. It is also helpful to check how long the project has been open.
THE CHALLENGE OF SHIPPING & DELIVERY
It is always a challenge with shipping out a physical product especially when there are additional products/rewards coming with it. Shipping is a headache for some of us that live outside of the U.S., U.K., and Australia. Most places don’t have a reliable postal service so deciding to buy stuff online and receive them can be a challenge. In my case, I use a package delivery service as my delivery address.
There are companies that offer these services that include taking care of the package when received which means paying for insurance. The waiting time to get the package is longer. After the sender sends the shipment it takes its time to get delivered at the U.S. address, then from there, it will be sent to the country the client lives in, which also takes its time, especially with customs.
So, for those of us that have challenging delivery, it is understandable that we would take our time choosing what to invest in. It just takes longer to get stuff delivered than others, not the mention, the extra fees and taxes on top of the shipping fee and insurance. Sometimes these costs are much higher than the value of the product.
THE CHALLENGE OF INVOICE MANAGEMENT & CUSTOMS
Another challenge for me is having the invoices ready for customs for jurisdictions that require them. Crowdfunding makes it challenging because sometimes you get extra rewards which are great but for customs, they should be declared as well.
Ideally, it would be great to receive at the end of each campaign a confirmation with a list of all the rewards. I usually put as a description of the package “Graphic Novel Pack” but it’s not always accepted. Customs can help up the package until they receive the invoice.
Another headache with receiving crowdfunding projects has been the tracking numbers, especially in cases where the packages are split into smaller packages. The ideal scenario would be to have everything in one box but sometimes due to circumstances creators decide to split the package which wouldn’t be a problem if:
- The customer gets a head-up that there will be multiple packages
- The customer received the tracking number of each package.
- It is also important to know who is sending the package. Some project managers use their own name, the name of their company, or a third party.
In the above cases, when you have a detailed invoice or order confirmation you can easily mark what is pending to be received.
LOOKING FORWARD TO NEW ENTERTAINMENT
Based on my experience so far, I liked the focus on quality and customer service of independent creators who care about their customers. They create content that you like, are open to criticism, at least most of the ones I follow do, and most reach out to their customers.
The easiest has been sharing those projects with digital rewards which are generally more affordable. Some creators offer soundtracks, videos, and other digital products.
Others have a tip jar tier for those that are not able to back the more expensive tiers but not everyone does it because it would be categorized as a donation since there are no rewards. It can be confusing for those that usually declare donations for tax deduction purposes.
Despite challenges getting the final product it’s still exciting to receive new stuff. I’m lucky that I’m able to support a limited number of projects but I wish I could financially support more talent. I’m told that sharing the projects with family & friends and through social media also helps.
It has been challenging to convince others in the same boat as me because it has become more expensive to get physical products since the shipping costs are increasing. In some cases, the costs double the value of the product that is being shipped.
However, I’m hoping that the situation will improve and someone will eventually come up with a solution. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to supporting new entertainment. I will be documenting my experiences with supporting crowdfunding projects of graphic novels, comic books, and Film & TV in what I will call the “EYES ON” series. Check them out. How about you? Would you consider supporting crowdfunded entertainment?
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Preston, J. 2014. “How Marillion pioneered crowdfunding in music”.
Schroter, W. 2014. “Crowdfunding around the World.”
Stripe. 2022. Available for businesses in 46 countries.