Kickstarter Pushes the Arts in DetroitAfter receiving praise from Time magazine as one of the best websites of 2011, it’s hard to explain why most people are still not familiar with Kickstarter. The site, which started in 2009, is a fundraising site that lets hopeful innovators post creative projects in one of 13 different categories such as food, dance, and film, all with a monetary goal in mind. You can comb the easily-navigated site to quickly get the gist of it, but the concept is pretty straight forward.

Say I want to make a mobile app, distribute my graphic novel online, or shoot a music video; all I need to do is post my project on Kickstarter with a pledge goal needed to get the project done.  It could be a couple hundred bucks to record an album or a couple hundred thousand to produce a film. Creative ventures of all sizes have been proposed on the site, but if you fail to reach your pledged goal within the time limit then none of the pledged donations are processed. Sounds harsh, but it’s done to make sure all of these projects are 100% committed.

As an incentive, pledgers get tiered rewards based on their donations. So if I’m shooting that music video I mentioned earlier, a five dollar donation might get you a free digital download once it’s released, but a $500 dollar donation could get you an autographed copy of the artist’s CD, an on-camera role in the video, and a free digital download. It’s all up to the creator of the project to decide what incentives are given at what level of donation.

If it sounds like a risky or silly concept, you may change your tone after hearing how successful it’s been over the last four years. Nearly $320 million dollars in pledges were made just last year between 2.2 million donors, making 18,109 projects possible.

Extending Kickstarter’s popularity even further, people can search by city to help fund local projects. At the time this article was written, 251 projects were available for funding in Detroit and dozens more in Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Ypsilanti and so on. It’s one thing to see nationally distributed projects, like online games or apps, achieve success but to see projects that were conceived and executed miles away from your house makes ambitious local ideas all the more tangible.  Check out these four Kickstarter success stories that are all from the Metro Detroit area.

Groovebox Studios Detroit

Kickstarter Pushes the Arts in DetroitGroovebox Studios Detroit (GBS Detroit) promotes emerging musicians and bands without ever signing them to a contract. As their FAQ puts it, “Direct fan support is the new music industry, and we’re on the cutting edge!”  GBS Detroit is all over the Detroit Kickstarter page because of this approach, and their promotion process obligates the musician(s) involved with GBS Detroit to use the site. GBS Detroit provides a live one-take recording session that is filmed and is meant to promote the band.  It costs $1200, which the band or artist can pay up front, but the Kickstarter approach is encouraged because it builds a fan base and the GBS Detroit people have experience making these things work. I found 55 of the 65 projects had been fully funded and then some, giving the artist money in pocket. One of the many projects GBS helped complete was…

Kickstarter Pushes the Arts in DetroitRobocop! The Musical Soundtrack

Last May, Go Comedy Improv Theater in Ferndale, MI brought back the staged parody “Robocop! The Musical.” The goal was to record an original soundtrack to the now twice-ran production, so Go Comedy and GBS Detroit worked together to make the project happen. With 110 backers pledging $6,060 of the $5,000 goal, the project was more than well-funded. The Kickstarter also served as a promotional tool for the show, offering backers tickets to opening night, t-shirts, posters and more. The show was a big success and ran for most of the summer of 2012 at Go Comedy. “Robocop! The Musical” was also shown at Go Comedy Improv Theater during the first annual…

Detroit Improv FestivalKickstarter Pushes the Arts in Detroit

Earning $4,290 of its $4,000 goal, the Detroit Improv Festival (DIF) used most of their pledges to start a non-profit organization, the Detroit Improv Collective (DICO). DICO’s goal is to advance improvisational comedy throughout the Metro Detroit area by means such as the Detroit Improv Festival.  The Kickstarter made things like performer housing, transportation and workshops possible. The festival drew huge crowds across three theaters (Go Comedy Improv Theater, The Ringwald and The Magic Bag) with performers from Los Angeles, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, and all over North America. When asked how the Kickstarter helped DIF become a reality, Producer & Improviser at Go Comedy Pj Jacokes said:

“Raising funds for our annual improv festival is a year-long job and not one with a great success rate. Kickstarter, especially when dealing with individual donors, made it easy for us to present our intentions in a forum that was easily understandable and, more importantly, was easily sharable.”

After a successful festival last year, the DIF website recently announced the Detroit Improv Festival will return in 2013 from August 7th – 11th.  But not all things are growing as easily; one of the most prominent Detroit Kickstarters of 2012 actually focused on the strife of the city…


Detropia is a documentary on the rise and fall of Detroit as a manufacturing hub and city. The film is directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady of Loki Films, the same directors of the Oscar nominated documentary, Jesus Camp. The two decided to use Kickstarter as a means to independently distribute their film. As explained in their Kickstarter video, they doubted their odds of getting their film national distribution in an election year, especially a documentary focusing on the economic decline of a once-prosperous city. Despite their concern, backers wanted to see the project completed so bad that the $60,000 goal was met in just two weeks, ultimately raising $71,262 for the film to be nationally distributed. You can check out the full trailer for Detropia here:

If you feel inspired by that trailer, comb over the available Kickstarter campaigns in your area to see how you can support. It doesn’t take too much to help a project reach its goal and you can take pride in knowing whatever you donated helped someone pursue a passion they have. Have you donated to any Kickstarters in your area? Or have you tried to get your project backed before? Share your Kickstarter experiences with us!


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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hey Alex,
    I talked to a few people involved the the Robocop/GBS fundraiser and they assured me that the soundtrack should be done within the week and everything will be shipped immediately. They apologize for any inconvenience, but don’t let this discourage you from donating to Kickstarters! Regardless of a lengthy delay of the product, you still helped someone’s passion a reality.

  2. Your article is misleading. Yes GoComedy did raise the funds you identified and “promised” items like Tshirts, posters, downloadable soundtracks.

    During the kickstarter fundraiser, which reached its goal on April 6, 2012 the estimated delivery was May 2012.

    An update was posted in August promising deliveries in September.
    An update in September was posted promising only “soon”

    As of 2/5/2013, none of those items have been delivered to the kickstarting contributors. So buyer beware when using kickstarter!

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