Perry Chen: The Virtual Patron

Utne Reader visionary

| November-December 2010

  • Utne Reader Visionary Perry Chen

  • Utne Reader Visionary Perry Chen

Creative artists typically have just three methods for funding projects: They can attempt to infiltrate the marketplace through gatekeepers like galleries, publishers, or recording labels; they can appeal to nonprofits and foundations that superimpose their own agendas on artistic goals; or they can wait tables.  

With Kickstarter, Perry Chen envisions a fourth paradigm. The idea is simple: Artists pitch their idea with a video on the Kickstarter website. Patrons send money only when the artist reaches the target number. 

The notion upends the usual relationships between artists and their clientele. “It’s not about philanthropy,” Chen says, “and the artists aren’t giving up intellectual control or ownership. Every project offers tangible things, like custom artifacts, for the people who fund. It’s really about a new form of commerce.”  

Since its launch last spring, the site has raised more than $15 million for thousands of projects, according to Chen, and monthly visits to the website topped a million in August.  

“The site extends well beyond funding,” says Chen. “It’s a great way to gather a community around your work.” 


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