Kickstarter has its place in funding projects | The Infidel's producer Arvind David answers critics

Kickstarter has its place in funding projects

The Infidel's producer Arvind David answers critics

There's been debate about whether Kickstarter crowdfunding campaigns offer backers a raw deal. If the rewards offered: previews, back-stage passes, special commemorative T-shirts, and premier invitations are really adequate compensation for early investment in a speculative project.

Or rather, and this is an important distinction, the debate is focused on whether high-profile Kickstarter projects with celebrity creatives involved, offer backers a raw deal.

Because no one really seems to mind when a high school science teacher raises a few thousand bucks for a club to get students excited about learning, or even when a quirky girl named Niamh raises almost £25,000 to write a cookbook about bacon.

But when Facebook buys Oculus for $2billion, in a deal in which the founders pocket most of that money, and the people who provided the start-up capital receive nothing because they gave the money, not as investors but as Kickstarter backers, then, it does seem reasonable to ask if a raw deal was offered?

And of course, some people have asked us the same question - why can't a famous comedian like David Baddiel and a career producer like myself raise the money for Infidel - The Musical from conventional sources rather than turning to our fans.

It's a reasonable question, of course, and one we asked ourselves many times before launching our campaign. Here's our answer, for what it's worth:

1. While David Baddiel, composer Erran Baron Cohen and I have had success in some other realms, none of us has ever done a musical before or any kind of professional theatre. The last time any of us put on a play was when we were students. We really are making it up as we go along. Not the most obvious investor bet in terms of a tried and tested team.

2. Although The Infidel is a much-loved film, it was hardly a blockbuster or a global brand. The movie has a loyal cult following but it's no Billy Elliot.

3. And not for nothing, but our show is about the animosity between Muslims and Jews. Its about the racism they have for each other. Unlike Mormons, say, who just get all smiley and self-depreciating when you take the piss out of them, Muslims have a bit of a history reacting rather differently to satirical comedy about them.

Again, not an obvious investment bet, nor an invitation for sponsorship. I mean, we have a song called Put A Fatwa On It - so I don't exactly see Pepsi putting their logo all over us.

So all those things in balance, and when it became clear that the wonderful Theatre Royal Stratford East couldn't come up with the whole budget needed, we thought we needed to think laterally about how to fund the difference, and that we would turn to the public, and see what happened.

Well, two funny things have happened. The first is, the campaign has raised some money, and it's been enormously touching and exciting to see the response from fans, which has been incredibly supportive and positive. But so far we have not raised as much as we need - just under 20 per cent at last count, and we have two weeks to go, so things are getting tight.

But the second thing was really unexpected. As a result of the publicity around our campaign, and people learning about the show, a number of people approached us and said, 'Hey, we'd like to back this show. But not in a small way, but in a proper, full on, tens of thousands of pounds investor way' - and so we are in the odd situation where a Kickstarter campaign has actually led to commercial investment.

As of time of writing, we are still pursuing both avenues, and it's unclear which will end up contributing more to the show, but its fascinating and an example that this is a more complex dynamic to this fundraising process, and that Kickstarter and its ilk make public and bring to the fore a valuable and complex interrelationship with commercial investment and fan support.

In a sense, what Kickstarter backers are in fact doing, is acting as sponsors - not investors, but sponsors, who like a corporate brand who buys a spot, are paying for the association and involvement with the show. And of course, this is how most entertainment gets financed, in a mix between commercial investment, advertising/sponsorship money, and ticket sales from consumers. What Kickstarter really allows is not a substitute for the investment piece, but a substitute for the sponsorship/patronage piece.

The argument of course will continue to rage, but in the meantime, check out our campaign and if you like the rewards and want that association, please do get involved - two weeks to go!

• Follow Arvind Ethan David on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ArvD.

Published: 4 Apr 2014

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