Why Did Bjork’s Kickstarter Fail? It Was Lame

Bjork-thetripwirenyc-flickrBy Mike Masnick of Techdirt.

Nearly two years ago, we had a post pointing out that it was silly for people to complain when the "rich and famous" made use of platforms like Kickstarter. That story was about Tom Hanks' son Colin looking for funds to complete a documentary. As we noted, it made perfect sense to use Kickstarter, since it's also a nice marketing platform and a way to connect with fans. I don't understand why this seems to get people up in arms, but it continues to this day.

You may have heard about the high profile failure of Bjork's Kickstarter campaign. She sought £375,000 not for a new album, but to make a port of her last album's app, Biophillia, from iOS to Android and Windows 8. The original Biophilia won some rave reviews for pushing the boundaries of what an album was… but also was widely criticized for being platform specific to iOS. When it came out, Bjork said she hoped that those on other platforms would just "pirate" it, but we never understood why she didn't release it on multiple platforms.

Apparently, the answer was that however the app was designed, it would be insanely expensive to port to other platforms. That seems like much more of a design mistake than anything else. It seems likely that her project failed for a few key reasons, including that it was just about porting an app that came out years ago, rather than anything new. Also, the "rewards" were somewhat unimpressive. And, of course, Bjork fans who were iPhone users had little reason to contribute as well. There's also the big one: unlike some other stars, Bjork really hasn't embraced connecting and communicating with her fans. That's her choice, of course. No one says she needs to. But, it's much harder to raise a ton of crowdfunded money that way.

Still, many are saying that the project failed because she's rich and famous and could have just paid for everything herself. But that seems silly. There are plenty of ways that the rich and famous can make use of crowdfunding and plenty of reasons why it makes sense to do so. The project failed because it was a bad project for crowdfunding, and because Bjork isn't necessarily connected with her fans in a way that makes sense for crowdfunding.

Amanda Palmer, who remains an example of "doing Kickstarter right" has weighed in on this issue, making some really good points about why anyone should be able to use Kickstarter, even the rich and famous. Here are a few snippets, but the whole thing is worth reading:

crowdfunding should, by its very nature, be available to EVERYBODY….

here's what i think: THE MARKET IS EFFICIENT.

if ANYBODY wants to give a go at having the community help them with a project, that’s the ARTISTS prerogative. if it fails, then the interest wasn't there.

it should't matter if it's justin bieber, obama, the new kids of the block reunion project, lance armstrong, oprah, or the friendless 18-year old down the street who's been hiding in his bedroom making EDM music.

ANYBODY CAN ASK. that's democracy.

and since crowdfunding is – by definition – in the hands of the community: THE COMMUNITY WILL DETERMINE WHETHER A PROJECT IS SUCCESSFUL.

And yet, people still get upset. To some extent, this feels a bit like "hipsterism." People feel that these platforms are special because the rich and famous haven't necessarily discovered them yet. But why is it so wrong if they do find them and do use them? If people want to support the projects they will, and if they don't, they won't. That's what makes these platforms so useful.

[Bjork thumbnail courtesy thetripwirenyc.]


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  1. I agree about Bjork not having a deep connection via social media, plus the idea of an older album being ported over to Android as a low key issue for people, but I think that it happened for one main reason: the public perception of Kickstarter is that it’s bootstrapping operation. The people that win the day are the underdogs.

  2. I don’t care if anyone thinks it’s “democracy” and “they have the right to do it”….The 99% are sick and tired of the super-rich controlling how our money is taxed and distributed in ways that benefit them even more. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left starving, without basic healthcare and education, fighting each other over the scraps that are left.
    Why they hell should I EVER give ANY of my hard-earned money to someone who’s far richer than I’ll ever be? If it’s about “exposure”, well, I’m sure they can afford to hire someone to work social media for them. Or just be rude to their fans, overdose on drugs or make a porn video to gain notoriety.
    There IS one useful aspect to the rich & famous using Kickstarter — if they have a REALLY dumb idea, the public will let them know…with a resounding silence.

  3. Great post, Mike. I think that we’re going through a phase as well where we’re intensely interested in new music and distribution technologies, and these can go a long way, but perhaps the artistic momentum, or the heart/soul of this particular project, just didn’t hold it together. It’s easy to forget that it needs to be absolutely compelling on a human level.
    Nice work simplifying the public’s perception of crowd funding – I think you’re right there. If they feel it’s valuable, they’ll support it. If not, they won’t. Bickering won’t really help that!

  4. I think that my kickstarter was successful because it was already my full time job.
    Bjork was known for her music and not her hustle. Kickstarter is a full-time job and if she doesn’t do it full-time, she doesn’t understand how it will work. if she was on face-book and twitter all day, it would work.

  5. I just came across this post because I had heard about Bjork’s Kickstarter campaign at its outset but hadn’t heard what became of it. Just a comment on the title: this is a thoughtful, well written piece that covers a lot of interesting issues, but I almost skipped reading it because “It Was Lame” just sounded like hater-speak. This article deserves a better title.

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