No More Free Kicks
A Kickstarter Rant
by Stephen Slaybaugh

Chances are by now you’ve come into contact with Kickstarter, “the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects,” as more than likely a family member or friend (and in the age of social media, I use that term loosely) has asked you to contribute a few bucks to something they were working on. You probably even got something besides feeling warm and fuzzy in return for your kindness.

But like a plague set to sweep over your Facebook feed and mine, requests are being made by musicians of every ilk to contribute to their Kickstarter accounts. It seems the starving artist is no longer content to starve anymore, needing ducats instead of inspiration to feed his muse. With increasing regularity, I’ve been asked to help pay for new albums, new tour vans or simply gas money so Mr. Sensitive doesn’t have to struggle too much out there on the road. As such, I’m calling for an immediate moratorium on such bullshit.

Now, don’t mistake me for being cold-hearted or cheap. I’ve contributed to my brother’s theater company, a friend’s restaurant, and a few other projects that I thought were worthwhile through Kickstarter. But there is absolutely no reason you should be asking me to pay for you to make your new album. Sure, the record industry is dying and it is hard to make a buck selling CDs, but the same technologies that led to such a decline have also enabled musicians to make quality recordings for cheaper than ever before. Where once a professional studio was needed, any schmo with GarageBand on his computer can make an album. If you can’t afford a computer, a four-track digital recorder can be had for less two C-notes. It’s called working within your means. And when it comes to releasing said recordings to the world, while CDs are cheaper than ever before, it is no longer necessary to even make a physical product. Sites like Bandcamp have made it possible for anyone to easily sell his music online.

But let’s assume that you are particular and just have to make that next masterpiece with Steve Albini and press it on vinyl. Do you remember that money I plopped down last week to see your band perform for 20 minutes? Instead of spending it all on Oxycontin and Night Train, save it up and invest in yourself. Sure, it may take awhile, but as it’s more than likely that your talent is proportional to the money you are pulling in, you may need some more time onstage before recording your debut anyway.

I guess my biggest problem with musicians looking for handouts, er, donations via Kickstarter is that there are probably few things in this world less necessary than more mediocre records. I know, I hear lots of them. So if you can’t find a label of some sort that wants to release your music and you still feel what you are doing has got to be heard, then you should be recording and releasing it on your dime. That’s what people like Ian MacKaye, Greg Ginn and Jello Biafra did—and without the benefit of the technology we have today. So seriously, before you turn to Kickstarter, trying saving your money, and in the process, your dignity.