Animal Collective's Deakin Kickstarter Controversy
Last weekend, we posted a story about the Amanda Palmer crowdsourcing controversy that you can read here. Now, Animal Collective Deakin (Josh Dibb) has sparked up some more controversy about the fundraising site Kickstarter. Here’s the back-story:
Deakin raised $26,000 in 2009 to fund a trip to Mali to play at the Festival in the Desert, make a solo CD, create a book, and donate to TEMEDT (a Mali organization). Now, in 2012, fans who donated have yet to receive the promised compensation. Fans were to receive books, CDs, and photographs. Deakin hasn’t offered any reason for this, either.
Pitchfork caught up with Deakin and discussed his Kickstarter woes. Responding to accusations of using Kickstarter to fund a vacation to Mali, Deakin remarked “I feel sad, but I’ve set up a situation where that could be the perception and I understand that. There are a couple things that are being misconceived.” Deakin continues ”I think the [Kickstarter] was up for a day or two before I realized that I felt incredibly uncomfortable about the idea of asking people to fund a trip for me to go to Africa… that’s why the project turned into a charity thing.” This explains the use of the money.
Nevertheless, fans were still confused as to why they hadn’t received their promised gifts. Deakin relates “The gifts were supposed to be based around the music that I had been writing at that time, and when I came back, I personally felt really dissatisfied with it.” Whether or not this satisfies fans is still debatable, but nevertheless, he does offer an explanation.
In late August, Deakin sent a message out to Kickstarter donors which reads:
“I am writing to you once again to thank you for the tremendous support that you all gave back in December of 2009. I am writing you now to deeply apologize for the amount of time it has taken to come back to you with the rewards of your support. I have heard from a number of you expressing deep disappointment in the way that I have handled this project…
I also want to be clear so that all of you know that none of the money you donated was used for my trip. Nor is it being used to fund the materials that you will all be receiving (yes, you will!). All of these things are things that I have paid for myself or will be paying for myself. All of the money that you donated is being used by TEMEDT to continue their work to change the social dynamic in Mali…
…The crux of what has held this up is to record the songs that I was working on around that time in a way that I really felt good about. I am sure it seems inexplicable to some of you that that has taken nearly three years. On a personal level I have been coming to terms with my own creative process and some of that has been to accept that things take a long time to work through me.
So despite the fact that I know that I intend now and have always intended to turn this all into something that you all would be psyched about, I know that I have not been good about keeping you up to date and feeling included in the process which you all have the right to feel. I promise that for the rest of year my only two priorities will be to finish this and to be on tour with Animal Collective. I will keep you updated monthly on what is going on. Lastly I would like to speak to all of you directly if that is something that you would like…”
My take: What we have here is somewhere between professionalism and patience. Deakin apologized, and he seems genuine about it. That’s a big thing to do. Nevertheless, it’s really hard to ask fans to wait for more than three years for a promised gift based on a charitable donation. Also, Deakin does show some moral fortitude in giving the money to charity instead of traveling with it. But still, three years. In a sense, that’s what’s unprofessional. The first update on a project that started in 2009 came in August of 2012. To me that’s unprofessional, and it borders on disrespectful. I understand that his best music might not come until he’s fully ready for the songs to be finished, but it’s hard to feel sympathetic for a man who’s asked for donations and then failed (so far) to deliver on his promise.
This month has been chock full of fund-raising/monetary controversy in the indie rock world. It’s a series of incidents that ask us as fans to reevaluate how we perceive artists and their funding. From one angle, it is exciting to witness fans volunteer to play for free, give money for artists to tour on, and support a charity through a performer. From another angle, it seems exploitative. All of the money raised on Kickstarter is donated, so that aspect isn’t exploitative. But still, to ask fans to wait for three years before they receive a promised gift is. Amanda Palmer raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter and for a very long time couldn’t pay her volunteer performers. Deakin raised $26,000 on the very same site in 2009, but three years later, and nobody’s seen any real result. If this trend of sketchy fundraising controversies continues, then we as fans must begin to question how much different some indie artists are than the major label corporations that the indie label movement sought to destroy.
The main question raised by these two controversies is what should the place of volunteerism be in indie music? What should the fans give, and what should the artists expect? Simultaneously, what should fans receive for their volunteerism?
Tell us in the comments!