Scott Andrew

Gnarled JavaScript warlock, musician, and cartoonist.


This is an archived blog post that was posted on September 20, 2012.

AFP and the cost of making things

The Amanda Palmer thing: she managed to Kickstarter over a $1M to finance an album and tour. Now she's getting pushback for looking for volunteers to play horns and strings in each city. Professional horn and string players are pissed. Steve Albini is pissed.

It illustrates another takeaway from PAX Dev I forgot to list: people have no idea what it costs to make things.

Kickstarter was the elephant in the room at PAX Dev. It was common folk knowledge: if you set a high fundraising goal, people complained that you couldn't possibly need that much. If you met that goal, people complained that you were now rich. If you had any sort of previous market success, people complained that you were doing a Kickstarter at all.

It was not widely understood how much of the $250K needed to build a video game was going to be eaten up by taxes, payroll, development costs, etc. All the complainers saw was a  company trying to rake in cash for themselves.

A million dollars is a lot of money for someone like Amanda Palmer, but a million dollars is chump change compared to what is spent promoting a Lady Gaga single. And it's not like Palmer is doing what every other band on Kickstarter seems to do, earning enough to put out another CD. There's a tour. There are costumes. There's an art book. There's a hand-painted-by-Amanda-herself turntable, for crying out loud. There is also the cost of making and shipping all of these things. And there's taxes.

I'm not sure that people should know, or care about, where each dollar goes. But the rise of high profile projects on Kickstarter has illuminated how little is known about what it costs to make things. Good things, thing that are worth your time and attention.

It's a shame that AP is being branded as a "Kickstarter millionaire" in the press, because she is undoubtedly no millionaire. She's an artist who so happens to have momentary possession of a million dollars. To paraphrase a PAX Dev attendee, the criteria for being a "rich" artist is being able to draw any kind of salary from your art. A low bar for such a lofty designation.