As a young girl I remember staying up late to watch the celebrities come out and perform on the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon (Lewis, J., 1973) on television. I was fascinated with the idea of those big Hollywood stars of that time, like Frank Sinatra and John Wayne, who would come out to perform and answer phone calls just to collect money for “Jerry’s Kids.” I had no idea at the time that this telethon was probably one of the earlier versions of crowdfunding, I just wanted to call-in with the hope that I would get to talk to John Wayne. Actor/Comedian Jerry Lewis was collecting donations around the country for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and using the airwaves of television, and his celebrity, to send his message across to the nation for funding purposes (Lewis, J., 1973).
Currently, television is not the only medium for such charitable organizations. People, namely fans, are giving their hard-earned dollars, and often their time, willingly to fan-based crowdfunding campaigns that are asking for donations on websites like Kickstarter.com. From those early telethon days, we have come into the 21st century, where crowdfunding for the film industry has been growing in popularity over the years, and has been helped by the growing fan base for certain types of films and television projects. Of course film and television are not the only industry seeking an audience with its fans, but it is the most prominent.
In 2013 a favorite television series, which aired on the UPN/CW network from 2004 to 2007 was getting a facelift and a new home on the big screen (imdb.com, 2014). The show was Veronica Mars (Thomas, 2004). The creator, Rob Thomas, wanted the network to help him turn the show into a movie, but the network didn’t think it had the viewership to become successful at the box office, so they passed. The fans wanted a movie, and at their urging Thomas started a Kickstarter campaign to see if he could get the project off the ground. Because of the fans, the Kickstarter campaign was the most successful yet for the site. The campaign earned 2 million dollars (Thomas’ original goal) within the first 12 hours. The most interesting aspect of the campaign was the fact that it was completely funded by fans. The final tally for the movie campaign was 5.7 million and it became the first big successful campaign for Kickstarter (McMillan, 2013).
Surely, it was a fluke? The fans for Veronica Mars were singular in their determination and surprised the network and Rob Thomas with their loyal following. With this case a new thought arose, were all the entertainment and fan-based campaigns that successful and if so, why? I have been trying for a while to understand this kind of fan loyalty. Many campaigns have come and gone since Veronica Mars. This research blog will focus on the entertainment based crowdfunding campaigns, and how they possibly fooled the fans into helping them promote those campaigns. I plan on sharing several case studies on fan labor and exploitation, including the Veronica Mars movie, which will show there was a backlash for fans that donated and helped during those campaigns.
Lewis, J. (Producer), & Lewis, J. (Director). (1973, September 2). The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon (Television Broadcast) Las Vegas, NV. American Broadcasting Company.
McMillan, G., (2013). Veronica Mars KickStarter Breaks Records, Raises Over $2M in 12 Hours. WIRED. (13, March 12). Retrieved November 26, 2014, from http://www.wired.com/2013/03/veronica-mars-kickstarter-record/
Thomas, R. (Producer). (2004). Veronica Mars (Television Series). Hollywood, CA:United Paramount Network/Central Broadcasting Service and Warner Brothers
Veronica Mars (TV Series 2004-2007) – Trivia. IMDb. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0412253/
Wikipedia.com (2015). “Crowdsourcing.” Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdsourcing