This weekend was ACL in Austin. While I was lucky to borrow a friend’s wristband for a brief period of time (and got to see the Roots!!!), it’s generally a festival I can’t afford. The perk of ACL weekend, however, is that there tends to be pre or after party gigs that are more accessible for those of us with uh…lesser dough.
The Outlander Project, promoting music to the LGBT scene, happened to be just one of those events. With no plans this past Saturday evening, I checked out the artists who were signed up to play and eventually found myself on a kickstarter page for a featured artist, Gina Chavez. I hadn’t heard about her before, but after watching her seven minute introduction, I was already contemplating contributing. Not only did I dig her music, but she’s a local Austinite, a bilingual singer/songwriter, annnnnd committed to empowering young women in El Salvador. Well, all of that, and her kickstarter video was impressively creative and adorable (you should check it out and see for yourself). I couldn’t help but pitch in.
Later that same day, I was reflecting on whether or not it was completely absurd to give to an artist I had just been introduced to. “Was I tricked?!” I briefly wondered. No, no I wasn’t – but I was starting to recognize the uniqueness of what Kickstarter is doing. I reflected on my past experiences with this site and was reminded about “The Miss Zee Coloring Book” kickstarter page I had visited in the past – promoting a coloring book “created to help uplift underrepresented and forgotten girls of color.” I also remembered that one of my favorite blogs, Autostraddle (culture, news, opinion, and entertainment for feminist queer ladies of sorts) just raised tons of money to expand the site and finally pay the writers. These are all sorts of things that would really struggle to make it in the mainstream world. They’re too edgy, too real, too counter-status quo. Kickstarter, I soon realized, is an incredible tool for grassroots change via art, music, new websites, etc.
I started imagining a future wherein things like Kicstarter grew. Would it remove power from the mainstream entertainment industries which produce, more often than not, characters and plots which only affirm our prejudices and worldviews? Would it allow for more movies like “Dear White People,” a satire film about “being a Black face in a white space” that challenge our society to change? Could we have a music industry that didn’t restrict artists to “what sells” and actually let them sing their minds? Could we begin to see more people of color, more LGBT people, more strong women in merchandise, pop culture, reporting, journalism, etc? Woah.
Far off for this to become the norm, I know, but I can’t help but feel a little hopeful about some of the ways the internets can connect communities of people with similar hopes, investments, and experiences, even if we’re spread across the world. When we can choose, not from what’s produced by the mainstream market, but from artists, entrepreneurs, and journalists who still have the freedom to live out their vision, we really have an opportunity to decide what values we want to invest in.
I wish I had bunch of money to just scroll through the site and promote projects I believe in. “YES! We need that ‘photo and research exhibit documenting stories of Jewish refugee children rescued to safety in Switzerland.’ I want more low environmental impact, fair trade, delicious coffee! And we are certainly in need of sexy men making cupcakes!” Okay, so maybe not that last one…for me…personally. Of course Kickstarter has a million projects that also feed the status quo, but when you have a few extra bucks you can give, its a means of promoting something different – and sometimes, that opportunity is all too hard to come by.