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Kickstarter Co-founder Yancey Strickler to Give Keynote Speech at McNally Smith’s Spring Commencement

Spring has (almost) sprung in the Twin Cities, which means that graduation is just around the corner for several McNally Smith students. Continuing its storied tradition of hosting influential commencement keynote speakers (Dan WilsonMark WheatEd Cherney), the school is proud to announce that Kickstarter Co-founder Yancey Strickler will be on hand at the History Theatre at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 27, to offer the graduating class of 2013 some parting words of inspiration as they embark on their new lives in music.

Strickler’s visit to McNally Smith occurs nearly four years to the day that Kickstarter launched (April 28, 2009). Since its inception, the crowd funding website has raised half a billion dollars in funding for over 38,000 creative projects. Much of Kickstarter’s popularity stems from its simplicity and transparency — artists shoot videos pitching their creative endeavors and interested patrons directly contribute money in return for incentives, which are listed in tiers (alongside corresponding dollar values) ranging from autographed merchandise to face time with artists. If a project reaches its pledge goal within its predetermined timeframe, money is collected, incentives are delivered and Kickstarter collects 5%. If a pledge goal is not met, those who chose to donate keep their cash.

“Kickstarter has dramatically altered the funding mechanism for musicians and artists,” says McNally Smith’s Director of Career and Alumni Services, David Lewis, noting that in 2012, Kickstarter eclipsed the National Endowment for the Arts in money distributed to artists by $128 million. “Amidst a massive downshift in traditional grants and record sales, along comes this amazing service that has raised over 500 million dollars for independent individuals — during a recession, no less.”

While big-scale triumphs like the recent Veronica Mars Movie Project and singer/songwriter Amanda Palmer’s million dollar campaign have been well-publicized, accessibility for lesser known artists reamins the beating heart of Kickstarter’s mission. Strickler claims the average successful Kickstarter project raises around $5,000 from approximately 85 people. “This is not just about big dollars, it’s about meaningful dollars,” Lewis continues. “As musicians start out they can set modest, yet impactful, goals to build upon. And as they grow their audience, they can continue to create and monetize via their own community — it’s the perfect vehicle for burgeoning creative entrepreneurs.”

Roughly 44% of all Kickstarter’s proposed projects are successfully funded and launched. When Strickler spoke at the Walker Art Center last October, he noted that Minnesota is a particularly strong Kickstarter state, funding 400 of 700 proposed projects (a 58% success rate). Minnesota is the 12th largest state by dollars pledged on Kickstarter, with Minneapolis being the 14th largest city in the entire world.

McNally Smith’s students are certainly no strangers to leveraging this powerful tool in funding their creative projects. Successful McNally Smith-related Kickstarter campaigns have been conducted by alum Ben Kelly and graduating student Adam Conrad, graduating student David Sutton, alum Danami, alum Cassondra Lea, alum Scott Weller (Fire in the Northern Firs) and alum Nick Garrison (Knifight), to name a few.

“As our graduates set out in the world they have more of an opportunity today to see their work realized than ever before,” says Lewis. “They have been empowered by innovations like Kickstarter to make great art without having to be saddled by or beholden to the old system of middlemen and gatekeepers. They can build and shape their own future — there’s nothing more exciting than that.”

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