Let’s just put down as much ideas/facts as possible here. Kickstarter, for the unaware, is an online crowd-funding site that provides start-up capital for people who wants to start a project. A lot of the projects on the site tend to be manufacturing some problem-solving device (like the 9001th iPhone holder for your car), specific types of media like independently published games and music and film, and other services. The crowdsourcing part works where the project provides tiers where backers get a perk depending on how much they contribute. A deadline is set in which the project needs to hit a funding goal. When the goal is met, the project is to go forward; if not, nobody pays anything and the project ends.
It’s very common for successful Kickstarter (KS) projects to include a lot of end-user communication (or at least, the promise of) in which the backers are also the target market and a market sample. This communication will happen throughout the process and in the case of a successfully funded project, during the process in which the promised thing is being developed. Depending on the nature of the project that communication can also be part of the service the project provides (think of bands that use KS to fund studio albums). For backers, not only they can look forward to the end result, they also realize there’s some amount of risk involved. A natural thing is for KS projects to have fairly low cost of entry, both because of its consumer-facing nature and to reduce the element of risk. The wikipedia article lists some of the best-funded examples.
Well, how does crowdfunding has to do with anime at all? I guess it can provide enterprising creators some incentive to produce independently published works. Given the relatively low barrier of entry in the doujin scene, one would think this is probably unnecessary. Or rather, the bottleneck is in distribution and not initial fundraising. This is really the very first question we have to ask in order to go forward.
When it comes to anime, fundraising is a much more serious endeavor. Typically anime is created in such a way, where a pitch gets sold to potential investors (and from what we can tell it varies from typical committee and their holding companies to anyone who has money to pitch in). Once there’s the financial green light, the process move forward.
There are other components in which anime-related (and it doesn’t have to be–games and manga and all that can be handled in this way) things can be done for a consumer base who are willing to pay ahead. While I don’t really see how international licensing could work in a way that makes it viable, something more along the lines of creating and marketing a product (say, a PVC figure of Ritsuko Akizuki for mass production) can be handled in this way. At least, not taking financial viability into consideration. And as I alluded to earlier, some projects are more suited than others. The hard part would be the whole “working internationally on a shoestring budget” part.
Which is to say, if I was an “established player” with the connections and channels, I could then solicit the right artists and pony them up for this kind of thing. They would be guaranteed a payment (whoever’s finally in charge probably has to pony up something to get it going even on KS) and then if the fundraiser is successful, the hired guns will crunch out the thing. As long as the producer person is familiar with the idea behind a successful KS and executes, it shouldn’t be a whole lot different than most projects.
There are some actual examples of this. I think in the figure world, there are a lot of examples of similar kind of thing where an established company do a limited pre-order run of some figure. When GSC’s oversea shop went live they had to struggle with shipping those damned thing, and it is a distribution problem that all indie projects have to struggle with in one way or another. In the figure example I can see it being a particular boon being able to communicate to fans as to what they want and what you can expect early on. I guess in the context of a company soliciting funds, it’s really just a matter of plugging the users in with the creators directly.
At any rate, I think it’s easy to identify a potential need in the distribution model to lower the cost of producing independently financed or crowd-financed goods. It’s in that context in which KS is just one facet of a bigger solution.
Anyway, that’s just my thoughts. You can read more about it in this thread over at Fandom Post. Just note that the post is more about the value proposition of the high rolling importer and the role of the “real” Japanese otaku who are fine with paying $300-600 for a 1 or 2-cour anime.