Piss and Vinegar: No, I Won’t Kickstart Your Lamebrained Beer Project
Kickstarter is so 2012. There have been some notable business successes launched by the crowd-funding website, but the bar for getting a project on there seems pretty low, and the beer-drinking community is a source of particularly ridiculous ideas. Ten years from now we are going to look back on the Kickstarter era and laugh at how quaintly silly it all was.
Meanwhile here in 2013, we’re still fending off digital panhandlers who want us to fund their beery projects. Like brick-and-mortar panhandlers, these Kickstarter beggars cast a wide net, hoping to shake a few coins from as many strangers as possible. But while it’s easy to feel a little sympathy for people living on the street, you have to wonder at the nerve of well-established people–or businesses–passing the hat, pulling their pockets inside out, Monopoly-man style. Have some pride, people.
The impetus for this rant is a tweet that I received late last month: “@itspubnight I’m rapidly nearing the Kickstarter goal for my next drinking show. A shout out would mean a lot!”. I have to admit, I didn’t know who Zane Lamprey was before he spammed me, so my first reaction was one of mild bemusement at the cockiness shown by this basement-dwelling podcaster who thought a complete stranger would like to pay to see him drink beer on television. But that bemusement turned to mild irritation when I found that Zane wasn’t a plucky upstart, but instead someone who had already made four seasons of television shows on the same subject. Someone who–in my book–should be embarrassed to go out begging like that. And naturally it wasn’t a personal message–a glance at his timeline showed dozens of identical messages spewed out to people with a demonstrated interest in beer.
It’s bad enough to shamelessly try to crowdsource your bar tab, but the Twitter spam aspect is amusing also. Every so often you get a tweet addressed to you from someone you don’t follow or don’t even know, but usually it’s in reply to some other thread of conversation. When it comes out of the blue from someone who doesn’t follow you, it’s spam, plain and simple. But given Zane’s semi-celebrity, it was funny to see the flurry of excited beer geek tweets that day: “Ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod! Zane Lamprey has discovered me and needs my personal assistance! Let’s get this thing funded for my new friend!” Sorry, folks, Zane has no idea who you are. Someone involved with the project–surely it was an unpaid summer intern and not Zane himself–grabbed a bunch of Twitter IDs off a list of beverage-oriented tweeters and blasted out identical messages to all of them. Cleverly, it was a plea for a donation wrapped in a flattering request for an endorsement.
As goofy as the whole episode was, I probably wouldn’t have gone on a tirade about it, except for a couple of other recent Kickstarter drinking project pleas that came from companies that shouldn’t need micro-funding. About a week before the Lamprey tweet I had gotten a spam email from the University Games Corporation asking me to help spread the word on a Kickstarter for a pub trivia board game. That is a lame enough request, but the kicker is that the company boasts on its website of being over 25 years old, and clearly has the means to develop and market any board game it cares to. In a similar vein, I think it took a lot of brass earlier this year for Pacific City’s Pelican Pub and Brewery to ask for $100,000 in Kickstarter money to build a production brewery in Tillamook. The effort fell short, rounding up just $13,883 in 64 pledges from what must have been a weird combination of suckers and insiders. And who kicked in that last $3? I hope Pelican does succeed with its expansion, but I think it was oddly unprofessional to try and raise the money that way.
I have contributed to two beerish Kickstarter projects in the last couple of years: local nano-brewer Short Snout Brewing and the Portland beer/bike book Hop In the Saddle, co-authored by my friend Lucy Burningham. The book was a straightforward, advance-purchase style Kickstart–if we reach our goal, we can afford to make this product and you get one. I might have been enticed into it even if I wasn’t Lucy’s friend. Short Snout is a little disappointing because I expected to see more of Brian’s beer around town by now. I don’t regret contributing, but it does make me think there will have to be something extra-extra-special about future Kickstarter brewery ideas to get any money from me. Anyway, upstart projects like those two–while they might qualify as endearingly lamebrained at some level–are not what I am scorning today. The projects that will never get my money are those that really should be funded by existing revenue, investments, or loans. You have to be drunk to think Kickstarter is the right way to fund a video drinking project.
Drunk kickstarting, is that a thing? Sounds even more dangerous than drunk texting, drunk tweeting, and drunk facebooking all put together.