Crowdfunding sparks ‘explosion’ in theatre backers

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Crowdfunding campaigns in the UK have raised more than £250,000 for theatre and dance projects in the first part of this year, new data has revealed.

Between January and the end of April, theatre projects made nearly £239,500, while dance projects attracted £17,500, according to the Crowdfunding Centre, which claims to monitor around 90% of all UK crowdfunding activity.

This money was raised from 137 theatre and just 10 dance campaigns using platforms including CrowdCube, Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

The figures account for cash raised using two types of campaign, one in which the target amount must be reached and another – called flexible funding – that allows producers to collect money regardless of whether they hit their goal or not.

However, the data does not include high-profile campaigns such as the forthcoming production The Wind in the Willows – which raised £1 million from its own purpose-built platform earlier this year – or new musical Happy Days, which crowdfunded investment of £250,000 at the end of 2013.

According to the Crowdfunding Centre’s data, theatre campaigns that reached their target amount required 46 backers on average, while dance campaigns needed an average of 42.

The figures show UK crowfunding theatre projects in particular are becoming increasingly popular, with the number of backers in the first quarter of 2014 increasing from 263 in January to 458 in February and 2,090 by the end of March, representing a near 700% rise in three months. This corresponded with a trebling in the number of campaigns ending in March, indicating last-minute support for projects close to their goal.

At the same time there was an increase in the total amount of money raised – from around £9,400 in January to £72,500 by the end of March. This figure then doubled to £145,000 in April.

Barry James, founder of the Crowdfunding Centre, said the arts sector had been “ahead of the field” compared to other industries in using crowdfunding to raise investment.

He said the “absolute explosion” in the number of theatre backers from February to March was likely due to an increased interest and exposure of crowdfunding more generally, alongside a well-known trend for investments being made at the end of the financial year so as to avoid tax.

James said more money was being raised for theatre rather than dance projects because crowdfunding is more popular for new ventures that are likely to run longer, which offer an opportunity for shares.

“If you’re putting an event on, selling tickets is kind of an established form of crowdfunding. However, the mindset of buying a ticket for a crowdfund seems to be weak. Creating a venture or helping to support something new and exciting is much more appealing. People see events – which dance projects will often be – as ephemeral whereas a production that will have an impact and last for longer is viewed differently,” said James.

He added that fringe theatre productions using crowdfunding would also be more likely to gain investment due to support from friends and families.