Crowdfunding and Online Identity: Cashing in on Authenticity?

Claire Coleman


Online platforms provide musicians with unprecedented opportunities to forge interpersonal connections with a disparate and dispersed audience, and to distribute and finance their work independently with the assistance of this audience. Interaction through social media fosters a virtual sense of intimacy and proximity, allowing fans to receive regular insights into what is perceived to be the musician’s veridical self. Whether or not this is truly the case, a musician’s success may be influenced by fans’ perceptions of his or her authenticity regardless of whether the authentic behaviours are constructed or genuine. Crowdfunding is a recent phenomenon reliant on the relational engagement and communication possibilities inherent in this new media environment. This paper argues that, when musicians crowdfund a project, an indirect emotional transaction with fans may take place in addition to the explicit financial one. Fans may attach expectations and ownership to the project, and to the musicians involved, and react critically to any perceived shift from stated aims and values. The importance and risks of relational fan-musician interactions for crowdfunding are demonstrated through case studies of Amanda Palmer’s 2012 Kickstarter, and Eskimo Joe’s 2013 Pozible. These campaigns highlight the necessity for authentic engagement with fans for the success of a crowdfunding venture, but also show the dangerous littoral in the new media environment between perceived authenticity and perceived hypocrisy.


crowdfunding; Amanda Palmer; Eskimo Joe; authenticity; online identity

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