Where JAZZ Lives
The Entire History of Kickstarter Projects, Broken Down by City
Anecdotally, aspiring musicians flock to Nashville. Portland has a vibrant food truck scene. Theater is rooted in New York City. Yet what about other cities? What is the creative fabric of Cleveland? Where do comic book writers cluster?
Pretty much all existing attempts to map creative communities use census and jobs data. But creative efforts are often side-hustles. They’re garage/basement/cottage industries that will not appear in a census.
A different approach: use Kickstarter data, which is one of the largest archives of creative projects, ever. They gave us access to 100,000 projects, which means we can characterize every major city by the types of projects it launches.
First, let’s start with how ’s creative community compares to other cities.
What is the creative undercurrent of US cities?
Types of Kickstarter Projects, by City
Creative Industry Breakdown(% of total projects that are Music, Film, etc.)
= More Than U.S. Avg.
What makes unique? We broke down Kickstarter into 15 categories (e.g., games, fashion, film). One category that’s more popular in versus the rest of the US: – about % of its are projects (nationally, represents % of all projects).
Let’s go deeper on each city. While a breakdown of film vs. music projects is helpful, what is the nature of these projects? Were they large (in number of backers)? Or were they small and localized to the city’s community?
Every Kickstarter project is depicted as a small circle, sized by its number of backers.
100,000 Kickstarter Projects, by City and Category
These bubble charts give us a powerful sense of a city’s creative center of gravity. Nashville is 80% music projects (red in color). Among 150 cities, it has the most concentrated number of projects in one category: music.
Conversely, more colors = more diversity. Among 150 US cities, the most creatively diverse are Boise, Idaho and Las Vegas, Nevada. Both cities’ projects are, relative to other locations, spread out evenly among Kickstater’s 15 categories. In Las Vegas, we see some of the highest representation of photography projects, which are 8% of the city’s total (photography is 2% of all projects, nationally).
Other interesting observations:
ATL and Gaming: we were surprised by the number of gaming projects in Atlanta. There are 8 gaming projects with at least 9,000 backers, which is on par with major tech hubs such as LA and Austin.
Black Rock City: did you notice the city depicted by all blue dots? That’s the location of Burning Man, which is represented by 85% art projects.
Provo, UT reps its Creators: Provo, Utah has only 100,000 people. But in terms of number of projects with over 1,000 backers, it looks like it should be the population of Indianapolis or Miami. The city’s community is engaged with every sort of project that its creators launch. It’s also home to Brigham Young University, which leads to our last point...
College Towns: cities with large student populations over-index in Kickstarter projects. This may explain why Pittsburgh is a top 20 city for Kickstarter projects, but ranks 85th in population (it’s home to Carnegie Mellon and Pitt). Similarly, cities such as Ann Arbor (Michigan), Savannah (SCAD), and Providence (Brown, RISD) are notable hotbeds for Kickstarter projects.
Next, let’s go deeper on individual categories, starting with music. How does each city’s music projects compare to one another?
Kickstarter’s Music Community, By City
The Kickstarter data validates so many anecdotes about cities’ culture. Nashville ranks 3rd in music projects – an impressive feat for a city of 650,000 people. In film, LA ranks 1st, with 10% more projects than NYC. Washington DC ranks 3rd for Journalism.
These communities have solid geographic roots. In film, for example, the concentration of studios and investors naturally favor Los Angeles. But that’s not the case for other categories, such as “games.” There’s nothing structural that benefits one city over another. When it comes to geography, every city is on an equal playing field.
This helps explain why Salt Lake City, UT is the 2nd most popular city for games projects (after adjusting for population). Excluding wherever Milton Bradley is headquartered, there’s little preventing creators and supporters from growing a vibrant community in the space. So let’s go one level deeper and examine creative communities with compelling geographic trends.
Just as Los Angeles’s Kickstarter projects are disproportionately films, Indianapolis’s projects are 25% tabletop games. In fact, the city’s four most-backed projects are tabletop games! Let’s examine those in detail:
Enter the world of Myth. A fully cooperative fantasy game, featuring dynamic hobby quality miniatures.
MERCS: Recon is a fully cooperative, stand-alone game set in the exciting MERCS world.
An inTREEguing game for 2-5 players in 45 minutes or less.
A comedy card game where players take the role of authors competing to be the first to finish the next awful fantasy novel.
The creators of two of these projects are from a small company called Megacon Games, headquartered 30 miles north of Indianapolis. 3,500 backers is, in relative terms, a modest following. But in the context of Indianapolis, it represents impressive community support for a local business.
The same goes for other hubs for tabletop games: Phoenix, Milwaukee, and Dallas, which all over-index the national average in this category.
Bozeman, Montana has the highest percent of projects that are documentaries (roughly 25%). Next in line is another Montana city: Missoula. Part of the explaination may lie in the fact that both cities are home to colleges: University of Montana and Montana State University.
16% of Detroit’s projects are indie rock, which is about three times the national average. A small studio called Groovebox is partly responsible – they’ve had 62 projects funded on Kickstarter in the category.
Orlando, Florida, a city of 250,000 people, ranks 8th nationally in video game projects. It's top video game project:
Similar to Bozeman, Montana and film, Columbus, Ohio has an interesting penchant for comics projects (over three times the national average). Its top project is a comic about college (Columbus is also home to Ohio State University):
Hopefully this data adds a bit more color to how we describe a city’s creative underbelly. When we look beyond New York and Los Angeles, so many smaller and medium-size cities have rich, emerging creative communities – they just fall outside the typical categories of music, film, theater, etc. Tabletop gaming communities may never get a New York Times Arts Section expose, but maybe they should/will!
Interested in more Kickstarter trends? Check their interactive search tool, where you can find pretty much anything in their data, including the most-funded projects ever and filters for non-US locations.