Lately it seems like everyone out there has something they want me to help them pay for, be it an album, a film, an art project, a book, schooling, or even helping their journalistic website stay afloat. And while that might sound like grumbling, I actually think it’s a cool offshoot of the power of the internet. “Crowdfunding” is not really new, per se, but with the increasing power of sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, getting a lot of people to give a little bit of money to make your project happen is getting more and more common.
I started thinking about this not too long ago, when I local band I like called Brasstronaut started up an Indiegogo site to raise money for their new album. They’ve gotten a lot of support, but also a bit of backlash, for the endeavour. I get it—there’s a natural human resistance to the act of asking for money (“begging” if you’re being super harsh). But I don’t see it that way. In a lot of ways, this “desperate times/desperate measures” way of looking at life is narrow and unnecessarily negative. Couldn’t these same actions be viewed as “may we be blessed to live in interesting times,” or at the very least, “desperate times call for interesting measures”?
Here’s the thing: right now is a bit of a desperate time, especially for those people who try to make a living in the arts. There is less money to go around to more projects, and government funding and other sources of potential income are harder to come by. At the same time, the internet has the power to bring millions of individuals together to experience that piece of art, and to become part of the art by helping it get made. It’s easy to dismiss this as “begging” when in actuality I see it as a 21st century version of the patron system—centuries ago, artists had a wealthy benefactor who sponsored their works, often making possible the great works of art that we cherish today. How is this any different, except that one work might have many patrons?
In the last year, I’ve helped get a book written, helped a play be produced, helped a short film get shopped to festivals, helped a band make an album and helped a new website of high-caliber writing get started. I’m proud to play a part in all of these things, all of which make my life better and, at the end of the day, cost me little more than $200 altogether. Viva la Crowdfunding!
Have you helped fund a project online? Let us know in the comments.