“Patron” is such a cool word to me. Makes me think of a romanticized time my art and music teachers in high school described when “artist” was seen as a legitimate career, where instead of criticizing people who want to make stuff people threw money at them and competed to be the person supporting their work. Now i recognize that’s an overly simplistic view of things, and there are definitely some not-great things about having one or a few people “supporting” your work and therefore having creative control. But it sure sounds good when you put it like that, doesn’t it?
From the other side of things, “patron” is definitely a better thing to be in my mind than “consumer,” though to be honest I’m not sure if that’s inherent to the words or just personal opinion of them. A “consumer” mindlessly purchases what is offered, at best they have the choice of which version they will buy from a bunch of nearly identical brands and titles. DC or Marvel? Pepsi or Coca-Cola? This big summer action movie or that one? (Sorry, I don’t watch action movies unless they come attached to comic book characters I already know and like, I don’t know titles.)
That’s not to say there’s no reason to pick one or the other. I like to think I have good reasons for buying the things I do, that I’m doing it because one really is better, even if only a little bit. But ultimately, my choices are limited by what’s already out there, and none of these companies has much incentive to work hard and stand out because they only need enough people to slightly prefer them over the other option to stay in business.
Two models on different end of the “control” spectrum, neither very good. Luckily, the internet has allowed another solution to develop! Thanks to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Patreon, consumers get to help choose what things get made in the first place. There’s reason to be competitive and original, and at the same time room for an artist to do what they want and rely on help from a large group of people that like what they’re already doing rather than one or a few people demanding they change it. Win-win!
At least it seems that way to me. There’s always someone who has a problem with everything, and I recently found out that some people resent artists who ask for funding this way. That completely baffles me. Most of us are fine with putting down money on something that was made without considering us as anything more than statistics on a sales chart, and generally costs a lot more than any of these crowdfunding projects ask any one contributor. Someone puts stuff up for free on the internet for you, gives the option for people who really like it and want to help make it easier for the artist do more of it, and suddenly that’s a problem? I don’t get it. But hey, that’s people. Always something to complain about.
I love Kickstarter. Admittedly, I don’t contribute to it often, mostly because I don’t really have the money for it. But every once in awhile it’s nice to just see what’s there and if there’s anything within my price range that I want to help happen. Patreon was scarier since it’s subscription-based and I worry about being able to predict how much I can afford to give. It’s a commitment, and for quite awhile there weren’t any projects that caught my interest enough and had tangible enough rewards to be worth the risk. But I recently found one I wanted to support and could do it at just a couple of dollars a month. Not so risky, and a project I like a lot and want to update more often. So I thought a lot about it, waited a day, took a look at my budget, decided I was definitely willing to take a dollar a week out of my “fun” budget for this, and signed up.
Wow. Such a small thing, but what a great feeling! Even at that small level, I’m part of something I enjoy, I have the knowledge that I’m helping (a little) to make it happen. That feels so good, and so great to see their total get higher and higher from lots of other people who also like what they do giving just a little bit every month. So easy, and so rewarding all by itself. It’s really changed the way I think about money, consumption, and community. I talk about that more in part two, which should go up in the next week. (I wrote a lot.) See you then!