Songs for the Struggling Artist

Playing the Rent Game: Or, a New Way to Approach Arts Patronage
June 25, 2014, 1:13 am
Filed under: art, business, theatre | Tags: , , , , , ,

Sometimes my patchwork, freelance, artist’s life can feel like a carnival game. I imagine it to be one of those big thermometer gauges that are usually accompanied by Strong Men in leopard print onesies with giant hammers. And every month, the game is to see if I can make rent. Each little gig adds up – $50 here, $100 there, until the red reaches the top of the thermometer and Ding! Ding! Ding! Ladies and Gentlemen, we have RENT! We have a winner!

Strong man

While I usually win the game, sometimes I don’t. And I’m always playing. This is why I have many jobs at once. But as precarious as it is, it does sometimes provide me with time and flexibility to make my art, which has always been my top priority. It’s just that mostly I don’t get paid for that bit.

I put a lot of things out into the world and almost none of them come with financial compensation. There are plays. There are theatrical events. There are songs. There are little bits of prose. There are quilts. And there’s this space here – the blog – where I write about the Arts and the many struggles associated with making a life in them. Last night, I was thinking about how I put so much content out onto the web, so many words, articles, thoughts. It would be amazing if I could get paid for some of them.

Then, today, through the Freelancers Union, I discovered Patreon. This is, it would seem, a new way to support artists and seems to do exactly what I was imagining. On the site, artists post content (seems to be mostly music videos at the moment, but I bet that’ll shift) and people pledge to support them every time they do. It’s essentially like giving a band in a bar a tip. You don’t need to pay a cover charge – you can listen to the music for free – but , if it pleases you, you can throw a buck or two in the hat. Patreon is a digital hat for content creators (i.e. artists.)

In other words, a group of people can be the patrons for an artist creating stuff. For example: A patron might pledge a dollar every time a songwriter posts a song. And while that one dollar won’t make a huge difference by itself, you get 800 people playing you a dollar for your song and suddenly you’ve won the rent game. Even if only 20 people give a dollar for your song – you’re still $20 closer to the top of the thermometer. It’s a new form of patronage and I think it’s pretty smart. So I signed up.

But what could I post? Most of my work as a performing artist is not something that translates well to the digital medium. It is one of the major downfalls to working in a Live Art.

But my work ABOUT working in Live Art lives only here in the digital world and my blog is the only thing that I create that tens of thousands of people have seen. So – it would seem like there might be at least a few of those tens of thousands who might be interested in being a part of this new form of patronage. If you’re one of them, you can support me on my profile over on Patreon.

I’ll keep posting all this content for free, of course. But you could help encourage me to create more, to write more and make more art with your patronage. (Or your tips, if you prefer that metaphor.) I don’t write for a magazine or anyone else. I’m not beholden to commercial interest or publication ethos. I actually just write this stuff for us. And maybe this Patreon thing will mean being a part of a revolutionary way to support art and creativity and free thought. I think about what Jaron Lanier says about the vanishing creative class and how the open internet that he helped build has mostly not done squat for us artists. He talks about how the culture has come to expect all its information and creative stuff for free – and this is putting journalists and artists and the bulk of the creative class out of business. I don’t know if this Patreon thing will help tip the scales back to a more generous, arts supportive world – but I’m up for giving it a shot.

And if you’re an artist, and you decide to experiment with Patreon, too – let me know how it works for you. Post your profile in the comments and maybe we create a chain of patronage – a new world of the New Economy. And all across the land, the artists who have been playing the Rent Game every month can watch the thermometer rise to the top every single time.



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