Today Amanda has written another great post featuring a seven minute video of a talk she gave in Boston titled “Toward a Patronage Society”. In it she draws comparisons between the concept of patronage in her former life as a living statue and in our future as artists. You should really watch the whole video, but here is the key point:
“I think it’s important that we see this trend [toward patronage] not really as a gimmick but as the way into the future. And there’s an accountability there on the audience’s part to shamelessly and joyfully give artists money. And the artist has to be accountable and shamelessly put out their hat. Because if they don’t, and this whole exchange seems very seedy and very guilty, it won’t move forward. Because artists feel very, very guilty about asking for money, like it’s this dirty, dirty thing…But now with content being free…there has to be a shift in the way the artists approach this and the fans and the audience approach it, and they both kind of have to step up to the plate. So, with everyone kind of screaming that the music business is collapsing, and oh my god everybody is torrenting and this is terrible for business, I think that we should be celebrating the fact that while music is free and content is free, we also have the technology for artists to stand up on their boxes, on their virtual street corner in their place in the internet and do that. And you, as the audience, if you’re moved by what an artist does, if you’re moved by a song that I put out for free, you can put in a dollar. And you can know that you’ve had a very real exchange with me, with no middlemen and no label and no promoter, it’s just you and me. It’s that moment, that connection. And then when you walk away you know that you’ve also made it possible for that artist to stay there so that the next person walking down the street can have their own encounter.”
This is thought of as a radical idea by some, even though it’s not a new concept. Artists have had patrons since people started making art. What is new is how the internet has made it much easier to reach out to our fans, supporters and even potential supporters to seek financial assistance for what we do. There are entire businesses now designed to help artists reach patrons.
If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I have used the “micropatronage” model to help finance my most recent CD and my most recent tour. It’s been a huge success for me and extremely humbling and gratifying to know that there are people out there who will gladly give some of their hard-earned money to help me continue to make a living as a musician. It is important to them that there be artists in the world, and that I’m one of them. And I’m not the only one. Not just Amanda, but many of my friends have used micropatronage very effectively, including The Teaching, Michael Owcharuk and Sunna Gunnlaugs.
While I’m sure it’s not the only way, it is my hope that Amanda is right that patronage truly is a way forward. The world needs artists to help us see what it means to be human, how we are all connected, and how we can best deal with life with all it’s joy and pain and wonder. And artists need society to value what we contribute.
More importantly, we need you to value what we contribute. It starts with you. One person at at time. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be financial support, although that is the most immediate way to help. You can give your emotional support, or volunteer your time to man a merch table or edit a newsletter. Whatever you can do help an artist continue to practice his or her art is vitally important.
So do me a favor and show your support to one of your favorite artists today. Buy a CD or a photograph or a painting or a ticket to a dance performance. Ask how you can help with your time. Or just give an artist a hug and tell her you appreciate what she does! By doing so you’ll be helping us move forward and continue to bring our humanity to the world. And your own humanity will be reflected right back at you.
That’s what it’s all about!
You can view the video that inspired this post here: “Toward a Patronage Society”.
If you’d like to help Amanda continue to make music, visit her store.
If you’d like to help me continue to make music, visit my store.