Thursday, December 12, 2013 Bringing Patronage Into the 21st Century

Artists come in a myriad of mediums. Some of us work in watercolors, while others dabble in dance. Authors and poets make pictures with words, while photographers and filmmakers work to capture events as they unfold. From stone and wood to clay and sound it seems that artists can and will shape absolutely anything. For all our differences though, there is one thing that brings us together.

Most of us are broke.
I'm sorry my friend, but it was you or me.
Yes there are some of us out there who make a decent living as professionals. There are even a fortunate few of us who "made it"; the Stephen Kings, Madonnas, and Leonardo DiCaprios of the world. On the other hand, a majority of us have to hustle at art fairs and conventions, post endlessly to social media, and wheedle our way into interviews with local newspapers and television stations to get the word out about what we do. We hand sell a few books here, get a few Google AdSense clicks there, but more often than not we have to patch the holes in our budgets with part time jobs, holiday gift money, and tax return checks.

For those of you wondering if there's a better way, there is. It's called Patreon.

What the Hell is That?

All right, quick history lesson. From the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, and even into what most people would consider the modern era, the landed gentry owned pretty much everything. The kings, dukes, lords, barons, dons, and associated titled people owned all the land, bore all the titles, kept pretty much all of the valuables, and more or less ran the show. Commoners worked the land, made goods, and supported the upper class. So not much has changed, really.
Pictured: the Medieval 1%
There was an invention created around this time called patronage (the idea existed before then, but they called it something else). The word patron stretches back to the year 1300, and it comes from Old French. It meant a lord or protector, and soon after it was used to mean a benefactor. So if an artist had a patron it meant that a lord or lady was footing the bill for daily bread, ensuring said artist could focus on creating better and better art.

This notion never really died out. Wealthy people, endowments, not-for-profit organizations, and dozens of others have continued to donate money as patrons of the arts for centuries. The problem is that there's a lot of artists, and there are only so many rich people.

That's where comes into the picture. It gives everyone the ability to become patrons of their favorite artists.

How Does That Work?

All right, I'll give you a concrete example for this one. As my regular readers know, I'm an author (and I have the Goodreads page to prove it). I write primarily short stories, and I've been featured in half a dozen anthologies now. Because I am not swimming in royalty monies, I started this blog as a way to increase my reach, and perhaps earn some advertising cash. I don't charge any kind of membership to read my blog, and even if 10,000 readers come through every day there's no guarantee that I'll make a single red cent off them.

That's why I opened up my own Patreon account here. This page is sort of like an ongoing Kickstarter. The difference is that I'm not asking people to give me a boat load of money to write a novel, put together a new video game, or make a movie. I'm asking people to leave me little donations (say $1 a month) to cover my expenses so that I can keep producing useful, engaging content on The Literary Mercenary, and over on my gaming blog Improved Initiative. If someone wanted to help support me they would go to my Patreon page, and pledge a certain amount of money for every new blog I put up. If that someone was concerned about his or her monthly budget, then my mysterious benefactor could put a cap on the generosity. Someone might be willing to give me $1 per blog, but they can only spare $5 a month to help me out. I'd accept that, and say thank you for being a loyal reader and supporter.

Spread the Wealth
No, really, we kind of need you to.
Patreon is specifically geared toward people who need their fans to help them make a living, and who aren't shy about asking for a small donation to free up their time and energies to create more content. If you're willing to drop your change into a barista's jar, or to leave a couple bucks on the lid for the piano man, then why not toss some cash to your favorite Youtube actor, BlogSpot blogger, or Spotify singer? Seriously, why not?

If you're a creative type looking to make some scratch off of what you provide to your fans, stop on by today and ask them to help support you. The worst they can say is no.

As always, thanks for dropping in and seeing what I have to say. I am the Literary Mercenary, and I deal in red. Even if you don't have any change to spare, feel free to check out my Facebook page, or to mainline me over at Tumblr.

1 comment:

  1. I heard about Patreon at a self-publishing conference yesterday and found your blog post. Great way to explain what it is all about.