One of my favorite developments on the internet is the advent and stunning success of crowd-funding as a means to create and share people’s work and ideas. Kickstarter and Indigogo have become staples for many of us and now we can add Patreon and Subbable (still in beta), in which you can support ongoing content, to that list. As a long-time lover of youtube channels and independent music, I couldn’t be happier – in fact, I constantly get a little teary over it. It’s just such a bright spot against all the things I want to hide from on the internet.
There’s a comment though that I keep stumbling over. I think the first time I grew consciously aware of it was during the kickstarter campaign for the Veronica Mars movie, but the backlash against Feminist Frequency’s campaign definitely falls into a similar category.
“Don’t you have a more worthwhile charity/cause to support?”
Now, personally, I am very much in two minds about charity. While it is obviously wonderful in principle, it also is very easily corrupted, people are duped and many, many charities support issues that I feel like the government should be supporting but can rest a little easier while charities pick up the slack (which doesn’t sit well with me and makes me uneasy about donating with a good feeling).
But crowd-funding isn’t charity. That’s like saying, buying a cd or a book or going to the movies, all that is charity. Now, there are definitely projects in which crowd-funding and charity share a certain area in a Venn diagram – for example when money is collected to build a specific school or well in a developing country – but in most cases there are some distinct differences.
1. I give money to crowd-funding campaigns so that good things can be created – be that music or movies or a product and I personally enjoy those things. (That isn’t to say that charity where you don’t personally get to enjoy it is bad or that I don’t donate – I do, although usually more to advocacy groups than other charities – but it’s just a difference.)
2. I also give money to crowd-funding campaigns because this way, I can be reasonably sure that the good thing won’t be diluted or misappropriated by advertisers or market concerns, so that creators can fulfil their visions without having to cow-tow to banks or regular investors.
3. I support crowd-funding because it makes me happy. It makes me ridiculously happy that something as huge as a movie that fans have been begging to see being made for years, just completed shooting and that it was a project that involved fans, that everybody was all the more passionate about because of it.
We live in a world where too often, the people who are the first concern of many mass media projects are neither the audience nor the artist – but the company’s share-holders. This leads to dilution of quality, of a millionth remake of something that will surely get an audience just so they can snark about it, and a general feeling of disconnect between audience and creators.
The internet is changing that forever.
In the case of Subbable and Patreon, you can subscribe to video or music content – and you choose your monthly contribution, from 0$ to whatever you want to help them cover production costs and to keep channels alive.
This, too is something I am very passionate about and just one of the reasons why I have been a fan of bandcamp for so long: pay what you can, if you can. In her explanation video, Julia Nunes said it so well: “Piracy is not going away and I think that’s good. If you can’t afford to buy my music… I still want you to hear my music.”
It is important to me that artists are paid, that that they can pay their bills and survive, because believe me, I know what it’s like to be so broke you kind of don’t know how to buy your next meal for a week because that’s how long it is until your next paycheck. And yeah, I get angry every time an author agrees to terrible conditions because “they just wanted to get published.”
Not everything will be a success, that’s how art works – but if people love it and enjoy it, the artist should be able to make a living. If I love someone’s music or content – I WANT them to have my money. And I want them to have it, not some big company. But I don’t believe art should be restricted. Because yes, if you genuinely can’t afford my books and still want to read them – I want you to read my books. So if that’s the case, I want you to shoot me an email and I’ll send it to you. Because that’s what I believe in (and I wouldn’t want you to try those piracy sites where you get duped into downloading viruses).
Books still follow an older model and our industry is usually a little more sluggish in terms of change, but I love that this exists for music and vloggers now. It makes me so, so happy.