Can pay, will pay: creative projects funded by fans
Crowdfunding – the word was only invented a few years ago. But it’s a direct descendant of things like clubbing together, co-operatives and even community spirit. And now it’s really come of age in the arts – and is having a major impact.
Here’s how it works. Artists working in any discipline (writers, musicians, film or theatre directors, even fashion designers) pitch a project they’d like to make (a film, album or novel) on one of a number of websites. Anyone interested pledges a sum of money and if enough is raised, the artist goes ahead and makes their project. Depending on how much investors pledge, they receive anything from a signed album or novel to a trip to the film or theatre set – and often a share of the profits.
It’s a system with many advantages. First of all, there’s a guaranteed audience out there for a creative project, which means there’s much less risk for the company launching it. The judgement of a crowd is presumably more reliable than that of just one reader in a publishing house or one A and R man in a record company. And there’s much more direct communication between artist and audience, which means that an artist can be left alone to get on with a project that already shows strong signs of going down well with an audience
Having said that, creating work with a specific audience in mind isn’t always healthy for an artist’s process and can be a distraction or even an impediment to creative flow. And as many of us who’ve sat through endless DVD extras can attest, the Director’s Cut of a film isn’t always the best. You could argue that every artist needs the input of an experienced editor to produce their best work. With many of these crowdfunding initiatives (though not all), this is sorely lacking.
But there’s no arguing that crowdfunding is taking off. A quick google search reveals just how many crowdfunding platforms are out there – all over the world. And in countries like France, where the idea first evolved in the music business, crowdfunded acts are already having major mainstream successes. Some experts predict that the rise of crowdfunding will lead to a more eclectic range of quirky and experimental work being produced across the arts – rather than work that fits into a particular genre or niche currently enjoying commercial success.
It’ll certainly be fascinating to watch audiences have more say in the production processes of our creative industries. This might reveal that our artistic choices are fundamentally middle-of-the-road and bland – or on the other hand, it could reveal that we’re much more intelligent, adventurous and experimental in our tastes than so-called industry experts have previously given us credit for.
It’s often claimed that there’s a difference between what an audience thinks it likes and what it actually does. Crowdfunding can’t help but reveal whether this is actually true.
Follow Matthew Cain on Twitter: MatthewCainC4