Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

December 3, 2011

Patrons of the arts

Filed under: geekery,the interweb she provides — lexifab @ 11:14 pm

It seems like this year has seen a massive rise in enthusiasm for the patronage model of supporting the arts. Sites like Kickstarter.com and IndieGoGo.com have enabled artists – across a breathtaking range of fields ranging from small handmade crafts to feature-length films and more or less everything you can think of in between – to directly gauge whether their ideas will find an audience. How it works in a nutshell: the artist comes up with an idea for a project/product and solicits pledges, usually with the help of a short video showing off a prototype or early concept art or what have you. The artist sets a financial goal that will let them make the product and (if they know what they are about) provide a return to them commensurate with the effort involved. The potential audience for the product pledges some amount of money towards the goal. If the goal is reached within the pledging period, then the patrons are charged and the product is released. If not enough money is raised, nobody is charged and the artist goes back to the drawing board. The artist may encourage patrons to make bigger pledges by offering a range of related products or higher-quality versions which can only be obtained with a more generous pledge.

As I said, I’ve become a fan of the model. It connects the audience with the artist in a direct and meaningful way by saying in effect “I like what you do and I am prepared to give you my money to keep doing it” in a way that more traditional product distribution models don’t. From the artist’s point of view, it’s a much more direct conduit of audience appreciation than sending out a manuscript or releasing an album, and then fretting in misery on the eventual reviews.

As an audience member, in particular for the stuff I like including small press roleplaying games, humorous nerd-music and genre fiction, I get a lot more out of being able to show my appreciation for an artist by giving them my money (and perhaps an encouraging comment or two) than by merely buying a product from some third party. If there’s some doubt as to whether a product has a wide enough appeal to reach an audience large enough to support the artist’s efforts, because I’m sure they like to eat and pay rent) then  the patronage model is kind of ideal.

So that was an overlong introduction to the following list of very cool pledge drives going on at the moment that I want to draw some attention to. Some of these I have supported and some I am thinking about supporting – my discretionary bucks are limited, like anyone else’s – but I commend them all to your attention:

Matt Forbeck’s 12-for-12 Kickstarter: I’ve tweeted about this one a couple of times because it tickles my imagination and I want to see it happen. Author Matt Forbeck has committed to writing one 50,000-word novel a month during 2012. That’s one NaNoWriMo-equivalent a month [1]! This Kickstarter is soliciting for the first novel of a trilogy, with the second and third thrown in as additional pledge-bait (the second is unlocked at the time of writing and there’s a slim chance that the target for the third might get hit as well). It’s such mad ambition that I can’t help but be interested. The Kickstarter is in its last two days, so chances are by the time you’ve read this it will have finished.

The other thing that appeals to me is that Forbeck is opening with a trilogy set in his Brave New World roleplaying setting, which was one of those paranoid superhero dystopias from before they were popular. I never actually played that game, but it’s a genre that I’m fond of. As an aside on the topic of Forbeck’s work, I am ridiculously excited about the high concept for his forthcoming (traditionally-published) novel Carpathia – which is that the Titanic survivors, rescued by a ship called the Carpathia, find themselves trapped with, one presumes, that particular mountain region’s most famous resident. I can’t wait for that one.

Next up is a local fundraising effort. Good friends and gaming buddies Emma and Gavin are comic illustrators who have come together with a small army of fellow Canberra comics luminaries (plus a few ring-ins from about the globe) to produce Beginnings: A Comic Anthology. 100 pages of full colour illustrated stories (around a ‘beginnings’ theme, whatever that may mean to the various writers and artists). This one hit its target today with a few weeks still to go, so I wish them well in taking that one even further. They’ve offered some rather spectacular incentives for fellow artists, including portfolio reviews by people who’ve already made names for themselves in the industry.

This next one is another Kickstarter, and another roleplaying game: Will Hindmarch’s Always/Never/Now. Another gaming Kickstarter that underestimated its appeal and made its target in less than 24 hours. This one appeals to me because of its pedigree – it’s an adaptation of John Harper’s sublime Lady Blackbird – and its subject matter. I’ve been looking for a good game of cybered-up mercenaries to scratch my Shadowrun itch for years (ever since I realised I could never go back to the original game itself, having parted company with its design philosophy years ago). The promotional film is worth a look – good narrative intro to the game, excellent use of stock imagery and a personalised appearance from the designer himself. It’s an excellent example of how to sell a concept to potential patrons. And it has some killer writing: “We imagined superspies and corporate wars, injected memories, and a clandestine network of half-metal freelance action heroes who made the world a better place by fighting bastards and driving fast.”

And the last one I want to point to is a fundraiser, hosted at a blog but using a similar concept to the patronage model. Ryan Macklin has committed to releasing Mythender, the god-killing game he’s been developing for several years, in return for donations to support a friend diagnosed with cancer. Several other small-press game designers have thrown their lot in for the cause. As a result the Random Kindness Encounter Bundle contains several extremely interesting and (if you go for that sort of thing) cutting-edge RPGs. You’ll note that the campaign has already blown way past the original target. That’s the other thing that’s good about this model – when it fails, nothing happens. But when it works, it really seems to go to town.

Edit: No sooner did I finish writing this up than Gareth-Michael Skarka, principle author of a rather successful Kickstarter campaign himself, posted a very informative essay explaining the benefits of the patronage model to creative types. Well worth a look.

[1] Except, you know, hopefully edited and readable 🙂

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress