"Love them enough, and they’ll give you everything.”
The immortal Words given to Amanda Palmer as she passed a million dollars for the first time on Kickstarter. Amanda has made headlines for her ability to generate income via crowd-funding. The idea that asking fans to contribute a small amount, either as a one-time payment for a purpose, or a recurring patronage, has revolutionised the music industry. These Platforms not only serve to give artists a way of generating income, but provide fans with a truly wonderful experience. I don’t see those I patron as artists. They are my friends and we communicate regularly. I feel like I have a say in their art, and we share mutual love and respect. I contacted all these friends, as well as others who have crowd-funded releases, and asked them to share their experiences.
I spoke to Fifi Rong, Brittany Mcquinn, Kirbanu, Ben Mitchell, Hellena Micy and Alyse Black asking each to simply share their reasons for using the resource, and the gains they had received both artistically and emotionally. I was curious as to the motivation behind joining patreon.com or funding an album; no two stories are the same. Some chose to appeal to fans directly for funds as a means of gaining artistic freedom, to take the power back from the establishment. Some sought to discover the fans who really cared and connect with them. Others were more desperate, Alyse needed an alternative means of selling her music, as a breakdown was immanent as she zealously toured, leaving her young family behind. Hellena had moved from Greece to London to further her musical career, and after five years of working hateful jobs and doing music on the side, she opened her Patreon as a last resort, being prepared to give up and return home should this fail. She smiles about this now, as fortunately the move paid off, otherwise her career may have never blossomed.
It's 5AM here in Australia, but its an early autumn evening in Europe. Australian born Kirbanu speaks to the crowd in a small hall in Germany, seamlessly bilingual. I lay in bed, attending the gig in pyjamas as it is streamed. This is the future, and she’s going to get in ahead of the crowd. She feels that fans are tired of big music, and not having a true connection with the artist who they love. She sends me a voice note from the dressing room afterwards, the bubbly adrenaline of the performance still present. She believes that reaching the individual fan is the way of the future, and will be far more gratifying to both artist and supporter.
The pressure is being removed from artists, our giving is paying for their peace of mind, for their
ability to write songs naturally, without edicts from above, or the burden of provision. Value is being restored to a product which had been whittled down to streaming, or in some places shameless piracy. Resignation is evident in Fifi’s voice as she recalls a fan in her native China, shaking her hand, proudly declining a signed album because they’d already pirated it. I react with utter astonishment but my naivety is shown by her indifferent reply that it is how their culture works. It is clear that Migration and fan-funding has enabled her career to blossom in ways it could not have in her homeland. She believes anything is possible, and does not take her identity for granted: “The most important thing is creating, money’s good, success is good, but its gaining creative freedom, that is gold.” Many people are skeptical, or downright hostile towards the concept of fans paying directly. Artists all agree that it is indubitably difficult to convert fans to paid supporters. Ben sees this as a positive, as he confidently states that crowd-funding an album showed him who was on his team, who believed in his potential. These believers meant he didn’t have to take out a personal loan, stress he can do without having a young family. He spoke about a return to old-school values, that you say you’re going to do something then you do it, and people trust that you will. Though no two perspectives were the same, it is clear that this is beneficial to all.
“Hi Chris, firstly: I love you.” Those were the opening words I read from Alyse Black. I felt instantly
touched, that an artist loved me, simply for supporting them. Music permeates our lives. Psychologists are divided on the consequences, but it is clear that people use music to find themselves. I was particularly interested to learn the emotional impacts of this revolution. Alyse calls her patrons Lovelights. Modelled after Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters. She believes in giving people and identity to match the music they are absorbing, and wishes to be a beacon of light that can change the world with love.
Brittany echoes this sentiment emphatically. “These are good people who value art” she stammers with excitement: “they wanna give back and I just wanna give to them, its a reciprocal thing!” You can’t help being moved by the depth of appreciation she shows in a post on her site: “It means more than you may know to have your support. It's what kills off that voice that says things like I'm not good enough or that no one wants to hear what I write. You guys show me that you do.”
While everyone came to the concept from a different place, the emotional impacts seemed to be universal. One contemplated whether they would have as much love as their supporters were the rolls reversed, while others found it mind-blowing that people would care enough to pay, and all spoke of the wonderful friendships they have formed with their supporters. The sense of community is palpable. I am part of this community, as a fan I am overwhelmed by the love I receive from all of these artists. I hope I have been able to give them everything in return. The positive impacts emotionally can’t be quantified. As a music fan with a sensitive soul, I feel a deep fulfilment that I have been able to make a difference in people’s lives. You are never too insignificant, reach out, form that connection.
Chris West is an up-and-coming music journalist. He has had radio in his blood from age four, and has been in internet radio since 2006. A lover of all music with a passion for finding the next new star, Chris wakes every morning with the thrill and hope that today he might discover his new favourite album. The fruits of this search for greatness can be seen on his radio show The Tripwire every Tuesday evening on www.the-phoenix.net