I recently had the opportunity to experience firsthand the wonders of crowd funding in the arts. At the moment, I’m working on a non-opera (it might be a chamber cantata—I’ll deal with that issue in a later column) for the group Rhymes With Opera for their June 2011 tour. This organization is one of my favorite music presenters, based on their history of producing excellent musical experiences on a very limited budget and performing them in a way that’s welcoming to non-traditional audiences. They tend to draw nice crowds of people who would claim they’ve never been to a classical concert but who are comfortable going to a basement or warehouse to hear experimental sounds.
Ruby Fulton and George Lam, the organizers of Rhymes With Opera, created a Kickstarter project for this tour. Founded in 2009, Kickstarter provides a platform that allows creative projects to easily solicit funding. The typical proposal asks for a few hundred or few thousand dollars, and tends to be the sort of project that previously would find creators maxing out their credit cards based on their belief in the importance of their vision and in hopes of regaining their initial investment through sales of the finished product. Now, anyone who likes an idea can provide an ante towards the fulfillment of the creators’ goals and artists can find a community to support their nascent germs. The brilliance of Kickstarter is that supporters, with just a couple of mouse clicks, feel that they are making an immediate difference. In increments of $5 or $10, these projects are able to amass groups of likeminded folks and eventually fund the creation of new art. Ideally, the supporters then feel that they have an ownership stake in the finished product and provide an audience for the completed works.
While the funding window for Rhymes With Opera’s project has closed, readers of this column likely know several people currently seeking funding through a crowd funding site like Kickstarter or Pledgemusic. For most of these projects, a very small donation can make the difference between completion and failure. When enough people take an active role, these micro-donations eventually amount to ample funds for the realization of the proposals.
In our current economic climate, large donations for the arts are becoming an endangered species. With obvious exceptions (and I would like to congratulate ICE on this exciting development!), new music presenters simply cannot access major funding sources. Therefore, I am heartened to learn of the relatively new and surprisingly powerful tools for matching visionaries with sympathetic audiences. I hope that this new paradigm allows for the creation of art works that otherwise would have never reached fruition. And to those of you utilizing these and other tools in order to bring art into being, I thank you for your efforts and look forward to enjoying as much of what you create as I possibly can.