Is crowdfunding the future of the arts?

In Features, Opinion by Shanine SalmonLeave a Comment

I had a feverish dream about crowdfunding. Would YOU fund me to go to Edinburgh and review?

— Shanine (@braintree_) March 21, 2017

I asked the above question in light of the recent NIC Edinburgh Scheme to send independent critics to Edinburgh and their suggestion, to raise the funds for what can be an expensive trip for anyone applying was crowdfunding. The result did not go well.

Thank you, 27%, that indulged me, a pox on 73% that didn’t. I have no plans on asking you for money, at least not directly but if you read Private Eye and spot an ad from a ‘Busty and myopic theatre patron’ in EyeNeed then do send me £5.

As various crowdfunding campaigns emerge for new productions I find myself asking, do people care that much to fund a new show? I love theatre but I already question if it is getting enough of my money. Will donating for shows we haven’t seen yet become the norm? Will Audience/Producer become a new title?

Crowdfunding seems to have become the new word for begging. My mother and I were discussing her funeral arrangement costs. She has no plans and no money. When I joked that if she died suddenly I would have to start up a crowdfunding campaign she responded “Go Fund Me? Go F*ck Her, more like”

My own personal feelings towards funding campaigns is “Why don’t more people tell people to go f*ck themselves” because I feel very uncomfortable in asking for money, I feel even odder about people asking me for money but even my ice cold heart melts when realising this is not an option people want but an option circumstances have demanded. Theatres with no subsidies and very few business development funds mean that creatives are increasingly turning to Patreon for daily running costs or Kickstarter to get projects off the ground.  For example, Block Stop known for their live video games are looking for funding for their new project ‘The Dating Game’.

They have 21 days to raise £8000 from £1109 it is currently on. I am sceptical it will manage its target. This is not like The Crystal Maze Indiegogo project, which aimed to set up a live action version of the Channel 4 series, which is also making a comeback, what is it with the 90s revivals,  in London. The Crystal Maze had a reputation and the concept had worked before in cities such as Coventry and Southampton (where I grew up and assumed everyone had a Crystal Maze). Block Stop have great form, I loved By the End of Us at the Southwark last year,  but not for this sort of dinner party game experiment. I don’t particularly like the concept and I don’t think Block Stop are playing to their strengths and have underestimated the market for such a product (which will cost £180 to use at home)

This is my main issue with a lot of crowdfunding, there is a reason you can’t get a publisher and there is a reason you can’t get a producer. Often that it is “This is a great idea but we have no money too” reason or the one I feel I have seen too much recently is “there is a reason that the only people who funded this mess are sycophantic friends and family”. So many programmes in small theatres tell me very little about the play, the production company but instead have lists of names with varying statuses depending on how much they donated. They are there on press night too, laughing at things that aren’t funny and applauding terrible performances because they are invested in this. They want, no NEED, it to do well.

Increasingly the audience will simply not be the audience anymore but a producer who is not emotionally invested in a production but financially so and if we aren’t careful it could affect everyone’s relationship with how creativity is presented and what quality we see.

Shanine Salmon on Twitter
Shanine Salmon
Shanine Salmon was a latecomer to theatre after being seduced by the National Theatre's £5 entry pass tickets and a slight obsession with Alex Jennings. She is sadly no longer eligible for 16-25 theatre tickets but she continues to abuse under 30 offers. There was a market for bringing awareness that London theatre was affordable in an era of £100+ West End tickets – Shanine’s blog, View from the Cheap Seat, launched in April 2016, focuses on productions and theatres that have tickets available for £20 and under. She is also quite opinionated and has views on diversity, pricing, theatre seats and nudity on stage. Her interests include Rocky Horror, gaming, theatre (of course) and she also has her own Etsy shop. Shanine tweets at @Braintree_.
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Shanine Salmon on Twitter
Shanine Salmon
Shanine Salmon was a latecomer to theatre after being seduced by the National Theatre's £5 entry pass tickets and a slight obsession with Alex Jennings. She is sadly no longer eligible for 16-25 theatre tickets but she continues to abuse under 30 offers. There was a market for bringing awareness that London theatre was affordable in an era of £100+ West End tickets – Shanine’s blog, View from the Cheap Seat, launched in April 2016, focuses on productions and theatres that have tickets available for £20 and under. She is also quite opinionated and has views on diversity, pricing, theatre seats and nudity on stage. Her interests include Rocky Horror, gaming, theatre (of course) and she also has her own Etsy shop. Shanine tweets at @Braintree_.