What Do Modern Poverty Relief and Development Principles Have to say to Consumers of Art? by Dave Connis

With a degree in Community Development, I’ve watched a major shift take place when it comes to giving aid and resources to poverty-stricken lands and people: give deeply, not widely. Instead of spreading your resources among a broad spectrum of needs, choose a few that line up with your mission, and support them with fervor.

One would think that the creative world and poverty alleviation have very little to do with each other, but the concept of giving deeply, not widely, holds weight in both arenas.

As a modern-day human, you are barraged with a constant stream of voices. Your twitter and Facebook feed are probably all currently filled with some sort of blog article, Kickstarter project, or band proclaiming their new EP. Though the technological era has brought opportunity to creators in massive ways, there’s a cost to be paid with such a broad accessibility.

Once creation is accessible to everybody, everything everybody creates becomes accessible to everybody.

Suddenly what was once opportunity can quickly become chaos, a scramble to reach the top, to be seen in the raucous of social media. Bids of support become commonplace. Friends become inundated with invitations to be a part of something again, and again. Such a large amount of bids has lead the consumer to (understandably) adapt to the noise, and pick up a modus operandi of ignoring or not responding. This kind of evolution could be argued as both a bad and good thing, but regardless of its place on the morality scale, it can be a harmful thing.

Suddenly, because rejection is in every thing unshared and every thing un-liked, creators have to have an even thicker skin than they did before the digital era. And while the skin of a creator is callousing, the ears and eyes of the consumer continue to adjust to the noise. Both parties are suddenly ignorant to the other, one yelling, and the other ignoring.

Strangely enough, regardless of this intense amount of content, creators are still finding success. Videos still go viral, musicians are still discovered, songs are still shared, and books still are deemed “best sellers.” Creators are still giving people reasons to share, to empathize, to enter into something made, which will never change, however, the way creators and consumers interact does need to change in that consumers need to catch up with the changing face of the creative industry. Luckily, it has been, albeit slowly.

With websites and communities like Patreon and Noisetrade (both sites that give consumers the ability to support specific creators), we’re seeing more opportunities for creative consumers to shift their mindset; suddenly the market becomes less of a shouting match, and more of an opportunity to pick who you support in a very engaging and intentional way. Instead of offering a quick like, you have to put in effort to support the creator. You are committing to patronage. 

The return of the patron system is, in my opinion, the “new” way to support those who make, and here is where poverty alleviation principles collide with the creative industry: give deeply, not broadly.

Just as modern relief supporters are starting to narrow down whom they give too, so should those who consume an enjoy art and creative content. To be clear, I’m not writing a manifesto against those who do choose to pass over bids, to some extent you have, I’m advocating for a shift in how consumers think about the way they support modern makers.

I encourage all of the potential patrons out there to make a list of artists and creators that speak to them the most and support them deeply. Share their bids, check in with them, and be active in their creative lives. When someone engages me in this way, it doesn’t matter how many likes or follows I have, the relationship between what I make and who’s receiving it becomes personal, and suddenly my skin is thinner. Instead of bellowing at the top of my lungs, I start to make gifts for you, and you start to thank me, not ignore me. From personal experience, I’d rather have fifty supporters who I hear from on a frequent basis, than 100,000 who may like one of my posts.

I’m sure you, the reader, is thinking, “but even if the shift happens, bids of patronage support will still flood the internet,” which is very true. As long as content is being made, bids will also be made. The process is undeniably linked.  However, as patronage takes over, the creative process turns into collaboration between creator and consumer. And I know personally, that once I start to see human interaction with what I make, I’m less concerned with numbers and yelling loudly, and more concerned with what I make.I am not letting creators off the hook here. Regardless of patronage, it is still an artist’s responsibility to create as if numbers didn’t matter, however, I want the point to be made that both artists and consumers have a responsibility in creation, and considering that this is a call to consumers, I’m calling on you to step up.

Creators and artists need to you support them deeply, and the best way to do that in the modern era is through intentional patronage.  There are a lot of us out there, and it’s not a crime to have preference, or ignore some bids of support in favor of others, as long as you support the ones you love as well as in your means. Created things ask to be loved, and when you start to invest yourself in their success, you become a curator instead of a consumer.

A word about the author:

Dave Connis is the co-founder of Musetic, a sharing platform/community for creative. Musetic wants to be a place where our users are willing to encourage each other, talk to each other, and collaborate. It doesn’t just want to connect content seekers to really good content, we want to inspire and support the creative looking for a place to call home. We also want to help patrons find their muses, and help usher in the new era of maker support.