Crowd funding is here. Resistance is futile.

Convener(s): Simon Day

Participants: Gary Horsmen, Lucy Foster, Nicola Stanhope, Deirdre McLoughlan, Ed Bartram, Matthew Austin, Leshwhd (?), Rod Dixon, Caroline Pearce, Amy Powell Yeates, Clara Giraud, Shipra Ogra, Julia Voce and others…

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

I convened this one because of my interest in crowd funding platforms that have taken off for the development of creative projects, mainly music (Pledge) and Film (Kickstarter). I was interested in setting up something similar that might work for theatre, when I found, set up late last year – that’s kind of doing it already. I think it has real potential to become not just part of our funding mix as theatre makers, but a way for us to relate differently to our audiences, and involve them in the development of our work.

We talked about how wefund was working for Lucy Foster, a member of the group who’s raised over £3,000 of a £5000 target using the site towards her latest project, Epic. Allowing for some teething problems, and for the fact that it’s early days as far as the site and the model is concerned, the site has been useful in raising a not inconsiderable amount of money, and leant a certain legitimacy to basically going cap in hand. Was also noted that traffic to her own site has increased loads, even where people didn’t donate. 

Shipra Ogra from Bubble related how the company effectively continued to stage a summer project despite losing funding, when the team were challenged to use crowd sourcing as a way to make it happen. They set up their own platform, called fanmadetheatre, inviting audience members to donate and become stakeholders of a future show, the content of which they get to suggest and vote on.

Someone else talked about how they had donated to a project through Kickstarter, and received personalized response.

Interesting discussion between the nature of such funding for the arts as being either philanthropy (i.e. donation) or a transaction (more in line with the music model, where audiences/fans are essentially pre-buying a product). Points in favour for both sides were raised, where some saw the opportunity to engage philanthropically as being a greater incentive than to become a customer. Jury’s out.

The success of such platforms seems to rely upon the effectiveness of a company’s/bands/artists social networking activity, and we then talked more broadly about harnessing this, and whether it’s possible to create a community around work online or seed a trend. We were pointed towards two publications that might make interesting reading for anyone into this idea:

  • Timothy Ferris, “4 Hour Working Week” (not necessarily the book itself, but his blog about how he did it)
  • Kevin Kelly, Editor of Wired, “1000 True Fans” – blog post about niche artistic activity

Also made aware that a number of Social Media Analytical Tools exist that allow us to track and measure the varying effectiveness of posts – the point was made that IF we’re to attempt to use this kind of stuff to our advantage, we might do well to understand it more.

Suspicions were raised about the ability of the platform to raise larger amounts of money, and/or the extra effort that this might involve.