Dave MacDonald is finishing up his doctorate in music composition at Michigan State University. When his friend asked him to compose a new piece for saxophone, MacDonald said sure, no problem. But there was one catch: he wanted to get paid.
Arts patronage 1.0
MacDonald says getting paid would be hard for a few reasons: There's not a lot of money in classical music, and it's hard to get an arts grant if you're an unknown composer. Plus, he says, arts patrons are hard to come by:
"When [Franz Joseph] Haydn was writing music, he was employed by the Esterhazy family. They paid him to be their court composer. He lived on their little estate and wrote music for them. People don’t do that more; there aren’t wealthy families that decide what [they] really need is a composer living next door to write new music for [them]."
Medici for the masses
MacDonald said things started to look up when he discovered the website Kickstarter. Here's how it works: You write a quick blurb or make a video explaining your project and post it to the site, where anyone can contribute money to the project. MacDonald put his project online, set a $500 goal, and ended up raising more than $1,100.
The artist sets the giving levels, and most are pretty modest: $10, $20, $50. It’s like Medici for the masses, where "anybody can be an arts patron and it doesn’t require millions of dollars," says MacDonald.
Mike Kopera used the website to fund one of his film My Friend Peter, but he says he won't use the site again because he didn't like how Kickstarter and Amazon took up to a 10% cut of the profits: Kickstarter for being the main site, Amazon for processing the credit card charges. Next time he says he'll try a different “crowd-funding” website like ChipIn.
Meet the "new" arts patron
Joe Force never contributed to any arts projects before Kickstarter. But now the Grand Rapids resident checks out the site regularly. Whenever he comes across a cool new project, he makes a contribution. So far he's funded at least 5 projects, and he says its feels "kind of nice to be a micro philanthropist of odd-little projects!"