November 14, 2013
Many of my creative peers are turning to crowdfunding to support their work. I continue to be skeptical of the funding model because I think it blurs the lines between cultural patronage and charity dedicated to helping those in serious need. It’s especially problematic when major arts institutions characterize their crowdfunding campaigns as “good causes” (as several high profile ones have done).
I’m much more comfortable when crowdfunding campaigns for arts projects characterize the offering as a purchase rather than a donation. Someone who buys a pop-up book or Star Trek themed game off Indiegogo isn’t cannibalizing their charity budget to pay for it. Someone who supports a theatre or opera company to tour a production they have no intention of seeing, in return for a sticker or postcard, is engaging in charity, and I think there’s a very real risk that the donor may then reduce their spend on traditional charities which tackle critical, life-and-death issues such as global poverty.
I wrote an oped for the Guardian back in August which explores this idea in greater detail. Was pleased to see a couple of other similar articles come out since then which have made the same argument.