Russ Sharek
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All this talk about and has me thinking...

In my creative work, I'm primarily a live performance (circus and theater) creator. While successful in the past, has been difficult for our company because of the additional, and sometimes seemingly Herculean, efforts we had to undertake in order to create physical products for rewards.

In the end we did it, but most of it felt unrelated to the work...and in some cases potentially damaged the work because of creative concessions that had to be made.*

*The example that comes to mind was adjusting theater lights and seating to accommodate video recording for a downloadable video of the show.

While the campaign was truly a rousing success, I can't help but feel like we spent a considerable amount of our creative energies making good on "begging-related" promises.

I'm curious how those who make things that can't be turned easily into downloadable or shippable goods make patroning and funding work for their projects.

Chime in. I'm curious.

@RussSharek one thing I did recently was get other people to donate cool stuff -- got some street artists to donate stickers, a book from a friend who writes books, etc

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@kitoconnell

Oooh, that's actually a killer idea because it helps promote some friends. Thank you!

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@RussSharek yeah exactly. Everybody gets a little boost from it.

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@RussSharek packaging it up attractively and mailing it out definitely took some time and energy from me, but it sounds like less effort than what you're describing anyway

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@kitoconnell

In the end we did a bit of both. One of our shows had signed posters, storyboard pieces, props from the show, etc. as rewards.

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@RussSharek I feel like the entire reward system is... sort of misused? The idea is for patrons to fund what you already do so that you can keep doing it, not to fund you doing something tangential just for them. I feel like patrons who pledge for rewards and creators with reward-oriented campaigns are missing the point.

Patreon is certainly to blame at least partially, since they copied Kickstarter's reward-heavy page layout, despite it being much less appropriate for their platform.

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@eishiya

I think having bonuses for major contributors is a nice touch, though I agree that people may have gotten to the point where they expect us to have a second job of making their perks.

We used indiegogo for our big crowdfund experiment.

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@RussSharek Is any other creator as sick as I am of this part. I mean, the constant begging and making things to entice people to read suck the marrow of my creativity. Does anyone else feel this way?

(And I have no problem selling my work. I’m shoving books in hands most days of the year, doing performances, and interacting online. But it’s like the expectation of gimme bar keeps moving.)

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@andrawatkins

I hear your pain clearly.

I do believe fully that there needs to be a disconnect between "getting to make art" and "marketing creative output" for the sake of my sanity if nothing else.

Our largest crowdfunding project had a person on the team who's dedicated mission was making that side of things work. They were incredible, and we were lucky to have their skills in our company.

Not everyone has that luxury, and so I'm curious to hear what else works.

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@RussSharek I have an assistant to manage day-to-day social and a publicist to book events and garner press.

I meditate.

I also set aside regular boredom time. Boredom breeds creativity, at least for me.

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@andrawatkins

Sadly, I'm not in a position to have a publicist at the moment. That's kind of my trade off for not having to go through agencies, etc.

I use the "time to play" rule for myself. Most of my creativity comes this way.

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@RussSharek I interviewed and chose my own publicist. No agent chose for me. I direct her efforts. Happy to tell you how I found her.

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@andrawatkins

As to a direct comment about "marrow sucking", I admit I've been cited as mentioning that my generosity sometimes gets sucked dry on a bad day.

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@RussSharek What seems to be the most successful in terms of creating value for audiences of both live AND recorded performance, is to produce it twice.

Do your live shows for the paying bums in the seats, and do one or more separate shows performed specifically for the camera (but with a live audience).

So, each audience gets the best version of the performance. While the live audience gets the gestalt, the recorded version gets close-ups.

I don't see it as an unnecessary expenditure of effort, it's tuning the art to the audience.

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@smerp

That's kind of what we ended up doing on our last crowdfunded project. Two of the six were recorded and later edited into a downloadable.

Sadly, that sort of plan doesn't work for smaller shows. We're doing short holiday run now, and there's simply no way to film it.

I'm also curious about what else we could offer patrons.

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@smerp @RussSharek when it is possible that is an awesome idea.

I will try it out in Feb and schedule a 'filming' performance of a classical music concert. I am very fortunate to have access to video people (students who need to film for coursework). Without that resource it would be a great idea, but quite probably impractical.

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@lauraritchie @smerp

I was lucky enough to have some local friends who were interested in doing similar work.

One of our first major projects was a weekly variety show with a significant video and photos component. Was a monumental effort to produce each week.

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@RussSharek @smerp I think you're right and there's something to be said for finding a way within the medium you do - and using that/making it work. --even if the other thing seems like it could be a good suggestion.

Like I know I can never hold an admin post. I just won't do the paperwork. I either eat it (jobs/tasks) like wildfire and it's done, or wait so long to do it, the paper it's written on could decompose by itself.

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@lauraritchie @smerp

I think teaching workshops has become that thing for me. I enjoy it, it gives something back and it helps to pay the bills between performances.

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@RussSharek @smerp Have you thought of skype-type 1to1 lessons I use this gal to connect some of my students with performers from across the world for one-off taster lessons. Just to broaden horizons.

cuts out travel costs...

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@smerp @RussSharek and if there's a way to tap into the 'teambuilding' market in big companies... they have lots of money. -I am no good at knowing how to get in there. I have the workshops... (I take instruments and get non-musicians making a string orchestra) but I'm not a gifted admin or publicist

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@lauraritchie @smerp

I've considered it. Not tried yet. Have had conversations with existing students that way.

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@RussSharek personally I'm not sold on the rewards thing. On the one hand, I see people making rewards I'm not interested in, and on the other, I see others making rewards that they would normally release to everyone.

So it seems a bit artificial to me.

Personally, I do make things that could be turned into rewards, but I've never felt like Patreon was for me. I am working on an album, and it's going on Bandamp (with free downloads) and that's about it.

Otoh I'm not trying to make a living.

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@rook

Do send me a link to your album project. :)

I think we managed to tilt the rewards on our show to fit the feel of what we were building, but in the end it did feel like focus creep.

I've been fortunate that I've not required crowdfunding to continue. I have been interested in using it to supplement self-funded outreach work though.

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@RussSharek will do once something is online about it. I'll probably wait until the album is finished.

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@RussSharek @masu I keep rewards fairly simple and make sure they slot well into things I'm already doing. The actual work is released for free. The subscription model means I don't spend my whole life doing marketing.

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@artsyhonker @masu

Interesting! Can you give me an example of a reward that slots in like you describe?

Also, what service are you using for your subscription model?

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@RussSharek I already get business cards printed and need graphics for the covers of my works. Business card service I use also prints stickers, so one of my rewards is stickers.

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@RussSharek I commission artwork for postcards-as-rewards but this is also artwork I can use as cover art. The postcards all have a link to my website, so if people put them on noticeboards etc they are more advertising for me.

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@RussSharek Currently using a mix of Patreon (pay-per-thing) and PayPal (monthly subscription). See artsyhonker.net/support

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@RussSharek (The physical rewards, I mean. Average about one new piece of choral music per month.)

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@RussSharek None of this is entirely seamless, but paid work always has overheads. Also: I'm trying to move away from depending on any one platform. All platforms are like unto MySpace, and verily the Bad Idea Bears frolic behind paywalls.

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@RussSharek And while the actual sheet music I produce is eminently shippable, it's... not in and of itself that meaningful for individual patrons. Choral music needs a choir.

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@RussSharek So I feel like...dunno. I'm looking for artwork anyway. I'm having stuff printed anyway. Four times a year I spend an afternoon writing postcards and stuffing envelopes. It's not a bad deal for me.

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@RussSharek When I first started out I was hand-drawing each postcard, which was definitely not sustainable.

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@artsyhonker Precisely the sort of thing you can't get circus performers who aren't crafting-minded to do. :)

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@artsyhonker

I don't know. I think sheet music is a fairly cool perk.

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@RussSharek Yes, but it's free online already, and expensive enough for me to produce bound copies that I only offer it at higher tiers.

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@artsyhonker

The difficult lesson I'm trying to learn at the moment is balancing "having" to engage on mainstream media because my work is primarily local (and that's where the locals are) and not getting swallowed whole by that monster.

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@RussSharek @artsyhonker jumping in for a late night comment...

Could you reach farther? It was only today I figured out that you are half a world away, Russ. I thought I might be able to come see your upcoming show. :)

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@lauraritchie @artsyhonker

I'd love to travel more, and increase the reach of my work. The trick is a big part of what I do is about live human experiences, and so that doesn't always transfer to video or similar media well.

That said, I'm ready to tour almost any time, for both performances and teaching.

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@RussSharek @lauraritchie @artsyhonker
If you ever want to perform in amsterdam and you're around. Can maybe find something

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@lauraritchie @artsyhonker

I'm now pondering the ramifications of a Mastodon creative tour.

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@RussSharek @lauraritchie A friend of mine who plays solo bass with live looping did a tour of "house concerts" a few years back. If you have an act you could do in someone's living room, it could work? Probably easier in North America than Europe: more space in general.

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@RussSharek @lauraritchie Basically he'd say "okay, I'll do a very cool concert *in your house* but you have to put me up overnight or for a couple of nights," and they would invite like 10 friends who paid $20 each or something. And then he'd drive to the next place. I don't know if he broke even on the tour but he certainly gained fans for his mailing list.

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@RussSharek @lauraritchie I also know musicians who do coaching and teaching via Skype. Not the same as in-person lessons but they can still learn a lot.

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@artsyhonker @lauraritchie

Much of what I do and teach needs in person feedback, though overall coaching and direction could be done via video.

I sometimes critique performance material that way. Works well for that sort of thing, where you're picking apart an existing work. I suspect it'd be far harder to create in that context.

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@artsyhonker @lauraritchie

I've worked similarly for theater companies and circus groups. Made for a wonderful adventure.

Something I'd happily do again.

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@artsyhonker I wasn't aware Paypal had a monthly subscription option. Cool!

We use it for our virtual tipjar already.

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@artsyhonker Stickers are a REALLY big deal to people.

We also have a weird tradition with buttons. There's one button we have of our logo that is ONLY available by gift from our performers. You can't buy it anywhere, and if you have one it means you met one of us and had a real interaction.

Kind of our secret decoder ring.

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@RussSharek I *love* this idea. Might do something similar for a particular project of mine!

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@artsyhonker We didn't set out to do it. It became a thing and we stuck with it as we grew.

We now have some character buttons and other goodies we're hoping to add to a store in 2018.

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