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Russ Sharek @RussSharek

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


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

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

@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


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.

@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.


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.

@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.)


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.

@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.


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.

@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.


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.

@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.


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.

@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.

@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.

@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.

@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.

@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...

@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

@lauraritchie @smerp

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

@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.


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.

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

@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.

@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?

@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.

@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.

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

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

@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.

@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.

@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.

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

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


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

@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.


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.

@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. :)

@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.

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

@lauraritchie @artsyhonker

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

@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.

@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.

@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.

@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.

@artsyhonker @lauraritchie

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

Something I'd happily do again.

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

We use it for our virtual tipjar already.

@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.

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

@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.

@artsyhonker Pencils that said "Keep making art, dammit!" would be really cool swag. :)

@RussSharek They'd be for so "Sing like nobody is cutting your head off" would be ideal...

@RussSharek They tried to burn her first, allegedly, but it didn't work.

@RussSharek And to enter the Order of the Pencil you have to do something consonant with the aims of the site.

@artsyhonker @RussSharek
A friend of mine from Malaysia liked to say 'no pencil, no career!' 😄

@RussSharek In the case of LiberaPay, the goal is to fund already existing work. It’s even forbidden (and very difficult to do anyways because the patrons are anonymous) to sell rewards.

@Kooda That is a MAJOR point in favor of my looking into Liberapay.

How do they look on non-technical projects?

@RussSharek what do you mean by that?

There are many IT projects because the platform has been advertised in this circle. But it can be used for anything!

See for example the Commons, Art Libre and Artists communities:

There are not a lot of artists yet, but I hope these communities continue to grow!

@Kooda I simply was curious about whether the culture there was already supporting non-technical things like performing and visual artists.

@RussSharek all rewards sound exhausting to me. My second "fun" job is putting on endurance races, and it's painful enough how many requests we get for cheap junk (medals, shirts) as part of entry.


I was only tangentially involved in the rewards side of our indiegogo campaign and it was exhausting. A full time job for certain.

@RussSharek @Liberapay

Questions like this make me wonder what's possible with pure donation/gifts.

There is gift giving on mastodon and people asking for it. Without anything in return next to a warm fuzzy feeling.

I personally wouldn't mind giving something when I have it in order for someone else to have some fun, an education, or some basic needs. Perhaps in the knowledge that it's used well. If it would mean 80% would go to some horrible organisation, maybe not. So transparency helps...

@webmind @Liberapay

I suspect that a lot of professional creatives share my uneasy feeling about accepting pure 'charity' for their work.

If you can get past that potentially demeaning sensation, I think you're on to something.

@RussSharek @webmind @Liberapay Crapitalism teaches us that we only deserve to eat if we do work with sufficiently high market value. This is a lie.

@artsyhonker @webmind @Liberapay

So true. Still working my way through that one, despite having had some professional success and lots of support and help.

@RussSharek @webmind @Liberapay Another way to think of it: the work you would do if you knew you'd always have enough to eat? The work that makes your soul sing, whether you get paid or not, and also gives the world something that it needs? Crowdfund *that*. Even if it's only an hour a month to start with.

@RussSharek @webmind @Liberapay I write choral music, but lots of my patrons aren't singers. Some of them are, but some of them don't really get any direct benefit from me putting my work online for free. They just agree with me that me writing new music and making it available is a Good Thing for the world in general.

@artsyhonker @webmind @Liberapay

That I understand. Along the way I've gotten support from those who believe that play and spaces that encourage it are important.

@RussSharek @webmind @Liberapay You might find that you can't sell your work, really, but that you can do clowning in hospitals or prisons or something and people will want to support that on an ongoing basis.

@RussSharek @webmind @Liberapay I think... looking at it in terms of vocation/calling helps a lot.

@RussSharek @webmind @Liberapay (For me that is also a religious thing, but it totally doesn't have to be. But it does have to be right for you. Who do you most wish could come to your shows, but they can't now? What would you need to make that happen, or to do a show for them? And can you combine this with something like a house tour?)

@artsyhonker @webmind @Liberapay

I'm going to chew on this some. The house tour, or even small venue tour, sounds very interesting

@RussSharek @webmind @Liberapay I did a musical bicycle pilgrimage in 2014 under similar terms, though that was basically room and board only.

@RussSharek @webmind @Liberapay I personally cycled 364 miles in 14 days, but I did take a train for some bits because I munged my knee three days before leaving.

@RussSharek @webmind @Liberapay The cycling by itself would have been challenging; performing 12 times in two weeks, also. The combination was a bit much but I'm so very glad I did it.

@RussSharek @webmind @Liberapay We (there were 3 of us) went from London to Great Yarmouth and back, in a sort of weird zigzag. Sang in Ely cathedral and Norwich cathedral, and lots of rural parish churches that don't get many concerts.

@artsyhonker @RussSharek @webmind @Liberapay
That's awesome! @RussSharek and I were laughing about what it would be like if our troupe did a bicycle tour. Physically exhausting your acrobats before a performance is probably not the best idea, but hey! They're warmed up at least! A couple of our techs would probably struggle too. Heck I don't cycle much. Would be an entertaining story later though! Russ on his uni and Marie on her kick scooter would be a riot.

@Avalon @artsyhonker @RussSharek @Liberapay @webmind I would recommend alternating travel and performance days. Also unicycles are quite slow compared to bikes, even my big upright Dutch one.

@Avalon @artsyhonker @Liberapay @RussSharek @webmind But if you are travelling under your own dreams bicycle is really the most efficient way you can do it. It does constrain your daily travel. We had a gig most evenings and getting there in time was stressful; and we only travelled about 40 miles per day most days.

@artsyhonker @Avalon @Liberapay @webmind

"if you are willing to travel under your own dreams bicycle is the really the most efficient way you can do it."

My favorite sentence today.

@artsyhonker @RussSharek @Liberapay @webmind
True, as are scooters. But it was a funny thought nonetheless. :) Between the likelihood of long distances between host locations and our tendency to use a lot of props in our shows, it's probably not particularly viable for us. I think it's a fantastic idea though and I think it's awesome that you did it :)

@Avalon @artsyhonker @Liberapay @webmind

I remember transporting two of us still took a carload. Damn clowns and their props. :)

@webmind @Avalon @artsyhonker @Liberapay

Don't be. Most of those jokes are based on true stories.

@artsyhonker @webmind @Liberapay

Oh, what I do is a calling. No one gets up in the morning and thinks, "I think I'll be a subject of ridicule, fear and dislike" for the very little money it brings. ;)

@RussSharek @webmind @Liberapay well quite. But within that there may be work you're especially suited to or called to, and I think that has a part to play in good crowdfunding.

@artsyhonker @webmind @Liberapay

In America, they've actually turned horribly on the idea of clowns in hospital programs. I know some of the major players there, and their funding has been slashed in the last year.

I have great respect for that sort of work. It's not exactly what I do, though certainly adjacent.

I find myself doing far more relief and charity work. I think I'm more wired to seek hope than distraction.