Sunday, August 06, 2006
The Agony of Patronage

Charlton Heston plays Michelangelo in a 1965 film called The Agony and The Ecstasy. This film continues his knack of playing characters from ancient periods, and thus there are no guns involved. The film revolves around the famed artist’s painting of the Sistine Chapel and his relationship with the Pope. His Holiness constantly questions Michelangelo as to when the work will be done, and the artist always responds with “When I’m finished”.

I noticed a post from Dave of TV on the Radio on his youngliars blog where the band apparently received a considerable amount of a paypal donation. Dave then goes on a spiel about the possibility of musicians to have patrons like the artists of old. I would like to comment on this a bit.

If bands like the Flaming Lips can pay for their own album recordings, have Warner put them out, and still recoup enough to eat there should be a way to patronize our favorite musicians today. I read an article once where Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy mentioned that in a good year every member of the band could gross about $100,000 each. This is the same band who streamed their entire album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot online. The business model has changed. Despite the Virgin Megastores all over (at least in New York) according to the press (of whom I’m citing an article that I cannot find again) compact disc sales are down by a significant quality. In today’s era of low cost and convenient monetary transfers it ought to be beyond easy for music fans to patronize their favorite artists. After all, a kid became a millionaire by selling single pixels and someone through a system of barter deals traded a paper clip for a house. As Americans we love to fund stupid shit.

We also love to feel involved. Sometimes I stand in disbelief in the lines at the movie theater when I hear people talking about box office grosses. People want to be a part of the team. I also know that rich people love to blow money on really crass things. In New York, I’ve seen timid pieces of photography sell for $5,000 dollars a pop. Perhaps oil and hotel heiresses are putting their funds in the wrong pots. Just imagine if the 100,000 people who downloaded songs from a record would donate $10 each to a band of four or five guys. They would invariably be able to live a decent existence for a year. In the non-profit industry, I have seen amazing amounts of money donated for all types of causes; I’ve seen all kinds of selflessness with no charge housing and the like. One thing that I have noticed in this age of freeware, free operating systems, and other altruisms, is that we aren’t as competitive and cut-throat as our economic model would have us seem.

Posted by heightsy on Sunday, August 06, 2006 at 7:46 AM |

See also: Marillion (whatever you think of their music) making an album on funds solicited in advance from fans for deluxe versions of said album.

This is a model I'd love to see flourish - fuck Fox TV, if Firefly had gone direct to DVD, I would have gladly ponied up $50 or whatever to get that made.

The only major problem I can see with this model is that having it work requires either that you achieve significant success through traditional methods first (i.e. Wilco) or else make art for free for a significant period first (i.e. see some webcomics).

it'd be hilarious to see a paypal funded band on mtv cribs. imagine!

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The FunkyFunky 7 Are:
A group of kids with WAY too much time on their hands.