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众筹是否能让艺术家衣食无忧

一月份,一支来自佐治亚州斯泰茨伯勒的灵魂放克乐队ThoseCats,通过Kickstarter来为他们的首张专辑筹资。在网站上的一段录像中,乐队的鼓手ScottUnderwood罗列了项目的开支,平日里他是一个厨师。"这就是所有开销的总计,坦白说,我们的资源也有限。"Scott文质彬彬的说。支持者已经提供了3,459美元,效果还不错,但并不足以让乐队成员辞掉他们平日的工作。

KevinKelly在2008年的文章《1000个铁杆粉丝》中假想了一群艺术家,他们并不是依靠大众的支持而是通过建立一个铁杆粉丝社团维持自己的创作。"我认为应该为处于超级巨星和一贫如洗之间的艺术家们提供一些帮助。"他写道,"这其实就是畅销作品和长尾需求之间的中间区域。具体的数据仍不得而知,但是我想一位优秀的艺术家还是能有1000个铁杆粉丝的。再加上现在的新技术,粉丝们应该可以帮助艺术家过上一份还不错的生活。"

从那时候开始,众筹业见证了千万名艺术家实现了Kelly的想法——将粉丝与需要募资的艺术家联系起来。(2012年,Kelly自己就在Kickstarter上为他的电子史诗漫画小说《银绳》的第二部筹集资金。)几年前,纽约现代艺术馆的一场展览中包含了四部通过Kickstarter集资的作品。去年,一部通过Kickstarter集资的电影《天真无邪》赢得最佳短片纪录片奖。这一年的圣丹斯电影节上,有19部电影都来自Kickstarter,同时另外还有六部也是在一家类似的众筹网站Indiegogo上筹得了资金。

关于众筹的讨论越发关注于轰动影片——比如像AmandaPalmer那样离开经济公司后为发行新专辑而众筹几百万美元的项目,或者粉丝共同为已停播的电视节目《Veronica Mars》拍摄同名电影而共同筹集资金。但这些项目都是个例。事实上,很少有艺术家能够通过众筹集资获得可靠的生活来源。目前Kickstarter上共有5万6千个项目正在募集资金,大约有四分之三融资额都不到一万美金。正在融资的艺术家应该是Those Cats,不是AmandaPalmer。而音乐市场本身不一定会为Those Cats这样的无名之辈买单的。

Miya Tokumitsu在她的文章《以爱之名》中说"做你所爱,爱你所做"像一句咒语降低了许多勤勉劳作却收入很低的美国人的价值。"并加强了人们的受剥削程度,即使是在一些受人欢迎的职业中,加班、低薪资或者无薪工作成为了新的常态。"她写道,"在像时尚工作、媒体、艺术这些在社会上蛮受欢迎的领域中,大量的无薪实习生是司空见惯的现象。"

如果我们认为艺术家们的工作有价值,那么我们也应该关注他们的收入是怎样的。有生命力的文化得益于充满创造力的艺术类中产阶级工作者。对于一些艺术家,市场上提供了持续的收入(例如参演长期上演的百老汇表演,或者在广告公司做图画设计工作);但对于其他人,实际收入却极少。非盈利的机构为艺术家提供直接的支持和工作,它们的主要资金来源于私人慈善赞助、公众捐赠和票务收入。许多艺术家也在学术界任职,高等院校的艺术、戏剧和音乐教师数量已经从2002年的5万8千人增加到了2012年的9万2千人.

根据国家艺术基金会NEA(NationalEndowmentoftheArts)的数据,2010年12%的职业艺术家同时从事另一项主要工作。Kickstarter的联合创始人之一Yancey Stickler,从去年秋天起开始担任Kickstarter的CEO,他告诉我他的父亲是一个吉他演奏师和乡村歌手,以出海做水手来维系生活。

众筹集资的确为艺术融得了很多资金。去年公布的一份报告显示,2012年大约300家的众筹集资平台为各行业集资项目筹集了约27亿美元。其中的12%是电影和表演艺术类,8%流向了音乐类项目。2013年,仅在Kickstarter上的项目就募集了4.8亿美金,这几乎是N.E.A.2013年预算的3.5倍。N.E.A.的调查和分析部门主任Sunil Iyengar说,一些艺术机构就在用众筹集资来满足获得N.E.A.资助的条件。即便如此,众筹集资仍然只是个人向非盈利艺术机构捐助的一小部分,2011年个人捐赠总额达到130亿美元。

一个非常贴心的理想主义网站Gittip邀请用户向"你喜爱和启发你的人"无条件捐赠周薪。但是Gittip规模很小,大多数众筹集资是看重明确的项目而不是人。(Kickstarter禁止"为我的生活筹资"这类筹资运动)我们发起一个筹资运动的原因是我们想参与到项目中去并且能够享受到该项目的成果。众筹集资的独特之处在于它的参与性。

如果是为了支持有创造力的中产阶级,众筹集资最有希望做到的是在项目完成后建立起通向传统收入来源的通道。例如,一家新建的剧院通过众筹集资建立了一系列记录以符合更大额的融资要求,这样它们才得以支付演员工资;又如一个电影制作人依靠众筹集资做出来一部电影并吸引了发行人的目光;或者一个漫画家写出作品的续集,使她其他的作品也跟着在书店或者网上大卖。

一些基于项目的筹资活动确实为艺术家提供一定的经济来源,但是这些钱很难能够维持较长时间:在Kickstarter上有一个为了故事片"Duke'sWorld"筹资的运动,只募集到了1万2千美金,这已经涵盖了支付演员的薪资,摄像、音响设备等;十二月份结束的一项Indiegogo筹资为一部关于BP石油泄漏事件的戏剧募集了2万5千美金,其中涵盖了演员、编剧和导演的薪资。个别艺术家也把他们在工作时候的个人生活开支包含在筹资之中。例如Hannah Engelkamp在Kickstarter上为她和一头驴在威尔士的游历过程写书和拍电影的项目筹资,她预算中提到"有一部分钱是为了维持在Aberystwyth的生活,这样我们就不用为了生活再去做其他的工作。"

即使有时候为艺术家提供报酬是筹资项目的全部,筹得的报酬也不会很多。编舞师Amy Seiwert为八位舞者一星期的排练和表演筹集到了4千多美元,人均500美金。Irondale Ensemble项目和American Opera项目目前正试图在Kickstarter上筹集2万美金来支持一部关于Harriet Tubman的民族歌剧和一部关于南北战争前在布鲁克林反奴隶制革命者的音乐剧。所募集的钱直接用于支付艺术创作者:包括作曲家Nkeiru Okoye,辛勤工作的演员和歌手,来自Harlem Chamber乐团的才华横溢的乐器演奏师们、当地的合唱团和一些技术人员。"

或许随着众筹集资的科技手段和文化的逐渐成熟,会如Kevin Kelly所预料的那样,利用众筹集资来与自己1000名粉丝互动的艺术家会越来越多。虽然众筹集资成就了很多让人兴奋的创新项目,我们仍然不应该忘记富有创造力的中产阶级需要有好的艺术工作者和健康运营的艺术机构。仅仅帮助艺术家们为项目筹资是不够的,我们还要帮艺术家们把他们的项目转为事业。

In January, Those Cats, a soul and funk band from Statesboro, Georgia, used Kickstarter to solicit funding for their début album. In a video on the site, Scott Underwood, a drummer who works as a cook, listed the project's expenses. "All these things add up," he said, in a charming drawl. "And, frankly, our resources are limited." Supporters pledged thirty-four hundred and fifty-nine dollars. Not bad, but hardly enough for the band members to quit their day jobs.

Kevin Kelly, in his 2008 essay "1,000 True Fans," imagined a class of artists supporting themselves not through mass popularity but by building a community of dedicated fans who would buy everything they produced. "I am suggesting there is a home for creatives in between poverty and stardom," he wrote. "Somewhere lower than stratospheric bestsellerdom, but higher than the obscurity of the long tail. I don't know the actual true number, but I think a dedicated artist could cultivate 1,000 True Fans, and by their direct support using new technology, make an honest living."

In the years since, crowdfunding has allowed tens of thousands of artists to realize one part of Kelly's vision-they are connecting with fans who are helping them fund their art. (Kelly himself mounted a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 to fund the second volume of a "techno epic graphic novel" called "The Silver Cord.") A show at MOMA a few years ago included four Kickstarter-funded works. Last year, a Kickstarter-funded film called "Innocente" won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. Nineteen films at this year's Sundance Film Festival originated on Kickstarter; another six Sundance films were funded on Indiegogo, a similar site.

Discussions of crowdfunding tend to focus on the blockbusters-Amanda Palmer's million-dollar campaign to produce an album after breaking from her label, or fans rallying to finance a film version of the cancelled television show "Veronica Mars." But these projects are exceptional. The truth is that relatively few artists have crowdfunded their way to an "honest living." Of the nearly fifty-six thousand projects funded on Kickstarter, about three-quarters have raised less than ten thousand dollars. The poster child of crowdfunding is not Amanda Palmer, it's Those Cats. And for Those Cats, music isn't paying the bills.

In her essay "In the Name of Love," Miya Tokumitsu argues that the mantra "Do what you love, love what you do" devalues the "arduous, low-wage work" of many Americans, and "reinforces exploitation even within the so-called lovable professions, where off-the-clock, underpaid, or unpaid labor is the new norm." She writes, "It should be no surprise that unpaid interns abound in fields that are highly socially desirable, including fashion, media, and the arts."

If we believe artists perform labor of value, we should also care about how (and whether) they get paid. A vibrant culture benefits from a creative middle class-arts workers who earn enough to support themselves and their families. For some artists, the marketplace offers sustaining income (a part in a long-running Broadway show, for example, or a job as a graphic designer at an ad agency); for others, it offers nominal financial support (the average book advance). Non-profit institutions provide artists both direct support and employment, funded by a combination of private philanthropy, public giving, endowment income, and ticket sales. Many artists also work in academia-the number of post-secondary art, drama, and music teachers grew from around fifty-eight thousand in 2002 to more than ninety-two thousand in 2012.

According to an analysis of government data by the National Endowment for the Arts, in 2010 twelve per cent of working artists had a different primary job. Yancey Strickler, a co-founder of Kickstarter and, since last fall, its C.E.O., told me that his father is a guitar player and a country singer who has supported himself as a travelling waterbed salesman his entire life.

Crowdfunding has undoubtedly funnelled lots of cash into the arts. According to a reportreleased last year, in 2012 around three hundred crowdfunding platforms raised about $2.7 billion across all categories (artistic and otherwise); twelve per cent of that went to films and the performing arts, and eight per cent to music-related projects. In 2013, supporters gave four hundred and eighty million dollars to projects on Kickstarter alone-about three and a half times the N.E.A.'s budget for 2013, after sequestration. According to Sunil Iyengar, the director of the office of research and analysis at the N.E.A., some arts organizations are using crowdfunding to meet the "match" required by certain N.E.A. grants. Even so, crowdfunding is still a small fraction of the sum donated to arts nonprofits by private donors, which was thirteen billion dollars in 2011.

One sweetly idealistic site, Gittip, invites users to donate money toward a weekly salary for "people you love and are inspired by," no strings attached. But Gittip is tiny, and most crowdfunding is aimed at specific projects. (Kickstarter prohibits "fund my life" campaigns.) We give to a campaign because we want to be part of a project and enjoy the work it will yield. The ethos of crowdfunding is participatory.

When it comes to supporting a creative middle class, the most promising aspect of crowdfunding seems to be the access to traditional sources of income it offers after the work has been made. For example, a new theatre company might use crowdfunding to establish a track record that will make it eligible for larger grants, enabling it to pay its actors; a filmmaker might make a movie that catches the attention of a distributor; or a comic-book artist might build a following for her work, allowing her to sell more copies in bookstores and online.

Some project-based campaigns do include compensation for artists, but rarely in amounts that can sustain them for very long: a Kickstarter drive for a feature film called "Duke's World" raised just over twelve thousand dollars, including pay for actors, extras, and camera and sound operators; a play and art installation about the BP oil spill whose twenty-five-thousand-dollar Indiegogo campaign closed in December, included compensation for actors, designers, and the director. Some individual artists also include an allocation for living expenses while they're working on their project-for example, Hannah Engelkamp's Kickstarter campaign to complete a book and film about her journey around Wales with a donkey budgeted "a modest amount of money for living very cheaply in Aberystwyth, so that we can afford to not take on any other work."

Even in cases where compensating artists is the whole point, the compensation isn't much. The choreographer Amy Seiwert raised just over four thousand dollars to pay eight dancers about five hundred dollars each for a week's worth of rehearsal and performance. The Irondale Ensemble Project and American Opera Projects are currently attempting to raise twenty thousand dollars on Kickstarter to mount a folk opera about Harriet Tubman and a musical about abolitionists in Brooklyn before the Civil War, with contributions going "directly to our creators-composer, Nkeiru Okoye, our hardworking casts of actors and singers, talented instrumentalists from the Harlem Chamber Orchestra, local chorus members, and technical artists."

Perhaps the number of artists who use crowdfunding to connect with a thousand true fans, as Kevin Kelly envisioned, will grow as fund-raising technology-and the culture surrounding it-matures. Still, in our excitement over the creative projects made possible by crowdfunding, we shouldn't forget that a flourishing creative middle class requires good jobs for arts workers and healthy arts institutions. It's not enough to help artists fund projects-we need to help a meaningful number of artists turn projects into careers.


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