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。
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。"
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.