Angel investments could fund the next Renaissance.
I side with you on many of the frustrations around a weekly output, especially with a limited amount of time to give every week. But I feel the Substack model is quite nascent, and there is room to run it the way we want. For example, I could see some writers switch to *only* annual plans - making things less demanding from the subscriber end, and allowing them to set the terms for the pace of their work. The weekly publishing model is skeuomorphic of 'magazine publications' and no one should feel compelled to stick to it.
When I think of the patronage model, I see some negatives. For example, I don't expect as many people to be capable of financially supporting artists with big amounts of money. Reducing the pool of potential patrons to the rich elite classes takes us backwards in time, not forwards. Also, I wonder if it leads to more adventurous creativity or more conservative approaches when a writer or artist has such a big patronage to live up to. At $5/month, or $50/year, I feel less *obligated* to individual patrons, for want of a better word.
I like the equity model, but I don't see it working for as many young and 'unproven' artists. Equity investment is about a great ROI, and for pure creative work there isn't always a substantial ROI. Big ROIs again require the same institutional or upper-class reliance that takes us backwards in time.
To your question, not needing to worry about finances might make me a poorer writer and artist. I think certain constraints help us to get things done. While they shouldn't dominate our lives, their presence is essential to shape our ideas and - like gravity - keep us grounded!
I believe that all artists (painters, sculptors, musicians, etc... all creative makers) should forever "own" the pieces that they create, and that they are only 'rented" by those who posses them. Also, every time the piece is 'sold' on to another caretaker, a larger (>50%) percentage of that sale should always go to the creator, and not the 'investors/collectors'. We are capable of doing this with NFT's, so why not all art. So many of the artists that I know of, have created great works, only to have been lowballed into selling them for a pittance, only to have that so called 'patron' then hype up the piece and sell it on for enormous profits, none of which the artist see's. I believe that it is time to honour the artist in our society and not keep them in poverty.
I've been a full time musician for over 15 years, working lots of part time independent contractor jobs and one time gigs to pay the bills. I've been wanting to put all my energy into my singer-songwriter work (stage name Jodi Heights) and started a Patreon last year to move in that direction. My other work is still supporting me at the moment, but my husband is definitely an angel investor. I love that the world is starting to create more ways for artists to have long term support. Will definitely be checking out the methods you mentioned and look forward to future articles.
Writing is a not a very cost effective profession. So why do people write ? - it has to be the love of the written word. With the current publishing models - unlikely to change soon, I'd say who cares about how long you take to write your novel whether three years or more. At five to ten hours a week, you have not stolen your oppoprtunity cost to learn a new skill over those 3 years.
You have completed your novel and learned a new skill, this much better than devoting tons of hours at writing and only a book to show for your effort that may or may not get published.
Cover your bases and take a multi dimensional approach to creativity.
I spent a few years developing a solution to this problem and I launched a similar hybrid pilot last week. https://thatvideomag.com/live-entertainment-and-artist-development-program
Love what you're doing here. ❤️🙏🏼 But where is your interview/article with the "Sneaky Artist"? I can't find it anywhere in your feed. Thank you.
Thankyou Elle for the article, which has prompted such a great discussion here. I love the framing of the issue around how the rich funded the great artists during the Renaissance. I wonder about their motivations and whether they can be recreated today. The glory of a deity when commissioning art works for churches? Vanity when commissioning self-portraits or family portraits? Leverage for social standing by commissioning art or music for court events?
It occurred to me the community credit idea is interesting. Could newsletters have an ‘honour roll’ crediting the donors? Ka kite ano Bernard
Love this piece and what it proposes Elle! One of the chapters in my upcoming book about creators discusses ways for creators to "exit" along the traditional business cycle, and I've been researching different ways for creators to receive investment, share ownership, etc. It's an exciting prospect with a lot of potential - would love to discuss more with you and potentially write more about this topic with you.
Lots of interesting stuff in here. I find your emphasis on private investment over, say, arts grants interesting. It seems like relying on rich investors immediately restricts what is available, probably limits the funding to those projects which have a likely ROI, and ties the artistic product to finance in a way that makes me uncomfortable. It embeds financial elites (and therefore inherent inequality) into the artistic process. As Nishant says, that's going backwards, not forwards.
I wonder if there's an important difference with those Renaissance masterpieces, in that they were effectively working on commission. A fancy building (eg the Vatican) wanted a cool picture on their ceiling, so commissioned a highly skilled person to do it for them. I doubt whether there was any point at which Michelangelo thought about 'owning' his work. That's quite different to ownership or part-ownership with investors.
This is my favourite newsletter from you yet. I love how you incorporated the lessons we’ve learned from the fellowship (thank you for that because you helped me realise something), and how you married age old ideas to new ones. That’s just fantastic thinking!
Another great article! Thank you for your time and research. I've been looking into the publishing model you suggested and demonstrated on Mirror.xyz, and it seems like a potential future for artists. What I'm curious about is how it will end up - whether or not a new Renaissance for creators will emerge and expand the number of artists who can make art for a living. Likely, the future will emerge stranger or more mundane than we can imagine - but hopefully it allows more artists to create more art. That sounds like a great future to me.
Ah, what a dream. If I could focus on creativity instead of earning an income, I would pursue multiple mediums such as music, writing, and art, and hopefully create several “masterpieces.” And perhaps become a true Renaissance Man. 🤣 I do enjoy the community aspect of Substack, which those classical artists probably didn’t enjoy. And something missing from book publishing.
So to any angels investors reading this, I am available.
Great food for thought on multiple levels as always, Elle.
Breaking this story/topic up into smaller chunks and the strategy behind doing so makes a lot of sense, and you've convinced me to break up the mega-post I was writing in a similar manner.
To answer your masterpiece question, I would create what I'm already creating, just at hopefully a quicker pace. It would be stories in the fictional universe I've created across different mediums: books, comics, interactive games (tabletop/card games + video games), and more.
My next story, will be in the same vein as the last (they're all actually the same story, just different time periods and characters). Masterpiece is not for me to judge, but the craft keeps getting stronger. Whatever, it must contain irony. I don't know, after all these years, I wonder if it is just self centeredness and vanity; I've always written more for myself than the reader - too eccentric. Maybe I'm trying to work things out - maybe that is art? A kind of redemption maybe . . . My, that's not really answering the question.
One of the big differences between the renaissance and now is that we, as a society, place very little value on the arts. We value entertainment hugely, but I think there is a general feeling that entertainers ought to be able to earn a living from their performances. The value of entertainment lies in time pleasantly spent, no more than that, and no less.
Art, on the other hand, at least as it was classically understood, was a means by which we sought to understand ourselves. When A. E. Housman said "Malt does more than Milton can / To justify God's ways to man," he was referring to the notion that it was the business of art to explain God's ways to man.
Now we look more to psychology, and, increasingly, to neurology, for that same kind of understanding. Art once stood on the same pedestal as philosophy, theology, and science. It was a fundamental way of examining and understanding our lives. Art no longer enjoys that status (and philosophy and theology have been severely demoted too).
There is, to be sure, still some government funding for the arts, though I suspect that this is more a form of vote buying than born of any expectation that it will have any social or civilizational benefit. But such funding is almost everywhere in decline, and it does not reflect any wider social or intellectual appetite for the arts (as distinct from entertainment).
Joseph Bottom has an interesting book called The Decline of the Novel in which he traces the decline in the social and intellectual significance of the novel over the centuries. It is well worth reading.
Which leaves me questioning if there is much social appetite for patronage of the arts in society today, particularly among the rich, who generally see the hope for understanding in STEM rather than the Arts.
Alternate funding models for entertainment is a different subject. People are exploring alternate funding model and pricing strategies for all kinds of things. (Software going from a permanent sale model to a subscriptions model is one such example.) The approach of selling early access to content that will one day be free, as practiced by most writers on Patreon, strikes me more as an alternate payment model than actual patronage. People are paying for a personal good, not a social benefit. (And pay now, free later model is not exactly new in publishing: novels have been free in libraries for many decades, for those willing to wait a few weeks or months.)
Not to say that this is not all worth looking at, but I suspect it may be important to make a distinction between alternate funding and payment options for entertainment (in which customers expect personal value for money) and actual patronage of the arts.
This is my dream goal with my digital publishing company called Storyletter. To ultimately fund a network of writers to produce quality content but in a rotational manner that still provides quantity for the subscribers. I’m still a long ways off because as you said, it’s still a part-time hobby.