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How Patreon Can Be A Resource For Brock University Students

How Patreon Can Be A Resource For Brock University Students

What does ‘patronage’ mean for 21st century Brock University students? Here’s a tool to help young and upcoming artists make a living doing what they love.

Despite the fact that the world needs art, it’s harder than ever to get people to actually pay artists to do their jobs. The most common thought pattern among online traffic seems to be, “well, if it’s on the Internet, it must be free,” and that kind of behavior is particularly difficult to make the public unlearn. Worse, it seems like more companies than ever before will either insist that artists work, “for the exposure,” or outsource the art needs overseas in order to pay pennies on the dollar.

What’s an artist to do? Well, everything old is new again, which is why so many artists are looking at patronage as a way to pay their bills, and buy their bread.

How to Eat As A Starving Artist: What is Patronage?

It wasn’t any easier to be an artist back in the days of yore, particularly when you consider that farmers trying to avoid the plague and stave off starvation didn’t have a whole lot of spare dosh to throw around. Art was seen as a luxury, and luxuries were only for the wealthy.

Which was why the wealthy found artists, and became their patrons.

Being a patron was kind of like adopting a pet artist. A patron essentially told the artist, “You have a gift. You shouldn’t be messing around with being a milliner, or a farmer. Don’t worry about keeping a roof over your head, or food on your table. I’ll handle that. You keep making good art.”

It was a pretty sweet deal. The artist got to hone their craft, free from the need to earn an outside living, and the patron had an artist on their payroll. Most of the time the artist would be allowed to simply practice their trade, but patrons could tap their artists and ask them to complete specific pieces. A portrait for their lady wife, a landscape to hang in their chateau, etc. When that happened the artist, hoping to keep their patron happy, would oblige.

Patronage Meets Technology: Crowdfunding

We’ve come a long way since the Renaissance in terms of art. This is true in terms of technique, mediums, and the tools we use to make it, but it’s also true in how artists make a living. In the old days artists would have one patron, or at most a small handful. It was only big operations, like opera houses, theater companies, and famous artists, who had dozens of patrons at once.

Today, though, anyone can become a patron thanks to crowdfunding sites like Patreon.

The way it works is pretty simple. An artist creates a profile, telling the world about the art they’re creating. Maybe they’re a painter, or a webcomic artist, a sculptor, a musician, or some other type of creative. By opening a profile page, you create a place where your fans can pledge a certain amount of money every month to help you create more art.

The genius of modern-day patronage is that it spreads the burden out over a wider audience, thus allowing more people to participate in their favorite artists’ careers. It becomes more of a communal tip jar, than asking someone to foot the bill for your living expenses all on their own.

If someone can pay you several thousand dollars a month just to make art? Great! However, instead of looking for that one, wealthy patron who really loves your work, these sites allow you to ask for smaller donations from more people. So if you can find a following of 5,000 people, then asking each of them to chip in $1 a month is much more reasonable than hoping one of them is independently wealthy.

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