Why Crowdfund (Part 1 of 3)

There’s no formal means or method, each of us must forge our own path to working in fields related to our interests and training in some way.

What’s a more popular subject among creators these days? A.I.? Contracts? Social media?

There are a couple of others I’m leaving out, but I think it’s safe to say most people plying a creative trade are curious about crowdfunding.

Before going into detail, let’s look at the biggest picture possible: how governments and non-profit institutions view creatives as workers.

We’re all working artists

The question of who gets to make a living in the arts is one that goes beyond the specifics of craft and medium. Writers, artists, and musicians are included among many other types of “artists” (if you’ve known me for any length of time, you know there’s that whole thing about Kung Fu I’m always going on about).

But while that initial question is probably as old as cave paintings, let’s take a more recent view — a look at this question from just a decade ago.

“Artists in the United States are much more likely than other workers to be self-employed and to work across simultaneously commercial, nonprofit, and community sectors, requiring considerable labor market dexterity, planning, and risk taking, yet they earn less than other workers.”

Ann Markusen: GIA Reader Fall 2013

In the article quoted above, Markusen went into great detail, acknowledging new technologies and their platforms as a driving force behind “artistic blending.” With this concept, she refers to the dissolution of the traditional distinctions between “high art” (traditionally the domain of the nonprofit sector) and “popular art” (traditionally the domain of the commercial sector).

Structural divisions between these different sectors make launching and maintaining the typical hybrid career of an artist extremely difficult. There’s no formal means or method; each of us must somehow forge our own path to working in fields related to our interests.

In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Office conducted the American Community Survey, finding that 2.3 million people had primary jobs as artists; an increase of about 185,000 over the 10 years prior. Additionally, 271,000 workers in other sectors also held second jobs as artists.

Even though 59% of artists have at least a bachelors’ degree, compared to 31% of U.S. workers overall, most earn less than professionals with similar educational achievements in other fields. Plus we are 3.6 times more likely to be self-employed. 

This was before a world-wide pandemic. In response to that data, large arts organizations had been proposing new approaches to supporting creative work. These city, state, and national grant expansions, private enterprise or guaranteed income programs, were quickly re-tooled in the wake of COVID-19’s impact on the economy.

The Americans for the Arts Artist’s Relief COVID-19 Impact Survey found that 62% of artists became fully unemployed in 2020, while 95% experienced income loss because of shutdowns. Their July 2021 pandemic impact update reported even worse outcomes for those who rely on audiences, especially among minority groups. In their words, “BIPOC artists had even higher rates of unemployment than white artists in 2020 due to the pandemic… and lost a larger percentage of their creative income.” 

But these seismic shifts also reveal new terrain where a growing variety of entrepreneurial opportunities are increasingly available.

These vital avenues for creatives to ply their craft include nonprofit structures, barter systems, cooperatives, commercial models, fiscal sponsorships, for-benefit corporations and crowd-funding. Regardless of intent or mission statements, large institutions and platforms can have unintended impacts on those communities targeted for support.

It is here where crowdfunding seems most effective in balancing out those disparities for BiPOC and LGBTQ+ creatives. Forms of censorship or the drive to make a project more broadly appealing can be circumvented via crowdfunding and its direct engagement within a community.

It’s also why, along with my personal project A Tiger’s Tale (vols. 1 & 2), I’ve frequently found myself working behind the scenes for such community-minded campaigns as Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology and How To Not Be Colonized by Outreach Programs.

After decades in the field of commercial art and marketing, I can look back and observe when, where and how my own career was “hybridized.” It’s within those various creative collaborations, across media or genre, where I’ve also witnessed others make an art form of their own hybridized careers.

These days, a given project might match any or several of those mentioned categories — e.g., working in trade with a non-profit. But most recently, it’s crowdfunding which has had the furthest reaching career impacts within the smallest windows of time; something I’ll cover in Part 3 of this blog series.

In Part 2 of this series, I’ll cover Why 30 Days?

I’ve uncovered interesting research from Kickstarter and some fun terminology. We’ll take a practical look at the weeks and days contained within that 30 day window and learn why longer isn’t necessarily better. Then we’ll go beyond that time-span, examining the lead-up to that pivotal launch date and then what comes after.

And if you’re curious to learn more about my personal crowdfunding journey, as well as the step-by-step process I followed to run two successful Kickstarter campaigns, I hope to see you on Saturday May 13th for my “Five Helpful Hacks For Your Crowdfunder” workshop!

Sources cited can be found here.

About Patrick Lugo

I first learned to read thanks to my brothers’ comics. In the 90's, I illustrated a few comics for indie-publisher Double Edge. I've since illustrated picture books and in 2021, a comic of mine was featured in the anthology Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology, from the University of Ohio press. That comic, “Contraband” was called "a knockout" in a starred review from Publisher's Weekly. This year, I kickstarted my graphic novel A TIGER's TALE and have a second volume imminent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *