I recently watched the new “Dead Like Me” movie (it’s awful, I’m not sure if the people who wrote it ever saw the TV series). On the Pirate Bay a commenter (derrrface) wrote asking everyone to buy the direct-to-DVD movie to encourage Showcase to resume the series. Other commenters weren’t very supportive about his suggestion, but it reminded me of a business idea I had some time back.
In the past artists, musicians and writers were often support by patrons. These were rich people who believed in the artist’s work and would provide financial support so they could focus on it. For example, Emperor Joseph II was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s patron.
Nowadays (perhaps starting with the cancellation of Star Trek: the Original Series) there are mega-fans who passionately believe in the artistic work of an individual or group and mobilize to put pressure on the studios to continue creating content with them. I recently watched (it’s amazing I get any work done on my PhD, eh?) “Done the Impossible” which details the lengths Firefly fans went to to try to keep Joss Whedon’s series on the air. Some believe they helped make the Serenity movie possible.
The core of this idea is a site which brings together “micro patrons” with artists to allow them the freedom to work outside the studio / publishing / art world and interact directly with those who want to consume their artistic vision. Say a bunch of people enjoyed a book released directly by the author (The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect perhaps – if you start to read it, DON’T STOP after the first chapter, its not representative of the books as a whole). Instead of them having to go buy 10 copies of it to show their support (and only having a fraction of that purchase go through to the creator) they could get the money directly to the creator to encourage them to keep working.
Either a group of fans could create a project asking the artist to work on what they’re asking, or the artist could offer to work on something if a threshold of donations was reached. Perhaps an author would say that he could write a book if he had $15,000 to be able to quit his day job and focus on it for the next 5 months, or fans might band together and offer Stephen King $40,000 if he’d write a book about mutant gerbils.
It wouldn’t be any sort of legal contract, and the patrons wouldn’t have any ownership of the idea or final project. It would just be a way of people who love an artist”s work to say “I want you to keep working, if there’s a way money could help make that happen, here it is”. That being said, there WOULD be an expectation that the artist WILL work on the project if they accept the funds (and the fund could be tagged as a bounty once the work is completed if the fans are afraid King will take the money then write about hamsters).
The site would function by putting the funds held in a very safe, stable investment (a money market account, high yielding savings account or cashable GICs) and using any interest generated to operate the site. If an artist rejected a proposal, the funds would be immediately returned to the micro-patrons.