Can crowdfunding change the way we look at funding in the arts?

A workshop about crowdfunding for musicians
Jet Schaap Enterman

Can crowdfunding change the way we look at funding in the arts? On May 10th, this question was addressed in a workshop tailored for musicians. It took place at Batavierhuis in Rotterdam, a maker space and house for talent development in music. The workshop was a joint organisation of Voordekunst and Erasmus University Rotterdam, with the support of Instituut Gak. Carolina dalla Chiesa (Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication) and Lisanne Brouwer shared their expertise.

Crowdfunding in the arts is on the rise in the Netherlands, with platforms such as Voordekunst gaining traction. On these platforms, artists can share their projects and collect money for them. Through the platforms, the public can donate to the cause and potentially receive ‘rewards’, such as exclusive content or merchandise. The nature of crowdfunding is democratic because it directly involves an audience, which makes it an appealing mechanism. It is based around a community and can be a tool for community-building, as a crowdfunding campaign can connect audiences and artists. It allows bypassing institutions such as government funds or record labels, fostering the independence of artists.

With a long list of benefits, it is important that artists are aware of what crowdfunding entails, and its dos and don’ts, so that they can potentially integrate it into their own practice. That’s why the Erasmus University Rotterdam, Batavierhuis, and Voordekunst joined forces to bring forth a workshop on crowdfunding for musicians. The aim of the workshop was to translate the academic research on crowdfunding into practical application for musicians, thereby making the information more accessible.

The workshop attracted several musicians with varying levels of experience with crowdfunding. All were interested because they had the ambition to create something new (such as an album) and were curious to explore crowdfunding as a funding option.

The workshop provided concrete and clear information. It started with defining what crowdfunding is, and presented some statistics of the users and outcomes of crowdfunding. The topic was further explored with some case studies and a discussion. Participants were invited to brainstorm about their own ideas for a future project and how they would crowdfund for it. Practical advice was provided, such as on how a project can be related to a social cause, and how momentum can be created during a campaign.

Jet Schaap Enterman

The workshop benefitted from an open and honest discussion. Regardless of overall positive attitudes toward crowdfunding, one major concern came up. Some of the participants felt uncertain about asking people for money, which is not at stake when applying for subsidies because of its more impersonal nature. In the arts, money tends to be a difficult topic, because artists are expected to do what they do out of passion. It is expected that the issue will be discussed more in-depth in any follow-up workshops.

The process of crowdfunding has some challenges at hand. A major one relates to the mere cost of promoting the campaign. For example, oftentimes, for an appealing campaign, a video that showcases the project is being produced. Also, to increase the success rate of a campaign, its organiser is expected to spread the word to family, friends, and acquaintances, and to keep track of how the campaign is running. It is recommended to have a social media presence prior to the campaign, which some of the participating musicians did not have.

Themes alike were discussed during the workshop, which revealed that even though crowdfunding has many benefits, it is not the only option for musicians, and it might always not be the optimal choice.

So, what does the future hold for crowdfunding? The workshop showed that musicians certainly have an interest in crowdfunding, but also reservations. During workshops such as the one in Batavierhuis, these interests and reservations can become the topics of a profound discussion, so that musicians can make informed choices about their funding options. Even if crowdfunding is not always the best option, it shows great potential and benefits for musicians who are able and willing to use crowdfunding for their projects.

Author: Emma Dijkhuizen, Arts and Culture Studies student at Erasmus University Rotterdam
Organised by Carolina dalla Chiesa, Lisanne Brouwer, Yosha Wijngaarden and Ellen Loots

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