Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Patronage, or "How the Author Gets to Eat"

Antonio Verrio had the patronage of William III.
Until very recently in human history the Artists (aka painters and playwrights and composers, etc) were supported by Patrons (aka the King, the Lord, the Rich Men, the Bishops of the Church, etc). In exchange for the basic necessities of  life, artists painted or wrote or composed whatever their patron wished.

Down side: they didn't get much choice in what they had to produce. He who has the gold makes the rules.

Up side: at least they were doing their art, and there was time to work on their own projects, if permitted.

The 20th Century changed much of how humanity functions socially. Patronage, in the old sense, has all but disappeared. However, nothing will ever change the fact that an artist needs to eat.

Where does the means for food & shelter come from? The modern-day equivalent of the patron.

Artists need patrons to support them. In the beginning of the career art isn't financially self-sufficient, so the money to feed and house the artist/writer has to come from somewhere, whether that be a Day Job, a supportive spouse, investment funds or even grants. These are our modern-day patrons.

Until the art/writing can bring in enough money, patronage is how an artist eats.

Patronage isn't free money (unless you're a trust fund baby). You've got to give something back to the patron in exchange for their support. In the old days (oh, 200-plus years ago) patrons supported artists, writers, composers, etc in exchange for them painting/writing/composing what the patron wanted them to. There are many a great composer who wrote brilliant music, but not necessarily the music they wanted to write. They were at the whim of their patron. They patron wants a series of chamber music sonatas? The patron gets a series of chamber music sonatas, even if the composer has dreams of composing a symphony.

Now, many an artist has what they call the Day Job. This is a job that is most likely not related to their field of art. The novelist is an accountant by day. The artist works as a secretary. The actor turns to waitressing. 

Others may have something more akin to the traditional patronage pattern in the form of a Supportive Spouse. Your engineering husband doesn't mind you staying home with the kids and your novels. Your actuary wife is okay with you working on your music all day, as long as the house is clean when she gets home.  Some people might dream of a Sugar Daddy, thinking that all he would do is throw money at you to do whatever you want. Unless you're the spoiled, pampered princess descendant of a rich, indulgent father, ain't no way you getting any money from anyone without them expecting anything in return. (What does the Sugar Daddy want from you?)

Then there's the grant model.  Modern Patrons of the Arts do provide scholarships and grants to allow an artist to pursue the project they want. However, grants often require projects to fit certain criteria. If your pitched project doesn't fit what the grantor is looking to support, you might not get funding.

Crowdfunding fits in under the grant model of funding. You pitch your idea and whoever's fancy it tickles will toss money your way.  Does your idea have enough merit to attract funding?

Currently, I am using a combination of a part-time Day Job and Supportive Spouse to enable me to have enough writing time. As the children get older, the necessity of my staying home during those crossroad  moments isn't as necessary. As soon as the kids old enough to not need their mommy, I will no longer have a reason not to seek out full-time employment.

However, I don't want to go back to a day job. I want to proceed to that fourth, most glorious, free-est category of artist there is: Self-Funded Artist.

This is the mode we all dream about. Imagine, not having to be dependent on a modern-day patron for your day-to-day needs! Wake up in the morning without the stress or grief of having to put aside your artistic desires so you can go fix someone else's computer, answer someone else's phones, give someone else fries with that.

There are two modes of Self-Funded Artist: Financially Independent and Income Generating.  

A Financially Independent artist has a source of passive income, usually from investments, patents, trust fund, etc that provides a steady flow of spendable, regardless of what they do. If they wished to sit around all day and write the word "Wibble" ten thousand times, they could.

An Income Generating artist is one whose artistic work has enough value to bring in enough income to live on. Full-time authors with a decent backlist. Steadily-employed actors. Essentially, this is the Day Job in your chosen field of art. Lucky is the artist who can unlock this achievement.

My ultimate goal is to become a Financially Independent artist whose capital arose mostly from earnings from my Income Generating art. Not only will this free me from the Day Job but will also free Supportive Spouse from his so he can pursue his own projects.

After all, he has dreams too.

Help Her Grace achieve her dreams; buy her books, review them honestly and tell your friends to buy her books as well. If you don't buy her books, buy someone else's or give patronage to an artist.

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