There’s a moment when you start a busking set, when the empty hat goes out, and you have not yet begun to sing or play, and you don’t know how people are going to react. For me, that pause before beginning has always felt the most exposed.
Yesterday, I put out a hat, and waited nervously to see if anyone would find what I’m doing worth responding to. The first coins in the hat are always a massive morale boost. They affirm that it was worth the exposure. Thus far, Patreon is turning out to feel exactly like busking.
Those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know that I have a lot of issues with how the creative industries work. I struggle personally because it’s hard to make a living as a writer, and doing other things to pay the bills doesn’t leave me with much brain or energy for doing the creative stuff. I also need people to create for – I write this blog every day because there are people who want to read it, and that keeps me going. So long as someone wants to read it, I’ll keep writing.
I said recently that I wouldn’t ask for donations to keep doing this. I have put out a hat, but it’s not exactly for this blog. There’s a link at the top of this site now that says ‘support this blog’ because that’s short, but it’s not accurate! Much of the point of doing the Patreon page is to create a space where I can do other things.
So, for $1 a month you get a monthly newsletter with stuff about whatever I’m doing, and you also get one small original creative piece. For $5 a month you get that plus another modestly sized bit of creativity. My aim is to be putting out content there every week, eventually, if enough people sign up to make that viable. A lot of Patreon pages offer multiple levels for support, but, I would rather give things to more people. I’m only going to create extra levels if there’s tangible stuff to send out into the world.
I’m already feeling cheered by the few dollars that are in the hat for each month. I am imagining what could come next in terms of pushing out creatively. I’m hoping it will work and that there will turn out to be enough people who like what I do and want me to do more of it. I think it’s possible. It would only take a small percentage of blog followers to throw a dollar in the hat for my life to change radically.
I like the idea also of having scope to keep giving stuff away – here, and on youtube, and wherever else makes sense – and have support come back to me for doing that. It’s a key part of how Patreon works. It’s the other side of gift economy, the side that allows people to gift back to creators if they want to, on whatever terms they like. And nobody has to. So long as someone throws the odd coin in the hat, the busking continues…
For the first time in years, I feel hopeful about creating. It doesn’t feel entirely pointless and futile because a couple of people have already responded. So, if you want to come with me on this adventure, I would be delighted, and if that wouldn’t work for you – I’ll still be here, making my work freely available, and with a bit of luck and a fair wind, I’ll be better resourced to keep doing that.