Age of Patronage

Weird West Mummy Outlaw
Mummy Outlaw concept art for Weird West Minis

Societal trends usually ebb and flow like the swing of a pendulum and we’re seeing the beginning of the return swing for the system of funding creatives known as patronage. The arts would not be where it is today, or at least not have such a rich history, without the practice of patronage. Since the beginning of recorded history, the wealthy, powerful, and influential have supported creatives via commission.

Patronage peaked during the Renaissance period, with the huge wealth of the Vatican funding many a famous painter and sculptor (see the namesakes of my beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). While patronage never went away, the Industrial Revolution and subsequent commercialization of creativity certainly changed the way society generated and experienced the arts.

Recently, there has been a resurgence of the patronage model. Only today, it’s not only the upper class that can participate, anyone with the means to electronically deposit a dollar can enjoy luxury of supporting projects which they find interesting. With services like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, creators and patrons can connect with ease.

An Answer to Piracy?

One of the primary advantages to funding a project using a patronage model/service is that it cuts out the middleman. This means the creator can potentially (see Pitfalls below) earn more from a successful project and it also allows for a direct connection between the creator and her audience. This connection can lead to some interesting collaboration and personal relationships should the creator take advantage of it.
Interestingly enough, a well-conceived and successful patronage project could even alleviate most of the concerns creators have for piracy. If you get compensated up front, then who cares if the product is eventually pirated… consider it free advertising for your next project.

Pitfalls of Patronage

Beyond cutting out the middleman and possibly earning a greater return on your investment, using the patronage model doesn’t actually alleviate creators of many traditional problems of producing a product. In fact, it may place many of the traditional concerns on the shoulders of the content creators. For instance, marketing is something that will still be important.

Creator

Below is a list of new problems specific to running a Kickstarter (or IndieGoGo) campaign (for a actual example see Star Command):

  • Inaccurate calculations/predictions
    • Keep in mind that the service (and Amazon for Kickstarter) takes a cut
    • Overly ambitious rewards will cut deep into your funding
    • Be aware of the hidden costs of publishing/manufacturing/shipping
  • Lost payments
    • Incorrect cardholder info can result in lost backers
    • Insufficient funds will also prevent backers from sending funds
  • Lost faith
    • Failed projects can drive potential patrons away, narrowing the pool of potential backers
    • Failing to meet campaign promises could very well open a project up to litigation

Patron

Much like pre-ordering a game, album, or book, since the product is not finished (and therefore available for inspection) there are no guarantees… only it will probably be more difficult to recover lost monies:

  • No guarantees
    • Time
    • Quality
    • Complete

RPG Related Projects of Note

Here are some open patronage projects I’m currently interested in that I think my readers may also find worthy of their backing:

Listening to: Soul Coughing – Songs in the Key of X – Unmarked Helicopters

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