Have the arts returned to patronage?

I have been enjoying a little bit of a break (from blogging at least) but I am hoping to return to do this more regularly. Perhaps not a daily blog as I did when I was away on research trips, but certainly a few times per week. I have largely been continuing to think about the outputs of my two research trips i.e. writing articles, further funding applications etc. For those of you in academia you will probably recognise the cycle, but for those of you outside of the crazy world of research – the end of a research trip does not mean the end of that project. Far from it in fact! It usually turns into another larger project or multiple smaller projects, all of which require more outputs such as articles, social media interaction, public engagement events and so on and so forth. It is all very exciting but at times a little overwhelming to keep all the plates spinning!

So, of course I had to go and think about a completely different project that is only tenuously related to my current research. At the moment, it is just a thought, but even a thought is worth sharing. And please do feel free to leave me a comment about what you think!

justin scarred

I have recently been indulging in YouTube vlogs on my downtime. Because these are usually shorter than an average TV show, I feel less guilty taking time out to watch a quick vlog before getting back to work. My favourite vlogger at the moment is @JustinScarred who mainly vlogs about his road trips around the United States but also numerous trips to Disneyland CA, Disney World and Disneyland Paris. In one of his videos he talked about how he is able to support himself while basically being a full time vlogger. He fully admits to times of struggle but the reason for opting into this career (for lack of a better term) is that he feels happy doing it and this is more important to him. That being said, he has a Patreon account, where people have the option of contributing a monthly allowance of their choosing to help Justin continue his work. He notes in the video it mainly goes towards gas and better equipment so that he can continue vlogging around the country, but also basic necessities such as food and rent. He makes a convincing point as to why he is funding his adventures through a modern form of patronage. Justin pointed out that prior to the 20th century and the birth of the recording industry, artists frequently were supported by patrons i.e. wealthy people who provided the artist with a stipend that allowed them to do their art.

170px-Nikolaus_Esterhazy

I cannot fault Justin’s logic – Joseph Haydn was supported by Prince Nikolaus I. Esterházy (1714-1790) throughout his entire life and even when Haydn’s services were no longer required after the death of Prince Nikolaus, he still received a monthly stipend. This allowed Haydn to travel around Europe (including coming to Britain) and continue making music, free from the worry and necessity to make ends meet. Venanzio Rauzzini (1746-1810) was often described as John Braham’s patron as he provided his young student with room and board in the early days of his career and paid him for concerts (which was very unusual for a music teacher of this period). Of course, musicians in the 18th century also made money by being teachers, publishers, composers, professional performers and concert managers so not all artists required a patron to function in the music world. However, those who did have patronage support tended to have the freedom to create or progress within the industry and were much more likely to be inserted into the hall master-musicians.

The music industry has greatly changed in the first 2 decades of the 21st century. Music downloads & media sharing sites such as YouTube, Vimeo and Sound Cloud have made it easier than ever before for musicians to share their work without the need of music industry experts and the backing of a record label. The gap between professional and amateur is greatly blurred – particularly as record labels will look to a new artist who already has a massive social media following rather than searching for an undiscovered new talent. Then again, artists may rally against the recording industry who may impose strict boundaries in terms of ‘artist image’ in the hopes it will insure sales.

patronage

It makes one wonder if the 20th-century notion of commercial influence from the big corporation is now waning in favour of the new wave of public support. Sites such as GoFundMe and Patreon are allowing anyone who wishes to contribute to a project to do so and this is opening up a new era in the creative industries. The idea of modern patronage is certainly an interesting one and while it resembles its historic cousin, modern patronage is something quite different. It encompasses a lot more people, who are not all necessarily wealthy. Does this mean art is now truly for the masses and is no longer controlled by the elite? Will musicians, particularly classical musicians be beholden to the ever changing waters known as ‘fashion’? Or will it mean that the music industry (and all the arts industries for that matter) will become a much more diverse and intriguing market that is no longer bound by imposed corporate labels? I don’t have the answers to these questions but if anyone knows of any person doing research in this area, please leave a comment!

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