October 13th, 2009

Creative Joyous Cat

Busking in Cyberland: It's not a Zero-Sum Game

Today, miintikwa posted Crowdfunding is not a zero-sum game.  I encourage you to go read it, though I'll add some additional thoughts related to her two main points here, because what she said was right on the money, but for more reasons and in more ways than she lists.

That post got me thinking.  There's so many ways that this is true--if you don't know game theory, the phrase "zero sum" means that the game has a winner and a loser, and the winner is ahead by the same number of points (dollars, goals, whatever) that the loser lost.  miintikwa is responding to people who were afraid she would lose patrons (and therefore money) if someone else in their circle of friends also did a one-card-draw.  One of the things she says is that the more people understand and accept crowdfunding, the more patrons there will be.  I think this is true.

The analogy to busking is very good here.  People who support musicians by tossing coins into the hat don't restrict their appreciation to only one busker.  And their actions make others more comfortable with showing their appreciation.  It's why musicians "salt" the hat or case--no patron has to think they are the first, or has to worry if they are guessing wrong about why the hat is there.  It removes some of the fear of doing something embarassing.

But the zero-sum language is apt for more reasons than that.  When you support a writer or artist here online, it isn't only about the money.  You have a bit less money and the artist has a bit more, true.  But also, you have the enjoyment of this work of art, and the expectation of more enjoyment in the future.  The artist gets feedback about which art her audience wants more of.   There's that personal connection--if you form a personal connection in a bookstore, it's with the store clerk or owner, not the writer or artist.  The owner of a small store will think of you when ordering books--but here, you can tell the writer directly what you would like to see more of.  That doesn't guarantee they will write it, of course, but as the repeated resurrection of Sherlock Holmes demonstrated, money can be a powerful motivator.

And that brings me to miintikwa 's other main point, and I'll quote:  "My skills are valuable, but I want to make them available to everyone."  What a wonderful, accurate, and succinct statement.  (Of course, that means I want to elaborate on it.)

In two parts.

"My skills are valuable..."

Everyone has skills that are valuable.  Everyone also needs to eat, stay warm in the winter, and so on.  Are my skills at composing business letters, organizing and filing and summarizing confusing piles of paper, ferreting out the points pertinent to the problem at hand, and obtaining more piles of paper to add to the file--is that really more valuable than my skills at storytelling and art?  If we go by a pure money standard, I'd have to say yes.  That has paid the bills for years, and probably will do so again in the future.

But my spirit rebels against that assessment!

In my heart, I feel my skills at art, at photography, at storytelling, at singing and playing instruments--my creative pursuits--are far more valuable, are more meaningful and important and vital not only to me, but to my society.

"...I want to make them available to everyone"


I want to find all the people whose lives I can make better, who I can gift with a smile, or a laugh, or that sensawonder feeling, or the relaxation and joy that comes from experiencing something beautiful and transcendant, or an insight that helps them solve a problem or transform their lives for the better.  I want to find them whether they hace a million dollars or barely two pennies to rub together. 

There's a place for concert halls, for sold-out performances, for book contracts--and don't get me wrong, I'll be very happy to get a book contract.  But there's also a place for busking, for performing where everyone can hear.

The hat is there because I do need money (everyone does).  But it is also there as an affirmation that I know my time and my skills are valuable. 

Also, even if no one uses the hat, it reminds me that I'm not just goofing off here, I'm working.  I'm working to make the world a little better, to cheer people, to give them a bit of rest from their woes or some bit of insight, in some small way to make their lives more beautiful and joyful.  Whether I get any monetary pay or not--I'm working.



If I can give you so much as a smile, then your day and mine are both improved.  And there's nothing zero-sum about that!

I'll add her post-script here too: [info]crowdfunding and [info]freestuffday are available communities to support if you want to be more active in these areas!